Queen Mary 2 – just love it…Back to Forum
Anonymous21 Sep 2014
Extended Voyage on the Queen Mary 2
What had intended to be a short taster cruise on the Queen Mary 2 last week, turned itself into a 12 night voyage to New York….
I was asked earlier in the year (rather told), whether I would like to join some friends on the QM2 for a short taster cruise in September. As I nodded my head (would I dare do anything else) I was told “good, as it’s already been booked”.
I was quite looking forward to it, until the trip logistics were explained… basic cabin, so no one in the group would feel embarrassed and the itinerary… around the English Channel, with 2 stops. Not exactly the Caribbean! Deep down I was still looking forward to the experience as the Queen Mary 2 is on my MUST DO list, well the Atlantic crossing is!!
So the big day came and here is my review of the Queen Mary 2, Southampton – Bruges – Cherbourg – Southampton.
To Southampton, check in and boarding
Parking at the Ocean terminal had been pre booked some months ago at a similar cost, if not more, than airport parking. Driving towards the Ocean Terminal, QM2 came into view and I was simply gobsmacked by its size. One of the group continually emphasized that QM2 was infact, only a mid-sized ship. But not only was I amazed by its size, but it beauty. It has a classic and regal look, not a standard boxy ship look as some of her competitors.
Driving into the drop off lane, there was a bank of porters waiting to take the bags, “they will be put into your stateroom straight away” and before I knew it, they were gone. Luckily I had kept my ticket and passport separate; otherwise I would have had a problem.
Next, the car was driven off and we were told how to collect it 4 days later.
Now to check in….
Our group arrived 11.15 and we were directed upstairs to a seating area and given a check in card marked E. However, check in had already commenced for the Priority Line. Queen Mary 2 is very much a class driven ship and as we were new “cruisers” with no Cunard Gold Card, we were considered the lowest of the low and had to wait. There were plenty of seats available in the very light and airy terminal. Boarding QM2 had not yet commenced.
At 12.00 noon precisely, general boarding was announced and the main check in opened. Passengers were called up according to the letters on their cards. We were called up at 12.15, Given our on board credit card in exchange for a copy of our charge card and proceeded to the boarding area, where we dodged the first of several over keen photographers trying to capture every moment, to later sell to you for between $19 and $50 each. We boarded Queen Mary 2, after standard security checks at 12.45.
First Impressions and to Cabi…. I mean Stateroom
It was certainly impressive, but not as grandeur or ostentatious as I had imagined. There were plenty of people around to direct us to the correct life to whisk us to deck 11, where we found our stateroom. There was certainly no “turning left” into the big cabins, we were booked into inside cabins, which quite honestly, I was not too keen about. However, the first impression was how nice it was. 3 wardrobes, a desk, TV, a very comfy double bed and then a power shower, large enough for 2 people (no I didn’t), a basin and wc. All was very functional, neat, tidy and fresh. The cabin attendant Larry, made an appearance and he turned out to be very very helpful whenever we needed anything. All onboard customer facing staff, all had English names, irrespective of where there nationality.
I should have read more about the ship before I left home because I had just assumed all the plug points would be US style, WRONG, everything in the cabin was 3 pin. Larry soon came to the rescue. Needed more hangers, Larry provided. Needed a corkscrew, Larry to the rescue, in fact virtually anything, first call was to Larry.
The stateroom was cosy, but certainly did not feel small.
Over the coming days, I thought of the inside room as the largest room in the ship, simply because it was used for exactly the purpose it was designed for, sleeping, showering and changing.. All other times we were out on deck, exploring the ship, finding various nooks, bars, restaurants and places to sit. One interesting fact was the only way to establish day/night from inside the cabin was to keep the TV on the channel showing the bridge web cam. That way, we knew when there was day light and time to get up!
The TV also had Sky News which suited me down to the ground and there was always a link, it never failed.
Food & Entertainment
Central to life on board are the banquets, which start with breakfast, along to the midnight snack, which generally closed at 2 am. Throughout the entire day, food is available and plenty of it and yes people do continually eat. As this is a class based Ship, you eat in the dining room according to your cabin (price) and the lowest restaurant level, the one our group were in, there were 2 sittings. 6.00pm and 8.30pm – we had the 8.30pm sitting.
First night was a challenge, perhaps we weren’t used to cruising or the foreign speaking servers had too much of a limited knowledge of English. Either way, it was a total disaster, some of the food was sent back as it was both tasteless and in the case of the lamb, no meat but plenty of fat.
