Queen Mary 2 – just love it…Back to Forum
Martyn, you are much better disciplined than I on upgrading cabins, my wife and I used to enjoy at least two cruises per year, then one trip we upgraded to a cabin with balcony, very nice so next we upgrade to a suite (use the word suite in the loosest term, bigger cabin! with balcony) So magnificent were we in our expectations we can now only afford a cruise once a year. Clever eh! I have been priced out of the market for various reasons, but not often down to my own stupidity.7 Jul 2015
This year’s cruise, aboard the QM2 was a combination of 3 separate cruises and the route….
Southampton – Hamburg – Southampton – New York – Southampton
We arrived at Southampton at 11.30 am (as a group) and had arranged with Cunard for Fast Track boarding. Check in, security and boarding took all of 15 minutes.
Security was interesting and like most things to do with cruising, in complete contrast to airports. Sure, you have metal detectors and some of your top layer clothing needs to come off, but generally, whilst remaining professional, was far more user friendly than going through an airport. Computers and mobile phones scanned separately, but shoes remained on, virtually no limit of liquids (water and alcohol). 2 of our party needed a secondary hand search, which was undertaken with respect, courtesy and professionalism.
Once on board, after the obligatory photograph at the doorway, we found our way to our various Staterooms. Again this year we all opted for inside Staterooms, which meant no need to close the curtains at night. The beds are extremely comfortable and the biggest problem over the 18 nights was managing to wake up as sleeping in a black out room, does allow a very good nights sleep.
The security Muster was in complete contrast to an airline safety briefing. Everyone who needed to attend, attended, listened and no one was reading a paper or had their headphones on. It lasted in excess of 30 minutes..
Most timings on a cruise seem to be scheduled against what’s on offer in the dining rooms. There was always a wonderful selection of food with a full complement of chefs, able to rustle special food orders if needed.
As our group was still the lowest of the low, in terms of Stateroom, we were again consigned to the Kings Court and Britannia restaurant. I know one day, we will climb up the Stateroom ladder, but quite honestly, I had a problem managing to keep up with the food, even though it was voluntary.
I then had some organizational work to do.
First stop was Connexions and a quick advanced thank you, to the Internet Manager. Most of the Group had donated their free Gold internet time to me. The benefit of booking 3 cruises was we all received 3 lots of complimentary Gold allowance internet time. I wanted some of the allowance to be rolled forward between the different legs. To be fair the Internet Manager agreed to look after me before the thank you… but I was very appreciative, as $48+ for a couple of hours of internet would have been quite expensive over the 18 days. I ended up with far more internet time that I needed, but my friends certainly saved my over a three to four hundred dollars.
Next stop was the Maitre’D as we had unfortunately been split up for the dinner sittings and tables. A quick handshake (with some ‘paper’) ensured we all sat together, in our favourite restaurant position at the time we preferred and with an excellent waiter.
Special food orders were discussed and even in the Britannia restaurant, NOTHING was too much trouble.
We all then settled in to what became a routine of breakfast, lectures, entertainment, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails, more food, show time more alcohol and finally the midnight buffet and nights in G32, dancing the night away.
In between, a couple of us ran most days, anything between 3 and 9 miles around and around deck 7.
I did feel it was a real privilege to be running around the deck of the QM2, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and on 2 occasions, watching dolphins swimming around the ship (sadly no whales seen this year).
There is a challenge with running on deck 7, finding a way through the walkers. I would always slow down / walk when passing people – but eventually there was space created between the railings and the deck chairs which did separate the runners and walkers. We would try and run at quiet times and when there was a clear side of the deck would sprint down one side to increase the heart rate. It was wonderful… and very refreshing.
The highlights and challenges…
We did have a chance on the last day, just before de-boarding, to visit some of the more luxurious Staterooms. The balcony rooms certainly had more space but you really do have to choose a balcony room with extreme care.
Balconies can be covered, uncovered / blocked / partially blocked / clear views. Some of the larger suites were very palatial.
For a longer cruise and perhaps where there was a chance to sunbathe, an uncovered balcony room would be tempting. One of our group had booked a World Cruise for 2017 and due to cost, has taken an inside Stateroom. I think they are brave, but as they highlighted, there is a big cost difference between £13,000 each for an inside verses £26,000+ each for a good balcony room.
