Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Cunard
Ship: Queen Elizabeth 2
Sailing Date: n/a
Trip of a Lifetime
We have never sailed before, so we have nothing to compare our experience too, however, we have read over 50 on-line cruise reviews from the numerous websites, some helpful, some worrying. Here for what is worth is our experience....[it’s a little jumbled]
We are an English couple, Carole is 34, I am 39. We have three children, from 2 to 13 - they stayed at home with grandparents for the 6 nights. Carole has terminal cancer, so this was truly, to be a ‘’trip of a lifetime’’.
CONCORDE to NY - July 4th [not with Cunard]
Concorde is everything BA says it is, the pre flight lounge at Heathrow is small, and poorly used until the last 5 minutes of the 30 minutes check-in deadline. The free champagne, juice, finger sandwiches, danish etc etc apparently is no draw to ‘normal’ Concorde patrons, but it put us in good sted for things to come on QE2.
The take off is like something from a thrill ride, pushed hard into the backs of your seat you soar skywards upto 55,000 feet plus. In good weather you can actually see the curve of the Earth. Reaching mach 2, they are already into the 1 ½ - 2 hour in flight service, on linen, crockery and silverware of course. The multi page menu already having been given out with your drink orders; champagne, wine - the very best of course, etc.
The aircraft is old, and VERY small, just 2 + 2 across, no tv, no plug-ins etc, just a headset for music, but loads of legroom on grey leather seats, which are very comfortable - with just 3 ½ hours to NY, arriving before you left UK, who could mind anyway.
The loo [bathroom] is very small, just 3 for the 100 guests. In the seat pocket you find a complimentary pack, 1st of 3. This contains a silver Concorde pen, logo stationary, and a certificate you can have signed by the Pilot, when you visit the flightdeck.
The cabin crew..., well they ‘aint no NorthWest crew. They have great humour, time for everyone, happy to chat, will meet your every request politely and quickly - they really ARE the best, apparently last time there was a vacancy on the Concorde fleet - 7 in service with BA 5 with Air France - BA had over 1300 applications from INTERNAL applicants for just 30 positions.
Soon the mach display was dropping below 2.00 and down we came into JFK, of course ontime.
WALDORF=ASTORIA - Park Ave, NY.
Having taken the taxi into the underground carpark we checked our bags, just in time to see President Clintons police escort departing, he having been in the hotel just before, ready for the Tall Ships/Fireworks display later - oooh us and The President - wow !!!
We entered the lift and rode to the huge lobby and were overwhelmed by the ceiling decor, the pillars, the grandeur - nicer than The Plaza [we had stayed 3 nights at Christmas in 99]. Checking in for our booked 315sq ft Mini Suite we were allocated the [750 +sqft] 12H [Ambassador] Suite, my wife twigging we had an upgrade, but I kept asking, "yes but what is our room number on the 12 th floor", moving slightly so Carole could no longer kick my ankle, the clerk gave us they keycard and explained again we had 12H, on the 12th floor.
We rode the lift [elevator] following the signs to Suite 12H, and wow, I mean WOW, yes I said W O W - five rooms; a 15’ x 6’ marble Foyer with two huge horses, a desk, a pantry with coffee maker and fridge - a mini kitchen if you like,; a huge bedroom with 6’ bed, tv, desk, sideboard, walk-in closet with robes and slippers; from that we walked into the 12’ x 6 ‘ Boudoir with cheslounge, easy chair, phone and wall to wall mirrored closets; from here we entered the grand bathroom, with multi jet shower cubicle, huge tub with shower, two separate vanities, all marble and goldwork of course, and a separate loo, with it’s own phone. There was a red heat lamp in the ceiling outside the shower cubicle as well. Back through to the lobby, from here another door leading off to the sitting room, twice as big as the bedroom, a corner room over looking Park Avenue and adjacent St. with a 3 seat sofa AND a two seat sofa, coffee table with fruits and cookies, a desk with phone and fax and the 2nd tv, & two armchairs. The room had a central fireplace and many reading books in alcoves.
