Embarking RMS QM2 in Southampton on December 3 for the 12-night cruise to the Canaries, this trip sets a record in my cruising life of 20-plus years in that I spent 32 nights in a single ship during 2015. The last trip was in January Southampton to Dubai and I was somewhat surprised that some restaurant staff greeted me for a 'welcome back', unusual for a ship this capacity while usual on Silversea and SeaDream.
Travelling Britannia this time (last time in Princess Grill), the embarkation was satisfactory and it took about just one hour for me to reach my cabin, wherein I was surprised that the luggage had already arrived. The cabin was clean and comfortable, of decent size with a large balcony.
The first 4 nights were sea days including 2 formal nights and on QM2 it was always a dressed up occasion for dinner everyday because it would be either formal or informal and no casual (jacket required as well) though you can opt dressing casual eating buffer dinners. Britannia Restaurant was comfortable and classy for a restaurant this big and service was good. The food could not compare with Princess Grill which offered an alternative always-available menu for choices but was good for a big ship, probably best of any big ship in a non-premium cabin.
Arrived Funchal, Madeira day 5 at 9 am with an afternoon departure. The ship offered a bus transfer to town free to some depending on the fare or you pay USD6, or you can take a pleasant sea-view walk of 20 minutes. Good weather and Funchal is always among my favourite ports of call in that I can see much of it during the several hours ashore.
Next day 9am at S Cruz Tenerife departing almost midnight. Could sample night life of this port but did not do so due to some walking distance and the fact that this port is not a town of night life. After 4 sea days it would be 4 port days as ports are nearby.
On my return visit to most ports this trip, S Cruz is not among my favourite ports but first visit to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria next day was very good. Taxied to historic centre (EUR12) which was nothing particular, but the real centre of action should be the port area, with shopping at El Corte Ingles and malls and the beach area is within walking distance. This area is interesting and the winter sun was lovely, reaching almost 30C but dry and comfortable. Tourists come mainly for it not for the scalps of history downtown. Could have taken bus No 1 to historic town centre.
Next day Arrecife in Lanzarote saw the small port over flown with tourists from 4 ships and again it had the Canaries winter sun. Early departure in afternoon. Ship offers transfer free to some passengers depending on the fare.
It was another formal night the next sea day, 4 in all, and I found QM2 to be a most dressy ship even more so than on Crystal, even at Britannia and people seems to enjoy dressing up for the occasion everyday.
Good early arrival in Lisbon and the ship was berthed right in town centre, a 10-minute walk to main square, and again the weather was good. But the ship had to depart at 9:30pm instead of the scheduled 5pm due to incredible port authority bureaucracy.
The port master wanted to visit the ship before we sailed and apparently he might have been enjoying an early dinner till very late to find time to visit. This gave me and some 2500 international passengers permanent bad impression of the port of Lisbon, if not of the Republic of Portugal. No reason for his Majesty's late visit explained, or needed to.
Scheduled to arrive Vigo very early but good that we still made it at 10:30am, and credit must be given to the mighty QM2 which is the fastest ship. We departed at 6:30 pm instead so we made this port comfortably, otherwise it would have been omitted, given that it was an ordinary cruise ship. We arrived Southampton on time at 6:30am despite the later time of departure at Vigo port. Vigo turned out to be a very interesting port with houses built on layers of town uphill. Good shopping right at port area and here I enjoyed an early Christmas atmosphere.
Good cruise except for the bureaucracy inflicted delay of departure at Lisbon port, and the ship's service is overall very good in Britannia Class (had previously cruised Cunard 4 times all in Grill). I found that Britannia is also very good and probably a better value. QM2 offers good shows and enlightening lectures, is spacious on a per passenger basis, and it offers the traditional midnight buffet from 11pm till 2am, and this old ritual is now omitted by most ships on cost-cutting. If not all White Star service aspects are restored (which is difficult, given that we are not paying the old White Star fare), I found much of the service of the Golden Age on QM2 still intact, at least in form. No ship offers the Queens Room afternoon tea dance as if on Titanic. I tried also room service at 3am and my Thai Curry Chicken with rice arrived in good time, well presented like in Grill. Overall QM2 is among my favourite of ships as it offers a first class traditional cruise even on Britannia Class, with big ship facilities and a touch of small ship service mentality. The overall experience of this trip exceeds my expectation of the Britannia Class cruising.
Good cabin of decent size, clean and well-equipped.
Excellent for a short call.
Average port, not very interesting.
Interesting small port, very scenic.
Interesting port of course but with totally disagreeable bureaucracy of Port Authority that delayed sail by 4 hours. Thus BAD impression despite interest in the city. A shame to Lisbon.