Queen Mary 2 is an absolutely remarkable ship. Whether it is a return trip or your first time aboard, this classic ocean liner continues to WOW you. There was not a moment during our magnificent trip that I didn't find myself staring in awe at the gorgeous interiors and elegant surroundings within QM2. Each moment, each day aboard QM2 is a gift. She grows on you and hypnotizes you. One can't help but feel an enormous amount of respect for the designers and engineers that created this grand dame of the seven seas. QM2 is everything she is cracked up to be and more.
Our check-time was 1 pm. We arrived at the New York Cruise Ship Terminal about 12:30 pm. The lack of any type of Cunard representative was the biggest drawback early on. Regardless of your boarding time passengers were herded into a large holding area upstairs. We sat there for about 20 minutes and soon after were told to line up at the security check in. Apparently, a new boarding procedure was in effect during our March 9 departure and there seemed to be a lot of confusion. However, once we lined up and made it through the security clearance area it was just a 10 minute wait to line up and receive our QM2 boarding passes.
Despite the early boarding gaffs we were among the fortunate one's and were aboard ship by 1:30 pm. A computer glitch later that day delayed many other passengers from boarding as expediently as we had.
We were booked in cabin 11072, port side. I was curious as to how bright the room would be due to the deck 12 overhang. The room allowed plenty of sunlight. Both my girlfriend and I found our room to be very comfortable and spacious for two. There is ample storage area. The interior cream décor is very soothing. The mattress and linens are very comfortable. We also enjoyed the robes and slippers finding them to be very cozy. It gets a trifle dodgy if you are exiting the bathroom while someone is looking in the closet. I had heard others complain about joggers and shuffleboard sounds spiraling down the steel framework of the ship, yet, we heard nary a sound on our 8 days at sea, save for the ocean gurgling and fizzing below.
The service on QM2 has vastly improved since my trip last July. I would say it has taken a 360 degree turn for the better. Our head waiter Woody and his assistant Marvin were very friendly and polished. We never waited long for our appetizers, entrees or for our plates to be cleared. All of our meals were delicious, the soups in particular were very tasty. You must try the chilled fruit soups, they are super. Keep your eyes peeled for the English Sticky pudding, it has a caramel topping that is sublime.
We received equally excellent service from the other Britannia staff during breakfast and lunch when seating is open. We were particularly fond of Roslyn who catered to our whims with great gusto and style at breakfast. Roslyn is a true Cunard pro, she has been aboard QM2 since the maiden voyage and prior to that spent three years in Caronia Class aboard QE2. The entire restaurant staff are a unified force to be reckoned with. You need only watch these hardworking waiters and waitresses scampering like white rabbits amid the culinary wonderland that is Britannia.
This is a sumptuous affair and ranks among the highlights of our trip. I would recommend skipping lunch one day in order to properly prepare yourself for an enjoyable experience. As fate would have it we returned rather late from our beach excursion in St Martin, and were quite ravenous. Once again the service was perfect. Troops of white gloved waiters arrived with trays of tantalizing offerings. The delicious array of triangular sandwiches sans crusts consisted of egg, ham and cheese and a splendid salmon and cream cheese. I always like to show my support for the fine QM2 bake staff and once again there were up to the task with a delectable selection of sweets. Much has been written about the famed English scone and clotted cream, it is fact quite delicious.
My only critical remark of the entire affair is the tea had not been properly steeped and the first two cups were rather weak. The entire repast is something to savor however. Sitting in the gigantic and opulent Queens Ballroom which stretches the entire width of QM2 and seeing the hilltop of a tropical island through the far window and watching a tourist pirate schooner sail by an adjacent window is the stuff that fantasy is made of.
Each of these elaborate lounges has a distinct ambience all its own. Everything and everywhere aboard QM2 sparkles. The faux wood veneer in the elevators is so bright it appears to have a holographic effect in its shine. The detail continues in every inch of this ship from the ornate carpeting to the noble friezes that line the hallways. The Samuel Cunard Wine Bar, The Chart Room and the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar are all accessed via deck 3. Of the three the most popular and one of our favorite is the Chart Room. This grand room with its high ceilings and art-deco design is the perfect spot for a pre or post supper cocktail. Should you decide to skip the show, you will have the entire lounge to yourself. The Chart Room is also the spot to hear some wonderful piano playing at the hands of the inimitable Barty Brown.
One level down 2 deck is the home for the Golden Lion Pub. We were frequent visitors to this cozy lounge each morning at 11:30 am for pub trivia. We garnered three victories and with our winning tickets were enabled to shop for gifts at the end of the voyage. I picked up a lovely leather QM2 eyeglass holder while my girlfriend traded her tickets for a nifty QM2 key fob. At night the jazz trio at the Golden Lion really cooks.
This is also the venue for an enjoyable evening of horse racing. After two races, the six horses are put up for auction and a special Owners Race is held the following evening during the Big Band Dance at the Queens Ballroom. We purchased the six horse and had good fun decorating and carting him around the ship, I felt a bit like a QM2 pledge. It was good fun, especially after our horse won the coveted Owners Race.