There was a connecting door in the lobby, so this suite could be sold as a two bedroom suite.
We had no chance, for the one night we had at the Waldorf=Astoria of using all the facilities, but what an upgrade - thank YOU Eric Long.
July 4th FIREWORKS & NY
At the nominated time we took off on foot to find a vantage point, being in NY we just HAD to make the effort on such an important date. After many mistrials, finding streets blocked by the police, we settled for 1st Ave and 49th St, where we saw 20 of the 30 minute show - WOW !!!!, the noise, the colour, the crowd - all FANTASTIC, and we were there.
We went to the Empire State Building to view the ship in port, at a distance, and see the skyline... DO BOOK YOUR TICKETS ONLINE and have them sent to your home or hotel - the queues for the observation levels are H U G E, we went at 9.00am [first ticket sales at 9.30] and the queue was way long - they open the decks at 8.30 for those with tickets already, so we got the observation platforms to our selves [well maybe 5 others] - no crushed lifts, no smelly/sweaty waiting in long hallways etc. BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE, It IS worth the surcharge; www.esbnyc.org/com.
Most [big] stores in NY don’t open until 10am, but trade late to 8pm.
Statue of Liberty - Queues - W A Y - L O N G - get the 1st ferry or forget it.
beware, one line is for the observation deck at base of feet, wait about an hour, the other is for the crown - way longer line - upto 3+ hours, and once you’re in the spiral stairs, no bathrooms, little fresh air - it can smell man!!!, and no way to exit/this is no Disney ride. Take the base line unless you NEED to do the crown - you have been warned. The Flame deck is no longer open. Check you are in the right line, some staff say use either - this is not true unless you can climb over a police crush barrier. Take only what you MUST, the security check-in is strict, long delays due to tonnes of handbaggage. Know where your metal items are and strip them off ready for the handover trays.
World Trade Centre - do go, well worth it, again long lines and longer lines for security check -same rules apply - much better facilities up top -spend a few hours easily, don’t forget there is an outside observation deck too at 102 floor - up the narrow escalator, after the elevator/inside deck. Go early.
MacDonalds at Broadway and Wall st - you’ll love it - do go - it’s a 5 star MacDonalds; doorman, piano player, plush decor, placemats, table flowers etc, all at regular Big Mac prices.
Limo from the airport; why not. If this is a special trip, why not go that extra $100 bucks, as a surprise for your lady. A taxi is about $40-60 and can take an hour, if you have just come into NY on Concorde HOW can you put your lady in a yellow cab???, preorder a 10 superstretch, about $160, and have that hour in sheer luxury and style. Those heads still turn, even in NY as you draw up at your hotel - go on, you’ll spend the same on luggage tipping !!!
Hotels - don’t take a package - NY has millions of hotel rooms, all wanting your buck. Just fax/call the FRONT DESK manager, not the hotels 800 central number, the day before you travel, same day if possible, AND DO A DEAL [unless it is a holiday you WILL get a good deal], so perhaps that Mini Suite at The Plaza or Waldorf is possible - the Front Desk manager does the best deals - HE has to fill the hotel, and on ‘same day’ he is willing to give better rooms at very good discounts - it is possible to get a good room at a premier site on same day, as a regular room at Holiday Inn style on-line / early booking / 800 number.
QE2 - NY to Southampton 5th July 2000
Arriving at 12.30pm, our tickets had said 3pm, but we had read on-line they DO embark early, we found that porters were at lunch until 1pm, but what crappy welcome, be we early or not, I would expect Cunard would know that with 2000 due, some would come early, surely they could afford to have SOMEONE kerbside, but no, you get dumped by taxi at the kerb, others like us milling about, not knowing where to go, what to do, with loads of baggage. I left Carole stranded with the bags and went upstairs in this awful building, to find a single Cunard rep, getting crosser my the minute with people [not me] blaming him for the lack of services - no food, nothing to drink, or the wait they were due to endure [this was our fault] but not the lack of meet/greet. Apparently embarkation at Southampton is NOT like this, as Cunard we understand, own the terminal building, not hired for the day as in NY, so they have it set out with proper 5 Star facilities.
