My first ocean liner voyage was the Rotterdam in the early 1960â€™s when transatlantic crossings were still the way to traverse the Atlantic and JFK Airport was known as Idelwild. My Aunt and Uncle (in their 50â€™s, German born and raised) were able to convince my parents that I was not too young to travel to Europe under their strict supervision.
Life at sea back then was a never varying routine of rising for breakfast, morning walks on deck, shuffleboard â€“weather permitting, Lunch - table games, card games (whist?), Afternoon Tea (called High Tea on this line), letter writing, cocktails (a Shirley Temple with 3 Cherries!) followed by a very long dinner at which I was expected to sit ramrod straight while consume everything on my plate (If not I was reminded of the hyperinflation in Germany in 1924 - the year my motherâ€™s family emigrated arriving at Ellis Island â€“ definitely in steerage). I was the very best little girl that I could be.
There has been much discussion on this forum regarding the â€śappropriatenessâ€ť of this ship as a Cunard Liner. Liner Guy and Crouton said it best when they remarked this is a liner for our times. Likewise, on Rotterdam â€“ built in the 1950â€™s (please correct me if wrong Russ), was a liner for her times. Last year I had occasion to discuss with my Aunt and Uncle (now in their 90â€™s) this QM2 controversy. They told me there was the same dissent and carping on Rotterdam â€“ especially regarding the â€śmodern interior decorationsâ€ť with much unfavorable comparison to the old Rotterdam. Today, the most recent version is compared to the mid century version: â€śWe were on the Real Rotterdam.â€ť
Embarkation at NYC Pier:
Our documents instructed us to arrive no earlier than the appointed time of 3:30 pm. As we were parking on the pier roof and concerned about getting a parking space, we arrived at 11:30, passed the ever vigilant K9 checkpoint, and were told by the pier **** that we could not take any photos of QM2 from the pier (along with about 5 other vital regulations). We could not tarry, but had to immediately leave the pier, which we did, much regretting not being able to photograph her.
Fortunately Cunard allowed us to be processed early; we sailed through processing - the only glitch being the key card did not register our photo. We like to save our cards and were disappointed to not have this. We were told that as long as it would be seen by the â€śmachineâ€ť it was ok.
Around twelve fifteen, we boarded the ship on deck 2, portside and were given directions to our cabin 5178 (a B5 Category). We arrived to find our cheerful American cabin attendant Angela. The room is tastefully appointed in muted neutrals, with adequate closet space for a crossing for 2 (Am going 10 day sailing 10/6 with three in the cabin which will have to be re-assessed) and was certainly enough for our mini cruise.
The balcony is a rectangular window cut from the hull from waist up (if one is approx 5â€™8â€ť). We found the chaises and floor to be sopping (pools of water) from the previous nightâ€™s rain. This was cleaned up by evening time. The chaises do not have any padding and can be somewhat uncomfortable, so we later placed the green beach towels found in the bathroom cabinet on them.
The bathroom, while very small, has a spacious shower one can move about in easily. The shower curtain seemed strange given all the new ships have easy open doors. In the past we have never had a problem with a cabin blow-dryer, but found ours to be very low wattage and suitable for a babyâ€™s hair perhaps.
The bed mattress is the most comfortable at sea we have experienced so far. The duvet is soft and luxurious. There is a mini fridge, love seat, and climate control thermometer.
Although not fans of Lido type dining, no restaurant was open for lunch on embarkation day, so we waited on the long queues already forming and found a nice window table which jutted out onto deck 7 where we watched passengers walk by on their laps around the ship. The food was quite good. Iced tea is available as a cold beverage in sweetened (pitchers) and unsweetened (the machine). There was quite an assortment of deserts â€“ we sampled just about all of them, my favorite being the cream puff swan. The tables are cleared quickly with ample staff to assist anyone.
BRITTANIA RESTAURANT AND SPA visit
We did not go to Todd English as we thought our friends from our last Cunard sailing were to take care of this (we thought they would be the first passengers on the ship). So we proceeded to the Britannia Restaurant to check out our table 272. This table for four was located on the 2nd tier, in the extreme rear by the exit door/prep station exit. It was as if it were not a part of the restaurant at all. Had we booked the lowest category inside cabin, we might have accepted this, but not for a B5 Category. We approached the Maitre dâ€™ hotel, who placed us at a tier 1 table for six adjacent a window - although dining at 8:45 there would not be any view.
