This was our first time sailing on the QE2. We had booked the winter transatlantic departure because we wanted to experience both the QE2 and also a crossing. Now that the Queen Mary 2 has taken over the regular crossings, our only chance was this one, which was the first leg of the 2005 World Cruise.
We were in Queen's Grill, cabin 8006, which is a Q2 Penthouse Suite. The crossing was rough at the beginning, which meant the ship was quiet for the first few days as many people stayed in their cabins feeling ill!
Since many people have done reviews of this historic ship, I thought I would post some of our thoughts and observations:
· The experience of being on the QE2 and being part of her history. Sailing on a winter transatlantic crossing was a great adventure -- highly recommended!
· Even with the rough weather at the start (which I am sure the QE2 weathered better than any other ship could have), I am so pleased to have done it. It is definitely an “experience,” not just another trip.
· The "Queens Grill" experience is very special. The restaurant is beautiful, the food amazing, the service outstanding. The pampering by the three butlers was good. The Queens Grill Lounge is a quiet and handy retreat, especially at tea time.
· Our cabin (8006 on the penthouse signal deck level, with balcony) was tastefully decorated and very cozy at night. It is a good size at 350 sq. ft. It creaked a lot in the rough weather, however, and the air conditioning was noisy. The people next door did not get much sleep for those two reasons. The cabins were added as prefab units and perhaps that is why.
· The ship on the outside is glorious. It looks stylish from a distance in spite of its age (35 years). On the decks, it looks great with the teak flooring. I really enjoyed being out on deck watching the QE2 plow through the sea. It was always quiet out on deck, so you had it pretty much to yourself!
· There are some beautiful internal rooms that are classics, like the Queens Lounge, Queens Grill Restaurant, bookshop and library, Yacht Club bar and the Midships lounge.
· The staff makes a real effort to treat you well and get to know what you like. You feel like individuals even though there are around 1,200 of you on board. We both felt that we had come to know the people we came in contact with frequently (the room butlers, restaurant staff), and that they had taken care to understand our preferences.
· The gym facilities are good and the equipment modern. It is a good size and was never too busy (although the rough weather may have helped that!)
· On the inside, most of the ship looks dated, and does not have as much of the style and glamour of a "by-gone age" as the brochures conjure up. The ship appears old-fashioned when you enter and see one and two decks, which look like an old hotel; and then the stairwells with their red carpets and paintings of the royals, etc. We had watched videos and read books, so it was less of a surprise for us; if we had not, we would have been almost thrown by it.
· The QE2 is clearly (sadly) in her twilight years. There were often visible signs of aging, such as towels around leaking windows to the deck, chairs with threadbare arms, sun-faded portraits, outdated and noisy air conditioning, and unpredictable plumbing (hot water from the cold spigot and toilet problems on the entire penthouse for a full day). You tend to take these for granted as part of the QE2’s current state, but it does point up the fact that QE2 is nearing the end of her time -- a fact even the crew members acknowledge.
· It was much more "Butlin's Holiday Camp" than we had expected. Based on the advertising and the image of Cunard and the QE2, we had anticipated a different kind of passenger than you’d find on other cruise ships. The program of events and related onboard entertainment was a lot more bingo, karaoke, and pub quiz kind of stuff than we expected. We had fun doing them, but had expected more variety based on the wide cross section of people the QE2 attracts. The people at the table next to us complained there was nothing for them to do, as they did not like the bingo, etc.
· Passengers were older, and the entertainment was thus biased that way. The music quiz, for example, was full of questions about 1950s singers and nothing from after the 70s! (I think that this may be more driven by the cruise entertainment team than what the passengers would be happy with!)
· Some facilities and rooms are badly in need of change. The shops were not so good -- very dated in design, with uninspiring merchandise. I had expected an amazing Cunard-branded shop, but there was not a lot to excite, and we struggled to buy mementos for friends at home. The spa was very shabby.
The ship is working out its last years, and I think you can feel it.
New regulations coming into force mean the QE2 cannot sail much past 2007 without a massive change to her inside. The inside (in addition to the regulations about wood, etc.) would need a massive job to make it relevant for the new generation of cruise and crossing passengers -- something Cunard, with the QM2 and the Victoria coming in 2007, is unlikely to do.
In spite of these comments, I want to stress that we had a glorious and fabulous time. The QE2 is fantastic, and going on a winter transatlantic crossing was amazing. You feel you are taking part in a real travel experience. It was an amazing and pampered six days.
Would we go on the QE2 again? Yes -- although we are likely to go on the QM2 first to try that out! But we will be back on the QE2 before her final days!