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Don

Age: 40

Occupation:Programmer

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Cunard

Ship: Queen Elizabeth

Sailing Date: 2014-02-25

Itinerary: Aukland to Sydney

This was our first cruise - my wife, my daughter, and myself. We flew to Auckland and boarded the Queen Elizabeth there, sailing to Sydney. It was our test run to see if we're cruise fans or not. And it turns out we are. Bear in mind, having never been on cruise ship before, I can't compare what it was like against other ships.

Cafe Carinthia is a nice area to sit down and relax with a cup of coffee and a book. The Garden Lounge was also a nice place to sit down and enjoy some peace & quiet during the afternoon - the one time I went through it during the evening, there was a three-piece band playing some jazzy lounge type of music, pleasant.

We had dinner at The Britannia Restaurant twice. The food was OK while the service was rushed and impersonal. I understand they have timed seatings and that they can't stand there to chit chat with you. But they seemed impatient whenever there was a question being asked. We did the 2nd seating so I can only imagine how rushed the 1st seating would have felt. If we were to go on the Queen Elizabeth again, I would minimize my visits to this particular restaurant.

We had dinner at The Verandah twice. It was an extra charge to eat there, more than worth it. I think it's all French influenced cuisine. The highlight for me was the pigeon breast covered in chocolate sauce. I had it both nights. My wife tried the degustation on the second night and she loved it. Compared to the cost you're paying just to be on the ship, the money you'll pay for the quality of food served at The Verandah will seem like nothing.

On the other night, we had our dinner at the Lido buffet (where we also had breakfast and lunch most often). Unless you're in Vegas, a buffet is a buffet. You know what I mean? Seen one, seen them all. The only stand out was the scrambled eggs at breakfast. A big disappointment was that we were advised 'Childrens Tea' would be available at the Lido buffet from 5:00-5:45pm. However, during that time there was scant offerings and none of the staff there knew what we were talking about when asked about the 'Childrens Tea'. They did however offer to prepare kid's pizzas and pasta during this time upon request. But we were hoping to find more salad, vegetables, and fruit being offered.

The Golden Lion pub offers some decent meals. It is also where we spent most of our non-eating time, playing trivia or quizzes. It was a nice place to hang out and have a drink.

Room service was pretty good. We had breakfast once and lunch once in our room. They were also very accommodating in running up juice or coffee on a few occasions. Apparently it's 24hr room service but we didn't have the opportunity to test that out. If we do a cruise like this again, I would probably have room service more often and avoid the buffet a bit.

We had a narrow balcony room near the middle of the ship on Deck 7. The room was okay. Plenty of space for suitcases in the closets and under the bed. The fold-out couch took up too much space and wasn't that comfortable.

My wife & I are in our late 30's, early 40's - and we found ourselves to be at the lower end of the age bracket compared to most of the other passengers. We saw 4 or 5 other young families similar to us, but that was pretty much it. Overall, we found most other passengers to be very friendly and sincere.

The selling point that convinced us to try the cruise was that the ship has a kid's club (The Play Zone). I haven't seen much information online with regards to The Play Zone so hopefully others find this bit of information helpful. Our daughter is 3. We were able to place her in The Play Zone three times a day - 9am-12pm, 2pm-5pm, and 6pm-11pm - having to pick her up for lunch, dinner, and bed (exceptions to this were the day we boarded the ship when we weren't able to drop her off until the evening session and the next day during the Bay of Islands visit when we weren't able to drop her off until the afternoon session). The Play Zone is for 2-7 years old. There was another kid's club called The Kids Zone for 8-12 years old. And there was a Night Nursery for 12-23 months old.

The Play Zone must be great because after each meal we would ask our daughter if she wanted to go back or stay with us and her answer was always to go back (sometimes I felt like we were the ones missing out on the fun). I believe the kids have to be potty trained in order to stay at The Play Zone; however, for the night sessions, we would put a bedtime nappy on our daughter before dropping her off. During the evening session, they all plop down to watch a movie and then fall asleep, ready to be picked up at 11pm. We were lucky that our room was close to the same elevators that the Play Zone was located next to - made it easy to carry our 18 kilo sleeping beauty to bed.

The Play Zone has theme days. One day, they had their faces painted like pirates and went on a treasure hunt around the ship (my only complaint about The Play Zone was that they didn't mention this mini-excursion to us ahead of time - verbally, at least). The Play Zone has two parts: an indoor room full of toys, books, dolls, drawing supplies, etc; and an 'outdoor' room (secured by a netted wall to prevent kids from getting out to the deck). The staff were always friendly and helpful, young - probably in their early 20's - seemed genuinely happy to be doing what they were doing.

So, with The Play Zone set aside, what else was there? .... OK, they've got a 'Royal Court Theatre' where they show movies and hold presentations. We were on the ship for five nights. I think there were only two movies played during that time; each one during the afternoon. We didn't see either (the first one was on the day of embarkation when we weren't able to bring our 3yr old to The Play Zone until 6pm; the second was on the next day when we visited the Bay of Islands). I don't quite understand why they wouldn't also show a movie at night time after dinner. As mentioned, there are also presentations held at the theatre. We went to one (the only that seemed worth going to), about serial killers. I don't know - I was expecting it to be held by someone more FBI-ish. So I found it a bit boring and underwhelming.

The Casino is a bit small but it never seemed full. Tried real Blackjack for the first time in our lives and the dealer was very patient and polite with me not understanding what I was supposed to be doing. Nevertheless, I walked away with an extra $25 in my pocket.

The gym exceeded my expectations. However, trying to run on a treadmill when the ship is bobbing up and down - not good for the knees. Stick to the cross trainers or weight machines. Seemed very busy in the morning but then died down afterwards. Group exercise classes are offered but we didn't find time to attend.

We didn't try either of the pools. They seemed small - I don't know why, but I always a pool on a cruise ship to be large.

Deck 3 offers itself as a 0.9 mile track for walking or jogging. It also has comfy deck chairs you can lay back in while you watch the other people doing their laps. If you've got kids, I would avoid going out on deck 3 with them - I didn't see any signs noting this hazard, but the rails surrounding the deck didn't seem like they would offer any safety for preventing a young one from going overboard. If you want to take your kids outside, go up to the pool deck.

The internet center was a surprise and relief. You can pay (out the nose) for a variety of time packages. Connection and speed was a bit spotty at times. There was also another room called Connexions (or something like that) where they offered various computer lessons.

The library was well stocked and I was disappointed that I didn't find more time to do some reading. You can sign a couple of books out at the same time and they have to be returned the day before you're due to disembark.

When the ship stopped at the Bay of Islands, we went on one of the tenders and visited the tourist trap. We didn't have the energy to do any of the offered excursions.

Regrets from the cruise? With all of the offerings in the daily programs, there was always so much to do. We had a hard time not doing anything and just relaxing. Maybe with a longer cruise, this eventually happens.

I was expecting the ship itself to be luxurious. It's name after a queen after all. However, I sometimes found myself thinking that it felt a bit drab and worn out despite being a relatively new ship. The majority of the restaurant and housekeeping service staff were ESL and I was occasionally annoyed to hear them speaking to each other in their own languages shortly after dealing with a passenger. Paranoid? A bit. But I still find it to be rude.

We're looking a doing the Queen Mary next year, fingers crossed.

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