Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Review by pspesq
- Sail Date: June 2017
- Destination: Transatlantic
- Cabin Type: Queens Suite
Cunard extols its boarding experience as an example of the benefits afforded Queen’s Grill passengers; fortunately for Cunard, that is not so. We arrived at the pier, dropped off our luggage and were sent to the back of a Disneyesque line to check in. The Cunard rep assured us this was the correct line for us, after having being shown our Queen’s Grill tickets. After waiting approximately 20 minutes and finally making our way to the second position in line, one of the Cunard reps came over to us, apologized for their error, and ushered us to another line—where we found ourselves in approximately the fifth position. As we continued to wait in our new “expedited” line, we waived to the couple who had been behind us in our prior line as they proceeded on, having finished their check in. After finally making it to the front of line two and checking in, we were sent to the “special” area for Grill, Diamond, and Platinum Cunard members. It was a small spare room with insufficient seating where we stood against the wall and waited for our number to be called to board the ship. In fairness I suspect we probably did board earlier than the passengers not so "elevated" who waited in their far more spacious and more adequately furnished area.
Having finished my venting on the check-in process, let me discuss the ship. Although much too large for our taste, I tell you in fairness it is impressively appointed and comfortably furnished. It is sparklingly clean and constantly being maintained both inside and out. Our biggest complaint about the physical plant is that the layout of the ship makes it very difficult for passengers to navigate. On most ships, the public rooms are either in the front or back (yes, I know, it’s fore or aft) which makes it easier to get from place to place. For some reason, the QM2 has placed both the Britannia Restaurant and Kings Court (the main restaurant and the enormous grazing buffet, respectively) in the middle of the ship. This makes it impossible to get from one end of the ship to the other on the three busiest decks without either going up or down a deck or two, passing over or under, and then returning, or cutting through those rooms while those using those dining areas are eating. As you can imagine, this is hardly enjoyable for anyone involved. This is complicated further by the fact that the Britannia Restaurant and the main theater (the Royal Court Theatre) each are two decks high which makes the navigation even more complicated (this results, for instance, in deck 3 becoming decks 3 and 3L at points).
The lounges generally are quite comfortable. The Carinthia lounge, which is in the middle of the ship, is understandably extremely popular. Not surprisingly, it is frequently difficult to find a seat.
The Grill lounge, reserved for those in the Queen’s and Princess Grill sections of the ship, is small, but quite elegant and, again, comfortably furnished. It was never terribly crowded in the 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. time frame we most frequently were there, which was surprising because it is so small.
I found the Grill concierge lounge particularly comfortable and enjoyed the constant supply of coffee, tea, and snacks a big plus. My one complaint here is that it does not open until 8 a.m. Since it was the most convenient place to get coffee and a light bite to eat early in the morning, it would better have served that purpose were it opened earlier. I also like the fact that the refreshments in that lounge are served on china—perhaps a small, but in my view important, item.
My biggest complaint about the public rooms is that they seem quite dark; none are truly open to the sea and sky. There is nothing like Crystal’s Palm Court where one can sit indoors in luxury and bright sunlight. The Carinthia is largely blocked by the Promenade deck surrounding it and by the lifeboats above it. Even those lounges high up on the front of the ship with no obstruction—the Commodore Club and Atlantic Room—designed, I suspect to permit one to admire the view, are so small and have such small window space as to make them almost claustrophobic.
Most of the restaurants we visited also were quite lovely. The Queen’s Grill is one of the most attractive and elegant restaurants we have seen on sea or land, and having our own table and wait staff at our disposal virtually at any time throughout the journey is a big plus. Verandah also is very attractive, but it is quite doubtful that if we ever took the ship again we would dine there. More about that later. The Carinthia lounge has pre-made light food available at breakfast and lunch which may have been among the best food we had on the ship; more’s the pity. Although we never ate in the Britannia, we traversed it frequently in our journeys from one end of the ship to the other. While it is enormous, it is spectacular and is compartmentalized enough so it does not appear as though one is eating in a huge dining hall. I give it high marks on its set-up. The Golden Lion pub may well be the most popular venue per seat on the ship. Unfortunately, it is simply too small to accommodate the crowd it usually attracts, which results in uncomfortable waits for tables. Also, its configuration (it is T-shaped) makes it difficult for many patrons to see what is going on during the performances which sometimes take place there in the evening. The King’s Court, while far from elegant, is functional and seems to be large enough to accommodate the crowds the descend upon it at breakfast and lunchtime.
The food is another story. As attractive as it was, we avoided the Queen’s Grill when possible. I understand it strives to be eclectic, and that is not necessarily bad. But eclectic is not necessarily synonymous with good. When I order an orange parfait for dessert, I do not expect a plate with 3 small mandarin-size orange segments arranged around 3 droplets of a non-descript white pudding. Neither does a goblet of red gelatin containing tiny bits of fish topped with a bit of insipid white foam constitute my vision of a “reconstructed seafood club sandwich.” Also, not everything has to be overcooked. Duck really should not be dry and stringy nor lobster dry and hard. In fairness, some of the dishes were very good: the soups were uniformly excellent as was the Dover sole which, for some reason we do not understand, must be ordered a day ahead of time. (There is no extensive prep time involved, and it’s not like they had to go out to catch it or have it flown in, since we were doing a transatlantic crossing).
