I both love and hate the QE2 and Cunard at the same time. What they do well they do beautifully like no other. What they do badly the screw up royally.
CUNARD SCREW UPS:
Problems began with getting me my tickets only 6 days before my flight out, and this required 3 phone calls and a promise to post the idiocy on all the message boards. The service in the Mauritania restaurant was not fit for a Dairy Queen much less a Cunard Queen. It is the WORST I have had of any cruise. The dinner service had well meaning but incompetent waiters. On the first night I was asked to share a menu with a table mate. One waiter had BO on occasion. Lunch and breakfast service was abysmal and made NCL and Regal look really good. Orders would get screwed up, courses arrive out of sequence, and they would run out of basic items. I do have to say the food was tasty, especially the desserts. The cuisine however was not very imaginative.
Ships HVAC had 2 settings: 90^f and 30^ f with no in between.
She is a nautical Jaguar. QE2 is full of both wonderful and maddening quirks at the same time. Her exterior design is beautiful. The forms and surfaces are like the Loveboats and the RVL trio albeit enlarged. Her original interiors were done in 1966 London Mod. Over time, the mod got toned down to an interior theme which is a visual happy meal. Decor is neither innovative nor offensive. The only distinctive room is the Queens Lounge with the 1966 London Mod white fluted columns and coffered ceiling. Going between decks is another story. She has 9 stairtowers of which 8 of them go to only some decks, skip over a few, change configuration to become a habitrail so when you exit you do not know if you are going forward or aft in a hallway. It has the complexity of the New York City subway system. With 6 sea days I could figure them out if not interested in other activities. Ship had space age décor with 1920's space planning.
She really shines like no other with her incredibly stable ride. I0' white caps and 20 knot winds gives the gentlest of motion that helps me sleep. For 2 days we had 20' swells where the waves would crash over the bow [saw from bridge cam, forward observation deck closed off.] the ship would gently heave, but no sound was heard. The sensation is more of pitching than rolling, like a porpoise. Unsecured closet doors would swing open and shut. I walked holding the rails, by the next day I was used to the motion and walking regularly. From the dining room to the other side, I could see the ship rock, first all sea, moving horizon, then all sky and back again, but did not feel it. The SSNorway had the same ride motions, but with more amplitude and faster frequency.
Her connection to the sea is magnificent. Every public area has an ocean view. There is no traditional enclosed promenade, but I did not miss it since that space is opened to the rest of the ship and plenty of comfortable chairs next to the windows to look out of. Most of her public rooms are smallish hideaways unlike the SSNorway and Pacific Princess which are a succession of grand spaces.
The buffet area has a line that zigzag's in the wrong direction. There is a fence to keep you in the cattle chute, and you cannot see what is ahead to skip over food you do not want to eat. Since the dining rooms have great picture windows I did not use the buffet area. On many ships where the dining room is a windowless cavern below decks, I use the buffet simply because I like to watch the ocean while eating.
QE2 has a great sense of intimacy that I did not think could be found on a big ship. The SSNorway only 10% bigger has little sense of intimacy. Intimacy to me is a function of passenger density, not size of the ship. Regal Empress is 1/3 the size and stuffed with 1100 passengers offers none at all.
PEOPLE AND CRUISE FORMAT:
This was the BEST group of passengers I ever have been with. Crossers and cruisers are different breeds. Winter time crossers tend to be eccentric and adventurous. To want to cross the North Atlantic in the winter you have to be [me included]. Not everybody on board was wealthy, however most were well educated. Many were QE2 repeat passengers which created a sense of camaraderie and an institutional memory. All knew how to have fun. There were lots of liner loonies too. Noted travel writer Ted Scull was on board, and Stephen Card: noted maritime artist.
Some complained the weather was too calm and wanted 50 knot gales and 50' waves. We sailed between 2 storms. The outdoor temp was 50^f most of the time and people were using the outdoor pools. The gym was crowded every morning with many seniors doing serious work outs. This ship did not have the typical red-neck, blue hair, big butt, big gut, glutton gambler cruise passenger stereotype.
Everybody on board was very friendly. If tables at tea were near full, it was OK to ask to join, and if people ask to join me I always obliged. The result was great Left Bank conversation. Pomposity and standoffishness are looked down upon.
Passenger complement was 1000 Americans 400 British 90 German 40 French 30 Canadian rest from all over.
The Pied Piper partial gay and lesbian charter was 25 people. I counted 100 gay people overall. We all seemed to find each other. Ages were 20-80. It was nice since we had our own section of the dining room guaranteeing good table mates. Overall it was a very low key atmosphere and everybody blended with all and not one inch of intolerance. If you told someone you were gay: "yea, there was a Tuesday last week" and continued conversation
Cunard had French and German social host/hostess's. Announcements were made in 3 languages. I found the French passengers a friendly delight and very interesting conversationally. I was told if was in France, my politics would be right of center LOL.
One was a businessman/philosopher my age. We ate breakfast every morning together and were the last to leave the dining room. British were reserved unless drunk. I ate lunch regularly with a spunky septuagenarian Glaswegian couple who were fascinating people.
The Germans traveling alone were friendly, but those in groups or couples tended to keep to themselves and not mingle. I did befriend a young lawyer. There were many singles and the age breakdown was about 75% over 60, and about 10 passengers under the age of 20. My group ran the age gamut.
A priest and a rabbi were on board. QE2 does have a synagogue. Church services were in the Theatre. One activity was a joint lecture by the priest and rabbi on people of different faiths coming together.
I though I would hate it, but I really don't mind. On the QE2 there were several passengers in Scottish Kilts, one Napoleon uniform and several other vintage military outfits. If I realized I could have been creative Hmmmmmm;-) The Captains party was like a Fellini movie: taking place in the space age Queens Lounge, the bordello velour furniture, and the vintage costumes was a strange confluence.
The cruise format was made for me-SUPERLATIVE. Again what the QE2 does well is superlative and what it does badly is horrid. The library and book shop are second to none. It has many maritime books, and did not get a chance to finish all I wanted to read. Crossing had a Science Fiction theme which had several lectures on the Cosmic Watergate-coverups of aliens visiting Earth. Ted Scull gave two interesting lectures. Other speakers were Seth Stoshak, Max Arthur, Herbert Appleman, and Stanton Friedman. There was a classical music concert, and loved the afternoon teas with the harpist.
Overall I truly enjoyed myself. It is great to come home refreshed, showered, wearing clean clothes and not jetlagged and would definitely cross again. I can forgive the ship's quirks, but not Cunard for simple shortcomings so easily rectified by other cruiselines.