This was my first time on Cunard since QE2 in 1996 and my expectations based on my previous experience were high. I am a well seasoned cruiser having taken over 25 cruises since the 1990s.
First impressions of the exterior of the ship were that it was a little tired and rusty, especially our balcony, although that didn't really bother me. I was very impressed with the interior decor which was stunning and evoked a feeling of cruising in a bygone grander era. Our cabin - deck 11 balcony - was beautiful. Very well maintained and spotlessly clean. The beds and pillows were very comfortable - I have a bad back and a poor quality mattress can be torture - no problem whatsoever here. The balcony was a good size with two chairs and a table. We were a little disappointed with the very limited choice of TV programmes/films in the cabin and prefer the on demand style of some of the newer ships. A way of bringing up onboard spending on the TV (as on some other ships) would be helpful too as we were charged for drinks which we didn't have, in particular for a very expensive lager which we didn't order! Our cabin steward kept our room very clean although he never introduced himself to us or asked our preferences. I have never experienced this before - cabin stewards are generally quick to find you and introduce themselves.
The choice of eating venues was a little limited on an evening but initially we were not bothered by that because we expected the food and service in the main dining room (Britannia) to be of a very high standard. We didn't intend eating elsewhere as the cruise was just 4 nights. The food, however was very hit and miss. Some of it was really good but we were served almost inedible duck and a few dishes were very ordinary. The choice of mains were largely very uninspiring. The service in the dining room was appallingly slow, especially on the first two nights. We were always down at 5.55pm to get our food order in first as we like to eat and then have the rest of the evening free for us to enjoy the entertainment. To be fair to our waiters (who were the least friendly I have ever experienced - bordering on surly) I think the slowness was largely the fault of the kitchen as all tables around us were also very slow in getting their food. Once we sat with dirty plates in front of us for 20 minutes and I had to ask for them to be cleared. Very disappointing. We were lucky in that our table for two was seperate from other tables and allowed privacy. Some tables for two were inches apart from others and were more like being part of tables of six or eight. The Kings Court Buffet was attractive and the food varied and plentiful if not always particularly hot. Service of hot food was sensibly done by staff rather than the unhygienic free for all on some ships. We experienced staff here with very poor understanding of English and I found it impossible to order a cider (which I drank in there the previous day so they definitely had it) because the waiter could not understand what I wanted. Service here was slow and we had to actively search for a waiter on one occasion to order drinks which did not appear until we had finished our food.