Anyone who has sailed on RCCLâ€™s radiance class ships would find this restaurant almost identical in that the center has dual staircases leading to the center which affords a vast open space of the three tiers with mural the entire height. This is where the captains table is located â€“ dead center. On Serenade of the Seas, we were given a table for six next to the captainâ€™s table. Although we would have preferred to sit is this area, given we were not of the highest categories of B class, we did think we merited a table in this section and did not inquire. We were please with our new table and proceed to the spa.
CAYNON RANCH SPA
Given the prominence of this spa we thought the prices fair. The only thing perturbing was that a shampoo, cut and blow dry/set was the same $59 as a â€śhairstyleâ€ť (or dry cut). I mentioned that all I needed was a dry trim and was told they would book me for a menâ€™s cut at $29. I also booked a regular massage and manicure. Lorraine booked the Aromatherapy massage.
The prices for sea days are $10 higher. A tour of the spa is given was given. We were informed that for our massages, we could use the hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and reflexology foot bath. Otherwise this would be a $19 charge to use these facilities alone. The spa is located forward, portside.
TOUR OF THE SHIP
What can I say â€“ QM2 is a beauty. Everywhere we strolled we found Cunard History, some breathtaking design, portraits, murals, carvings and sculpture. Lorraine found in poor taste (as luck would have it by our cabin) the shrine to Carpathia and Titanic as you exit the deck 5 midship elevator to Portside.
We visited the library which is Starboard to the Spaâ€™s Portside. Here you will also find the computer center. This is probably the finest library at sea - anyone should be able to find adequate reading material. I checked out the latest Biography of Oscar Wilde. The â€ślibrarianâ€ť - one of the dancers - did not know where the Cruise Critic book was kept so we entered the adjacent bookshop; selected postcards (a great one of the ship at night making 30 knots during sea trials) and when we inquired about CC were presented with the book which we signed. It was fun to read everyoneâ€™s comments.
We went back down to deck 7 and made several laps around the ship. At the bow one can go outside and there are unique sculptures of what appears to be waves which became the must do Kodak Moment Opportunity for those walking by.
As we were passing Kingâ€™s Court, out came our friend Jayne who spied us passing by her window table where she was dining with her mom Joyce. We had not seen them since last May when we were assigned a table for four on QE2â€™s Princess Grill and became fast friends. The ladies had been upgraded from PG to Queens Grill on this sailing.
One of the highlights of sailing on Cunard has been making new friends. On past QE2 cruises we met from CC Cunard site Terrence Richards (Terry) and his wife Loretta as well as Vic the Parrot (Vic). It was even better to sail with J&J again, reminiscing and comparing our experiences on both ships.
Unfortunately, the ladies had not yet paid a visit to Todd English and as you may have guessed, it was totally booked. No pleas to the Concierge from J&J worked (which is nice to know that Queens Grill passengers do not get special consideration in this case â€“ although we would not have minded).
We spent so much time together that it was almost time for the lifeboat drill, thus ending our tour. We agreed to meet in the Ladies suite for a sail-away party.
No more sitting in a lounge as on QE2 or some other lines (at least for Brittania Class). In sardine fashion we mustered in the Kingâ€™s Court. It became somewhat stuffy so we made our way to the middle entrance and were allowed to stand just outside of it. On QE2 there was no sign off sheet â€“ now there is.
Unfortunately I could only book a manicure at sail-a-way 6pm so I went to the SPA while Lorraine went to the sail a way party and I would join them afterwards. The manicure tables are located Portside, near the bow with a window view. There are three tables and I soon found myself seated between a married couple. The manicure was excellent.
I had forgotten how excited passengers not from the tri-state area get when approaching the pit (ground zero) and went into tour guide mode attempting to explain the area as we sailed by.
Unfortunately I did not have my reading glasses and could not see the bill too clearly. I thought that I was being charged for a sea day, not this port day â€“ the manicurist told me it was for a port day. So I added an extra tip to the bill (10% tip is pre-included) and went to the sail way party.