INTERNET AND EMAIL ACCESS
I needed an internet connection every day. Yes it’s expensive, but as I was lucky enough to have benefited from complimentary internet. The speeds varied depending on how many people were on line at any one time. I managed a couple of skype calls which remained high quality and a group call, but videos were turned off to get better quality.
Downloading emails onto my PC, could take up to 20 minutes. Downloading to my Blackberry passport, was far quicker. Apple users were in the main complaining, Blackberry users, were, in the main, praising. I also was receiving and making phone calls cross the Atlantic and am expecting a higher than usual phone bill, but not a horrendous bill.
Whilst the food was delicious and plenty full, we all commented that there was a slight reduction in variety and standard since last year. There were fewer themed dining lunch days than last year and the quality of some of the food was slightly less.
In the main dining room food was sent back on 3 out of the 18 meals for reasons from food being cold, to rare steaks being served overcooked. On the flip side, even when food was sent back, it was always served again within 10 minutes and ALWAYS, from a server with a smiling face. There was never an attitude problem from any of the waiters we encountered. Most nights we all had special food orders, from off menu items to extra vegetables and potatoes. One of the Group this year had ordered Kosher food which was always matched to the main menu items and always served in a timely and very correct manner.
A wonderful presentation of lectures, shows, enrichment programs as well as dance classes, water colour classes and other many other subjects I didn’t get time to even read about. The highlights of entertainment for me were:
Dr Robert Thirsk – a Canadian astronaut, who spoke about his time in space, his selection process and why he applied for the space programme and how he motivates to achieve aims and objectives. He used a saying ‘Saviour the Moment’ – if you do not enjoy what you are doing, you are more than likely not doing it right!! (Think about it)….
Capt Howard Deck a former British Airways pilot who presented a history of navigation and how modern jets travel the Atlantic. He also made a claim that it was Eric the Viking who discovered America and not Christopher Columbus.
The second week, was Jazz week and we were entertained by Gregory Porter and Blue Note records. I am not a big jazz fan, but the music and the passion all these musicians gave, was superb. Most nights, the Jazz players would set up shop in either the Chart Room or G32 (nightclub) and pay what they had been paid to play.. …Afterwards though, the real fun… the jamming sessions and the real music played and played and played. How often do professional artists play their gig and disappear? These guys and there were many of them, treated the passengers to hours of extra UNPAID music, because as they all say, they love to play jazz.
The ultimate karaoke for some passengers – when the artists invited passengers to join them on stage… this was amazing to see and hear. OK, the passengers knew how to play the instruments, some had brought own, but the real highlight was seeing a professional guitarist hand his guitar to a 15 or 16 year old guy. He brought the house down as well as a ‘senior’ gentleman that played the drums so well, the guys asked him to stay on for more.
It wasn’t only the Blue Notes that were very visible – Gregory Porter was very visible (and he is a larger than life guy), who was very approachable, willing to pose for photos, sign autographs, dance with passengers and was just a very down to earth guy, no head up in the clouds. He performed 3 excellent shows.
Stars of the Jazz week, Gregory Porter, Don Was, Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Derridk Hodge, Kendrick Scott, MARCUS STRICKLAND and KEYON HARROLD
Other notable entertainers over the 3 cruisers..
Il Divina – Singers
Jane Corben from Panaroma
John Evans – Comedian (brilliant)
Rondell Sheridan – an American comedian that captured a mostly English audience..
There was also an English Mind Reader/Illusionist. He gave a very good show, but his highlight ‘trick’ was so overcooked that people thought there must be audience ‘plants’ in the audience. Nobody can pick a ‘random’ person and mind read their name, date of birth and car number plate!!!
Time Changes – The clocks went back by 1 hour each time change, in the middle of the night on the west bound crossing. However, on the east bound crossing, the time change forward, was carried out at 12 noon, after the midday Captains navigational report. The time went from 12 noon directly to 1pm. Most of us found this strange and one explanation is that a day time change was preferred by Cunard as it reduced the daily work schedule by 1 hour. We saw a lot of passengers confused and being late for events.6 Nov 2015
There were 2 ‘challenges’.