Don't miss the Commodore Club on Deck 9 forward. In the evening this cool and sleek venue oozes sophistication with it's leather arm chairs, neon lighting and a magnificent, monolithic model of QM2 behind the bar. During our voyage this lounge was often quiet, I don't think many people ventured to this nocturnal nook, but you should.
We made our reservation within the first hour we were aboard ship. While it is possible to make reservations for restaurants and excursions through the inter-active television in your cabin, I always prefer to do it in person. I reserved all of our excursions through the television and then confirmed them at the tour office on 2 deck. As is turned out the in-cabin booking system wasn't working, so always best to go in person. We chose to dine at Todd English toward the end of our voyage, to have something else to look forward to. I would highly recommend not eating lunch, high tea or a bag of chips prior to this meal.
The mediterranean menu consists of some exquisite but, very filling and rich offerings. The service here was very thorough and attentive. The curious choice of rock n roll background music was promptly changed to a more appropriate jazz sampling after a fellow passenger complained. Our waitress suggested that we try two appetizers. I would suggest only one and save room for your entrée. We both had the Lobster Chowder. At first it seemed rather innocent, a giant china tureen is served with a modicum of cooked lobster and a fraction of garnishes. A moment later our waitress appeared clutching a French Press containing the main body of this extremely flavorful soup which she then poured into our giant bowls.
For our second appetizer choices I tried the pear and goat cheese salad, very tasty. My girlfriend opted for the lobster risotto which was served in an immense tray. The lobster was plump and juicy, the risotto was lovely.
By the time our entrees arrived we were full. I ordered the Halibut, flaky and moist perfectly cooked but, I was barely able to make a dent in it. The fallen chocolate cake for dessert was very good. By the time we adjourned from our supper though we both could walked back to New York, I felt as if I had eaten a small anchor.
I find in general excursions are really a crap shoot. The sole excursion I booked on the QE2 Christmas Cruise in 2003 was a blast, a jeep 4x4 jaunt in Barbados. I went hog wild on this trip and booked three excursions. In St. Thomas we took the Panoramic Tour. While I've been to this island many times I hadn't really seen much of it. Don't waste your time with this one. We climbed up into the twisting hills. Enjoyed some lovely views but, after the first epic view of the harbor and QM2 the rest is much the same. The tour also included the obligatory stop for a banana daiquiri at a spot called the Mountain Top. A very touristy location cluttered with two-bit t-shirts and run of the mill muck. The balance of the tour was dull. Our guide pointed out 75 mango trees and at least one scurrying iguana.
St. Kitts is a beautiful island. It rained quite a bit, though the sun did peek out. We chose the Rocky Roller Drive. This tour was more enjoyable and our guide was very knowledgeable of the area. Once again we climbed into the hills this time aboard a converted British Troop Truck. There was a good deal of lurching and straining. We strolled through the rain forest, watched a band of monkeys bound into the bushes. The locals were all very friendly and waved to us as we drove by. The downside of this tour was a ridiculous stop at a miserable excuse for a plantation, it was nothing but a shabby, worn old house. There was a bar below that offered complimentary punch. I feel as if you put your faith in Cunard to deliver a solid excursion and then end up being taken for a ride with these absurd stopovers in tourist traps. The 4 hour beach excursion in St. Martin was our favorite. The best part about any excursion is the thrill of returning to QM2!
If you are signed up for a morning excursion you must meet in the Royal Court Theater around 8:45 am and await for your tour to be called. If you are not signed up for a tour it's best to wait till around noon or so before descending to one deck. Afternoon tours meet at the pier. We never had to wait for a tender to arrive when we were ashore. Arriving back at the ship isn't too bad, just a matter of waiting in a short line while security scans bagged items and checks identification cards.
We adored this incredible ship. The cruise staff works hard to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I particularly liked the assistant cruise director, a very personable and friendly chap. It will be interesting to see what QM2 will look like after she goes into dry dock this November. The rumors we heard were the Champagne Bar would be history, along with the Wintergarden which will serve as extended area for the Kings Court. It would be a shame to see the Veuve Cliquot Bar go by the wayside, although, it was almost always empty.
QM2 attracts a wide spectrum of passengers. One of the highlights for us was the great friendships we made aboard. From our Cruise Critic Cronies to our Pub Trivia Pals. The open seating at lunch and breakfast is condusive to meeting a wealth of fine folk. Not too mention tablemates at dinner. We often asked people how they were enjoying QM2, most said they loved the ship. Some people however continue to moan and groan. I cannot fathom how anyone would have a negative comment for this classic ocean liner. Several people quibbled over the B elevators being too small. Others still griped that ship is too large. At least one fellow complained about the engine being too loud. Out of 2600 hundred passengers you will never please everyone. I suppose for every 2600 hundred people that gawk into the Grand Canyon many people are struck by it's majesty and immensity while others find it to be nothing but a giant hole in the ground.
I stood on the observation deck in St. Martin while the massive Adventure of the Seas steamed by, her decks filled with hordes of passengers getting their fill of QM2. Shortly thereafter, this quiet moment was traded for two trios of triumphant horn blasts as the ships took part in a mutual salute and their mighty horns echoed into the Caribbean night. That's magic, folks. A cruise on QM2 is a state of perpetual bliss, she is the jewel in the Cunard crown long may she sail and may we be transported along with her on purely blissful pursuits.