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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2012
The Queen Victoria is a wonderful ship. The cruise to Hawaii had a total of eight sea days and only four ports in Hawaii and one final port, Ensenada. We enjoy the atmosphere aboard ship and the sea days were nice, but the weather was ... Read More
The Queen Victoria is a wonderful ship. The cruise to Hawaii had a total of eight sea days and only four ports in Hawaii and one final port, Ensenada. We enjoy the atmosphere aboard ship and the sea days were nice, but the weather was surprisingly cold. So for most of the trip you couldn't use the pool. We have traveled on the Queen Victoria before and find the staff outstanding. We have taken many cruises with Cunard, on all of their ships, and find the tour office really lacking in proper tours. What they advertise and promote as Cunard tours and at an expensive price, are not in reality the tours you get. I have found that if you go ashore and find your own guide for a tour, you save almost 75% of what Cunard charges and you get a much better tour. Cunard also nickles and dimes you with fees and charges. $2.00 for a bottle of water + 15%, 15% gratuity on anything you purchase on board including, corking charges for wine, the wine at meals and the carefully measured cocktails are not cheap with the added 15%. At the first Hawaiian port hundreds of people were purchasing sodas and liquor to bring back on board. And this happened all additional ports too. Forget the ship's laundry service, $4.00 to clean a shirt. So if you can get a good discount on a Cunard cruise to places you wish to visit and can avoid their lousy tour office recommendations and avoid the bar purchases and extras, the ship itself and the staff are wonderful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2012
The Queen Victoria is a great ship of the Cunard Line. I thought I would walk through many of the aspects of this trip that I did enjoy and make some comments on the negatives also. Starting at the Beginning. Embarkation: Getting ... Read More
The Queen Victoria is a great ship of the Cunard Line. I thought I would walk through many of the aspects of this trip that I did enjoy and make some comments on the negatives also. Starting at the Beginning. Embarkation: Getting on the Queen Victoria in Los Angeles has been problems for many who have previously commented on this site. I found that I was greeted by professional baggage handlers at the drop off who took the baggage quickly and handled it quite nicely as I stood and watched from the door area for a few minutes. Walking into the port embarkation area was clearly marked. I stood in line for maybe 10 minutes to get into the building and another 10 minutes going through security and maybe 10 minutes getting through check in at the counter. I had a Q5 Suite booked and that put my entry in the que first. The staff had room / ID cards already made, they took my credit card information and passport quickly and when done I walked on the ship. I did note that the Britannia Cabins were waiting to check in second and that it took them quite a few hours to get completed as my cabin balcony look over the entry gangway to the ship. I was greeted nicely by staff dressed up in their finest uniforms at the entry to the ship and was offered directions to my cabin and there was a staff member at the elevators to call them for the passengers coming on board. Music was playing also. A nice touch in the Grand Lobby of a Cunard Line Ship. Q5 Cabin 8163 Since I had studied the deck plan of the QV I knew were my suite was and found it easily. The cabin was in excellent shape, the assistant butler (Joel) came to the cabin within a few minutes of my arrival and asked if there was anything I needed. He said he would inquire about luggage that I had shipped to the port prior to my arrival and it showed up promptly. The room had been set up with champagne on ice and the liquors I had previously ordered and the fridge was nicely stocked with soft drinks. And there was a nice selection of fruit on the counter. The fresh flowers were very nice and the carnations doubled as boutonnieres on formal nights. The Butler (one of only a few female butlers on Cunard Line) Jackie came in to visit and introduce herself after lunch in the Queens Grill Restaurant. She was also very professional and assuring that requests would be promptly met. The room was cared for professionally and there were days that I thought it was magic because I would go to breakfast and the room was perfect when I returned. Bed made, bathroom spotless and the mess I make with papers all tightened up and I never saw who did all this work. The first night I was exhausted after dinner and the bed was not yet turned down but I did it myself because I was going to crash. Jackie and Joel came to the room door when they saw I had returned and wanted to take care of all the necessary turn downs but I was so tired and had already done the necessary turn down myself. Both Jackie and Joel appologized for not completing the turn down. Jackie always came exactly on time with on mornings I ordered breakfast and one time for dinner I ordered by phone and it was there piping hot and she made sure there was a table cloth spread out on the table and all set perfectly. Just outstanding service every day. This cabin is at the aft end of the ship and has an large balcony. Due to rain and colder weather I only got out on it one day and for brief periods to take pictures as the ship came into and out of port. My only comment about this Suite in general is that it is at the aft of the ship. The crossing of the Pacific is a rough thing mostly due to 16 foot waves on many days for this trip. Being at the aft end it bounces quite a bit with the natural pitch movement of the ship. I found I had trouble sleeping some nights and moving about the cabin in rough weather is an interesting undertaking. I think they should renovate this ship and move these Suites to a more central location to reduce to bouncing. And of course let those who pay less enjoy the bumping about the aft end cabin. Dining on Queen Victoria: My first meal on QV was in the Queens Grill Restaurant just after coming aboard. I was greeted nicely by Raul the Maitre D and the Head Waiter Eduardo and escorted to my table. The staff pulled out my chair every time I came to the restaurant and unfolded and placed a linen napkin on my lap each meal. My wait staff assigned was Francis the waiter and Emilio the assistant waiter. Both could not have been more attentive and accommodating. Great service and the food was spectacular. I have never had better service. I have to say I had the biggest laugh of the trip when I was delivered some nicely prepared salad/appetizer that was a perfect ball on the plate and Emilio leaned over next to me and said "Nice Ball". Emilio was from Croatia and I believe he meant to compliment the foods appearance and he totally missed why I cracked up and laughed the rest of the evening. I believe it was all in the translation as Francis heard the exchange and chided poor Emilio for the comment. It made my evening and I still chuckle about it now. I dined in the Pub for a Fish and Chips Pub Lunch and it was great. I liked that the pub sat people dining there and were very attentive. Only negative was that there should have been some music playing during lunch. Lunch in Todd English was very good and service was very attentive. My only negative is that it is al la carte pricing not a one time charge for the menu in Todd English. I didn't like that for some reason. And with the great service at the Grills Lounge and Restaurant I really didn't need to go to a speciality restaurant at all. The Lido Buffet was good, Pizza for lunch was Great. Made on the spot and hot on delivery. The Lido was always busy, finding a table was difficult at times of lunch and breakfast. But the staff were very quick to refill coffee mugs and to tidy up the tables for new arrivals. The buffet queuing by certain people was interesting to watch as I think different nationalities have a different concept of how to line up or not for a buffet meal selection. I am pretty easy going so it didn't bother me at all but I could see some getting upset with the issue. Sommeliers: First, the Sommelier in the Queens Grill that was assigned to my table's area was Richard. Always a smile and a greeting and all the guests could tell that Richard liked his work and enjoyed talking with the guests. He had no issue with also helping pull out chairs for guests and placing napkins on laps and he took special requests for strange drinks without missing a step. I always try to order something that may not be in stock on the ship to see the reaction. They always had my request except for a Sky Martini. No Sky Vodka?? Some I met on the ship thought the amount of liquor received for a drink was not adequate but I never found that to be an issue. The staff were always available and quick on the service in all the venues. I did enjoy High Tea in the Afternoon and the service was white glove all the way in the Queen's Lounge. I am sure the rule of gaining a pound a day applied fully to my experience. Entertainment: I do have to say, the dancing and singing in the shows was very professional. The shows were fantastic. I reserved a box for one performance and had a great time. The staff served champagne and sweets prior to the show and made sure I had a great time enjoying the box seat. I felt like they were going out of their way to make sure I was getting the most out of the experience. I enjoyed the entertainment in the Commodore Club which was a piano entertainer. The night I went up to that lounge there was an entertainment quiz also based on James Bond movies. I did poorly at the trivia of course but between a few cocktails and the music it was a great night. The Entertainment staff members were great at Bingo games and I did see them having a great time with the line dancing classes also. I don't ballroom dance but I did see quite a few people dancing on those times when the orchestra was playing. I went to the Captain's Party for the Grills Guests and met the Captain! She was very nice and spoke well of her crew. Also I met the Ships Doctor. She was very informative and since I am a Nurse Practitioner she offered a tour of the Medical Center. I did not take her up on it but it was very nice to have the offer. She spoke well for the ship and crew and introduced several other officers to me and took time to go over various aspects of ship functions and how the medical staff respond to emergencies and common issues of health for the crew. And the drinks were free !!! It was in Hemisphere's the ships night club. That space was very nice also. I did not seem to be busy on this trip, mostly because of the age of the guests. But I could see this space very full of fun during a shorter cruise with younger guests on board. Spa and Bath House and Exercise Center: This area is well done. The views from the equipment of the sea was fantastic. The area was well kept and the service there was great. I had a facial, and a stone massage and another treatment where the staff had warm oils flow on my third eye and over my head / scalp followed by a shoulder and head massage. All were well done. The staff was very professional. I did find that the fee for the Bath House pool use and sauna's was over priced and not a good value for my money as I did not get there every day. But the area was nicely made and well kept. The warm loungers outside the sauna area were great and the view out the windows made the experience all the better. Excursions: The excursions set up by Cunard were very good. I think they were a bit cheesy when the buses would stop for 10 minutes to take pictures and then get back on the bus to drive down the street to do the same thing over and over till we got to the main attraction. Of course I did get some great photos to remember my trip with. I took one excursion each port. They were all well organized and I give credit to the entertainment staff that they could keep it all organized as well as they did. The one announcer in the Queen's Room gathering place was confused about his Left and Right hand but it all worked out. I forgot my wallet of all things on one morning and had to run to my suite and get it and the escort for my tour held the bus and made sure I got on board before clearing the bus to leave the dock area. Very nice. Over all Impression: Beautiful Ship, Great Crew, Excellent Captain Olsen. A bit of a bumpy ride in rough seas but Well Done. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