1. DRESS CODE – most people know and if they didn’t know before, it is mentioned in the booking details, Cunard have 2 evening dress codes for after 6.30pm, Informal (jacket, shirt, smart trousers & tie is optional) and Formal, black tie or dark suit, but tie is needed.Of course, Kings Court is available for those who do not wish to dress up.
The number of passengers that refused to adhere to the dress codes really was bad. We saw people come to formal nights in jeans, people attending Captains cocktail parties in T Shirts. The challenge is the crew can mention dress codes, but very rarely do they request people go and change.
I was admonished only once about the dress code when I attended afternoon T in sports clothes. After I had sat down, the Maitre D very discreetly mentioned the afternoon T dress code and requested next time I come dressed appropriately. I immediately apologised, got up and went to change. The Maitre D thanked me and said passengers going to change rarely happened.
2. SMOKING – QM2 allows smoking in a Cigar room (where incidentally, cigarettes are banned), aft of the ship on deck 7 and also upstairs in G32. The entire ship though, at various times had very intense smoking smells, inside. Whether this was caused by bad ventilation or passengers smoking in their cabins, I never did find out. But smoking in a public room (G32) certainly needs addressing and the ships company felt the same. QM2 is going in for a refit in 2016 and the word is that smoking will be banned in public areas after that date (the same was said last year – but QM2 did not go into dry dock last year). Cunard do need to get stricter in enforcing smoking, especially around the deck. It is important to create a smoking area, but not in a public space/room, which does force some passengers not to be able to use that space. One half of the Commodore Club has a constant cigar smell – luckily the other half of the lounge doesn’t.
I had interesting chats with members of the crew about their working conditions. Most of the crew work 6 months on, 7 days a week, with up to 3 shifts a day. I did find this hard to understand, but as one crew member said to me, “what else is there to do when you are not working”. Another crew member (who was single) said he tried to work 8 month shifts, whilst he was young enough to do so. He loves the QM2 and misses it when he was on leave.
I could not complete this review without mentioning TIPPING. All drinks come with a 15% service charge and each round of drinks needs to be settled at the point of ordering (no tabs allowed). Presumably this is to ensure servers receive their tips. This does mean there is a constant ‘would you like a drink sir’, but eventually, the servers would get to know their clients and approach them when they knew a drink was needed. Due to the 15% service charge, I felt there was no need to tip further at the end of the voyage. I did however, tip my wine waiter, despite the 15% added charge to each bottle. He was a real character and worked hard to provide an excellent service.
The biggest tips went to my waiter Manu and his assistant Jerry. They were excellent, even when the kitchen screwed up. The night we needed a fast service, to get to the show on time, they always looked after us and when we wanted to enjoy a more leisurely dinner service, this was then provided.. They were excellent and worth every dollar of the Tip.
Cabin attendant – this one was difficult. I had a different cabin for each leg so needed to look after the Cabin Attendant after each leg. The first attendant was awful. Not providing anything other than tidying the room, usually very late. Any requests to him were rarely fulfilled and overall, his service was very poor. The other 2 cabin attendants were excellent and especially the final attendant back from New York. He was tipped in excess of the suggested amount. I know it sounds harsh not to tip the first attendant, but there was no service worth tipping. Number 2 attendant was tipped the suggested amount.
Overall though, this voyage was excellent in terms of enjoyment and value for money. It worked out at less than £90 per day per person (for our group) for the 18 nights. There was plenty to do, eat and see and this review along with last year’s review could have been extended by many more pages.. If you haven’t cruised, before, I would highly recommend it, but like your favourite restaurant, cruise ships and the way they operate in terms of “Style” and product are different and you need to research companies and ships, carefully, before selecting. For those of you that need to work whilst on board, there are many private places to make calls and read/send emails (if required). I can’t wait for my next QM2 adventure. Highly recommended..6 Nov 2015
I have just completed my first crossing or voyage (note – not cruise) on QM2 on the routing NYC – Halifax – Southampton. Seven sea days and one day in Halifax, NS (picture is of QM2 in the Halifax rain and fog!!). Before booking, I read Martyn’s fabulous reviews in detail and my expectations were certainly shaped by your experiences, Martyn. I should say that this was my first ever experience of a voyage in anything bigger than a cross-channel ferry and, on careful reflection, it will probably be my last for another 10 to 15 years!!