An arrangement to speak to the Maitre D was next on the agenda and he was in no way defensive, his only objective was to ensure we did not just have a good cruise, but a fantastic QM2 experience. We were moved to a different table in a different area and from that point onwards, we could NOT fault any part of the Britannia Grill experience. Every night, if there was nothing on the menu we liked, Salmon and Sirloin Steak was available. Quite frankly though, the menu’s were so varied and diverse that you are very unlikely not to find something on the menu you liked – AND – if you liked it enough, just ask for another plate and it will arrive.I have to admit that I took advantage of this only once, when Salmon en croute was served. It was amazing..
A new experience for me was chilled soups, including flavours such as ginger, peach, tea, citron and many more I simply can’t remember. I as given a tour of all the other restaurants by the Maître D and saw various menu’s. I also saw the size of the people dining in the top restaurants … The Queens Grill provides the ultimate in off menu dining.. a design your own menu service as long as there is a days’ notice. I have to say, I was more than happy with the food provided in the Britannia Restaurant and I am not the easiest of people to cook for, considering my life style diet.
Breakfast and lunch (as in deed dinner) can be taken either in the formal dining area or the more relaxed and casual Kings Court, buffet style. We had a formal breakfast just the once, but realised it was the same food, just served far slower at the table.
Again, lunches and indeed dinners in the Kings Court were plentiful, varied and very very diverse. All in all, I could not fault the food and considering the numbers the chefs were cooking for, its simply amazing how all the food comes out fresh and at speed, even the special orders. All food in the travel industry has challenges, but the Cunard chefs manage get it right.
I can’t forget mention of the afternoon tea which I went to twice in the Grand Ballroom. I was only tempted by the tea and coffee, but the cakes/sandwiches/scones…. I left to those in need!!!
Ships evening dining times are set around the evening show which is performed twice to ensure passengers on both sittings can be accommodated. There were some headline acts which were absolutely brilliant and certainly kept us all entertained. Highlight act for me was a chap called Phillip Browne a former bus driver from Peckham, who went to the West End stage and starred in a variety of musicals including Lion King. His renditions were incredible as he was able to put the same emotion and movements into his performances as he had on the West End stage. There was one TV personality who really is now a ‘has been’ who should not have been on board and I would have been quite happy to see him ‘walk the plank’.
During the day, there were numerous lectures and workshops to attend. I went to a 3 part RADA workshop about communicating and it was very interesting and enjoyable. The only comment about the entertainment was that there was so much, with so little time. Most of the lectures and workshops were limited to 45 minutes. They could quite easily have kept going for 1 hour. I did not manage to get through all the lectures, classes and workshops I would have liked to attend.
To work off all the food and alcohol, there is a great gym to go to as well as an outdoor deck which is 1.1 km around. I tended to run between 5 – 7 miles a day around the deck along with a few other ‘die hards’.. Most people would walk around, but this did cause jams occasionally. It’s a pity there is no official protocol for running / walking as it would help everyone. Perhaps, if runners/walkers were encouraged to go the same way round/direction, or those walking/running would not go two abreast, which does stop the faster people from overtaking. Running though is only allowed between 8 am – 8pm.
Stops/Ports of call
I have never understood the need to get off a ship when it comes into port. In fact the best cruise for me is one where the ship doesn’t stop!
End of Cruise
The final day of the cruise was Sunday and “team taster cruise” decided to have T in the ballroom. I had just finished a few laps of the deck and came in late, but by doing so, happened to pass the on board sales office, which was open for another 45 minutes. I was curious whether there were any special offers to continue onto New York. After a short chat, what I was offered, which included the return flight was in my mind unbelievable value and when I mentioned it to a couple of the group, in a matter of seconds, people were making calls home to make arrangements. I had to think very carefully as I had work, but didn’t need to be in anyone’s office or my own office. So in a matter of 30 minutes, some of the group decided to make the transatlantic crossing, probably the biggest on the spur decision I had ever made. Only problem was I couldn’t go 7 additional days without my computer (left at home, very unusual for me) as I would need to do some work. In addition, we had a car at Southampton and would now be flying back to Heathrow.
Oh…. the cost for 7 extra days all in… including flight home on a new AA 777-300, £599 per person, reduced from book price of £1420 per person.
So a decision was made, to drive back to London early on Monday, and taxi it back to Southampton later in the day, pick up my computer and a few extra clothes and continue on to New York.