This was our first trip on the Queen Victoria having made a number of prior cruises on the Queen Mary 2. Embarkation at the rather huge cruise terminal at LA, was relatively hassle free and we were soon on board. Our luggage arrived at ... Read More
This was our first trip on the Queen Victoria having made a number of prior cruises on the Queen Mary 2. Embarkation at the rather huge cruise terminal at LA, was relatively hassle free and we were soon on board. Our luggage arrived at our cabin on Deck 8 just a few minutes after we did, so it was a quick unpack and off the to explore the ship and what a beautiful ship it is. Our cabin was of a good size, and yes the bathroom was miniscule, but that is the same on most modern cruise ships. The cabin stewardess, La Rosa from the Philippines was very attentive and kept the cabin spotless. There could have been some loungers instead of the upright chairs on the balcony and possibly some more storage space but these are relatively minor issues. Given that the cruise was from LA to Hawaii there was always going to be more days at sea than on most cruises and more opportunities for the traditional Cunard formal themed Balls in the Queens Room. OK, we appreciate that some people might not particularly like so many formal nights, but hey, Its Cunard! Having said that it was noticeable that staff on the ship was not strictly enforcing the dress codes as evidenced by one particular Canadian gentleman who wore jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap for every occasion! Struck it lucky with our table partners, 2 couples from California and a Canadian Couple who know live in Mexico. We enjoyed all the food on offer In both the Britannia restaurant and the Lido. We particularly enjoyed the social "banter" with the waiters at our table. Especially with the wine waiter from the Ukraine. There were four lecturers on this trip. There was a couple talking about Hawaii, it is always difficult to do a "double handed" lecture but this couples presentations were dire to say the least. There was an excellent motivational speaker, how could you not attend a lecture entitled "Are you the person your dog thinks you are?" There was a military historian who spoke about the war in the Pacific and in particular about the men involved in the iconic "raising of the flag" on Iwo Jima picture, it turned out that his late father was one of the men involved. He was a truly excellent speaker. Then we had a travel writer with a series of lectures called "America 101" again really interesting and informative. The entertainment Staff, led by the least pretentious and self-promoting Entertainments director we have met did a wonderful job. The Royal Court singers and Dancers did some fantastic production numbers worthy of any Broadway or West End shows. There was a lady violinist - she was excellent as was the solo pianist. The other acts, a singer (a Nat King Cole tribute) a comedic juggler and an American comedian were good but didn't stand out. Were the excursions on offer value for money? Probably not, as at each island equivalent "local" tours were available at a cheaper price. However in Honolulu, we were advised to get the ship excursion to the USS Arizona memorial as the tickets to the memorial are provided with the tour. If you did do it yourself you would have had to take pot luck on getting a ticket, dependant on what other cruise ships might be in port and you would almost certainly had a long wait to get to the memorial which was not the case with the ship provided excursion as we were at the memorial within 45 minutes of arriving at the site. Would we travel with Cunard again? certaiinly Would we travel on the Queen Victoria again? certainly Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
We sailed on the Cunard Queen Victoria 2-week Christmas voyage from Los Angeles roundtrip to Hawaii in the Queen's Grill level of service this year -- December 21, 2011 through January 4, 2012. I have to say, the service, ... Read More
We sailed on the Cunard Queen Victoria 2-week Christmas voyage from Los Angeles roundtrip to Hawaii in the Queen's Grill level of service this year -- December 21, 2011 through January 4, 2012. I have to say, the service, accommodations, food and itinerary were outstanding. I have been a frequent traveler on Crystal Cruises (Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony) over the years. In comparison, I would give a slight edge to Crystal for their fewer passengers on board, and better embarkation/disembarkation experience. Otherwise, the Cunard experience was really really tremendous. Stateroom Accommodation -- I travelled with my mom and her service dog. While I love my mom, we do like our space. Also, although our service dog is small, a deck was essential. Our stateroom was QV4188. The room was one of the larger Queen's Grill "standard" suites (same price as most others), and had over 700 sq ft (including the balcony). (Thanks to Joe at PG Travel who helped arrange this!) It was at the stern of the ship on the 4th deck. As a corner unit, it had an unusually large wrap around balcony. The balcony was also deep. The balcony easily held 2 lounges, 2 tables and 2 chairs -- with lots of room to spare on the other side. Being at the back of the ship, we did get a bit more noise -- perhaps from the stabilizers. Certainly we got some noise from the anchor being lowered and raised. Our neighbor passenger requested to move because of sensitivity to the vibration/humming, but we did not find this to be a problem. I note that we did seem to roll on the waves a bit -- other passengers commented on this too. Not sure if we had rougher seas, or the ship's size contributed a bit. That said, my mom really liked being in this location, she says it was the best spot on the ship, as you could watch the wake, see the rainbows in the rain, and be lulled to sleep by the rocking. Inside the stateroom, we had a decent sized "living" area for the sofa, desk table and chair. We had 2 twin beds, which was a bit cozy, but for 2 weeks we managed. We each had separate closets and my mom used the separate dressing area/table just outside the bathroom. The bathroom was rather large with 2 sinks, and tub with jets and a separate shower cubicle. The room also had a nice granite counter, small cooler fridge and bar sink. We were very comfortable. Internet/Television. The internet service was spotty at best. Don't even think about Skype -- the bandwidth is just too small. Honestly, the television availability was terrible -- but you are not on a cruise to watch tv, right? Bring DVDs. (The library is very extensive, too, and has lots of books peruse and DVDs to watch). Dining. I was very impressed with our dining experience. In the Queen's Grill, the facilities felt small and intimate. We had our own table for 2, but were able to get to know our neighboring diner's a bit without being "stuck" with them for 2 weeks. The food was exemplary. My favorite were the breakfasts. I splurged and had eggs benedict with the eggs perfectly poached on most days. Dinners were an event! Being a native Californian, I did notice a scarcity of greens -- fresh lettuces, broccoli, etc., but no worries. We had an amazing Christmas dinner with all the trimmings -- turkey, gravy and stuffing. My mom is partial to caviar, and had it several times -- properly served with all the trimmings! Our sommelier was outstanding -- I was able to try wines and send them back if not pleased -- most of the time, I was very much pleased! I did note a smaller selection of European wines than available on the Crystal. Afternoon tea is very special. Tea is served in the Queen's Room -- a beautiful room -- and accompanied by a string quartet (quite delightful). Usually the tea service is packed. We visited on the "Ensenada" day when most people were out on the town. The scones lived up to English expectations. Lounging. Queen's Grill and Princess Grill passengers had their own designated bar/lounge area. This was especially nice at cocktail time, as we got to see the same people and get to chat with them a bit. We also had our own private deck areas to lounge in so that you didn't have to "fight the masses" for a deck chair near the pool. Service. The service for Queen's Grill guests was super. We had a butler, and butler's assistant who were very good. With me, my mom and a dog, we were a handful. (I took care of all of the dog's needs, including potty clean up). Everything was tidied up and fresh towels available twice per day. We had fresh flowers in the room, canapés delivered every afternoon (around 5 pm) to give us energy for the evening activities. A special note about Cunard and my mom's service dog. The service and accommodation we received was commendable. The advance team was generally helpful and tried very hard to facilitate our departure. The Chief Purser, himself, greeted us at the embarkation area to help sort out getting us on board, and also made valiant efforts to help us with governmental officials in Hawaii. Most of the staff were delightful to us all, and my mom's service dog received lots of affection and attention. Note that travelling with a service dog is doable, but not a trivial task. I wrote a blog giving practical tips about cruising with your service dog, my experience with Cunard in particular, and the trials of dealing with governmental regulation in Hawaii. Please see www.travelindog.blogspot.com Spa & Salon. The salon was pleasant and huge! considering this was a cruise ship! There were 3 chairs for hairdressers (who were constantly busy), a manicurist station, waiting area, plus a whole labyrinth of rooms or spa treatments. My mom visited the hair dresser 3 times during the trip -- they were adequate. I visited the masseuse twice -- she was AMAZING! All services are pricey, but good. Shopping. Ok, I like to shop. Because of the ship's size there was a surprisingly good selection of goodies, clothing, jewelry and books -- all of very good quality. I especially liked that they tried to feature goods made in England, including "Harrod's" items, jams, chocolates, and some leather goods (including Radley of London). Live Entertainment. Top rate talent, and lots of it! Live string quartet every day at tea, concert pianist , cocktail pianists, bands and Broadway/West End level shows. Christmas Activities. The efforts by the Cunard staff were amazing -- they brought a wonderful holiday spirit to the entire cruise. First, the decorations were abundant! The main lobby area banisters were festooned with garlands over three decks. There were lighted Christmas trees in almost every public space. Special activities on board included gingerbread house making (a favorite with the younger "Under 10" set), Christmas carol singing (many of the crew and lots of passengers participated), a special non-denominational Christmas service (select crew read relevant passages from the Bible, and we had LOTS of singing of Christmas carols), and of course, a visit from Santa! There were also professional photographers almost at every event, and happily took your photo in front of a Christmas tree or with Santa for next year's Christmas card. Embarkation & Disembarkation. This was truly a disaster. On embarkation, we were in the cruise departure area -- a massive room holding all 2000 passengers - it seemed simultaneously. Though Queen's Grill passengers, we had to queue up for a solid 45 minutes -- even though in a separate line. Admittedly, there was some problem with the computer system, but this was ridiculous for my mom to be expected to stand that long (she did sit down, although others were told they could not). Disembarkation was a free-for-all. First, we had to completely leave our room by 8 am, and sit in one of the large public rooms. Again, even though we were Queen's Grill, since we were taking the Cunard-provided-bus transportation to the airport, we had to sit with the other 1000 or so others doing the same. We sat there for a solid hour and a half. Then, off we went to the massive cruise terminal; I raced across to find our bags and haul them to where I could flag down a porter. The bags themselves were definitely beaten up and mishandled (I can imagine the luggage crew hurling them off the deck into the bins). The porter was super, I must say. He got us out to the bus, and on we went. We got to the airport -- 3 hours early. I only blame Cunard in that we should have been taken to a nicer place to wait as Crystal Cruises does, if we had to get off so early. Using the tenders at one of the ports was also unpleasant. While Queen's Grill passengers have priority to get on a tender, I didn't know this, and waited 45 minutes to get off. Also, at the other end, we were stuck waiting in a line of about 100 other passengers in the hot sun to get back. In sum, the Queen Victoria is a big ship holding 2000 passengers and 900 crew. (In contrast, Crystal Cruise ships hold around 800 passengers and 500 crew). The Queen's Grill level of service, accommodation and dining are absolutely comparable to Crystal. Some of the features of a big ship are wonderful, including more variety. Some of the features are not so wonderful -- you will have to deal with crowds at some point -- embarkation/ disembarkation/ tenders, and certainly, don't go to the Lido Buffet at lunchtime! I have to say overall, this was one of the most memorable and most wonderful cruises we have taken. Certainly over the holidays, it is quite special. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Having travelled on the Queen Victoria in 2008 we were happy to be returning and knew how beautiful the ship truly is. Because we had 4 sea days in a row going and coming from Hawaii, we decided to treat ourselves and upgraded to a ... Read More