Our worst eating experience was the Verandah, supposedly an upscale alternate restaurant. The service was awful, and the food was worse. Proper pacing of a meal is a plus; interminable waits of a half hour or more between courses is unacceptable. And I do not exaggerate when I tell you that the pork (the worst of the several bad dishes we experienced) was such an awful piece of meat and was so overcooked that the two of us who ordered it were unable to cut it with a steak knife. Perhaps the reason it took them so long to serve us our main courses was that one cannot cook a piece of meat to that degree of toughness in a shorter period of time. Never again.
I enjoyed the food at the Golden Lion, though: good fish and chips; good bubble and squeak; and a so so ploughman’s platter. My wife was not as enamored of it as I, however.
I did enjoy the light lunches in the Carinthia lounge. Again, my wife did not.
The only time we waded into the Kings Court to eat was the second (and last) time we had lunch in the Queen’s Grill. My wife was so disgusted with hers that we went to the soft ice cream machine to get her something to eat. And that reminds me: I found it is almost impossible to get hard ice cream on the ship. Save for a few modest (and not very good) choices at dinner, it is non-existent. I did find that soft ice cream is served at the Godiva shop where, for a “modest” $4.50, I was able to get a small--but in fairness, quite good--soft chocolate cone.
Our stateroom was easily the nicest we ever have had on any of the 50 cruises we have taken. (Yes, I know it is a crossing in Cunard-speak and not a cruise, but none of the other lines on which we have done crossings seem to get so worked up about it, so, let it be). It was spacious and generally well designed with a surprising abundance of electrical outlets (both UK and USA style) and closet and drawer space. The bed was extremely comfortable. My biggest complaint about the room is the lack of a table on which one can work or on which the passengers could eat if they chose room service. We also suggest the room could use better lighting, especially, my wife informs me, in the makeup area.
The service on the ship generally was excellent. Our butler and steward were prompt, alert, courteous, and efficient, keeping our room well made up almost instantaneously. Every request was responded to efficiently and correctly. They get the highest marks. So too was the service in the Queen’s Grill dining room. Our view of the food notwithstanding, the service was excellent. Also excellent was the service at the front desk. The service in the bars and on deck is another story. In the lounges it was quite slow, I suspect from a lack of staff, and on deck it was almost non-existent. And this is surprising, because, as you know, the ship charges for all of its drinks, and given the size of the drinks and the price charged, this no doubt is a major profit center and one would assume Cunard would want to serve as much as the passengers reasonably cared to purchase.
The entertainment was uniformly excellent. My wife puts the shows in the same class with Crystal; her highest standard of praise. I was most impressed with the performances by the players from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as the talks by the two members of the Olympic gold medal field hockey team. While the television seemed to work well, I was surprised and disappointed to find there was no selection of movies from which to choose. Whatever was on at that time was it.
The casino is quite small. This was not a problem with our crossing since there were never many people in it. I suspect it may be an issue on a different voyage with a different demographic, however. Also, I did not find the blackjack dealers terribly knowledgeable or careful. It was not a rare occurrence for them to err in counting the hands or to drop cards when dealing.
The fitness center is small and cramped with its few machines (not all of which were functional) piled together. Thus. we opted for deck exercise rather than the gym..
The internet was spotty and, comparatively, quite expensive. I have come to expect less-than adequate internet aboard ship, but this was less than less-than adequate, and the time spent waiting for documents to download necessarily compounded the expense. An unlimited internet package—even at some reasonable cost--would ameliorate this issue to an extent.
I particularly like the dress code on the ship and admire the adherence of the passengers to those requirements. On the three formal nights virtually all of the men wore tuxedos; and on informal nights all men wore suits, blazers, or sport jackets, and most wore ties.
Perhaps our biggest complaint is the nickel and diming: charges for expensive wines I can understand, and routine liquor, maybe; but for coffee? Soda? Water? Good Lord, even airlines give free soda! Please understand it is not the ultimate cost. I understand I am going to pay for it in some way. But it is the idea of being hit a dollar here and a dollar there every time one turns around that is a huge turn off—particularly when one has purchased what is supposed to be a luxurious vacation in the top-tier class of what is advertised to be a top tier ship. And ultimately, it causes one to think: do I really need this drink? is it really worth the money to buy this ice cream cone? when one is supposed to be relaxing. Charge an extra couple of hundred dollars; give a smaller (or no) ship-board credit; let me pay my own tips at the end of the cruise; but stop grabbing a buck here and a buck there.
So, would we do it again? Probably for a crossing, since we do go to visit our grandchildren in Wales and it is a great deal nicer than the airplane and, incredibly, even in Queen’s Grill class, less expensive than business class airfare. But it is not Seabourn, Crystal, or Silversea.