QUEENS GRILL SUITE â€“ DECK 9
J& J were in a beautiful suite configured very much like Carnivalâ€™s Destiny and Spirit Suites but somewhat larger and more sumptuous (walk in closet/bathroom definitely larger). It was beautiful with Computer LCD screen, a huge balcony, comfortable couch, large coffee table and the advanced climate control thermostats that we had on NCL Dawnâ€™s Mini Suites. This was the lower cat of QG and of course came with butler service. I arrived as a second tray of canapĂ©s was delivered. We had brought with us a bottle of Dom Peringnon, the ladies had Moet Brut Imperial (more than a few bottles), which we toasted out on the sumptuous balcony as the ship sailed past Governorâ€™s Island and the Staten Island Ferry â€“ whose passers waved to us while we of course were waving like the late Queen Mother back at them.
A word about the upper balconies. Deck 7 juts out so that those in their deck balcony on 9, 10, 11 and 12 (8 has lifeboats in front) can be viewed by those below and vice versa. If one seeks privacy, perhaps a hull balcony might afford more. This suite â€“ 9070 â€“ was not over the lifeboats and afforded a great view of the deck and its inhabitants below.
We were given an NYPD and Coast Guard escort until Ambrose Lighthouse, and then we were on our way, with only the Carnival Legend behind us. We sailed south.
Firstâ€™s night menu was not encouraging. Having been a big fan of Chef Winklerâ€™s Menuâ€™s on QE2 we looked forward to more of the same. We had read that Daniel Boulaudâ€™s relationship with Cunard as menu planner had recently terminated but still expected to experience some of his influence.
The menu was not inspiring. The only entree which appealed somewhat was the double pork chop. I cannot remember anything else about this meal that was memorable food wise (We were not given copies of each nightâ€™s menus as on QE2â€™s Caronia/PG). I had a dĂ©jĂ* vu feeling of my cruise to Halifax on RCCLâ€™s Serenade of the Seaâ€™s during which we found the food in the main restaurants to be mediocre. We did have an excellent Riesling with dinner for a bargain price of $18.00. There are some excellent wines at very good prices on this ship.
We had arrived at the appointed time of 8:45 to discover a long line for dinner that eventually backed up from the restaurant door to the mid ship spiral staircase. We found a table in Sir Samuels which is across from the Chart Room and had excellent Martiniâ€™s. At 9:25pm the doors finally opened. Seated at our table was a family of four: parentâ€™s approximately 75ish, daughter our age (late forties) with her 8 year old daughter. Although they had requested early seating, they were seated late, and then put on a wait list by the maitre dâ€™hotel after complaining. By the time her pasta course was served, the poor child was asleep. She was woken up, ate a little, then went back to sleep. We felt terrible for them.
A definite improvement on QE2â€™s theater. The sight lines were good from most seats. I liked how the stage jutted out into the audience so one could get a great side view of the show from the side. Rock the Opera and Apassionata â€“ great singing and dancing â€“ although, the Jean Ann Ryan Dancers on the NCL Dawn were just as impressive
FIRST SEA DAY
Returned to the Spa for a hair trim when I noted the price list for yesterdayâ€™s manicure had the port day charge a full ten dollars than wheat I had paid. The receptionist assured me this would be taken care of (â€śwe must complete this at nightâ€ť).
Even though I had been previously told I could book a dry trim at the menâ€™s rate, after trimming my hair, the â€śstylistâ€ť wrote me up for $59, not $29. I reminded the receptionist at the desk of what she had agreed to last night, and then gave her my appointment card which had the price written down. When the stylist realized that she was only being credited for $29 (and thus assumed she was going to get a smaller tip), she shrugged and said in a flippant manner â€śas you like itâ€ť and walked away, Gone was the polite, smiling, solicitous girl of only 5 minutes ago. I had wanted to leave her quite a large tip, being quite pleased with the results, even having purchased one of the many products she was hawking (which turned out to be great â€“ a hair strengthener).
CRUISE CRITIC MEETING
At high noon in the Chart Room we met Pam and her husband and Viv and her Mom â€“ all very nice people and good company. I had never been to the Chart Room during the day and it was soothing to listen to the harpist.