Having travelled on the Queen Victoria in 2008 we were happy to be returning and knew how beautiful the ship truly is. Because we had 4 sea days in a row going and coming from Hawaii, we decided to treat ourselves and upgraded to a Princess Gill cabin. It was worth every penny and I hope to do it again! The Princess Grill dining room was excellent and we had one of the best tables for 2 (109). Our waiters were Rajesh and Edwin and they did an excellent job of taking care of us. The Queen Grill lounge was a nice place to relax before lunch or to enjoy afternoon tea, however it does get VERY crowded at tea time and just before lunch. Cunard might want to expand this space just a little, because at peak times compared with everywhere else onboard I felt very crowded in this space. Embarkation The embarkation at the Port of Los Angeles was the worst of all 18 cruises we've taken. We arrived at the port shortly after 11am and were handed a card with a number 3. Our cruise documents indicated we should plan to arrive a 12pm, however our documents mentioned priority embarkation and we were very eager to get onboard. After passing the security check we were told to have a seat and wait for our number to be called. After waiting for over an hour the room was quickly filling up and with no announcement or information about the delay we asked one of the staff if we would be given priority boarding, the response we got was yes, but just please sit and wait. At 12:35 a shore side staff person standing toward the front of the crowded room started calling number one, but since no one could hear clearly what she was saying, everyone just rushed for the line. We had to push our way into line and stand there for 45minute to be given our room keys. There was no priority embarkation for grill passengers and it was pretty much a free for all, we later learned it was like this all day long, even passengers arriving at 3pm were greet with long waits a bigger lines. This could have been handle much better with just a small amount of planning or thought towards passengers. We were given multiple reason for the delay but each one conflicted with the other. Our luggage was among the very last bags on board and we received them after the lifeboat drill. Just before the muster drill I went up on deck and looked over to the pier, there was 3 cages of bags left to be brought onboard and sure enough our bags were on the top of the last cage, this was NOT the priority luggage service the Cunard advertised for Gill passengers!!! Dining and Food We loved the Princess Grill and our table. We could eat when we wanted, however a very loud and someone ignorant group at a table for 4 seated nearby meant that we had to adjust our dining times to avoid having to listen to them argue to call the waiter by yelling "hey mister". The service was excellent and I really love flambe desserts so Thomas (Maitre'd) made sure that I had one almost every night. Our Christmas dinner was excellent. Our waiter Rajesh quickly learned that we like to play and joke around a bit, and a couple of nights later made a great joke with our menus,by giving us a menu in a different language, a few nights later we were given breakfast menu for dinner. We enjoyed most of our meals. However, there were a few entrees that we thought weren't what we'd expected them to be. The steak Diane wasn't flambe'd at the table and what was presented was a big disappointment. One of my soups didn't resemble anything like what I expected or what was described on the menu. Rajesh and Edwin (assistant waiter) were very quick to observe when it appeared we didn't like something and they discretely asked if they could replace something. Cabin We loved our cabin and it was close by to the elevators, in fact it was too close to the elevators and there was some occasions when you could hear screaming kids running down the stairs. We were just forward one of the Carpathia suites(7070) on the port side. I wouldn't choose this location ever again, it was handy being steps from the stairs or the elevator, but I found this to be more of a sound problem. A couple of nights I was awoken because there was a service door very close by and there was linens in a huge being banged around. There was also a service closet for the suite which was beside us and when the linen carts were being stocked it banged very loudly on the cabin walls. On the last night I was kept awake for over 2 hours while the luggage dragged, thrown scraped down the service stairwell as it was being taken off the floor. By 3am after asking the staff twice to please be quiet because we couldn't sleep, I finally had to go to the pursers desk to complain. Entertainment There were some shows which we enjoyed and couple which we had to walk out of. The casino was ok, many of the slot machines really need to be updated and they could reduce the number of tables and increase some of the slots. During the busy times in the evening all of the slot machines were quite full but there was two tables were totally empty with dealer just standing around. We loved watching the Strictly Cunard competition however it was really hard to find a seat. Some of the lectures were quite interesting and overall for a longer sea voyage I would chose Cunard over any of the other lines because the daily activities are better organized. Disembarkation Because of the nightmare we experienced boarding we choose self disembarkation also because I arranged for a car to take us to LAX and we had a 11:55 flight. We were the 3rd and 4th passengers off at 8:15am The shore side staff were a little more helpful this time. I loved seeing Hawaii and it was made even more enjoyable because we did onboard my absolute favourite cruise ship! I really hope I get to enjoy the Queen Victoria again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
In the past 6 months Cunard's prices have skyrocketed, far outweighing value for money. My biggest complaint is that past passenger benefits are terrible. Onboard credits for past guests are less than what a first-time Cunarder could ... Read More
In the past 6 months Cunard's prices have skyrocketed, far outweighing value for money. My biggest complaint is that past passenger benefits are terrible. Onboard credits for past guests are less than what a first-time Cunarder could obtain through their local travel agent. Am I supposed to be thrilled by extra hours of internet time, a small laundry service discount or an officer's party while other cruise companies offer substantial fare reductions to the point where some passengers travel free (2 for 1, 3rd passenger free etc.)? Cunard seems to think that by assigning high prices they can retain their 'elite' image.The food was terrible in quality and there is always massive confusion regarding offshore excursions with Cunard (eg. we waited nearly 3 hours for the tender at Maui, thereby losing half the day at this port!) Only one fellow with glasses and a walkie-talkie had any organizational skills whatsoever.The islands of Maui, Kawai and Hilo were beautiful and the people were also very friendly and helpful throughout the islands. This was the best part.My other complaint with Cunard is that there were unruly children jumping from the hot-tub platform into the pool. Nobody else could use the pool unless they wanted to risk being hit by flippers from the children's snorkel gear. No point complaining to Cunard as they are indifferent, especially under this new management. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
Crusing for me is one of the best ways of spending my vacation time. My partner enjoys it as well. This cruise was the longest we have ever vacationed. As you can imagine we loved having other take care of the chores while we endulged. ... Read More
Crusing for me is one of the best ways of spending my vacation time. My partner enjoys it as well. This cruise was the longest we have ever vacationed. As you can imagine we loved having other take care of the chores while we endulged. There were some highlights. Alison Farr played spectacularly on piano with fellow inspiring violinist for several concerts. I was messmerized and thrilled by their flawless interpretations. Another gift of the voyage was a former airline captain who kept audiences in stitches on several occations with his commentary and naughty film publicity clips. The people onboard were mostly mature and cultured guests. Only on rare occation did I witness passengers behaving poorly. One such occation, followed an accupuncture talk, where a senior citizen cut in front of the few people waiting to make appointments with the ship's therapist, ignoring those clearly waiting before her. The ship's staff did not ask her to wait for her turn. Another complaint was that a couple of the guests with electric wheelchairs would drivers into other passengers. Nobody was injured, but nerves were freyed. There were multiple stories told about ill-tempered passengers who hogged laundryroom equipment. One such incident only ended after the ships armed security staff had interviened. For myself, the one incident that could have been handled differently, was Cunard's standard response after having damaged my new luggage. It was considerate of Cunard's staff to use a piece of silver duct tape to close the hole they made in the $150 luggage. But, it seems odd to be told by the perser's staff that one's only recourse is to file a insurance claim, providing I had the forethought to protect my investment from Cunard's carelessness. All in all, there are a lot of words above devoted to describing what passengers might see on any cruise. I would like the reader to take away the notion that I was generally happing with staff's service, decor, weather, safety, and much more. I recommend going on this cruise. Do not let my discription of the few Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
It was slightly less than what we expected. The food was unsurprising,not imaginative or original. We understand they cater to varied tastes. What we disliked most were the pastries. Great wine list but rather expensive. ... Read More
It was slightly less than what we expected. The food was unsurprising,not imaginative or original. We understand they cater to varied tastes. What we disliked most were the pastries. Great wine list but rather expensive. Starting dinner at 8,30 pm followed by a show at 10,30 pm means a very late bed-time.Because of this we missed many shows. We liked the magician and the dancers. Dressing up each evening is a hassle. Dinner is a fussy affair on this ship. You have the option of the self service though. Cabin adequate with comfortable balcony. Staff most friendly and polite at all times. One great plus : the LIBRARY ! The weather during most of this cruise was frisky and cloudy. So we spent a lot of time there. One last BIG complaint. Not for the cruise line. Disembarkation took 4 hours because of long lines at re-entry U.S. immigration.We lost a full half day of our holiday because of this disagreeable interminable long wait. The cruise had a stopover in Ensenada. I would gladly have missed this kitschy,seedy tourist-trap if it had meant a faster disembarkation. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
