It turned out to be the smartest thing we did; both the transfer service and Sheraton Towers hotel in Manhattan were outstanding. The morning of the embarkation, we put our luggage outside our hotel room door. The next time we saw it was in our cabin. A bus picked us up about 1 PM and delivered us to the area of the embarkation processing. This consisted of presenting passports, signing a credit card authorization and making our QM2 security cards. We then had souvenir photos taken, and walked onto the ship, greeted by a line of crewmembers in their dress whites.
Our cabin on deck 6 was very nice, the "hull hole" balcony not as disappointing as I envisioned. A split of champagne iced down on our coffee table was totally unexpected. Until the stewardess told us it was complimentary, I wondered if we were in the right cabin. Having equitably shared our luggage space, my wife and I unpacked-her 30 outfits and my 5. All fit in the closets with room to spare. (We each packed in two suitcases) We were across the hall from the laundry room, which you may think would be a disadvantage, but it turned out to be the opposite. The cabins are so well insulated there was never any noise from the hallway, or other rooms. Our stewardess gave us a good tip as far as finding our cabins..we were in the aft section of the ship. The door on the aft end has a porthole. The forward end does not. So our navigation was made somewhat easier after stepping off different elevators.
The ship, of course is absolutely magnificent. The first thing we did was to call for Todd English reservations, but the line was busy.then I used the speed dial button and got right through. By five PM we were involved in the lifeboat drill..a very pleasant trip to the Queens grill with our life jackets, and while sitting at their tables, a demonstration on donning them properly.
The first night on board, we missed our early dinner-time and found that there were no other dining areas open. We ordered a meal in the cabin and had a wonderful night's rest.
The first two nights following were "Formal" and I think most men had tuxes, and most women had cocktail dresses or sequin tops and pants. My wife, who was worried about being appropriately dressed, said she need not have worried. Nights that followed were "informal", "optional, formal or informal" and casual. Cool.
Our Britannia experience started out rather shaky. Our assigned table was taken by a German family of four who wanted to sit by the window. We took another table; then, when we reached Southampton we were moved to a very good table, but with an inexperienced wait staff. I guess wait is the appropriate term because that's what we mostly did. We ate at other venues, instead of the Britannia most of this segment. After we reached Southampton, the wait staff changed again, and we had the finest waiters you could imagine.and it made for most enjoyable dinners for the rest of the trip.
Our ports of call in the Mediterranean were superb. An itinerary change dropped Gibraltar and Cadiz; Ceuta, Morocco and Rome were substituted, although Ceuta was only an operational stop and we could not go ashore. $100 was credited to each passenger's account for the trouble. It was absolutely thrilling to see the reception of the QM2 in ports she had not called on before. Whistles blew, fireboats sprayed, helicopters flew by, and small craft followed us. Malaga was most impressive. They gave us a warm welcome off the gangway, provided busses to take us to the city, furnished us with passes to museums and tourist attractions, then set up a reception area in a city plaza with a band, free wine, beer and tapas. In fact, there were free air-conditioned busses at the pier to take passengers to the centers of the cities at each stop. Very nice touch. The one tour we took was "Imperial Rome" ($169) which was a nicely organized, quality tour, with a fine three-course lunch and wine included.
If all this were not enough, the cultural events on board were really well done. Oxford lecturers gave timely talks.in our case (near the 60th anniversary of D-day) I enjoyed the WWII background of how the German secret codes were broken. There was a nice classical trio (piano and violin) and a harpist that played the high tea, and bars. A band at the pool was great, as were the several piano players who rotated through the bars. We attended only one show, "Rock at the Opera". Nicely done with fresh costumes and sophisticated stage effects. I think the highlight for me was the Planetarium films, more like IMAX than a planetarium, but very interesting and thrilling to watch. The bars were popular. The Golden Lion Pub was a good place to have lunch and a Guinness, but the smoke might bother some, as it might in another popular bar, the Commodore Club. (Drink prices ran in the $5 range with beer $3.75 and the special martinis (2.5 oz pour) about $6) My wife and I gravitated to the forward area of the ship near the computer center (Connexions) where they have a coffee station with tea or chocolate available. There are tables along a corridor with large windows that were fun to sit at and watch the waves. There were many board games and puzzles available for those who wanted them. The library was another very nice space, and always full. We visited the Canyon Ranch area, but didn't use their facilities. I wanted a haircut, but a man's haircut was $39 so I passed.
We ate at two of the evening venues at King's Court. Both were good, with good service. Also good was Todd English, and the Britannia food I thought was very good most nights. We only occasionally ate other meals there.
Atlantic weather was cool on both crossings. About 55 F or so, but when the sun would shine, there was enough greenhouse effect with the roof closed on the swimming pool, that it was pleasant enough to sunbathe, if one wanted to.
We had a unique perspective being on board for three segments. The nationality mix changed, the average age changed, the dress changed. Eastbound it was about 1/3 American 2/3 English with sprinkles of many other nationalities. The age seemed very old (even to us). Dress was quite formal. On the Mediterranean portion, the age was still older, but dress was much less formal, and you saw more and more suits instead of tuxes, and more pants/tops instead of gowns. In the daytime, lots of shorts and jeans. By the time we were Westbound coming home, the passengers were much younger with many babies and small children, and the dress became more conservative again. Very refreshing.
Summing up, the Queen Mary 2 is a "must do". If you can remember it's just a "let's pretend" experience and to not let the little things bother you (even if you put out the big bucks for it), it will be a memorable experience. The Queen Mary 2, in this stage of its life, is unique, and to travel on her is a once in a lifetime experience.