Don’t get me wrong – QM2 is amazing and I loved the experience. From an organisational point of view, watching the smooth operations (both marine and service) was amazing and it generally operated like clockwork. Managing, feeding, entertaining, extracting $$$ from over 2,600 pax was accomplished with few complaints and ever fewer hiccups. The staff were generally engaged, helpful and the real strength was their diversity – there were over 60 nationalities among the crew. Passengers were much less diverse – about 25 nationalities – with 40% from the UK, 35% from the US and the balance from the rest of the (developed) world. The Americans appeared to be generally rather older with a very strong representation of very senior citizens. Some families but mainly couples. Singles appeared to be well catered for with special events and dining arrangements. Interesting comment from an American I was talking to on our last sea day was that I was the first Brit he had met on the voyage who had not voted for Brexit!!
As Martyn anticipates, QM2 has recently completed an extensive refit and the seasoned travellers (of whom there were very many) among us were full of praise for many of the changes, especially the mass catering outlet, King’s Court where much of the breakfast and lunch feeding takes place. Our Stateroom (no longer the English ‘cabin’ as Cunard is now American owned!!) was on Deck 11 with a portside balcony and was a fantastic space – not massive but great use of the available area, very comfortable, quiet and made up daily to a great (if slightly inconsistent) standard. Having the balcony was important to me, even if about 50% of the voyage was in the mists and fogs and the North Atlantic. It gave me somewhere to sit and enjoy a degree of privacy which the rest of the ship denies.
I really enjoyed the dressing up aspect of the formal dining (3 nights out of 8) and even the semi-formal. Very few people appeared to break the rules and those that did elicited severe ‘tut tuts’ from the regulars. Our table was located next to the Captain’s Table – I think the captain actually dined there just the once, delegating the role to other officers – but were not invited to sit there. We chose the late dinner sitting (thank goodness) and were seated with two veteran cruising couples who explained many of the ropes to us. The quality and choice of the food was generally very good – we did not try any of the outlets for which additional payment is extracted – but the main Britannia restaurant offered very good choice with efficient, friendly plated service. Not surprising, in any institutionalised setting (and make no mistake, QM2 and, I guess, any cruising is institutionalised travel) that food is a main topic of conversation and Cunard make big efforts to get things right on that front. While I fully understand the need for the highest hygiene standards on shipboard travel, one of my abiding memories of the voyage will be the image of folk in formal wear and looking fantastic having their hands disinfected by crew members on entry to the restaurant and then appearing to wring their hands as they approached the table.
Entertainment was good if not spectacular. Gone are the days, we were told, when Cunard would be able to line up really big names (Diamond and Sedaka were mentioned) but there was good variety and lots of energy!! I enjoyed the eclectic lecture programme – some excellent inputs with a good dose of controversy as well.
I did not think on-board costs for drinks etc. were unreasonable. We did stock up with a few bottles in NYC for our stateroom and this was certainly worthwhile. But bar drinks (even though priced in US$) were not outrageous. Although on holiday, sad soul that I am, I could not resist buying internet access but managed my time effectively – speeds are considerably improved after the refit – so that I would send stuff in relatively short bursts. I reckoned that the time I actually bought over the voyage (4 hours) cost rather less than some folk’s bar bill for an evening in the English Pub (horrible place) so was acceptable value for me.
I am delighted that I have now crossed the Atlantic by sea and just loved the sights and sounds – leaving New York was amazing and slipping down the Solent yesterday morning was special as well. Seeing whales, dolphins etc. at close quarters was magical. The sea was flat as a pancake throughout – probably just as well for me!! Why will I wait a few years before travelling this way again? I think it is the sense of being institutionalised (even in reasonable luxury) for such a long time. I know the same is true on a flight but it is over much quicker. I was certainly ready for dry land after 8 days – that probably says more about me than about QM2. Cunard are, apparently, near the top of the sea experiences available but even they (according to our informants) have dunned down their offering in many small ways. It is certainly not top-end luxury – that would be impossible to deliver for the numbers concerned and their diverse demands – but QM2 does most things very well and is to be recommended.2 Aug 2016
Thanks TominScotland for your review. I accept the QM2 does not suit everyone and the difficulty with 2,600 passengers from a variety of nationalities, is to keep them all suitably watered, fed and entertained.