We love QM2 so thought we would try QV. Embarkation, with priority boarding was a breeze,from drop off to on board about 20 minutes. Cabin 8040 is A-1 fwd with balcony. Very clean BUT the bathroom is so small one can brush teeth, pee, and ... Read More
We love QM2 so thought we would try QV. Embarkation, with priority boarding was a breeze,from drop off to on board about 20 minutes. Cabin 8040 is A-1 fwd with balcony. Very clean BUT the bathroom is so small one can brush teeth, pee, and shower all in one place...if you are tall..well, mind your head. Did manage to stow all of our stuff however..suitcases fit nicely under the bed. Our cabin steward, Rick, did a super job taking care of us. We liked the lay-out of the ship, nice feel in all the areas,even tho the ship was full did not feel crowded...we found the staff and passengers extremely friendly, did not encounter and grumps! Our recent experiences have been on QM2 PG dining room so we struggled with the Britannia dining room for dinner. Tho the service was ok the main courses were...tasteless...apps and soups and salads and desserts were good...several times we just had soup and salad. We did enjoy in the Lido, very good fresh made pizza, burgers and great fries, and a good salad selection. Also for breakfast fresh cooked eggs to order. Entertainment & speaker we are split on. I thought the after dinner shows were great the speakers good except for one who was teaching a class...in a dull voice! We had loads of laughs in the Pub for games after the show..or dancing every night in the Queens Room. Cunard has the very best ships for ballroom dancers afloat. Large dance floors! Afternoon tea or a classical concert. Cunard does a super job keeping passengers busy. Or a quiet read in the very nice library. If you enjoy meeting new people than you can't go wrong with a Cunard cruise, we have always found our fellow travelers very interesting and well traveled! We had 4 formal nights in 14 days...I love it... All in all the only problem we had was dinner in the Britannia dining room, we are Calif foodies...and we found the dinner hit and miss! Disembarkation in LA was very smooth. Our time was 8:50am we were at the curb by 9:15am! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
This was our third voyage on Cunard, the first two on the "Queen Mary 2", this one on the "Queen Victoria". Comparing the two ships was easy! They are both beautiful, but the "QM2" shines! She has that ... Read More
This was our third voyage on Cunard, the first two on the "Queen Mary 2", this one on the "Queen Victoria". Comparing the two ships was easy! They are both beautiful, but the "QM2" shines! She has that extra pizzaz and "wow factor" that is missing on the "QV". After talking with several fellow passengers, the consensus was the same. We loved our balcony cabin with it's tiny shower in the bathroom. One of our tablemates suggested that you soap the shower walls and then "twirl"! Didn't try it, but sounded like a hoot! We had plenty of drawer and closet space. Our room steward, Benny, was very efficient. He kept our cabin spotless and the ice bucket filled. The weather on this particular voyage wa quite cloudy and windy....not what we expected on crossing the Pacific Ocean in February. In the fourteen days we were sailing, we had two sunny days on the ship and only two of the four islands had sunny warm weather. Definitely not Cunard's problem! Our dinner in the Britannia every night was delightful. Sandy, our head waiter, was absolutely flawless in his presentations. He has many years experience with Cunard, and it shows! His assistant, Jacek, from Poland, was my favorite! He is young, eager and ready to go far in this world! What a smile! Our wine steward, Rao, was new on the job with this cruise, and learned his duties very quickly. Three out of the six at our table requested drinks with a little extra flair (blue cheese stuffed olives in their Manhattans and Martinis) and Rao came through! The food was delicious! We ate most of our meals in Britannia,and a few lunches in the Lido. The portions were just right, soups and entrees always hot and tasty. The desserts were spectacular! We had the same delightful tablemates at dinner every night, and sat with different people at breakfast and lunch. We saw all of the shows in the Royal Court Theater. Every one was professional and elegantly done. The costumes were amazing. Two shows featured John England, a pianist who "blew our sox off"! He played requests that passengers asked for during the trip. I do know that "As Time Goes By" will never sound as good as when he played it. My only complaint was that on a cruise to Hawaii, it would have been nice to be presented with a flower lei on landing at any one of the four islands. You could buy them after leaving the ship in the four ports, but that extra touch from Cunard wasn't there. There was no luau on board or offered in the tour packages on any of the islands. We had a wonderful vacation that was a year in the planning and flew by too quickly! I would sail on the "Queen Victoria" again in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
We sailed from L.A. to Hawaii roundtrip of 14 days on Cunard's Queen Victoria. It was very different from any other cruise line. It was a very British experience, with maybe 60% of the passengers of the old colonial British Empire ... Read More
We sailed from L.A. to Hawaii roundtrip of 14 days on Cunard's Queen Victoria. It was very different from any other cruise line. It was a very British experience, with maybe 60% of the passengers of the old colonial British Empire set. We dressed for dinner. We attended formal Balls. We had afternoon tea and scones from white-gloved waiters. We went to shows where we sung old music-hall songs and waved our Union Jack Flags to 'Land of Hope And Glory', and we observed all of the dress-code rules, including having Hats for Ascot, Masks for Masquerade, and Bustles for Victorian Balls. Ex-pat Brits (such as we) really loved it, but we can see that it might not be so jolly for everyone. We didnt like the 2 class Grills/Britannia system. The ship projected the eliteness of priviledge to which we were supposed to aspire. I left the UK to get rid of that. By the way, the stage shows were the best of any that I have seen on any cruise. Very professional, amazing dancing, ballet, costumes, singing and staging. Also the internal decor for the theater, the Queens Lounge/Ballroom, the bars, the lounges.....just amazing. The panelling, carpeting, and lounge chairs were like being in an exclusive London club. Nowhere was crowed. So why cant I give this a full 5-star rating? We did find the British cultural thing a bit over-whelming by the end. But there were some issues. First the food was British 'gourmet', meaning that courses were fussed with cosmetic minutia and you often had to ask what you had ordered because it didnt look like what you had ordered. The Brittania dining experience was very poor....about the worst ever among major cruise lines. The Lido was spacious, and at least had 24/7 fruit drinks and ice cream, but they did manage to mess up the scrambled eggs...a cardinal sin. Generally, not much selection and a low-budget affair. But we loved the pub lunches at the Golden Lion. The second issue was that the ship was poorly designed above deck. The two outdoor pools were just boxes. No childrens pool. The walking spaces were not available to make a complete loop on any deck. The two-class 'Grills' system kept us riffraff out of some of the high-deck areas. We had a nice stateroom (A4 deck 5) but it had a very small balcony overlooking a lifeboat...almost useless. The very comfortable bedding, towels, and facilities were excellent. The final issue was that we suspected that the ship may have real issues since it traversed almost calm water with excessive pitching...up and down. On it's first sea trials, surely someone said 'Oh, my God.....?"...the rear pool was flat, while the front pool was roped off for huge waves. I would like to try the QM2 for 10 days, but will revert to HAL for future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. The first 3 days were very windy and cold....in turn the ship was rocking a tremendous amount. We were sea sick for 3 days, as were many other passengers. The return from Hawaii was good ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. The first 3 days were very windy and cold....in turn the ship was rocking a tremendous amount. We were sea sick for 3 days, as were many other passengers. The return from Hawaii was good weather, flat seas, but the ship still had a lot of rocking (no sick days though). We will never chose the QM2 again for a few reasons. The food didn't seem exceptional as we had hoped for being an upscale cruise line. The King's Court buffet was (as most people report), confusing the first few days and then we kept thinking "why did they design this like they did????"....There were long lines at the hamburger/omelet/deli station, so often we did not eat what we would have been our first choice. The dining room staff was inattentive, we were never introduced to our asst waiter (who was hardly ever around), and had to pour our own wine due to a inattentive wine steward. Our hull balcony cabin 5205 was adequate. Our room steward was fine, but we had to ask for several things along the way that should've been there already. Friendly service doesn't seem to be a priority. Several of the service staff don't look at you in the eye. Also, they walk by without saying good morning..etc. We attributed the lack of detailed attention and friendliness to the automatic tip system....They have nothing to strive for. Overall, we expected exceptional food, service and pampering on our first Cunard cruise....it wasn't even close. We will NEVER take another Cunard cruise, we will stick with our old favorites, RCCL and Celebrity! Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. cschafte@hotmail.com Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2006
White star service? On a recent round trip cruise from L.A. to Hawaii, we got to sample the latest ship from the Cunard fleet, the Queen Mary 2, billed as the biggest and fastest cruise ship on the water. The ship itself is truly ... Read More
White star service? On a recent round trip cruise from L.A. to Hawaii, we got to sample the latest ship from the Cunard fleet, the Queen Mary 2, billed as the biggest and fastest cruise ship on the water. The ship itself is truly beautiful, taking it's design cues from the original art deco era Queen Mary 1. Its size, sadly, may be it's greatest fault. We came a way feeling like cattle. The disappointments started early. We had booked a balcony cabin and specifically requested to not be given an "in Hull" room. We got one anyway. In hull refers to the balcony rooms that are below deck 7, the Promenade deck. These cabins have balconies that are fully enveloped with steel walls but have a window cut into them. They are not what most people would consider a balcony and we found the very title quite deceptive. We also requested to be part of the first seating at a table for two. We were given the late seating at a table for eight. We wondered why they even ask preferences. Any requests for changes were met with cold indifference. Can you really maintain a high quality in service, food and entertainment when you're serving 2550 people? The staff, with the exception of the pursers office, give their all and are probably the best thing about the ship. In our opinion everything else falls short. We also got to give the staff a real test when my cabin mate fell ill and had to leave the cruise mid way through. The staff in the pursers office not only lacked compassion but were down right rude. This was our third cruise and only real disappointment. Crystal and Wind Star both did a superb job. Bottom line: For what Cunard charges and delivers, you can do a lot better elsewhere. Below are some highlights and things to think about if you are considering a cruise on the Queen Mary 2 THE GOOD: Beautifully designed and maintained ship. Well appointed cabins. Top notch support staff and service. Great gym and spa. Excellent library. THE BAD: Food that never quite tastes as good as it looks. Deceptively vague advertising and brochures. Standing in endless lines at main dining rooms and some entertainment. Being charged for soda and other non-alcoholic beverages. A confusing tipping program. Weak watered down shows. THE UGLY: Rude, burned out management staff. Being treated like cattle. Being constantly bombarded with art auctions, overpriced photographic portraits and other methods of separating you from your money. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from ... Read More