Disembarking on Monday and driving away from Southampton took all of 20 minutes. The motorways were a little busy, but I got home in less than 90 minutes, did what I needed to do and returned to Southampton, arriving at 2pm.
Southampton – New York
Boarding Queen Mary 2 for the second time, was a lot easier. We arrived back, via taxi and ready to board at 2pm and there was no need to queue. Straight on. It made me wonder why people rush to the terminal so early in the morning, just to wait around. The only additional benefit of boarding early, is you get to the food slightly sooner!!
Our stateroom was changed from deck 11 to deck 4, but here’s the beauty of an inside cabin… it didn’t matter.. our vista remained the same, no curtains to close at night and exactly what are you going to see across the Atlantic that you can’t see from one of the public rooms.
The extra cost for a balcony would have been £600, which is the cost of the next cruise (for one person). It was a no brainer for me.. inside cabin. I can also confirm the smoothness of the ship felt no different from deck 11 to deck 4.
Once of the interesting guest observations, is the detail and conversations that were taking place about stateroom/suite, size, layout, deck position. Indeed there is a 50 minute presentation on the TV channel. There is even talk about when to accept an upgrade and when not to tick a box on the reservation form about accepting an upgrade. All was very confusing for this novice cruiser.
Communications on board
The second week, I would have to work and needed an internet connection. This is where the costs rose. For those of you who complain at the cost of hotel internet connections, don’t consider connecting whilst at sea. For an 8 hour package it cost $140 or thereabouts. I spent over £160 (estimated from $ conversion) over the seven days for internet connection. Not sure why it is so much, but as you go up the Cunard class system, you do get an internet allowance, so it makes me think that the lower classes are paying in part for the Gold and beyond card holders that are getting it for free. Internet connection in the air is a lot cheaper (still using satellites). However, the one advantage using the ships package (instead of T Mobile) was although it was time limited, there was no limit to the amount of data downloaded. What took the most time was synching my emails through the office server.
I did get a very good skype connection a couple of times across the Atlantic but this is purely dependant by the number of people of the ships network at anyone time.
Most of the crossing I had a good cell reception and did make and receive several calls (at £2.00 per minute).
Our cabin attendant for the second crossing was not as good as Larry, but, everything on the Stateroom front remained the same. The restaurant also remained the same very high standard.
A couple of other interesting points:
There is an unpublished / unspoken about behind the scenes ships tour on every leg of each cruise. It is limited to 16 people and cost $120. It goes to every place I was hoping to visit. Ships Anchor room, engine room, staff areas, waste disposal and how the ship deals with environmental areas, safety areas, kitchens, stores and of course the highlight, the bridge. Senior officers take the tour in various places, including the Captain and deputy Captain. If you have an interest in a behind the scenes tour, don’t wait for it to be announced as it won’t be. Go to the tour office on day 1. I found out about it by speaking to one of the ships officers.
Ok, I am English, I have always felt employers ought to pay their staff themselves and there should be no need to rely on customers to pay their employees’ wages. I was adamant, that unless I receive excellent service, there would be no tips and to underline this, on day 1 of each cruise/voyage, I cancelled the auto tipping of $11.00 per person per day, that was added to the on board bill.
At the end of the first taster cruise, I was amazed by the service from Larry, our cabin attendant and tipped him £30. He had provided excellent service well beyond the call of duty and deserved every penny.
The Matire D, we tipped £60, because he did manage the ‘Challenges’, did provide us with one very special meal and he was also tasked with looking after us for the second part, across the Atlantic.
At the end of the Atlantic portion of the cruise, we again tipped the Maître D, this time we included our waiter who looked genuinely surprised, but we did not tip the cabin attendant as we felt he did not provide the same level of service as previous.
I have to say I surprised myself with the total amount of tips I gave. I admit to not being a big tipper, but the tips I gave, exceeded the recommended daily amount. My only advice to anyone about on board tipping is to go with what you feel. I certainly did not see a plethora of white envelopes passing hands on the final nights, nor did I see many handshakes, which led me to believe that passengers either were not tipping or they were using the on board auto tipping bill service.
On board drinks
Every drink, irrespective of whether waiter service or self-order by the bar incurs a 15% service charge. Even wine in the restaurant has this charge. What was interesting was the number of guests that bought full wine glasses into the dining room, coming straight from the lifts. The staff didn’t seem to mind, I guess they presumed that wine had come from one of the bars. We looked at the various wine packages, but they did not really seem such a great deal. On average, we were paying around $80 per bottle of wine. We generally had pre dinner drinks in the Stateroom (yes it was big enough) from our own supply.