I will be back on board for Jazz week (mid October) when Gregory Porter and the Blue Notes will again be on board.
Did you notice Tom if smoking had been banned in the night club. It is the only indoor space where smoking was allowed (apart from the cigar room and then it was only for cigars, not cigarettes).2 Aug 2016
A couple of tips when travelling Britannia class (economy!) on the Cunard ships. If you do not want to share the dining table just ask the maître d’ for your own table…it usually happens. But make the request as soon as you board. Out of 15 Cunard cruises we have only used Britannia twice, but were changed quickly. On one cruise we were put on a table for 10 with 8 extremely loud American ladies!!
Secondly, in the Britannia Class restaurant ask the sommelier for his “bin-ends” offers. Drink, especially wine, is verrrry expensive….the cheapest is $45 a bottle. They usually have a list of “bin-ends” at half price, but you have to ask for it. In Princess and Queens Grills they prefer not to offer bin-ends, but a quiet request often works. Also on cruises of 3 nights or more ask for the soft drinks daily package…good value, and unlimited softies.
Thirdly, it’s worth buying a few Carnival shares. Each shareholder gets a $50 spend on each cruise. You just send proof of shareholding, by screenshot, with your cruise details, to a dedicated email address, after full payment for the cruise.
It’s def worth paying for Princess or Queens…..pay attention BA, this is how to do Club and First properly!
1 user thanked author for this post.3 Aug 2016
Just completed what is becoming an annual event for me – a QM2 back to back Atlantic crossing. This year we were a party of 7. Reading my first post on this thread back in 2014, I do not want to post the same facts, so will concentrate on the changes and also the highlights of this trip.
Cunard really know how to handle the boarding of 2,600 passengers and 1,400 crew. Once again, despite only being Gold status, from arriving by taxi, to depositing our luggage, to checking in and then boarding, including security, took all of 20 minutes. Plenty of staff, plenty of porters and all very smooth and efficient.
The QM2 has recently undergone a £90 million re mastering. A new row of staterooms, where the old photography shop was located, some new carpet – but the 2 big changes are the Kings Court buffet area and the new Corinthia Lounge, both on deck 7.
Kings Court – has been redesigned so that most of the food stations are in one area, making it far easier to fill plates, without having to walk into several different areas. The Chefs Galley is still slightly away from the main food serving area, but all in all the design of Kinds Court has been enhanced and we all felt the standard of food and the service from the staff was far better since the re mastering. Lunch time there is still a pasta bar, by the chefs galley, where fresh pasta can be ordered along with the multitude of pizza choices.
Evening dinners in Kings Court, were hit and miss. Some evenings the choices were FABULOUS, other evenings, we felt it was a little bland. Sadly there was no menu for Kings Court, so the only way of finding out what was on offer was to view the offerings. which generally entailed a small dinner tasting session.
Carinthia Lounge – a new lounge offering a bar and sandwich / cakes style food. Strangely, teas and coffees were chargeable in this lounge, although there was no charge for the food. You could of course walk 20 yards into the Kings Court for a choice of about 10 different teas and decaf / normal coffee for which there was no charge. I am not sure that Cunard have got it totally right in this lounge as in the afternoon there was music offerings, whilst at the same time there was generally a meeting of a group of people sharing a hobby/pastime. This made it difficult for those people trying to enjoy the music, whilst trying to avoid the noise of the clubs conversation.
There is one downside of the new Kings Court and Carinthia lounge. About 40 – 50 seats have been taken away to accommodate the new areas. This has made seating somewhat limited and at peak dining/entertaining times. it is very difficult to find a seat. New circular tables in the window areas of the Kings Court are extremely popular. Often people will share as these are prime tables due to the views.
Talks – as usual there was a wide choice of the Cunard Enrichment lectures. I was struck by 2. A series of 4 lectures by Jeffrey Weinberg….