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Flying from JFK to London's Heathrow Airport, I picked up a coach that tooled me down to Southampton. We arrived dockside at about 3:00 PM. Although you could see the ship in the distance as we wound our way through the dockside, the enormity of it doesn't strike you until you step off the coach and look up at the towering monster. It has been aptly described as "The QE2 on steroids." As you go up the gangway and enter the grand lobby, you are in an atrium that reaches to the 7th deck. The Romans would be proud of its majesty! A shaper Guide takes your bag and leads you by an elevator to Deck 8 and then down an endless corridor to Cabin 8028. After the usual Emergency Drill in three languages at 5:00 PM, a Sail-a-Way party is held on the Aft Deck as the ship readies to sail at 6:00 PM. The weather is chilly but the sun has arranged for a layer of clouds to be positioned with rays beaming through openings forming a semi-circular fan backdrop to the occasion. Pierside, the express train from London, having discharged its passengers at the Terminal Entrance, wends its way back to London. The cars are Orient Express style, 12 "Wagon Lits" with shining bodies, curtained windows and silver trimming. Champagne flows as water and a Show Band "Onyx" made up of Tiger Woods Look-a-Likes kicks off with "In the Mood". Dancing erupts as hand held British and American flags flail the winds. Recorded music is then played at deafening decibels as those staples of British history bring the deck rails of crowded passengers to full voice with "Rule Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves" followed by the moving tribute England "Land of Hope and Glory". Fireboats fore and aft spray a Niagara Falls curtain of water. Streamers fill the air from the upper decks. With a nod to Uncle Sam, "Anchors Aweigh" and the "Marine Hymn" follow. Tony and George would be proud! The ship's mighty whistle thunders "Under Way" and followed by a phalanx of small craft, the QM2 edges away from the pier into to Solient and it's on to New York and six memorable days on this palace at sea! THE WEATHER On our first day at sea, the weather turned foul. This comes as no surprise as it is generally known that the North Atlantic can behave this way at this time of year. I envisioned it as a confrontation between King Neptune and the Queen as follows: King Neptune: "So you think you're the biggest and the best! Well let's see what you've got!" Queen Mary: "Out of my way, Buster. You've met your match!" The battle got underway. The Beaufort scale read Force 10 and winds across the deck were clocked at 70 mph. Stay off the decks was the word. The seas erupted in mountainous explosions of white and green foam. The white horses were in full stampede. As you sat in the Commodore Bar on the prow of the ship, you watched in awe as the ship buried its prow in the waves and rose up as a dog shaking off the water. The spray from these frontal collisions would on occasion, wash the windows... and this was on Deck 9, well above the water line. It was beautiful! Speed was dropped from 24 knots during the night to 15 knots and then to 7 as the storm peaked. Next morning on my way to breakfast at 8 AM, it seemed every other Cabin had a "Do not disturb" sign on the handle. This continued for two days. The Lady plowed on. It had a date in NY and it must not be late. Conditions eased to sullenness for a period. The next day, although starting out sunny, suddenly turned yellowish dark and a sneak attack began. The Captain came on and said this was some unexpected turbulence and once again, be careful. On my way to dinner at 8:30 PM, I always stop in the Golden Lion Pub for a sip, a delightful copy of a London pub with gleaming brass, burnished walnut walls and taps of the finest English brews. It was located on Deck 2, near the water line. Seven windows on the outside wall gave you a clear view of the action outside. Once again the waves rose high and explosively and on occasion would rise up against the windows in fury and for a moment you were under the waves. It was awesome! On the 5th day, with one day to go, the day dawned bright and sunny, the waves calmed and the Captain leaned on the throttle, to 30 knots. We arrived in New York Harbor on time. The Queen passed her first test with flying colors. ENTRY INTO THE PORT OF New York This final day on the six-day cruise from Southampton was looked forward to with much excitement by the 2,746 passengers. This was it! The day dawned gloomy and foggy. The decks were crowded as the ship aimed for the middle point of the Verrazano Bridge. It moved underneath smoothly with an estimated 23 feet to spare. The flagship of the Moran Tugboat fleet led the way up the North River and her sister tugs formed an escort convoy. Police boats and Coast Guard vessels accompanied and they all looked so small from the 7th deck rail. The fog began to dissipate and slowly there emerged on the port side, the Lady. There hasn't been a time I have passed her that others) (and I don't get a feeling of pride and emotion. On 7 Deck is the cafeteria restaurant for those who shun the Dining Room. It is large and expansive and manned primarily by newly hired Filipinos. It was open for early breakfast but when the National Anthem sounded for the Statue of Liberty, the workers deserted their stations en masse, and flocked out on deck. The pattern was the same...first a look of awe and staring and then the cameras went to work. Singles, doubles, groups backed against the rail with the backdrop, the Statue. Very crowded, they stood on slippery deck chairs to see over the heads of the crowd. Slowly, they filed back into the restaurant and their stations. Wail 'til they see these pictures in Manila! The ship now neared the Battery and two fireboats joined the parade, shooting geysers of red, white and blue water into the air. Helicopters buzzed the ship providing early morning fodder to the Networks. At Ground Zero, the ship paused and sounded three long thunderous blasts on her whistle and then continued the march to Pier 92. As the ship made her turn into the berth, tugboats hovered nearby in case...they were not needed. Commodore Warwick slid her in slow and as smooth as silk and edged her to the pier. On the roof of the adjoining pier, the United States Maritime Academy band saluted with martial music and once PG 2 again with the National Anthem. Mayor Bloomberg greeted the Captain as the gangway landed and told Captain Warwick he had a bad dream. He said it was of the phone ringing and the Captain asking if he could raise the Verrazano Bridge just a bit for passage. NOTES AND COMMENTS When I arrived in my Cabin in Southampton, the television was on and the screen read "Welcome Arthur Stewart. See Instructions". In the desk drawer was a keyboard—computer style—with directions how to find out anything you wanted to know about on-board. Lectures, programs, shops etc. And if you were expecting e-mail, it would appear on the screen. The Lecture Programs were of the highest caliber. The speakers were from the Oxford University Discovery Program. There were several from other leading educational institutions in the UK and North America. Subjects covered in 3-4 one hour sessions included: Shakespeare, Dinosaurs, Trans Atlantic crossings when immigration soared, Opera, and Charles Darwin's Epic 5 Year Voyage on HMS Beagle. A highlight for me was the planetarium on board. A large theater with lean-back seats, the ceiling was a constant vision of the heavens. During the lecture, the lecture ceiling, now lowered, reflected a variety of star galaxies that were brilliant. Haven't seen that many stars in years. Commodore Warwick, Master, comes from a family of ship captains. His grandfather and father captained Cunard Liners. He took over as master of the QE2 when his father retired from that position. He has a lovely wife Kim who sails with him on most cruises. He said the happiest moment for him had been when, with special permission of the Governor of Massachusetts, he performed a marriage ceremony for his daughter in Boston Harbor. The Library, the largest afloat, (8,000 hard backs, 500 paperbacks, audio and CD ROMS) was located in the bow with windows overlooking the ship's prow. Wooden cabinets of oak polished softly contained a myriad of books on every conceivable subject. You could sit in a living room type chair and read at your leisure glancing now and then at the sea before you. Authors appeared regularly and you could get signed copies of their current book. In one room a "shop" was open for purchase of cards, QM2 bookmarks, napkins, etc. It was constantly busy. The Britannia Dining Room is a two-tiered restaurant with open seating at breakfast and lunch and two seattings for dinner at an assigned table. The main floor was vast and truly a grand salon. It was ringed with balconies and then a third, more cozy third wing. In total, the restaurant soars for three decks. Our table was near the door where the waiters went to get the food and return to your table. To do so, they exited by an escalator to the kitchen and when you saw a tray slowly moving upward toward the door, it was time to eat. The open seating was a positive feature as you got to talk with different people daily. At lunch, two young men (40ish) on my left had flown to London from Auckland, New Zealand to be on this trip. One was from the US, went to NYU where he later got his law degree and now works for a company in Auckland. The other was an applicant for a teaching job in London and would stay aboard for the return trip to Southampton. Another couple from Westport, CT asked me what the notice in the Daily Bulletin was that said "...friends of Bill will meet at 2:30 in the..." I informed them it was AA and it is on board every Cunard ship I have sailed. They mentioned attending a church in Westport—the Congregational Church. I asked them if they knew a Wally Scoffield. "Oh yes!" they beamed. He is our present Minister in the First Congregation Church in Riverhead, NY. And so it went. I did note that on several occasions people from other countries would lean close to you and ask, "Is Bush going to be re-elected?" The Captain's Compliments, and will you join him for cocktails..." The first blast was welcome aboard for all passengers who thronged the Queen's room at 5 PM for the inevitable picture taking of you and the Captain shaking hands. It's your Proof that you made this trip. The next invite was to the Frequent Floaters (5 plus cruises with Cunard) extended by the Captain. 700 Showed up for this gala and exchanged war stories of previous cruises and one-upmanship. Not to be outdone, the Senior Staff Officers threw another FF party and the same 700 showed up to do battle again, Surprising how so many couldn't make it to breakfast or lunch seemed in full fettle for these bacchanalia. Maureen Ryan, senior cruise hostess, always greets me with a warm properly mannered hug and updates me on some of the people I know so well from the QE2 who are still with her. She hosted a small group get-together for 70 passengers who had sailed on the original Queen Mary. Four of them were on her for her maiden voyage. They all told stories of what it were like and the gal from our dinner table who attended said it was a pleasant afternoon session—with tea. As to staff who left or were transferred to the QM2, I recognized and was warmly greeted by about 10. And, truth be told, the preponderance were bartenders. Don't tell. We were provided with a Passenger list of the 2,476 passengers on board. The first name on the alpha listing was..... Tahereh Abdolkarimzadeh through Helmut Zylla The ship picked up the Pilot at Ambrose light at 4AM and Robert D. Jones came aboard to guide her to her berth at Pier 92. A veteran of 45 years of service, he stood on the bridge with binoculars and hand held radio well away that the world was watching as he peered through the early morning fog. He knew that off Brooklyn he had to make two crucial turns. "We were flying along at 18 knots" and he asked Commodore Warwick "How'll she do?""Fine" he responded. "She's a lot like the QE2." Jones didn't want to hear that. He said on the QE2 you had to use a lot of rudder. (The QM2 had no rudder—it's all done by propellers strategically mounted) But this thing noted Jones "Pranced around just magnificent!" At Pier 92 Jones turned over the duty to the Docking Pilot. And that concluded his service as a Pilot. He retired as of that day. What a way to go out! FINALE A story line in THE New York Times summed it up perfectly: A QUEEN ARRIVES, AND EVEN IN JADED New York, JAWS DROP. Early debarkation was arranged and my time with Carl at the helm had me home by 11:30 AM. It took two days to come down from my high. In summary...Of my 10 years of cruising, there have been many notable events, places visited, people met, and friendships formed. This 6-day cruise was by far the most memorable of them all. It was as though you were in another world... and indeed you were. Each night you set your clock back one hour and another 25-hour day was yours to savor. In 1839 Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia had a dream of Trans-Atlantic shipping carrying the Royal Mail. More than 160 years later, the newest Queen of the Cunard Line carries his vision on. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view ... Read More
