After spending a couple of weeks in Britain with my family, we ended our travels with a Transatlantic crossing. I had previously been on one of the maiden voyages of the Carnival Magic, which had almost convinced me never to take another cruise vacation. Fortunately, the Queen Mary 2 could not have been a more different experience. The Queen Mary 2 is a beautiful ship whose engineering more than makes up for the differences that many of the reviews criticize. The ocean was fairly turbulent on the third day of our voyage and it was fairly apparent that the ship handled the waves much better than other vessels. Watching the weather in relative comfort was a highlight of the journey. For its age, the Queen Mary 2 is in excellent condition and remains well maintained. Some minor details needed repair (i.e. a couple of carpets require reattachment on the stairwells), but the crew seemed fairly attentive to on-going maintenance.
Apart from a limited group of other passengers, including one moron who thought it appropriate to confront my wife and I about "how does a man your age have the resources to be on a trip like this" and to tell a random set of British retirees that they "had to go to ground zero," our time could not have been more pleasant. The crew was genuinely nice, particularly the Head Chef--Nicholas, the Captain--Christopher Wells, our senior waiter--Roy, our steward--Nick, and the Entertainment Director--Jo Haley.
Even at fancier restaurants in the U.S., I have not had better food than I enjoyed on board. The Britannia Restaurant runs very efficiently with a consistently good presentation. The simplicity and British focus of the cooking made each meal excellent, with many approachable options. We did not spend too much time in the Kings Court buffet, though at different times it seemed like the food might be very good. A published menu might improve the buffet experience, but I question why anyone would want to go there with the Britannia Restaurant or the other upper class dining rooms providing a much better experience. In particular, I have to give a lot of credit to the kitchen for accommodating the gluten-free dietary needs of some in our party. Each day, the senior waiter would provide the next day's menu and the kitchen would make each chosen option with substitute ingredients.
The balcony cabin was nice with tasteful art deco decor. On a transatlantic voyage, an obstructed balcony is probably an advantage with some protection from the wind and rain. Our cabin steward, Nick, went out of his way to know our names and to anticipate even the most subtle preferences. Room service was also very reliable and pleasant.
With shopping nearby, Southampton is a good place to stock up on foods and other items difficult to find in the US. The cruise terminal is much nicer than the one in Brooklyn.