.. who spoke about the US Presidential circus…. I never knew that the President, not only has a First Wife, a First Dog, but there is an official title to First Friend. Obama did not appoint a First Friend, but other Presidents have and can insist on them being present at all meetings..
The other interesting speaker who ran a series of 4 lectures was a former BA Concorde pilot (F/O), who ended his career as a Captain, Rick Reynolds. He talked about the Air France Concorde crash and how the Concorde project was terminated. He presented “facts” about how pressures on the pilots of the doomed flight caused them take off in a defective aircraft, over their MTOW and taking off outside the aircrafts operating window (tail wind take off). He says the UK AAIB have never agreed with the French investigation and vital paperwork, such as the fuel load sheets and defective nose wheel steering repair have all gone missing. He suggests the flight crew made unprofessional and uncoordinated, decisions and the evidence of the fire crews on duty, who saw smoke coming front the nose wheel whilst the aircraft was taxying, was discounted by the French investigators. All very interesting….
Deck 7 running – as usual I ran every day. One of the problems with deck 7 is the narrow width of the deck and the fact that runners and walkers are mixing. I was very considerate, in that if I was held up due to people walking slowly or the old people with sticks, I would slow down and wait – I never barged my way through. the biggest problem was when I was running in the clear area between the deck chairs and the railings, the walkers would, without looking, cut into the “unofficial clear running lane” without looking. I had no chance of stopping and bumped into people on a few occasions. Cunard need to address the runner v walkers problem as it is an accident waiting to happen. I did start running on the top deck by the kennels. This is a far shorter circuit but benefits from some steps so you can have an interesting work out circuit.
SPA– I bought a package for the SPA on deck 7 which I used most days. There are deals to be had – it is $40 per day, but with a bit of negotiation, you can get it down to around $10 a day for a package. I used the Jacuzzi, hydro pool, steam(s) sauna and relaxation room on a daily basis. Massages are expensive, circa $160, but they were always busy.
Restaurant – again we were in the Britannia Grill. Whilst the food and service was excellent, there were some issues with the temperature of the food. On the occasion that food needed to be sent back, there was no questions asked and new, fresh food was served within minutes and hot!
We ate second sitting at 8.30pm, but when there was a show we wanted to see, it could be a bit of a rush. Sometimes food orders were not taken until 9pm and we would have preferred a slightly more relaxed dinner to enjoy the food and the evening. One solution is to upgrade to the Britannia Club, which has open dinning times. We all agreed that the ideal time to go and eat is around 7.30/7.45 and we will be investigating the cost of this upgrade for next year.
Entertainment – there is usually a good mix of entertainers for the evening shows. The only slight disappointment was a comedian who was on the ship last year as well. 80% of this years show was using last years material. The Brit Tones gave an excellent concert of music from the 60’s and 70’s. There always seems to be a Frankie Valli tribute band and this voyage was no exception. They were absolutely brilliant.
However the star of week 2 were 2 very special performers. Dee Dee Bridgewater and the amazing Gregory Porter. Both stars had their own bands but what made the second part of the voyage so unique was what they all did after they had fulfilled their contractual obligations.
Both sets of musicians (and they knew each other) were keen to play music every evening wherever they were allowed to play. The guests were treated to jazz music sessions by a group of professional musicians. Two nights ago, one band played for 2 hours joined by Dee Dee and last night Gregory Porters band were joined by Dee Dee’s band and then an impromptu performance by the man himself. I can not remember ever seeing two groups of professional musicians, including big show biz names, agreeing to perform ad hoc shows. A truly amazing evening and a wonderful way to end 14 days at sea.2 Nov 2016
On my 20th Cunard trip. In Le HAvre at the mom. Last night was horrific. The vibrations through the cabin meant sleep was impossible. A manager came to witness how bad it was and he was shocked.
I have felt these tremors lightly before but this is obviously a known problem.
Never doing Mary again! Roll on Saturday and getting home. I hope the constant shaking doesn’t trigger Parkinson’s!2 Nov 2016
@openfly – the only vibrations we felt was when walking through the Britannia Grill to G32 on the starboard side of deck 3. It was very noticeable how the tables and servers station were vibrating (this was at night). Our cabin was on deck 6 and the “stability” was as smooth as silk…2 Nov 2016