Disembarking in New York
Due to business commitments, I had to disembark and return to London on the Monday we arrived into NYC, otherwise I would have been tempted to continue up to Canada, had the price been right! As mentioned our return flight was also included in the package, but it was a case of turning right and not left (economy class).
Arrival into New York was at night but in the morning, we had the most amazing clear blue sky and incredible views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Disembarking time was 9.00am and sadly there was no Global Pass lane. Cunard clearly ensure (or pay for) additional Immigration officers and the long line was cleared within 30 minutes. Cunard arranged for transfers to JFK, via the Mariott in Times Square, which gave us 3 hours to meet up with some friends.
The flight back was on AA using one of their new 777-300. The food and cabin crew were the worst I have experienced; calling them rude would be an understatement. The food was totally inedible. However, I had bought my own sushi box, so I did eat, not that I needed to!! The economy IFE was excellent and the seat was very comfortable and I did sleep for around 2 hours of the 6 hour flight.
We like our weekends away and could quite easily spend £750 – £1,000 for a good weekend break (2 nights) in the UK. The transatlantic voyage was everything and more I had hoped for in terms of comfort and value. The concept of 7 nights way, not having to make any decisions about where to eat at night and having plenty of entertainment laid on, all for under £100 per night, including all transport, to me is incredible value. I would not hesitate to find a 7 day gap in my diary to repeat this OR better still, back to back, Southampton to New York to Southampton, 14 nights..
There are many cruise companies offering great deals, but make sure if you are looking for a transatlantic, that the return flights (or out bound flights) are included. I would be interested to hear if anyone can find a better deal than £599 per person for the Queen Mary 2.
I was able to keep up to date with work, (although I have not yet had my mobile phone bill). Best of all, was my office was not aware of where I was, although I did tell one colleague, just in case an emergency meeting was called……..
I mentioned my favourite act, Phillip Browne, but I would also like to mention my favourite show. Queen Mary 2 produced an amazing show, Anthony Ingliss conducting the last night of the ‘Cunard Proms’ with the National Symphony orchestra supported by the Queen Mary 2 choir (made up of passengers with only 3 rehearsals). This was an incredible experience and checking on Google has been reported on many times.
We also had the privilege of seeing dolphins and whales when we were off the coast of Canada, swimming very close to the ship.
A mention about the class system on board – some passengers are put off by certain areas that are only accessible to Queens and Princes Grill entrants. If economy (or basic) class was really that bad, with poor food and no room / areas to visit, it would put me off also. Quite frankly though, it did not bother me one iota and… people always want to better themselves. I am sure if I continue cruising, I will want to climb the status ladder, but for now, I am more than happy to enjoy the wonderful and luxurious Queen Mary 2, again for another transatlantic voyage, in basic class………….. and the sooner the better…..
Great Ship, Great value Incredible experience…21 Sep 2014
That is a very interesting review and glad you enjoyed the QM2. I have done many cruises, from NCL to Crystal and enjoyed each one. The QM2 is on my list for the transatlantic so thanks for providing useful information.
The value is outstanding, when you got the crossing and the one way flight for about the same as a return flight in Y!21 Sep 2014
Morning MS – my goodness what a fab report! 🙂
Funnily enough I’ve just been looking at Cunard for a quick shorter cruise later this year! I did laugh when I saw your report this morning as I’m calling our favourite cruise travel consultant tomorrow to discuss it with her!
We love transatlantics as they are all about the ship and you can really enjoy just being totally relaxed and do as much or as little as you choose. The food, well you will never go hungry on a cruise! That’s where those discreet M&S “comfort waistbands come in handy! LOL!
I don’t think I would ever like an inside stateroom but I have looked at them and they are remarkably spacious and well planned.
We’ve not been on one of these larger ships – or liners I should say in this case – biggest 1200 guests – but would like to sail on one.
