We booked our cruise through a travel agent and were really excited at the prospect of our first cruise with Cunard and especially on the new Queen Elizabeth. Our package included free car parking with Cruise Parking Ltd and on-board spend of $460. The car parking and transfer were excellent and a good start, however, when we arrived at the Mayflower pier the queue was out of the door. There were no seats and a very crowded scene. We eventually got to a check in desk but were unable to verify our credit card as the computers were down. The queue to go through to security was beginning to obstruct the check in desks so we were shepherded into four queues, this resolved the obstruction to the check in desks, unfortunately the four queues had to reduce to one so only a short reprieve. The time to get on board was just over one hour, on arrival there was no welcome drink,this was not a good start.
We found our cabin and went straight to the library having read the literature from Cunard "do not bring your own books as our library is well stocked", unfortunately, the day you board is treated as a "port day" and the library opening hours are restricted. In addition the books are locked up [unlike Celebrity Eclipse] so you have to return only when the librarian is present and check out your two books with your sea pass.
Our cabin was nice and clean, the wardrobe space was excellent, however, this was at the expense of the bathroom which was very small. Our bathroom had a small shower with a horrible curtain that was liable to get over friendly, a small basin with nice luxury shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion together with one bar of soap for the shower and a smaller bar of soap for your face. In addition there was a jar of cotton wipes and a box of tissues, enough for all of my wife's requirements. Our steward was Allan who was first class. Our room was always made up by the time we returned from breakfast and nothing was to much trouble for him, always had a welcoming smile and a few words with you.
Due to illness on the previous cruise there was a red alert and for two days there was no serve yourself at the buffet, no cruets on the tables at dinner and no flowers on the table either. We supported the measures as no one wants to be ill, however, we were very surprised that the use of the hand gel was left voluntary and no member of staff was there to ensure that the gel was used. It was a pity that they didn't tell us what the problem was until the end of the second day of our cruise.
Our dining arrangements were Britannia Restaurant with first sitting, our table number 591 was for six and was on the first floor right at the stern with a picture window view, perfect. This was complimented by our four fellow cruisers who were absolutely great fun to be with. Our head waiter was Adam, he was very pleasant but was let down by the crew behind the scenes. Our food was well presented but mostly small portions [the only exceptions were the pork medallions and the ribs of beef]. All the fish portions were small and looked like tail ends etc. The vegetables were very small, two little potatoes, a couple of slivers of carrot, a small spoonful of spinach etc. Diet control at dinner was not a problem. The food is delivered piled high with plastic covers, unfortunately the food at best was warm, never hot and there was no ability to order extra vegetables.
The buffet restaurant "Lido" was very nicely laid out with elegant tables and chairs, however the buffet layout itself was not so good. You are supposed to enter at the far end and work your way along, this means you are waiting for the guests in front of you to make their choice whilst you wait. Sometimes you could go past them, sometimes not. This lead to jams and queues, the staff are mostly eastern European and can be a bit "hard" in their approach, they were not well trained and often allowed products to run out. The coffee machines were always running out and then there was 10-12 minutes whilst the machine brewed a fresh lot. Also you could only get hot milk at one out of three locations and again they failed to monitor this situation. The food choice was adequate but limited when compared to our other cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse.
The entertainment was disappointing. The shows only lasted for forty five minutes, our first show was not that long as we were given a talk about the ship and our last show comprised the comedian [who was very funny and clean!] but finished with a ten minute copy of one of the earlier shows. A lot of people just got up and left the theatre when this happened. The two guest speakers that were on board were very good and we could have had some more from them.
A lot of the pastimes were charged for [some Internet classes, Pilate's etc,you even had to buy your own bingo card if that was your pleasure]. The on board photographer would not take no for an answer and was on occasions intrusive, then a $24.95 charge was made for a simple photograph.
Our on board credit was wrongly explained to us by two people at the pursers desk and it was only at the end of our voyage did an Irish girl get it right for us and promised to get the other staff up to speed.
To summarise we felt that either the crew were short staffed or more likely they were inadequately trained and that the legendary levels of Cunard service were sadly missing. Our fellow guests had sailed on other Cunarders namely Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria and without fail they all agreed that these were far superior to the Queen Elizabeth. What Cunard has done to the crew on this ship we just do not know, as mentioned earlier the ship is beautiful it is the crew that at large needs to smile more and be more efficient at their jobs. In comparison to Celebrity Eclipse the Queen Elizabeth comes a distant second, the Eclipse has so many things that they do well. We would suggest that Cunard send some of their senior staff on Eclipse for a cruise to learn how things should be done.
Had this been our first cruise it might have well been our last, however, we know that there is far better out there and can only hope that Cunard will repair the situation on board Queen Elizabeth.