This was our 9th cruise with Cunard and 6th on the QE. Occasionally Cunard lets us down where elements of Carnivalisation become all too apparent; sometimes the service lacks the finesse I would expect; occasionally a member of staff ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise with Cunard and 6th on the QE. Occasionally Cunard lets us down where elements of Carnivalisation become all too apparent; sometimes the service lacks the finesse I would expect; occasionally a member of staff isn’t quite as well trained as I would hope. However, most of the time Cunard get it right and occasionally perfect.
After boarding the ship we quickly felt like Cunard had read our minds and solved many of the little niggles we had had previously. On this short voyage we experienced excellent service, very good food and a chance to relax. From booking through to disembarkation, with only minor exceptions, the service was polite and almost flawless. My prepaid on board credit was on my account straight away; our room steward was faultless and our waiter at dinner in the Britannia Club was exceptional (normally works in the Grills). The purser's desk staff were polite, efficient and helpful. Shortly after boarding (which was immediate and efficient, and before 12pm), we received complimentary champagne, strawberries and gourmet canapés as a gift from Cunard Customer Services; I am still not sure why we got these but I suspect it was as we had just booked our honeymoon on QM2 for 2018. Whatever it was for, it was a very nice touch.
We noticed a few changes such as an improved Veuve Cliquot champagne menu in the Midship’s Bar with the addition of a champagne tasting where you can buy 3 small glasses of various champagnes including La Grande Dame for $25 per person, served with strawberries and canapés. Caviar was also available but was not presented as described and I’m convinced there was not 50 grams as there should’ve been. Reasonable value at $60 had it been presented a little better with blinis and garnish; not the melba toast we received.
We ate in the Verandah twice and the food was exceptional; during a voyage last year it was not as good as it normally is, but was back on form this time. The service was also spot on and the Maitre'D superb and helpful.
We encountered some new standard Britannia menus too but also many that we have seen before; some are getting a little repetitive but are still very good. The Britannia Club a la carte menu is improved from what I remember; it is a little larger with a more interesting variety: a very good compromise between Britannia and the Grills. We also ate in the Lido a couple of times and were quite impressed with the standard and variety, and the addition of plentiful smoked salmon which is always welcome.
Service generally was very good; the staff were very polite and helpful and our waiter at dinner had a wonderful sense of humour. An exception is that the service in the Commodore Club continues to be a little slow, however there do appear to be more staff than previous cruises so Cunard may have listened to feedback here. However the selection of canapés, hot and cold, served with drinks are worth waiting for. I also enjoyed trying a variety of new cocktails and softails. The on deck drinks service was a little slow too, ordering a drink from the hot tubs can only be described as painful.
The overall ambience of the ship was wonderful as always, with most people adhering to the dress code. The harpist, violinists and pianists were wonderful and elevated the ambience further.
The world club party was very good too, an excellent variety of complimentary drinks and canapés and a great Captain with a sense of humour. We made use of the complimentary wine tasting for World Club members. The 4 wines tried were very interesting and it didn’t just feel like they were trying to sell us the wines. The sommeliers hosting the event were for the most part polite and knowledgeable. I shall certainly attend another wine tasting. I didn’t like how we had to wash our glasses in between each wine and couldn’t have a fresh glass; there were only 4 wines after all.
The ship is in a very good state of repair and it appears maintenance is taken seriously with a rigorous routine for touching up wear and tear.
Finally, the weather deserves a mention. Not within Cunard’s control of course, but the combination of excellent weather, good service, good food and picturesque locations made for a handful of perfect moments (and photographs to remember them by).
The Ports of Call:
Vigo - A pleasant surprise.
We went for a walk to the top of the hill and the castle remains. Some wonderful panaromic views can be enjoyed from here.
Lisbon - Keep your hands in your pockets and don't stop moving.
We took an excursion here to the lovely walled town of Obidos; this was quite good although the guide on the coach was a little boring. Was very busy initially which wasn't great but it soon quietened down and was a beautiful place. We walked the town walls, again offering great views, and visited an shop selling a large selection of wines and spirits offering free samples (always good). We tried a very interesting local gin.
Now for Lisbon itself. In the afternoon we walked down to Black Horse Square. Within the space of 15 minutes walking around the square and up the main road from there we were approached no less than 6 times by arab-looking men trying to sell us drugs; we soon realised this was likely a distraction to pick pocket. Thankfully we had our hands in our pockets. Whenever we stopped we were approached and it became quite scary. We decided to quickly return to the safe haven of the ship. Lisbon itself does look very nice from a distance, maybe an organised tour next time.
Porto - A Cultural Gem
Much better than Lisbon; again we took an interesting tour here visiting the cathedral, stock exchange palace and a port wine cellar with a port tasting. Very well presented with an excellent tour guide and quite good value. Porto felt much safer than Lisbon. An interesting history and charming place to explore.
Cherbourg - It is what it is.
A good base to explore northern France. We hired a car and drove to the Normandy beaches and American Cemetery. Easy to do a good round-trip in 4-5 hours without being hurried as you tend to be on ships tours.
Overall, I am very happy with this cruise. The whole experience was wonderful and I was sad to disembark. I am very much looking forward to my next Cunard cruise, particularly on Queen Elizabeth. Please read my other reviews from previous cruises for a more comprehensive reviews of the ship; its decor etc. Read Less