Cunard have some great deals right now, and in the “turn left” staterooms as well!!! 😉 :-). I’m quite puzzled that people were put off by areas just for Princess and Queens Grill guests as it is so well documented that there are different dining rooms, bars etc. I’m of the opinion, you pay your money, you makes your choice! It’s a bit like choosing to flying premium cabins, but again I’m of the opinion once I’ve turned left, I really don’t want to not have that option! 😉 🙂
Interesting that you took the daily gratuities off. We’ve never done that, in fact only had the last two cruises where they were not “included”, so we were new to this daily gratuities then. If you ever look at cruise critic, it’s a contentious subject, especially amongst the American contributors who look upon tipping in a totally different way to we Brits! I think if you remove the suggested daily gratuities, then you remove them from the people you don’t see who work so hard behind the scenes. Just my thoughts but I agree with you about tipping – employers should not expect guests to make up their staff wages. It’s a personal choice and I know the DH tipped our Butler over and above as he was truly exceptional. I still talk about him – he had been trained by Taj at the Taj Mumbai hotel and in fact was there during the siege a fee years ago. We were very spoilt! :-)))
Isn’t it just wonderful when you see dolphins – wait till you get on a cruise to Alaska! Than you will just have to have a balcony! I was sitting out on ours at midnight (it was still light!) or lying on our bed just watching the ocean – it was truly magical.
Thanks for the review MS. 🙂21 Sep 2014
Glad you enjoyed it Martyn. As you know I did Southampton to NY and I can confirm all you say. Two things you left out though. The way they change the clock by my one hour a night so you’re used to the time difference on arrival. And, the burger you can order from room service at 2am if you’re peckish. 😉21 Sep 2014
Glad you enjoyed your trip Martyn. I used to work on the QE2 and a few cruise ships. I think the fact that QM2 is a liner, a form of transport, rather than just a floating resort actually makes the whole experience more special.
I put on a previous post that the type of cabin one books should be based on how you spend your time. If like you the preference is the ship rather than spending time in the cabin then an economy cabin on a good ship makes sense. For those with a strict budget and that like to spend time in the cabin rather than the entertainment, talks etc will probably be best with a lower class ship but a better cabin.21 Sep 2014
Great report. Totally agree with you. BUT….now try Queen Elizabeth.
Everything that QM2 gave you, but better! A bit smaller, more personal, less distance to walk, cosier. The best value is def Princess Grill. Go for Guaranteed and you get you cabin allocated a few days before departure…best available. This type of Princess booking is often upgraded to Queens Grill, especially as you move up the hierarchy!
The White Star service offered by Cunard is so unique….utter quality. That is why Cunard and BOAC linked up many years ago. Such a shame that the airlines slowly deteriorated over recent years in the premium cabins, even though air fares are higher than most cruises!21 Sep 2014
Pleased you enjoyed, we have been on QM2 a couple of times now and are never disappointed, just trying to find the time to do a half world cruise sector of around 70 days.
The crossing to New York is great and very much enjoyed the 25 hour days. We do travel in the Q2 category and find the two different types amazing with a good sized balcony. I would really find an inner stateroom claustrophobic, but I’m sure they are OK.
Like Papillion I’m really not sure why passengers are put off grills areas only, it’s nice to be able to be in a quieter deck area of the ship, and it all boils down how much everyone is prepared to pay. Exactly like airline tickets and the facilities that go with each class.
The entertainment can be very good too depending taste and availability, it’s difficult to become bored.
Nice to see you Papillion and hope you’re well.21 Sep 2014
What a great report Martyn ! It makes my efforts look puny in comparison.
It’s a coincidence that you report a poor experience on AA. Relatives of ours travelled with AA last week (DUB-MCO) and found almost identical problems.21 Sep 2014
We went Princess Grill and it was, as already said, amazing. The fare was the same as a Business class return, and we came back with BA. It was well worth the extra with an outside cabin, more or less midships quite high up (can’t remember which deck but pretty high up) with a balcony which was fabulous even though it was mid November.21 Sep 2014
Martyn .. A great review thank you. I have never considered a cruise transatlantic for fun or ‘getting there’ . Since I go to the US at least twice a year, I am going to try and include a cruise for one of my sectors.
Brilliant .. Thank you22 Sep 2014
Absolutely brilliant review Martyn.
I’ve never had the inclination to cruise, as I’d rather be at my destination. However your account of the journey has definitely got me wavering. And at the price you paid, a no brainer really.
I’d have to agree with Papillion about the tipping though… otherwise only the customer facing employees would win out! Although also agree about the practice of tips topping up a sub standard wage as being less than satisfactory.
One question Martyn, are the shows class based……If your Standard class you get the Krankies, if your 1st you get Andrew Lloyd Webber?22 Sep 2014
And don’t forget 24 hour room service is included in the price too!
The internet on my first transatlantic voyage was eye wateringly expensive, but as you get to Gold on your 3rd voyage I decided to take a 2 nighter from Hamburg a few months before my second transatlantic – which almost paid for itself due to the internet package now included (not to mention you also get invited to an additional drinks reception with the captain and a gold pin badge!).22 Sep 2014