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view was obstructed, but as soon as we stepped aboard, we could tell what a technical marvel she was. We entered the lobby with its rich red carpeting and tall white pillars. We inquired about our room and were given vague directions, and no help with our luggage. Odd, I thought. In my cruising experience (which had been entirely aboard Celebrity Cruise Line vessels), passengers were taken to a stateroom by a steward. When we found our cabin, the first thing that greeted us was not a "Welcome Aboard" notice but a warning about the Norwalk virus. The ship sailed an hour later than planned. As we stood on the deck waiting to see the departure, no one told us there would be a delay. Instead, passengers who were scheduled to eat during first seating were told via the intercom that the dining room was about to close its doors. Also, Champagne, normally free on sailing day, was to be $9 a glass. Not that it mattered: they ran out of glasses. When our friends and fellow passengers Bill and Linda Valliant found their favorite wine on the menu on our first night out, they joked about the ship running out of that, too. The joke was on them: Not available, said the wine stewardess. Even the purser's desk was unprepared for the voyage. When I asked for stamps the first day so I could send some postcards home, I was told there were none. When sending a four page letter of concerns and complaints to the hotel manager. There was no acknowledgement of receipt until the 25th and all it was just a 3 line form letter. Cunard's slick brochures promised the "skilled attentions of one staff member per couple," and the promise was kept by our bedroom steward, Steven, who was very friendly and kept the room exceptionally clean. He was helpful in any way possible. The public rooms for the most part were nicely decorated. The Britannia Restaurant was three stories tall and had a large, lighted glass dome overhead -- a magnificent sight as people descended the winding staircases that led into the lower salon. The Britannia Restaurant was a different story. Its menu included haggis, fish tacos, and "boneless" chicken that I found out far too late had a bone in it, as I sat at the table choking. At breakfast, the toast was stale and cold. I had to flag down the waiters to get more water and another roll. Even seating could be a problem. One morning we were led past 50 or so clean tables and told to sit at one that still had dirty plates, crumbs and I don't know what else.We were lucky enough to eat there almost every day. The staff was wonderful and we met the nicest people there: a hotelier from the island of Sark; the author of Low Fat Cooking for Dummies; a corporate trainer from Pennsylvania, and even Lara Spencer from Good Morning America.The brochure also promised "menus created by some of the greatest chefs in the world," and the food was delicious -- but only in the Todd English restaurant. English is a world renowned chef who agreed to open a concession restaurant on the new ship. Thank goodness he did, as his selections were incredible: Boston Bibb salad, truffle loveletters, sirloin, and orange creme brulee Room service wasn't a reasonable alternative. Usually it had a recorded message saying to call back. One time, my friend Jim called and was told that it would be an hour and a half before we got our ginger ales. When our friends Bill and Linda went ashore at Tenerife, they came aboard raving about the food they had had, the best since the start of the trip. The restaurant? Pizza Hut! Passengers and crew got plenty of exercise walking about the ship. Try as I did, I don't think I got to visit every possible public area. On our last day at sea, we found an open promenade just under the bridge that could be reached only by elevator. I found the Queen's Lounge by accident one day, and it was a pleasure to take tea there. It was just as wonderful as the Savoy. The initial entertainment was a treat as we had Dame Shirley Bassey singing many ballads. We were also privileged to listen to the musical trio of Vive Classica who played many tunes from the turn of the last century. The program deteriorated from there and people had to make their own fun. There wasn't much to do other than listen to a few lecturers ( one of whom embarrassingly singled out a fellow for bringing a video camera, though no formal announcement had previously had been made ) or pay $25.00 to make your own corsage. Well, at least they gave napkin folding lessons to fill the time. There was much hype about this trip and there were speculation about who was aboard. Names bandied about included Rod Stewart, Madonna, and Elton John. Once during the voyage I thought I had spotted actress Debrah Farentino of CAPITOL on deck, but it turned out to be a look-a-like. But things kept breaking down. Toilets refused to flush, elevators wouldn't lift, hot water turned cold and computers shut down in the middle of work-related e-mail, or functioned slowly at what seemed 50 percent capacity. There were communications breakdowns, too. Lara Spencer was scheduled to do a segment for Good Morning America one morning. Our daily program told us to be on deck for 7 in the morning if we wanted to watch. We waited and waited but nothing happened. Finally we gave up and had breakfast. Later, strolling through the Winter Garden, we saw that filming had just wrapped up. The program had had the wrong time, and no one from personnel thought to tell us about their error. Another time, "Code Bravo" was announced over the intercoms and in the staterooms. All crew members were to report to a certain area. What did that mean? Again, there was no announcement or explanation, but we found out there was a fire. Quite a few of us were getting ready for dinner and did not know whether to finish taking our showers or grab our lifejackets. The fire was quickly controlled and eventually the voyage ended without serious incident. I experienced mixed emotions on the final day. Our home for two weeks was beautiful, but had many flaws. The camaraderie among fellow passengers could not be beat. I came away with so many addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and for that I will be forever grateful. Items commemorating the maiden voyage were very rare. Cunard did provide every passenger with a lovely wedgewood plate, which was small, but nice.We found a beautiful maiden voyage certificate in the bookshop that sold for $10.00. Passengers finally received a plain one near the end of the trip ( and after many complaints ) that resembled the NY State death certificate. Prices on the few maiden voyage items were exorbitant as well. $25.00 for a hat and $39.00 for a t-shirt, I passed on those items. Cunard certainly did not make one feel that they were special and that this was "THE" maiden voyage such as ONE passenger list per cabin instead of one passenger list per person. The final slap being a special menu folder reserved for only a few people to take home. We certainly paid extra as this was touted as "THE" big event, but we didn't get rewarded for being there. When we prepared to disembark, there was one last annoyance. We were held aboard much later than had been announced, and my luggage, as well as many other people's, had disappeared. Was it on the forklift that we saw dump many suitcases onto the dockside? Maybe. I found one suitcase in the wrong area, but no sign of the rest. I missed my flight while searching for an hour. My friend Jim did as well.We arrived home around midnight and the luggage arrived a few days later. It was not wrapped in any plastic and was dumped into the snow. I was surprised to find many rips in it as well. To sum it all up, I expected more of Cunard and the ship it billed as the "greatest ocean liner of our times." Was I satisfied with the experience? Yes and no. I had a good time despite the voyage, not because of the voyage! It was not at all as I expected it would be or more importantly, what was advertised. Hopefully, Cunard will invest more money in these areas so others do not experience what we did on the maiden voyage. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ... Read More
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ship should be a social occasion, and having the ability to converse with tablemates is critical. Fortunately I was able to find a set of good tablemates at a round table, although that took a couple of days. "Cunard-ival" has turned its back on the singleton. Ironically, when I wished to be seated alone for a meal other than dinner, I was actually told on board twice (not once, but twice) that the only way I could get a table for one at breakfast or lunch was to dine at the buffet. I did not pay my fare to schlep my tray like some high school student through a second-rate cafeteria. My cabin (Category B3, Premium Balcony) was interesting. I am a tall person, standing about 6'2". The deckchairs were wedged in between the railing and the cabin bulkhead so that they were useless to someone my height. In order to sit in the deckchairs, I had to put my feet up on the glass panels or move the chair sideways on the balcony, thus rendering the use of the balcony door useless without moving the chair again. Even with the obstructed views of the ocean, I had expected the ability to enjoy breakfast on my balcony with the sea air, but was unable to do so. I have alluded to dining earlier in this letter, but let me directly address the food. It was practically impossible to order off menu. The menus in the Britannia Restaurant were not at all coherent between courses. One passenger at my table likened the incongruent menus to rolling a cup of dice in the game of yhatzee. The portions were small and I always left dinner hungry - because of course there was no time to eat a second meal since the late seating was waiting. Quite frankly, if this were a land-based restaurant, I would never return; however, I was trapped onboard a ship with few other dining options. Lotus was too heavy on the shellfish and seafood. To pay a service charge for the Carvery was ridiculous at the fare (read single supplement and cabin category) I paid. I did, however, have one good meal in two weeks aboard the ship - Todd English. One of the things missing on the QM2 is a nice middle-of-the-road dining option like the Caronia Restaurant aboard the QE2. Cunard is trying to mass-market luxury with this ship, and it does not work. Unless you are willing to move into the Princess Grill categories, I would not recommend any cabin category above a B6. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we ... Read More