AFTERNOON TEA IN QUEENâ€™s GRILL LOUNGE
We went as guests of the Ladies and as we entered the lounge were greeted - to our happy surprise â€“ by Patrick, formerly the Sommelier in Princess Grill on QE2! Patrick was promoted last November to Assistant Maitre dâ€™ hotel of Queens Grill and has so far been on the ship without a break.
Much discussion has occurred on this forum regarding Princess Grill members not being allowed to take tea in QGL as they were on QE2. The lounge was less than half empty the two teas of this cruise and these both were sea days! We counted only seven others the first day and by 4pm -tea begins at 3:30 â€“ even they had left leaving us entirely alone!
FIRST PLANETARIUM AT SEA
Unfortunately the lines for this showing became long with no evidence of any queue or supervision. We waited 20 min, and then towards the end approximately 15 people cut in front of us â€“ one almost knocked me over while jumping the line. Only the seats under the red dome will allow one to view this show and they were limited. So as the doors opened (and everyone from the first show came rushing out) the barbarians took over. It became a free for all with people running and jumping over others. This couple went on each end of an aisle, to the left and right, ran down to the front, then came up the aisle and saved and entire row for their sycophants. When I attempted to take a seat, this brick house blocked the aisle telling me â€śYou have to go through me to get in there.â€ť We could not believe it. The four of us sat on the other seats not under the dome (listening first to the narration) and when the show was over were able to move over to the red seats.
This show is from New York Cityâ€™s Hayden Planetarium and was wonderful. Only one show was offered on this cruise so that â€śeveryoneâ€ť might have the opportunity to experience it.â€ť
CAPTAINâ€™S GALA COCKTAIL PARTY
We were never that fond of Queenâ€™s Room on QE2, but the QR on QM2 is a smashing success. One enters a general area with bar and tables. The dance floor and surrounding tables/banquettes are sunken, with orchestra pit in rear. Like QE2 QR spans port to starboard and one can find a quieter table window side. There are two busts: Queen Mary and King George V and there is an informative historical archive of the Queen as the young German princess, May of Teck (as well as George in his Duke of York/POW years). One can see a resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II as a young woman.
We met Pam and her husband (Viv and her mom were at early seating) at the bust of Queen Mary, sitting behind/underneath on a banquette. The champagne was cold and crisp as were the canapĂ©s and assorted finger food. We are not usually all that enamored of meeting the shipâ€™s captain, however this captain was an entirely a difference species. When the doors opened, we spied Commodore Warwick and Maureen the Social Hostess in the middle of the floor awaiting the crowds. People began to assemble around Commodore as Maureen left his side to circulate. Warwick had already worked the earlier cocktail party for first seating; here he was on his feet for 1.5 hours speaking to all comers. He did not leave the room until the last person was finished speaking with him and graciously posed for photos with Lorraine and I. This was the first time I had met Commodore (in the late 1970â€™s neither he nor his father were on QE2), having sailed with Paul (â€śdirect all your thoughts to the Social Hostessâ€ť) Wright and Ian McClellan (forgot how to spell his surname). When the very last passenger had left, we watched Commodore look around, then pivot and leave by the rear door. Officer and gentleman do not begin to describe this man.
We had waited until the end of the cocktail party given last nights late dinner and this evening was no exception. Guests were again lining the corridors well after the cocktail party was over â€“ waiting for Britannia to open its doors.
Guernsey Guy has inquired on this site what kind of passengers might we expect to sail with on this ship, given she is so very large and Cunard needs to perhaps widen its target audience. On this 3 day cruise, there seemed to be many passengers who had not sailed before on any cruise line coupled with experienced cruisers from the mainstream as well as luxury class ships. We encountered no British passengers (unless one counts Joyce who was born and raised in England, but later became a US citizen). The Daily Program probably did not list the passenger breakdown by nationality as it seemed everyone was American. We has hoped the earlier incident at the Planetarium was some kind of fluke and were looking forward to Chateaubriand accompanied by the fine bottle of Bordeaux weâ€™d ordered earlier in the day to be served with our meal.
