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Island Venturer

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  1. We were in Southampton two times. One visit was as a part of the cruise... then the ship continued on to one more port (a weekend 3-day cruise for those boarding in Southampton... before finally disembarking back in Southampton. I agree that it is nice to have crew members share their ship with their families... but it should be limited and not take away from the Cunard guests' experience. Lunch at the Lido while in Southampton that first visit was terribly crowded (and the dining room was not open), and transiting guests had great difficulty find tables/seats.
  2. We just returned from an 18-day Queen Elizabeth voyage New York to Southampton. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve sailed on Queen Elizabeth, so we were very disappointed to see the major “cut backs”. First off… there were fewer entrée choices available in the Britannia Restaurant. And shockingly “Mac & Cheese” was one of the choices offered on a formal night! Twice, in fact, during the entire cruise. When I asked for a “salt stick”… I was told that they are now only available in the Queens Grill (yet, I noticed some were available at the Lido Buffet during lunch). The waiter told me that my only choices of breads where what I see in the basket. On several days, they offered the same fish entrée at lunch and then again at dinner. Our near tablemates (two “twos” next to each other) asked for something extra, and they were told they only serve what’s on the menu. As for the Petit Fours which I used to enjoy most nights with coffee after dinner… this time, the choices were marshmellows and rice crispy treats (not kidding). The only time chocolate of any kind was offered as a petit four after dinner proved to be the same chocolate mints that are piled in a bowl at the entrance/exit of the restaurant. When we finally inquired about the changes, we were told that all menus are created by Carnival Headquarters in Southampton… onboard chefs are not allowed to change or adjust. There were several events held onboard (crew show, Christian services, etc.) where Cunard blatantly promoted that they were raising money for charities… a large box for financial contributions was placed outside the Royal Court Theatre, and the Entertainment Director would stand nearby to watch who gave and who didn’t as you left the theatre. There was a very heavy promotion for a galley/backstage tour… for $120 per person (and yes, you would receive a glass of Cunard sparkling wine with it). A bit outrageous, don’t you think? And then, of course, the “sale tables” outside the shops… which on QE are outside the Queen’s Room. Now… there is one full table set aside to sell Pringles and M&Ms. Wow. We found the ship is spending less and less time in port, which makes some stops not even worth it. Could it be to save on dockage fees, and add a big push to sell more ‘stuff’ onboard? Additional, there were far too many crew guests invited onboard in several ports, especially in Southampton. Families with five or six kids, all touring the ship with the crew member… enjoying lunch in the Lido, taking guest’s seats, etc. Not fun, and should not be acceptable. The Lido was somewhat understaffed at lunch… used plates and glasses left on tables for quite a while before anyone came by to clean. And our favorite… the Carinthia Bar ran out of ‘rocks’ glasses. Yes, that’s right. They told us they had no more onboard… and for four or five days or so, all drinks were served in a “tall” glass, no matter what the order. When I asked why, they said the ship had been in the Far East, and they couldn’t order any more. Could they not order more glasses in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or Miami (Carnival headquarters, after all), or New York? Outrageous. Entertainment-wise… they now seem to only engage British acts… singers, comedians, novelty groups, etc. Sometimes that’s ok, but for many Americans… British comics are really just a wasted evening. Production show? The cast told us they were onboard for NINE MONTHS and seemed very tired; just going through the motions. Singers were good… the dancers were sloppy and most out of sync. I’m sure they couldn’t wait to get to Southampton and the end of their contract. I’m not an expert, but I would guess that nine months onboard a ship in ANY capacity is too long… again, could this be to save money? Lecturers?... only one was really excellent-- Steve Rivellino who spoke about Broadway and other areas of entertainment. He made our trip. Externally, the ship showed lots of rust on the hull and the deck areas too… perhaps they are also cutting back maintenance. All in all, we feel QE has dropped below the level from what was once Cunard status… I don’t know about Victoria. But happily, I can say that disembarking from QE and stepping onboard QM2 for the return to New York was a breath of fresh air. Like coming home. There is no doubt, the QM2 a far better ship, and is run differently… food quality was far better, and the service too… and the crew, much more friendly. There is no comparison between the two ships. Clearly, QE has now become a typical cruise ship, comparable perhaps to Princess or HAL (all Carnival brands). And QM2 continues to stand out. Although our fingers are crossed waiting to see how long that will be the case.
  3. We recently returned from two voyages onboard Silver Spirit. We do love this ship... and Silversea overall... but I have to post a couple of things that perhaps Silversea Management need to hear. I felt the overall food quality in most restaurants has declined. The food quality in particular at La Dame has become somewhat mundane... the only thing that now makes this restaurant special is the environment/decor and the somewhat personalized service. Hot Rocks, now called "The Grill" for some odd reason, is still enjoyable. Seishin seems to now only offer "pre-made" sushi rolls, which are not as fresh as the handmade rolls used to be. And they no longer serve Tempura at lunchtime; this was very disappointing, and in my opinion a poor decision on management's part. The newly expanded La Terrazza was cozy and comfortable... although service was slow and some of the little things are missing or overlooked... e.g. the roasted garlic came to us three times very dry and often times burned, etc. Not acceptable for a specialty Italian restaurant onboard an arguably Italian ship. It is those little things that matter. Spaccanapoli pizza was consistently wonderful and we were thankful for that. And new Silver Note was as enjoyable as always with Esther and Chantal making us all feel at home, but they really need to dim the lights just a bit... the bright lights during dinner made the room much less attractive. And they should really find a way to restore the bar in Silver Note; that's a big loss. But most importantly... TEAR DOWN THAT WALL! The decision to split the once beautiful and elegant Silver Spirit Dining Room into two... Indochine and Atlantide... as was done on Silver Muse... was a huge mistake. Menus in both restaurants have become uninteresting. Indochine seems to be rarely used. Atlantide seems to be used as the "Main Dining Room" by most guests... but the menu never seems to change. The Maitre-D "claims" the menus change every seven days; perhaps they swap out an appetizer or one entree... but that's it. When onboard for many days... the menu in Atlantide is very tiring. And the fact that Atlantide does not offer a pasta option for dinner is very surprising and disappointing. Lunch in Atlantide does seem to have a changing menu. All in all... I hope they will please take a look at raising the quality of the cuisine onboard, and most importantly...TEAR DOWN THAT WALL and bring back one large elegant Dining Room. These ships NEED a Main Dining Room with changing menus and daily specials. We fear it is all becoming "same old, same old".
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