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we finally arrived at Queen Elizabeth II terminal in Southampton for the voyage we seemed to have been waiting for so long. Even the weather smiled on us that day as the sun shone for the first time in weeks. The terminal was buzzing with excitement and embarkation was a very smooth operation. After 45 minutes in the waiting room, which was decorated with Cunard memorabilia, bell boys and white QM2 roses, we were ushered aboard willing ourselves to be impressed. There was no need, for as we entered the Grand Lobby, between ranks of white uniformed flunkies, this ship touched our emotions as none had before. Although we were not greeted nor offered assistance in finding our stateroom (a missed opportunity which did not bode well for service expectations), we wandered through this heart of QM2 impressed by the scale, richness and ocean liner tradition that oozes from the design. It is possible (if your eye sight is up to it) to stand with your back to the Samuel Cunard mural adjacent to the Royal Court entrance on Deck 3 and look through the Grand Lobby to the QM2 tapestry on the back wall of the Britannia Dining Room over 360 feet away! It was remarkably easy to find the way to our B4 grade stateroom on Deck 6 and we were suitably impressed when our South African stewardess greeted us by name in the corridor as we opened the door. ACCOMMODATION. The staterooms are a major leap forward for a Cunard ship, but no better or no worse than the latest staterooms on RCI, Celebrity, HAL or Princess. In design terms it is very simplistic (not even central light switching) and shows a strong art deco influences in the pale wood with black inlay headboard and furniture. Storage behind a neat bank of veneered doors comprises a double wardrobe with about 25 hangers, a second single wardrobe with a pull out rail for hangers from a suit carrier, four drawers, two shelves and a safe. For 2 weeks the storage is more than adequate and for longer trips there is always the free laundrette on each deck (4 washers, 4 dryers and 2 ironing boards for the technically inclined). Bedside tables with annoyingly stiff anti-roll catches, a dressing table / fridge / TV console with chair, height adjustable coffee table and sofa complete the furniture. Apart from the black inlays, pale red sofa and primary coloured art work, the colour scheme is generally beige and pale neutral. The shower room is more compact than expected, but with a huge shower tray and adequate storage size was never an issue. The internal layout of the B4 grade stateroom is similar in size and style to all B, C and D categories, with the exception that some C's (Standard Oceanview) have the combined space of the B stateroom plus its balcony and are huge. The only other grade of stateroom we saw was a P grade Mini Suite, which had identical dEcor but was 50% larger than the normal staterooms and had a walk-in wardrobe plus a more generous bathroom with full size bath tub. We were blessed with what has become known as a 'hull' balcony, an open balcony space within the hull with a rectangular opening cut into the top half of the deck height. The balcony is accessed by a glazed door in the floor to ceiling glazing of the stateroom. To me the location of this rectangular opening is a major design flaw, as it is impossible to see anything other than the sky unless you stand at the rail and look out. I can see no reason why the hole could have been made lower or a second hole cut below the first. If safety was an issue then why did they put a metal step a few feet convenient to the floor and compound it with furniture that lends itself to be stood on so that you can lean out of the balcony opening? The lounging furniture is a nonsense and takes up half the floor space. A table and chairs would be much more useful. That said, it was still good to have a balcony and we made good use of it - especially on the very rough Bay of Biscay crossing (when fresh air was sometimes need in a hurry and this type of balcony becomes much preferable to the unsheltered inaccessible 'glass' variety. The thinking behind these balconies I will touch on later. DINING. Pleased with our accommodation, it was with great excitement we ventured to the Britannia Dining Room. The photographs of this room catch the grandeur of the design but give no clues to its vastness, seating up to 1300 passengers at any one time. The vast illuminated glass ceiling over the double height space and curving double stairways gave the feeling of being in a large Edwardian liner. The space however is cleverly broken up and separated so that there are only a few places where you are aware of more than a hundred fellow diners. We were unlucky with our table companions (twice) and had no problems being moved which beggars the question why, with the computer based passenger data available in the Dining Room plus many months to plan it, was the dinner seating plan not more considered. Many of the people we spoke to in the first two days were also unhappy with their tables and had moved. After three restless nights we were invited to a table full of Cruise Critics (thank you Dan Tobey and Peter, Bill & Ray and Thulewx) and were set fair for the rest of the voyage. Much has been said elsewhere about service and food. All I will add is that, whether it be too few waiters, poor training, lack of planning or galley problems (and it was probably a combination of all four), service fell far short of what anybody could reasonably expect on the maiden voyage of an untried Cunard flagship. Service was very inconsistent and varied from the appalling to the acceptable. Food overall was a good banqueting standard. Ingredients were good, presentation was good but menus were sadly lacking in imagination and after a week it boiled down to a choice of fish, beef, chicken or pasta every night. If they can raise standards to those found in The Franconia Dining Room on the Caronia then they will have a winner. The 280 seater Queens and Princess Grills on Deck 7 are a complete and stark contrast to the Britannia, being very simple and most plain in dEcor. It must be said that initially I felt glad to be dining in Britannia with its wow factor dEcor, but after about a week it became a little overpowering (or maybe that was the stress of wondering what the service would be like each night) and the Grills started to look and feel more and more elegant each time I saw them! We heard that both these dining rooms also experienced service problems on the same scale as the Britannia. We generally took lunch in Kings Court on Deck 7, which is cleverly divided into four distinct areas by colour scheme and menu. Asian dishes; fish, meat and chicken; pasta and pizza; carved roasts; sandwiches; salads; - these delicious offerings and more were available at these four daytime buffets (Lotus, The Carvery, Piazza and The Chef's Galley). Again the only downside was the lack of staff at busy times when tables weren't being cleared quick enough for people to sit down. Against lunch buffets on other ships this compared very favourably. Like many other ships, QM2 has done away with the midnight buffet in favour of a late night buffet in Kings Court Piazza. Lunch in the Britannia was tried once, but strange table mates, haphazard service that included forgetting water and bread for the whole table, plus an uninspired menu meant the experience was not repeated. The alternative dining onboard has much to recommend it. Service and food in both Todd English and especially Kings Court Lotus were pretty good considering the stress on the staff by the second week. The rich dEcor of Todd English is an amazing concoction of styles from somewhere between Morocco and Byzantium - check out the tented entrance. Lotus (as well as Piazza and The Carvery) in Kings Court is transformed by screens and soft lighting into a series of charming and intimate casual dining booths. It seems that Todd English will soon be making a charge which is hardly surprising given the over subscription. but the Kings Court venues (apart from the Chef's Galley which charges $35 including wine) still remain an excellent free alternative to the main dining rooms. DRINKING. The bars onboard offer a variety of styles and atmospheres to suit every taste. Grand in scale and size, the three central bars adjacent to the Britannia Dining Room are ideally located for pre lunch or pre dinner drinks as well as for a quick one during a busy day tracking down those elusive souvenirs. Sir Samuels is modern and sharp in decor but colours, lighting and furnishing feel a little harsh and as a whole it doesn't strike me as a very inviting space. The Chart Room is Cunard elegance at its best. During the day very calm and restful and at night a sophisticated bar with live music - also one of the most stable places to be in case of storms! The much maligned Golden Lion was as expected, typical faux pub design (the steamer trunks and hat boxes were a step too far) but high on atmosphere which, as any Brit will tell you, makes any real pub more than just its decor. Always busy, this was the place for pub food, a pint and karaoke! The Veuve Cliquot Champagne bar is a very nicely designed corner of the Grand Lobby with a few art deco references, but blink and you'll miss it! The Commodore Club on Deck 9 became our favourite haunt. Restful observation room by day, it became sophisticated cocktail bar par excellence at night - even dispensing cocktails in Stuart Crystal, 'Jasper Conran' designed glasses which retail in the UK at $55 each! The dEcor with its dark wood and muted colours merely accentuates the shape and location of the space which, with the huge spell binding, bar mounted model of QM2, are the keys to its success. If you like to ride a roller coaster then you will want to drink in the Commodore in rough seas - those G forces are something else. Again, much has been said about the service in the bars. All I can add is that Cunard probably missed anything between 25 and 50% of its potential income from pre dinner drinks by having insufficient staff or inadequate bar facilities to cope with peak demand - with empty glasses on most tables and in many hands during the last 15 to 20 minutes before dinner, it was not uncommon to wait 5 to 10 minutes when actively seeking to be served. The Winter Garden is a strange mix of lounge and bar (which closed at 7.00pm) and was largely empty and underused once we reached warmer climes. It's dEcor is very tropical with wicker chairs, a trompe l'oeil ceiling full of palms and blue sky and a rather garish waterfall with bright fluorescent colours that seem out of place in this well mannered area. The entrance like a shrub lined park gate is a nice eye to detail. It strikes me that this is one of the areas that relates more to the Liner role than warm weather cruising and I'm sure it is going to be a bright and popular day lounge on cold grey North Atlantic crossings. One annoying aspect common to all these rooms was the smoking policy. If a majority are non-smokers, which is a fair assumption, then you would expect a well ventilated space in each room to be set aside for smokers. Unfortunately, on QM2 smoking is also allowed along the length of all bar tops which spreads cigarette smoke almost everywhere except the far flung corners of non-smoking areas in what have effectively become smoking rooms. ENTERTAINMENT. The main entertainment areas of the ship are grouped together forward on decks 2 and 3. In a few words, The Royal Court is a 'state of the art' theatre with a stage almost in the round and seating more akin to a luxurious cabaret lounge than a true theatre. The three or four shows we saw there were all technically superb, with great sightlines from comfortable bench or club seats. Dame Shirley Bassey gave two superb one hour celebrity guest concerts after a very rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay and laughed about it (no mean feat). Two production shows, La Passionatta and Rock @ the Opera, are very good and could be excellent once the cast eases into them more. Rock @ the Opera is worth seeing for the stage effects and costumes alone - well, I've never heard a stage set get applause before! Opera Babes, Magicians and Comedians we gave a miss. Curiosity drove us to witness Ruben Studdard killing us not so softly with some songs in between