As the family â€“ with a child - we has dined with yesterday were able to switch to early seating, we anticipated having new table mates, however, nothing could have prepared us for what awaited at our table. We arrived after most everyone had already been seated in the dining room to find our table fully occupied with three couples. We explained this was our table and was told by one of the men: â€śItâ€™s not anymore.â€ť Lorraine produced our card with the table # written on it, while asking if perhaps they might check their card. The reply from one of the women: â€śIts not your table anymore â€“ first come first serve.â€ť Then someone chimed in: â€śThe early bird gets the wormâ€ť and â€śif you cared enough about your t-a-b-le you would have gotten here first, so sue us.â€ť I told them that my wine was already ordered to be sent to the table to which one of them said: "We enjoyed it, but could you have selected white zinfandel next time."
It was then that Lorraine and I left to find the Maitre dâ€™hotel (and located his assistant) who just shrugged his shoulders. He said that he could not ask anyone to leave â€“ â€śplease do not make a fuss miss â€“ I seat you elsewhere.â€ť Elsewhere turned out to be a table for 2 on level 1 adjacent to the galley doors whereby we were treated to the sounds of waiters rushing to and fro laden with heavy trays. We could feel the rush of air as each whizzed by. It was even worse than the original table we had been assigned upon embarkation. We had asked for another table and were told there was nothing, so by this time, hungry upset and frustrated, we just sat and ate. After repeatedly explaining to the wait staff and sommelier about the bottle of wine we had ordered, it came to our table already opened with about one quarter of it missing: â€śI saved your wine missâ€ť the sommelier beamed, to which I said very slowly. â€śPlease get me a new bottle of wine now. Take this already opened and partially consumed bottle away. If you do not do this immediately I will send an email to the CEO of Cunard and the Director of Guest Relations in Miami, Frank Sansone and tell them how you purported to sell and serve a half consumed bottle of wine.â€ť
Needless to say, the dinner was not memorable. The chateaubriand was ok; the bĂ©arnaise sauce was good though. We also had lobster as an appetizer (the main course). It was tough.
Someone on this forum remarks from time to time â€śsounds like a bad might in Mauritaniaâ€ť (the double seating restaurant on QE2) â€“ I think I may know what he is talking about now.
DAY THREE AT SEA
We enjoyed breakfasts in Britannia as we arrived early enough to be seated immediately. Those not so fortunate have a wait (those who insisted on being seated alone and not with other passengers).
We asked to speak with the Maitre dâ€™ hotel about the last nightâ€™s dinner incident and he immediately went into a litany of stories of passenger rudeness and overall tacky behavior on this cruise: â€śNever have we sailed with passengers such as this M'aam.â€ť Apparently the reason for dinner being held up so late the past two nights was to accommodate â€śmore that a fewâ€ť diners who arrived at 7:30 or so, sat down at their tables (and if those were still occupied - at the tables of those apparently at an alternative restaurant) - demanding to eat. Some of these passengers were from early seating, but also from late. They just wanted to be served when they felt like it. Ours was not the only table which passengers just sat down at to eat. This was commonplace. It turns out that no-one had been assigned to our table last night but us and when these people saw an attractive empty table, for six, they just took it. â€śWe were threatened by one person and when it was suggested that people acting in this way could be disembarked at the next port â€“ he laughed that the next port was his port of NY.â€ť - the maitre dâ€™ told us.
We felt a little bit better in that misery loves company, but wondered who these people were and what could they have been thinking. â€śYou would not behave this way in a greasy spoon diner or anywhere â€“ let alone on a cruise shipâ€ť Lorraine commented.
I agreed that this would never occur on any ship â€“ on Carnival or any ship - they would have refused to serve them.
MASSAGE AND HYDROTHERAPY POOL
We both had an 11am appointment for massages but arrived at 9am to use the facilities. The Spa does not give you a key to the locker; rather, each locker has a combination that you can program just like the room safe. The only problem with this was the inadequate amount of lockers. On the Norwegian Dawn, which has actual keys, these are only given out to those having treatments. On QM2 those paying the $19.00 (NCL was free) per day for just the use of the facilities were told not to use the lockers (although if I were paying that amount â€“ I would want a locker too) and of course they did. Thus we could not find a locker and were given a laundry bag to put our purse, cloches and anything else in and these were placed behind the front desk.
