by Paul Kennedy
August 2, 2009
We arrived at the terminal at about 11.00am and although there were a lot of people wearing high visibility jackets saying "Supervisor", there appeared to be no porters. We therefore had to find trolleys and wheel our suitcases to the baggage gate. It was only when we started to put our cases on the conveyor belt did a porter appear and take over.
We were directed to the first floor and were checked in immediately. Britannia passengers were given coloured cards and asked to remain seated until their colour was called, whilst we were directed to a seating area near the boarding gates. We were there perhaps 45 minutes before being boarded, and went directly to our suite, 7066 Deck 7 port side in the off-chance that our luggage might already have arrived. No such luck. Our steward introduced himself and said that we could get lunch in the Lido. However, after exploring the Grills upper terrace and the courtyard, we stumbled in to the Princess Grill to be told that it was serving lunch, so that is where we lunched. We never did use the Lido.
Past the wardrobe area was the sleeping area with the very comfortable bed made up as a king-size. Under the bed were two large drawers, but still leaving space for suitcase. The bedside tables had two drawers each and the desk to the left of the bed also had drawers. The desk was halfway down the cabin at a 45 degree angle to the bed and on the opposite wall, there was a semi-circular unit containing the fridge and bookshelves below and two televisions above, one angled towards the bed and the other into the seating area.
The positioning of these two units effectively separated the lounge area from the sleeping area. The lounge area consisted of an armchair and a very long and comfortable sofa which could be made into another bed. There was a small and low coffee table, which was, unfortunately, a little too low and too small to be able to comfortable eat from if you ordered room service. The same could be said for the table on the balcony, which also sported two very comfortable chairs with adjustable backs.
DINING & FOOD
The food in Princess Grill was excellent, with a wide range of choices and if they don't appeal for any reason, there is an accompanying à la carte dinner menu. Service was impeccable. Our waiter, Warren (who was our waiter on QE2 last year) provided prompt and efficient service, ably assisted by Pamela. Another advantage of having the same table for all meals is the staff soon learn your likes and dislikes and you don't have to repeatedly say what you want and don't want.
The same applies to our sommelier, Philip. Firstly, he was knowledgeable, soon discovered our tastes, explained about the wines we chose and offered suggestions without extending our budget too far.
ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT
We attended two shows in the Royal Court Theatre and both were excellent – Victoriana, a selection of Victorian song and dance, and Celtic Heartbeat with Irish song and dance. For both of these, we booked a box. The $50 surcharge may seem expensive, but with the champagne and chocolates before the performance, a half bottle of champagne during the performance and a souvenir photograph at the end, the cost is not as high as it seems.
The boxes made the shows a more comfortable experience – obviously the champagne, but more room to move about and comfortable chairs. The sight lines are not so good if you are towards the front. However, well worth doing for the experience.
The only other entertainment we experienced was the excellent pianist in the Commodore Club in the evenings – Martin Orbidans.
PORTS OF CALL
Our itinerary was Southampton, Zeebrugge, Bremerhaven, Kristiansand, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg (overnight), Tallinn, Gothenburg and back to Southampton. We took excursions at all of these ports except Bremerhaven where we met up with friends. Ten excursions for two people worked out to be very expensive, but we though they were all good value, especially an evening of Russian Folklore at the Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg. We were welcomed with a substantial shot of vodka, very welcome, as most of us had got drenched getting from the coach to the palace entrance in a downpour that had started earlier in the evening. During the interval, we had caviar canapés and champagne. The performances were absolutely superb and put on solely for Cunard passengers. We had originally booked an evening concert at the Yusopov Palace, but this was cancelled at the last moment.