Cunard - GET SOME STAFF AT THE KERB FROM 11 AM TO AFTER BOARDING to greet your guests and direct them !!!!! & discount NY embarkation or match Southampton offer.
At 1pm they started check-in, to be seated in the ugly hall for an hour until 2pm when ship opened an hour early. The greeting at the ship was nice, escort offered, and entry easy. No real wait at check-in either, but is ‘pot luck’ sometimes queues [lines] were upto 20-30, other times less than 5 or even nil. It is worth pre registering your credit card - saves a queue at Pursers desk on last day.
Entry to QE2 was fine, the ship is beautiful, the crew professional, the food a delight, and yes, you can eat constantly - an onboard joke - you never have to wait for more than 30 minutes for the next meal, and you can have two or three of each if you so wish - in different restaurants!!!
While all drinks are meant to be charged, incl sodas, you can be served with coffee, tea, juices, hot/cold chocolate milk etc from the Lido bar, without charge any time, or from room service 24 hours a day.
No room service on last morning, and rising is EARLY, having lost an hour with time change each day, had ‘gotton used to sleeping to 10am, so 7am was a shock!!! On first night room service limited to hot sandwiches etc, but otherwise room service menu extensive, but food could get luke warm due to distance from kitchens. We used 4 times.
Boat Drill on first day, in port, was a shambles, not what I expected from Cunard. Tannoyed and tannoyed for a set time. Then this pathetic ‘’alarm clock type’’ ringing over room tannoy 45 minutes after announced time - we had all but given up. If this bell is the actual noise to wake you up to abandon ship, I would be swimming - my watch alarm is louder. No alarms in hallways etc. Was told the ships whistle sounds too in ‘real emergency’. Anyway trooped up to Muster Station, was NOT checked off, we sought out the Ununiformed crew and were ticked off sheet - all very sloppy. Hope better if they really had a problem. Lots of crew training visible during crossing - so maybe OK??
All public rooms elegant and beautifully clean. Lots to do, many shows, lectures etc.
Afternoon tea great 4-5pm, but here only crew seemed all to be annoyed and ‘’offish’’ service could be slow and with bad will. Cakes arriving before the sandwiches, drinks sometimes not at all. The Queens Room quickly filled up so had to go to Lido, plenty of room, and service better, but room did not have the ambience for this ritual. Sandwiches are made at 10am, so corners could be stale. Learnt this on galley tour.
Dressing for dinner was fun, but not as dressy as we had worried.
Received personal invites to Hotel Managers party in Y club, above Lido, Officers party in Wardroom, Bridge tour and Galley tour - all very nice.
Pursers office manned by ‘hassled’ crew, while polite, many were untrained "I’m new", or had poor English, so you just new your request was not being met and you would have to repeat it all again. I quickly learnt just to ask for an English crew member.
We just loved to sit on the Boat Deck chairs watching the ocean pass by and read a good book.
The shops were OK, a little pricy, but no more than WDW or similar ‘captive’ places. However, they carried no childrens toys, games or clothes AT ALL, so we could not buy the expected gifts to take home - Cunard - what about the kids ?? Some shop staff really need the Cunard dust - they have washed it off long ago.!!!
The $10 a use Spa on 6 deck was very drab, not sparkling like brochure, so didn’t use, shame as we had budgeted to use 3 times.
The Gym/pool on 7 deck was great, low ceiling, but very good facilities.
The Cunard Heritage Trail was VERY IMPRESSIVE, I took it twice, specifically with different guides to see how they differed, pleased I did. This was no Disney Spiel, each presented differently so I learnt a great deal more taking it twice - excellent, hope it is even better on QM2.