The hydrotherapy pool is very photogenic with a waterfall and â€śbedâ€ť one can lie on. There were â€śaromatherapy Saunasâ€ť What we cold not figure out were the reflexology basins for the feet. We put our feet in them but all there was was some mild whirlpool action, nothing for the soles of the feet.
The massage was wonderful and I am pleased to report that the hawking of products did not occur.
Our Final Dinner in Britannia
The Maitre dâ€™hotel awaited our arrival, seating us at a table for two by the rail on tier two overlooking the mural and captainâ€™s table. I wish that I could say the menu was inspiring but it was again mediocre with temptations such as Roast Tom Turkey and Chicken. There was lamb; however I do not care for lamb. What was nice about Caronia on QE 2 was that it shared a common galley with the Grills, so even though there was no a la carte menu, once could order off of it anyway â€“ the wait staff would rattle off offerings. Then there was the cheese cart which was sorely missed.
I must say the frozen Grand Marnier SoufflĂ© was outstanding. Also, for lunch we were delighted with a steak pot pie whose presentation and aroma was a mouth watering delight.
In the latest World Club magazine, the new Corporate Chef is portrayed. I had not heard of him before but apparently he is now responsible for the menus. I do not expect a kitchen to be three stars when only 5 months old, but at least the menus could be more inspiring. That said, the wait staff was generally competent, polite and helpful. The Maitre dâ€™ hotel â€“ I really felt bad for him for the deluge of bad behavior he had to deal with, for which no one could have envisioned. I do hope that when the ship sails for the 4th of July 4 day cruise to nowhere, the staff will be prepared for these untoward personalities as well as better able to anticipate and deal with boorish behavior.
I like this place â€“ probably because I actually won and held on to my winnings. The dealers are good, the pit bosses even better. I play Roulette and Blackjack (occasionally Craps) and was impressed with the skill level of the blackjack players I sat with.
Monday morning was upon us as we awoke at 4:30am to get up to the top deck to view passing under the VN Bridge at 5am. Usually the QE2 passes under at 5:30am, but we were told 5 and 5 it was. It always seems (even for ships that are 90,000 tons) the ship is not going to clear the middle of the bridge, so we really wanted to see QMâ€™s clearance. There is not much that we could see. There were about 50 of us on top deck. Lorraine stayed up for the entire sail up bay and river, while I went looking for coffee.
I had tired to order from the 24 hour room service at 4:30am to be told there was no room service anymore. So I went to Kingâ€™s Court and could not find any coffee â€“ seems there is no 24 hour coffee/tea station on QM2. Eventually I found coffee that had been set up for the 6am opening which was covered up. We uncovered the tarp, found some mugs and milk and finally I had my coffee. One gentleman noted this was tacky of them to tell us that we could get up for the 5am passing under the bridge, only to not provide us with coffee.
The extra charge from the Spa on day 1 which was supposed to be removed Saturday night was not. We did not find our bill under our door until we woke up this morning. After waiting on a long line at the purser, I was told that they could not remove this charge that they needed to communicate with the spa! Oh well, another letter to Miami.
I returned to our cabin to finish any last minute packing as we were walking off the ship with our luggage. We passed Ellis Island. Looking out from my hull balcony, I gazed over at these building that Iâ€™d never been to, which were always just a part of the scenery from a passing ferry or boat. There were bathed in the light of sunrise and had this almost surreal glow to them. I thought of my Aunt and Uncle who came through this place on a ship unknown, who had introduced me to ocean liner travel so many years ago and how I wished they had lived to travel on QM2 with me as they would have loved her.
We tied up to the pier b 6:30 by which time we were enjoying breakfast in Britannia. Breakfasts are done well (and no powdered eggs as in Princess Grill on QE2!). Particularly the English bacon. Because there was no immigration process to clear, disembarkation was called at 7:10am. We walked off the ship at 7:35am, got the car on the pier and were off at 7:50 am. Just as the NCL Dawn was puling into port.
Am sailing on this Queen again in the fall and do hope on a ten day Caribbean sailing, the passenger mix will have some Brits and that the bad behavior experienced will be just an anomaly. If the menus could be enlivened somewhat, my joy would be complete!