Cunard boasts that the RMS Queen Mary 2 is the only true ‘ocean liner’ afloat in the world today, though I have not yet discovered why it is said to be different from, for example, the Queen Victoria or the Queen Elizabeth, the other ... Read More
Cunard boasts that the RMS Queen Mary 2 is the only true ‘ocean liner’ afloat in the world today, though I have not yet discovered why it is said to be different from, for example, the Queen Victoria or the Queen Elizabeth, the other two Cunard ships currently in service. (A fourth ‘Queen’ is due to be launched in a couple of years’ time).
The Queen Mary 2 (QM2) is the largest of the three at present in service with a length of 1132 feet, a crew of 1292 and capable of carrying almost 2700 passengers. It is the flagship of the Cunard fleet and one of only two RMSs (Royal Mail Ships) in the world. Being that size, the corridors are very long and it is extremely easy to get ‘lost’, though there are nearly always helpful crew members on hand to guide passengers who feel disoriented.
Everything about this ship is on a grand scale and very spacious. It has a charming, ‘old world’ style to it which distinguishes it from most cruise ships. It is elegant, rather than flashy, and the majority of its passengers tend to be that little bit older, though there are exceptions. In our view, the directional signage around the ship could be improved and we feel that, whilst it is intentionally fairly discreet, it should be re-evaluated to help ‘lost and confused’ passengers. For example, because the Britannia Restaurant is designed to be split level and straddles two decks, it is not possible to walk all the way through to the theatres without first going up in a lift (elevator), walking along a couple of decks higher and then descending again in another lift. This took us (and many others) quite a while to fathom out!
We had decided to celebrate our 45th wedding Anniversary in August, 2019, by trying a Cunard ship for the first time. (We had been on numerous cruises in the past with different cruise lines, mostly in the northern hemisphere, but never before with Cunard). Our two-way transatlantic crossings saw us travelling from Southampton to New York and back, with just a day in the ‘Big Apple’. We just love ship life and found it quite relaxing knowing that we hadn’t any shore excursions to think about, except for in New York itself, of course.
It was our intention to spend a relaxing two weeks at sea. We knew from past experience that there would be plenty on board to keep us occupied and stop our becoming bored, but we would also have plenty of opportunities to simply take it easy. The extensive library on board the QM2 is excellent and the Planetarium feature is also well worth a visit.
We were checked in very efficiently at Southampton. Based on our past experience of being required to wait, on occasions for a couple of hours, in a lounge on board, we enquired if our stateroom was ready for us. We were told that it was, but that there had been a leakage of water so there might be a large fan in the room. That seemed OK to us and we proceeded on board and up in the lift (elevator) to our deck 10. Arriving at our stateroom (10097), we noticed a hive of activity in the vicinity and were quickly advised that our room had been flooded so that we could not enter. In fact, the furniture (including the bed) had been removed and the room was being re-carpeted! We couldn’t even leave our carry-on bags in the room. (We particularly did NOT wish to have a Butler and this affected our choice of stateroom).
We were able to enter our stateroom after about 90 minutes and it looked just perfect. No-one would have been aware of the earlier problems, except for an unpleasant smell from the drains under the bathroom which persisted throughout both legs of our voyage. We drew this to the attention of our Cabin Steward, Dave, and were visited soon after by Emerson, our Deck Housekeeper. He acknowledged the problem and offered us a change of stateroom to another farther down the same corridor but we declined politely as we had, by then, unpacked all of our clothes and couldn’t face the disruption that would have been involved in a move. He offered us a concession which we accepted with gratitude and handled the situation extremely well.
Dave had left a bowl of fruit in our stateroom which was replenished daily, as was the refreshments tray. Complimentary still and sparkling water was also provided each day. We had hoped for a walk-in shower so were disappointed to see a shower over the bath which my partially disabled wife found particularly difficult to use. (She is not in a wheelchair).
We had all of the usual facilities in our room. The bed was very comfortable, as were the pillows, and we slept well every night using the simple temperature controls. There was plenty of drawer space and more than enough hangers to meet our needs. We had an in-room safe too. There were fresh fluffy towels, warm bathrobes, a coffee making machine, plus tea and coffee making facilities. It was great to be able to relax on our balcony (with 2 chairs and a table) on sea days. Our ‘smart’ TV was very good and, in addition to BBC World News, BBC HD, SKY News, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, a Cunard lectures channel, and a Cinema Channel, we (sorry, I) was delighted to be able to watch ‘live’ soccer matches from the English Premier League!
