My wife is mobility impaired and usually uses a wheelchair and so a lot of this report relates to the accessibility aspect of our two way Atlantic crossing on the QM2.
We checked in about one hour early and that did not cause a problem. Embarkation at Southampton was easy and efficient although the postcode given on our e-tickets seemed to refer to a park in the middle of Southampton rather than the port. We had pre-booked parking and from arrival in our car to getting into our state room took about 40 minutes, the longest queue being security. We were directed to a special check-in area to one side of the terminal with low desks suitable for those in a wheelchair.
Getting from quayside into the ship involves a lift and a bridge similar to that in airports with quite a few difficult to negotiate ramps. Staff (at both ends) on the way out seemed to have been instructed not to help those in a wheelchair manage the ramps and it was annoying to have to struggle to get the chair over the ramps with someone in uniform standing watching from a few feet away.
Our cabin (6108 – not an accessible cabin) was larger than we had imagined. There were 50 coat hangers in the wardrobe plus a place we could hang those clothes we had brought on our own coat hangers. The shower / bathroom had a reasonably low step into it and the shower stool we had requested was already in the shower. We brought with us a couple of suction cup hand rails to affix to the shower walls (purchased on-line for under £10) and these worked very well. Generally the room was in good order although the carpet needed a steam clean. Our empty suitcases fitted under the bed although very deep suitcases would not and fellow passengers with these reported that storing them in their cabin was a bit annoying.
We stored our folding wheelchair (and our walker) out of the way adjacent to the window – it is an “18 inch” wheelchair and thus too wide to go through the cabin door. We did have the opportunity to see an accessible cabin on the same deck and this had a wide door, a wet room and a lot of floor space although a porthole window (we had a sheltered balcony). We will try to get one of these next time because of the extra space. Our cabin steward lent us a very large rubber floor / door wedge to hold the cabin door open whilst we negotiated entering and leaving– we will bring our own on any future voyages.
Our cabin was very quiet and we scarcely noticed the pounding of the runners on Deck Seven above. We did note during our 3 am corridor walks that cabins in the 6170 area seemed to have more background engine noise. We also could hear the TV of our neighbours if they had the sound turned up a bit. We used the free launderette on a few occasions, getting there just after 0730 is the key to a straightforward and hassle free wash !
There are numerous lifts throughout the ship (A and D are larger than B and C and there are also quite a number of smaller lifts that you have to use to go from Deck 3 to Deck 3 Lower. Most of the ship is disability accessible although some of the doors need holding open and there is one area on the very top to which a wheelchair cannot get.
Food was as described in other reviews. We ate breakfast in our cabin most mornings and it arrived promptly within our chosen time slot - perhaps not always as hot as that at Kings Court but very acceptable. Kings Court food was good in a cafeteria sense (although with a disappointing limited veggie choice, too many dishes being nearly veggie but not totally) and that within the Britannia restaurant was very variable – never good, usually acceptable and occasionally terrible. I (a veggie) left my offering from the main menu one day because it was inedible (over boiled noodles and heat lamp dried vegetables and was then offered the special veggie menu from which one chooses 24 hours in advance. Although restricted in choice (7 offerings for 14 days), its quality was superior to anything else on offer.
The crew were always willing to offer help with carrying trays, opening doors or patiently standing to one side as we progressed down corridors (unlike some of our impatient fellow passengers who behaved in an insensitive and / or disability blind manner).
We learnt where the best (marked) spots in the presentation venues were for wheelchairs. You should note that these places in Illuminations are very good but some of those in the Royal Court on the upper level can very poor with a restricted line of sight. It was disappointing that some of our able bodied fellow passengers were unable to read the signs indicating certain seats were reserved for those with mobility issues.
Generally the lectures and events were very good (we particularly enjoyed the Bridge Classes) and there was far too much on offer for us to be able to go to all we were interested in. We went to one evening show and were impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the dance group.
WIFI was slow and alcohol very expensive (as reported elsewhere - a G&T cost $11). Whilst the tap water was safe to drink, it tasted fairly awful, bottled water was expensive.
We disembarked in Brooklyn for a few hours, the ship arrived on time at 0600 and disembarkation started around 0730. It took us 40 minutes to get from our cabin to outside of the terminal (note that there are few facilities within the terminal and no WIFI – it is really a large shed used for arrivals and departures and other things).
We travelled in November and the sea was a little bumpy on the way out and smooth as a mill pond on the way back –the QM2 is sufficiently large to be able to ignore anything but the roughest seas.
The five-hour time difference was dealt with by putting the clocks back an hour on five nights at 2 am westbound and forward at noon on five days eastbound.
Before arrival in Southampton a note appeared in our State Room saying that we had been registered for wheelchair assistance on arrival – I am not sure if we did something to initiate this but it was very welcome and solved my worry about managing the wheelchair and our luggage out to curb side – it took only 15 minutes from being collected in the QM2 to leaving the car park.
Overall I would say that staff and most of our fellow passengers did practically everything they could to minimise the challenges of caring for a companion in a wheelchair, often without being asked.
In summary, we enjoyed our two way Atlantic crossing and would happily (and intend to) join the QM2 again. One just has to accept the very few negative aspects and enjoy the many positive ones.
Standard cabin, space acceptable, lots of coat hangers, air con / heating worked well. Bed very comfortable. Bathroom bigger than we had feared. We did not use the balcony - who does in the Atlantic in November ! We have no complaints and would happily take the same cabin again