We very much enjoyed our first Eastbound transatlantic crossing in the QM2 in August of 2018. There was only one disappointment - the seas were too calm. The ship is after all a liner and it would have been fun to see her in some more lively ocean conditions. Some of the new friends we met aboard suggested we could count on heavier seas and or storms later in the year.
The generous welcome back onboard credit ($150 per person), the prospect of some free Internet as Gold members now and low prices in November got my attention. So much so that I grabbed a booking. Getting the credit to "take" for both of us was impossible online and proved challenging for the PCCs – one had the idea I would pay for the booking as is and they would somehow refund me later. The only balcony cabin left at the lowest price was a guarantee- sheltered deck 4 aft and deck 8 obstructed view were a bit more- I rolled the dice which resolved shortly in a slight upgrade -a deck 4 sheltered balcony midships. Which is by the way perfect in a bumpy sea. We were by stairwell C – we developed a pneumonic- C for Chow, D for Dancing.
We were wait listed for early dinner- given how last minute we booked I was astonished to see it cleared for us. We are dancers, and a fair number of the recorded dance opportunities in in the Queens Room were right at 8:45 as an example. The main events were always at 9:45 however.
The mystery of the missing dance couple dating from at least August was solved- Shane and Tiffany from the production company got an award for sitting in and helping in that role since possibly June. They are leaving the ship this week. We were delighted to see a bachata and even a country two step in some of the recorded sessions offered. The announcer, when present, was ear splittingly loud.
We got a twelve piece orchestra for Big Band Night- up from the normal eight pieces every other night and for the tea dance. There was a saxophone section and an excellent clarinet. I know Cunard is having trouble with the “largest dance floor at sea” claim any more – but how about “the greatest commitment to ballroom dancing afloat.” Note to readers- I think a large wooden dance floor in a dining room, partly covered with tables – present on a few competing large ships - does not count. Or they could use “largest active dance floors at sea.”
I asked those in the know about hot appetizers in the Chart Room. We saw some cold appetizers being delivered – “the hot ones were a food safety issue- how can we ensure, lacking our own kitchen they would remain at a safe temperature.” The cold ones can be properly refrigerated and issued out on demand.
Britannia dining was again hit and miss. Service was uniformly excellent. I got an answer to one question. On the Queen Victoria, the head waiters were everywhere, on QM2 not so much. Our waiter team were fine and seemed not too overworked. One of the leaders said the QM2 main dining room was “1100 covers- each head waiter has nine or ten stations” – which explains why I did not see them as much. We were baffled by some of the menu choices and some of the items delivered. The portion sizes were not too huge- just right. The Korean spring rolls were sent back and the cock a leekie soup was more like dark bullion as an example. Desserts got an “A” grade, and most soups were fine. The last night had a polenta and artichoke entrée that was amazing.
This is a sturdy ship that handles strong wind and large seas with grace. One of our speakers, a Royal Navy submariner, who had been on the previous crossing made a comment about Force 10 conditions and the advantages in his service of being 600 feet underwater. The previous voyage reportedly saw “hurricane force” winds and seas for a while.
The shared dining tables never failed to deliver good conversation. There was quite a bit of excitement about trivia games – the best players were being actively recruited.
The pub lunches (served 12-2:30) were excellent. The pub was always jammed. We found the tiny table in back (#30) which was the last available. I did not ask if the food here came from the central galley or was locally prepared. One day a large wave slapped across all the windows in the pub, dimming the light- a cheer rang out.
We tried lunch in Carinthia – they had artfully prepared small plates. The desserts were good also. My personal favorite (usually in Britannia and or Golden Lion) were the “puddings”- a large bowl containing a baked good surrounded by a sauce. We avoided King’s Court all week- but did have a question on the role of the Chef’s Galley space. The layout overall up there is quite choppy.
There was a good selection of weights in the gym. We noted the careful design of the promenade deck- it was usable in many types of wind. The ship performed well in a following or quartering wind and sea- the decks were lovely if you subtracted the speed of the ship from the wind speed there was often not much left.
I slipped an extra 20 pounds above the prepaid gratuity to Larry, our steward. He was effective, cheerful and unobtrusive. I said hello to Nancy one floor above from the last crossing. Cunard runs a happy ship which is not a guarantee in this industry.
The Cunard bus to Heathrow left about nine and pulled in at 10:57. If you were stressing about making a flight this was a sure thing- on a Sunday. Disembarking was as stress free as I have seen in about 17 cruises.
We had an “only on Cunard” moment after boarding at 12:00 or so – the wait was minimal and we asked aboard when our cabin would be ready- “why it is ready for you now sir”- and our luggage was there soon after that. More such moments, which business school text books might refer to as competitive advantages:
1 It was possible to find places without the sickening piped in music which is for some reason a policy on other, lesser lines -this is good for those reading or writing or wishing to remain sane
2 Tea kettles in the rooms (one cannot make tea from warm, coffee flavored water)
3 Very hot water is used to make tea in the dining rooms – boiling water seems to be a deadly safely hazard on other lines
4 Dance hosts and ballrooms on every ship (in his 2014 book, QM2 designer Steven Payne says the QV and QE were stretched versions of the HAL Vista class ships, “the additional length being used for the incorporation of a ballroom…” )
5 Themed formal balls
6 No announcements selling things
7 Smoke free casino on every ship
8 A large selection of tap beers and ales on every ship
9 Authentic pub fare every day on every ship
10 Quality speakers – the naval history and stellar physics talks were amazingly good
11 10,000 books- my wife found her book club selection- which was wait listed at home
12 Promenade decks on every ship – we were out every day but did firmly grip the inside railings in the heaviest wind and waves
13 Forward facing observation decks – on lesser lines these are converted to cabins or revenue spaces
Very well designed cabin. Near the stairwell for quick access. Very quiet.