The Master in command for these two ‘voyages’ (NOT cruises!) was Captain Aseem A Hashmi. What an excellent communicator he is and so personable too. He inspired confidence and proved to be a most entertaining speaker. He was regularly seen around the ship speaking to passengers and answering their questions with the utmost patience and a friendly smile. He was always approachable and a great example to other crew members.
We dined in the Princess Grill on table 18, a table for 6, where Carmelia, Vincent, Jayson and Sommelier, Christian, looked after us well. Generally speaking, the food was good, but we all thought it lacked that extra something we had been led to expect from Cunard. I can give three specific examples to illustrate why we were a bit disappointed. First, one of us ordered the Lobster Bisque one evening and it was nothing like any bisque I had ever seen or tasted – more like a consommé! Second, one my wife ordered a cheese soufflé one night but the texture and taste were all very substandard. Third, my wife and I ordered (a day in advance) the duck a l’orange to share one evening. It looked great when it was cooked and served expertly at the table, but was dry and chewy – not at all enjoyable, I’m afraid! (Overall, we all agreed that the Celebrity ships’ Aqua Class food was better, which we found surprising!) Our best meal by far was one night in the Verandah Restaurant, for which there is an additional charge of $40 per person. That was truly excellent with great service!
As my wife has a partial disability, we decided to opt for the in-room breakfast because it was easier for her. The efficiency of this food service could not be faulted but, whilst realising that there are logistical problems in offering such a service on board such a large ship, we have to say that the food was only ever lukewarm.
We used the efficient on-board laundry service and the self-service laundrette – a most useful facility for 7+ days at sea! The Canyon Ranch Spa Club is extremely expensive and exploits its captive clientele. Moreover, we all felt it is an absolutely appalling disgrace in this day and age for Cunard (and they are not alone) not only to charge for the use of the Wi-Fi facility, which is both slow and variable in quality of signal anyway, but to apply exorbitant charges – 30 minutes for just $15; 120 minutes for $45; and 480 minutes for $135 – when most public spaces in the 21st century, including public transport, provide the facility free! This is tantamount to taking unfair advantage of Cunard guests for what is, in any event, an unreliable service!
The entertainment shows in the main Theatre were very good and, as a former competition dancer, I must say how very impressed I was with the dance troupe and the 4 main singers. There were several good guest speakers on board too, including a Canadian astronaut and a costume designer, who were most interesting. We also had the pleasure of watching the English National Ballet workshops and performances. Even though we are not ballet fans, we enjoyed them very much. We were not impressed by the Entertainments Director, Paul O’Loughlin, who seemed to imagine he was a ‘star’ in his own right!
Our ‘special places for a coffee or an alcoholic drink were the Chart Room and the Commodore Club. We also greatly enjoyed the Carinthia Lounge at lunchtime for a delicious light snack and a drink. We found that the Golden Lion Pub was also very comfortable, but it can be difficult at certain times to find a table as its popularity, especially with British travellers, means it can be pretty busy. All of these venues had ‘live’ entertainment from time to time, usually in 45 minute slots. We didn’t really use the Queens Lounge (?) except for the Captains Cocktail party but it is a beautiful, large venue. All drinks on board carry an automatic 15% service charge.
Before we had set off from home to catch the Queen Mary 2, we had been advised that a film crew would be on board on the return voyage back to Southampton. We were even given the opportunity of applying to be ‘extras’. The advance warning advised that there might be a few restricted areas when filming was taking place but gave an assurance that any disruption would be kept to a minimum so as not to spoil our enjoyment of the voyage. Well, we were never inconvenienced and only saw the filming a couple of times. At no stage was there a problem on such a large ship, and we were pleasantly surprised to see such ‘A listers’ as Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Gemma Chan (and others) at work. (We understand the film is to be released in 2020).
In summary, the Queen Mary 2 copes well with everything the North Atlantic can throw at it so it was a smooth sail in both directions, in spite of 14 feet waves at one point. We did enjoy our first Cunard voyage, but not quite as much as we had expected. We might sail Cunard again in the future, but it probably would not be our first choice unless the itinerary particularly appealed to us. Read Less