complaining how seasick he was and how drugged he felt (no mean feat on QM2 in a very calm Caribbean). Like a large portion of the audience we left early to enjoy a last cocktail. For me the real jewel in the crown is Illuminations. Theatre, cinema, lecture hall and planetarium - this space not only looks like a fabulous 1930's art deco Cinema, it also doles out excellent entertainment at every level. The illustrated lectures given by John Maxtone-Graham and Steven Payne were enthralling and packed to the rafters and the planetarium experience is mind blowing. Attending any of the lectures at the well laid out Cunard Connexions we deemed unnecessary when it became clear that they were being taped and screened on stateroom TV. The much vaunted interactive QM2 TV had not been fully commissioned so many of the functions were unavailable and, disappointingly, this included the normal details on ship course, speed, location and weather conditions. DANCING. The largest ballroom at sea is also one of the most stunning spaces on Queen Mary 2. The Queens Room is cunningly accessed via two Deck 3L fenestrated corridors housing the photo and art galleries in voids running below the raised Deck 3 seating areas on either side of the Britannia Dining Room. It is an impressive space richly decorated in blue and gold, with a lavish inlaid dance floor and sparkling crystal chandeliers above. The busts and memorabilia of Queen Mary and King George V add a sense of being somewhere exclusive. Not being a ballroom dancer I can't extend an opinion on the music or dancing offered there. If you venture through the Queens Room you reach the dark, double height space of G32, the supposed late night club. This is a big disappointment for me as a design and how it is used. From the richness of other public areas you are plunged into a hi-tech space with uninspired 60's retro dEcor. Maybe the designers were touching their caps to those two high points of 60's design, the France and QE2 (I jest), but the result is dull and uninspiring. Its convenient proximity to the Queens Room but remoteness from everywhere else, means that when the ballroom band stops playing there is usually a dichotomy of groups patronising G32 (the ballroom dancers V the partygoers). Throughout the voyage a combination of vocal group (how many Nat King Cole tributes can you take in 30 minutes!) and an inexperienced DJ (who looked all of 16) cleared the dance floor by half past midnight and kept all party fun to a minimum. Low bar returns from G32 must surely lead to a rethink and early changes. THE VOYAGE. Although the itinerary was predictable and traditional, the draw was in being the first to take a commercial voyage in the first Cunard 'Queen' for nearly 40 years. Nothing however, could have prepared us for the strength of welcome and the pure unadulterated joy of the inhabitants at most of our ports of call. The sailaway from Southampton was the beginning of a rollercoaster voyage of emotions which couldn't fail to touch even the most inveterate traveller. Maybe we left late because there was so much more luggage than Cunard had expected - well, this was THE Maiden Voyage, but nobody cared once we had backed up to Mayflower Park and that amazing firework display started crashing overhead to the strains of Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Crown Imperial and other stirring anthems. This was the sort of send off that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and tears well in your eyes! The fireboats sent their water high into the black night sky and the escorting flotilla of boats, small and large, made as much noise as possible as we began edging back down Southampton Water past Town Quay and Queen Elizabeth II Terminal with the Commodore returning the greetings on the deafening steam whistle from the original Queen Mary. We stayed, frozen by the cold wind, until Southampton disappeared behind us and then had the pleasure of travelling down in an elevator and chatting with Steven Payne who was as happy and excited as any boy with a new toy could possibly be. The first day at sea through The Bay of Biscay came hurtling at us with a high class storm to make the ship slowly roll and pitch like she was alive. We drove through seas which must have been reaching upward of 40 feet in height (in order to frequently drench the windows of The Chart Room on Deck 3) at speeds of up to 26.5 knots and the G forces in Stairway A were something to play with! Needless to say the dreaded mal de mare struck down many during that first full day. By day 2 the storm had abated and day 3 woke early to a warm welcome in Funchal, Madeira. After a stroll around the town in warm sunshine it was all aboard to a warm but polite send off by crowds in their hundreds. Day 4 woke to a loud raucous welcome from fireboats in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and crowds in their thousands (obviously word was getting around!). After lunching on land with friends living on the island, it was back to the ship for dinner and a late sailaway with a generous firework display on the quayside. Day 5 woke to an even louder arrival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. With crowds in their thousands to welcome us, the day would become one that will go down in folklore as one of the biggest receptions ever given by any port to a passenger ship. On the quayside the local association of carpet weavers created a vast QM2 carpet in coloured salt, the high speed oompah bands marched up and down in a way that only Spaniards can, folk dancers danced and crowds grew bigger and friendlier by the hour. Departure was originally slated for 5.00pm but the Las Palmas schedule to welcome QM2 would not be denied the chance to give a lavish 30 minute firework display par excellence, as we left behind us tens of thousands of adoring Canarians some two hours later. By the sojourn in the Canaries, the weather had warmed enough for sun loungers and steamer chairs to start appearing all over the open decks. The next 4 days were given over entirely to worshipping the ever strengthening sun as we sailed in a west south westerly direction. Time had come to explore the vast expanse of the outside teak decks. The aft sun decks 6 to 8 were the most popular with the timber loungers and green canvass covered mattresses filled to near capacity, especially near the pools. In spite of expressed misgivings, the duplex suites, the open seating of Todd English and the sunbathers of deck 8 all coexisted quite comfortably like the inhabitants of any sun kissed Marina or Lido might. The strange three deck shortcut open staircase from decks 8 to 11 is quite a climb, but at least it allows one to put a foot (even if it is only in transit) on the sacred sun deck 11which in sunny weather is reserved for Queens Grill passengers only. The climb up to deck 12 is worth it for here, and on the forward deck 13, there is more space and sun loungers than even a Carnival ship could fill. Equipped with an open air cafe, a pool with opening glass roof, two bars, jacuzzis, splash pool, sports and observation areas this is a sun seekers paradise, but strangely most of these areas were never more than 25% occupied. My only complaint would be that there is no shade in the form of awnings or canopies anywhere even in the vicinity of the Boardwalk Cafe. The other thing I could not get my head around was the sense of having 'splash pools' with only a few inches of water - surely they used to be called foot baths??? The heat was on by day 10 when we arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados and true to form we received a suitably relaxed and inform Caribbean welcome from the local brass band. One more day at sea and did the Commodore really say that we were currently doing 28.5 knots - it seemed we were hardly moving? Day 12 brought ours and the crews first tendering experience as we reached Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas. Having duly faced the intransigent and charming as ever officers of the US Immigration Department, we had a leisurely breakfast before taking the first 'open' tender of the day around 11.00am. The crew's lack of experience in handling the tenders, the unwillingness to fill tenders too full and the failure to be able to accommodate larger shoreside ferries against the tender platforms meant that the tendering process took longer than anticipated. This one assumes is something that can be overcome with practice and a little more forward planning. Moored in the very outer anchorage of the harbour, our presence in Saint Thomas must have gone almost unnoticed - we took the opportunity of this call to slip away to Magens Bay for an afternoon swim. All too soon Day 13 came and went, goodbyes were said, last meals were eaten, last cocktails shared and the triumphant arrival in Fort Lauderdale was upon us. We arrived out of the dawn to find the noisiest and most colourful fireboats yet throwing their red white and blue spumes high into the air. An unprecedented US Naval escort, a dozen helicopters and the most cacophonous reception from the famous landmark Condos made this welcome the cherry on the cake, a fitting end to a truly remarkable voyage. QM2, CRUISE SHIP OR LINER? Having once been the devil's advocate in the discussion of cruise ship or liner I now have to say that, having travelled onboard and having listened to authoritive sources, I know for sure that this ship has been built as a transatlantic liner. There is no cruiseship on earth that can sail at 26 knots through 40 foot seas and there is no way on earth that Mickey Arison has spent a 40% premium (over $200 million) for a cruiseship that looks like a liner! An interesting anecdote from John Maxtone-Graham credits Mickey Arison with being so inspired by the movie 'Titanic' as to want to create a dream of building the largest and most expensive transatlantic liner - why else would he want to buy Cunard? Stephen Payne described in great detail the research made into designing this ship so that it could handle any weather the Atlantic has produced in the past 25 years and be twice as seaworthy as QE2 (for example, a sea that produces a 10 degree roll in QE2 will only produce 5 degrees in QM2). Stephen also added that Mickey Arison told him 'I need seven decks of balconies or she doesn't get built', and how he was able to give him eight! John Maxtone-Graham amongst others has been disparaging about the 'hull' balconies but as he explained, these cabins produce more revenue with a balcony than they would if the balcony space was included in the cabin - so these balconies are purely revenue driven and without them the ship would not have been built! The other piece of enlightening comment from Stephen Payne was that nothing was allowed to compromise the design of QM2 as a transatlantic liner - something which should be born in mind when considering criticisms of the ship's cruising abilities and her unsophisticated warm weather outdoor deck spaces. On the aesthetic side, Stephen also thinks the funnel is too short but, save raising the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge, there was nothing to be done about it! So there you have it. The head of Carnival does have a dream and that dream is to re establish transatlantic travel by sea as a major rather than a niche market. Who amongst us can doubt that dream will probably come true? 2005 sees QM2 slated for 26 Atlantic crossings, which is already 42% of the year, and I believe the years following will see the Atlantic 'season' increase to whatever the market will support. She is utilised for cruising when the North Atlantic is too uninviting, like other great liners of the past, hence the seven day jaunts out of Fort Lauderdale and New York in December to March. Only market demand will decide if these warm weather cruises settle into premium or discount rates. I also believe that if Mickey Arison has gotten it right again, we will see a sister ship in service on the North Atlantic within 7 to 10 years. If as I believe, Queen Mary 2 has been built primarily for the 6 day North Atlantic crossing and if Cunard can overcome the annoying service problems caused by lack of crew or insufficient training, then I think she will be a huge success and succeed to the title 'Most famous ship in the World', if she hasn't done so already! Read Less
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