Computer Centre - "NOW HEAR THIS" - the e-mail service is NOT on-line, you CAN NOT check your own e-mail. I sent an e-mail to thank The Waldorf for the surprise upgrade, the charge is $5, and what you key, with others is stored, and rekeyed later by crew and sent off. Incoming text e-mail is not charged. Good equipment and helpful staff, very busy at times.
Cabins - if this is a ‘once off’ very special trip, WAIT AND SAVE UP, until you can take a Q3 on 1 deck - these are very nice, almost a mini suite. You could easily be disappointed in the P grades for the price difference, esp. if you like to take naps etc and end up in cabin quite a lot. We looked at a M3, THIS IS A BOX - do not expect anything else.
Princess Grill restaurant was FANTASTIC, select, beautiful, food to die for and service 110%, the Maitre’D should be rightly proud of his operation.
Though the ship was 85% full we never encountered crowds or queues, except in Lido, reason we only used it twice. Grill was soo much nicer anyway.
Our galley tour was taken by the Caronia [we were the only Princess Grill guests]
Assist. Maitre’D, she was excellent. Well done.
Kids - must have been about 60 onboard, only time you saw them was running wild on the stairwells during evening or in the Jacuzzis on 1 deck.
Ooops - apparently we struck two ships leaving NY, but we just needed a paint job, and never knew it had happened. Due to the tall ships the berths were busy and we did not have enough room, even though we were 3 ½ hours late out. Thank goodness, what a sight - the NY skyline. We leant of the ships kissing only on return and read it in the UK press.
Had read ship was difficult to find ones way around - you have to remember this ship is 30 years old, and was BUILT for two classes, so most lifts do only go to either lower or upper decks - for obvious reasons - but we found E stairs/lifts went to almost all decks so we used these mostly. This ship is not difficult to navigate, it just needs a little appreciation and effort.
Photo shop was $6.95 for small, more for larger. Be ready for the routine snap at embarkation, having sat for an hour in the terminal you may not look your best, and regret it when you see your snap - make the effort to tidy up prior to boarding, drop the handbaggage unless you want it in the snap, and tell the photographer WHEN you are ready - this snap may be important to you later. We found one male crew member in this dept quite rude/unhelpful.
It is all-but impossible to get a photograph yourself of the ship, she is sooo big and you only see her from the portside, with gangways, buildings in the way, so do get postcards sold onboard. Someone asked during the Concorde/Pilot lecture where she could get a copy of a slide he showed of the UK Red Arrows / Concorde / QE2 - he gave these details; tel + 44  20 8759 2233 negative # 860183, however, this slide is sold as a 8x10 postcard onboard.
Caution; The loo [bathroom] after check-in, before security check/photo, is a disgrace. It is worse than your local bus depot w.c - NY port authority should be ashamed at this offering, I expect they charge Cunard and others huge sums for the building hire, and the w.c’s should represent this.
QE2 is beautiful, she is an elegant lady whom has been well cared for and helped into her latter years. Yes if you are the type that WANTS to find fault to complain, you will find minor items, very minor, should this be important to you - [:o) get a life].
Disembarkation in Southampton was a breeze - well done Cunard, called by 9.30, off by 9.35, baggage EASY to find and collect, loads of porters, direct to taxi rank. Was ticketed for a 1700 flight home, managed to catch the 10.30.
We loved the whole experience and would recommend saving up for Concorde and a Q3 1 deck cabin if it is a one off trip. Always obtain the sq ft before booking and compare with a hotel room you know.
If you have never sailed before, as we hadn’t, beware the ship does have ‘’sea movement’’ even in calm weather, force 4 or below. This ‘movement’ may upset your balance/inner ear and may cause severe discomfort - like a motion ride. The $20 jab in the rear will sort this but it is so strong you will sleep for 4 hours after it - best spent $20 if you are prone to motion sickness.
If you have any questions regarding components of our trip do e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org