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Victoria Ruehl

Age: 41 to 50

Occupation:Exec. Asst.

Number of Cruises: 21

Cruise Line: Cunard

Ship: Queen Elizabeth 2

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Cape Town to Southampton

I like this ship but would not recommend the QE2 to new cruisers or those who want glitz, glamour, partying or sophistication.  To me, the QE2 is like a stately home - holding onto elegance but shabby and worn around the edges; trying maintain the old standards, ambience, and service but having a hard time.  To enjoy this ship, you need to appreciate her history and what traveling by sea used to mean.  No one area (e.g. food, entertainment, cabins, etc.) are spectacular, but the overall effect is understated elegance and refinement.

One of the pluses of a ship designed for crossings is that there are lots of lounges and places to sit on a rainy day. The Yacht club & Crytal Bar are particularly nice to curl up with a book next to a window and watch the waves.  There were always people reading, doing needlework, or talking in the chairs in & around the Queens Room.  The most recent re-fit made a huge difference in the public areas - jewel tone carpets (lots of teal, royal blue & gold) are coordinated with upholstered chairs and drapes; rich wood paneling (lighter than mahogany but darker than oak)is liberally used in the public areas, as are attractive marble-look sconces and lighting fixtures.  Brass detailing abounds.  The ship finally has an elegant, consistent look throughout the public areas. 

The decks are wonderful aged teak - no astroturf/fake grass on the QE2!  The Boat (promenade) deck is wide enough for people to sit at the rails in teak deck chairs, while leaving plenty of room for walkers or joggers.  Depending on the weather, you can walk all around the ship, but the front portion requires going up stairs, across the bow, and down stairs onto the other side.  When very windy, the stairs are closed. The pool deck is shielded from the wind with glass panels and is always quite crowded.  The pool is very small (no laps here!).  The Sun deck is much emptier as it involves several flights of stairs and can be breezy.

Depending on the itinerary, there may not be enough deck chairs.  On this trip 1,200 of the passengers were on for one month and it was sunny and warm every day, so there were fights for deck chairs.  (I avoided this by going to the Sun Deck and reserving a chair for $17...well worth it.) If there are lots of sunworshippers, as there were on this trip, it's difficult to get away from the crowd on deck.  It's rows and rows and rows of deck chairs, all squeezed together.  (That's where the Sun Deck comes in handy.)

The casino seemed empty - with 10 out of 14 days "sea days", I was surprised that the casino was so underused.  I don't know why.  Nights were busier, but still not like on other ships.  The Grand Lounge, where the main evening entertainment is, has added seating, but in less you get there early and get seats in the first 15 rows, you'll be in the back with columns blocking some views.  I stood in the back most nights, or sat along the sides where I couldn't see a thing, but could listen.

On QE2, the location/price of your cabin determines which of the restaurants you eat in and I was in Caronia which is single seating.  I've never been particularly impressed with the food on the QE2 - it's fine, better than average but not great. This trip I thought the food was better than before.  For dinner, the menu was not huge - 3 appetizers, soup and pasta courses, 4 entrees (at least 1 fish - often 2) and 3 desserts.  It's hard to please everyone, but only once or twice were there two entrees that really appealed to me.  The appetizers were very traditional and seemed dull - lots of fruit cups, melon w/ham, etc.  I often had the pasta course for my appetizer.  Entrees were traditional too, but more interesting (maybe it was the vegs and sauces that redeemed them).  I don't normally eat much beef, but I did here - not so many chicken or veal choices which is a shame.  The beef was good, but always served as a steak or filet.  (No beef burgundy, for example.)  Desserts were adequate - nothing great at all.

Service was basically good;  once or twice, extremely slow and when I canceled a course, great consternation arose.  One of the men at the table had problems with getting his steak or lamb cooked correctly - their version of medium rare was grey throughout.  Instead of whisking it away w/apologies, the waiter argued/explained before taking it away.  Overall, it was fine - not great, but not bad.

I had breakfast and some lunches in the Lido, since the buffet is quicker than the restaurant and I eat less.  Generally, I liked the food in the Lido (see the "Public Areas" section for my comments on the physical aspect of the Lido).  Breakfasts were standard fare - hot & cold cereals, eggs, sausages/bacons, beans, tomatos, fried potato cakes, toasted breads, pastries, and waffles.  Food was hot and tasty.  For lunch, they offer a salad bar, cold cuts/cheeses, hot dishes, a carvery plus desserts.  Several days had a curry (lamb, beef, chicken, shrimp) which was wonderful;  "ye olde englishe pub" day had steak & kidney pie, bangers & mash, roast beef & yummy Yorkshire pudding (among other items). The rice pudding seemed to be a very popular dessert, as was the apple crumble with sauce.  Service was fine - waiters usually carried trays to tables for the more tottery passengers and would get whatever beverage you wanted.  Because I usually couldn't find a table, I would sit on a bar stool (bar was closed).  The waiters didn't know how to handle this - most ignored me until I finally flagged one down for my water.  But, not a big deal since I know I was out of the norm.

Overall, the food in the Lido was pretty good - it was just a shame that I could never find a seat and that it was so hot and noisy.

The Pavilion Cafe is a spot many passengers never discovered - just a small grill off the pool.  Hotdogs, hamburgers, minute steaks, mini-salad bar, soup and a special daily grilled item (ribs, german sausage, chicken cutlets, etc.)  This was very quick and I often got food here and brought it up 5 decks to the Sun Deck.crowds by going late but it was inevitably hot, stuffy and so LOUD.  Never had a pleasant relaxing meal in there.

Overall, public areas are good - inside there's lots of daylight, plenty of comfortable chairs and attractive decor; outside the decks are well maintained but you have to stake out your turf if you want a chair and some space around it. 

I was in a single, Caronia class cabin (there are only 8 on the ship).  Bathroom was nice - deep tub and shower.  Closet space was tight, but there were plenty of drawers.  Safe and fridge in closet (safe is a new addition and very nice - on other voyages, it was inconvenient to traipse off to the lock boxes.)  As part of the refit, all cabins got new matching drapes, bedspreads and upholstered chairs (my color scheme was burgundy and cream, others were green/cream, gold/cream, blue/cream).  THis was a long overdue improvement.  Beds now have a duvet and down-filled pillows - comfy, but the duvet was hot.  The QE2 doesn't have high powered air conditioning (again, built for crossings) so the room didn't get very cool - I never used the duvet, just a top sheet.  (Some other people mentioned the same problem.)

Unlike most other ships of today, where cabins are modular units, on the QE2 the cabins vary widely in size, shape and layout.  On disembarkation day, I looked at 4 of the other Caronia single cabins and each was different from mine.  Two had lighter wood (much better) and a different layout w/more closet space.  I also looked at many other cabins in other price categories, and there were huge differences within a given category (some have little entry/hall ways, walk in closets, dressing table with lighted mirror and seat, light wood, dark wood, and on and on - an amazing variety).  I don't believe any travel agent would know the differences and I doubt that Cunard reservation agents would know the layout of specific cabins.  So, it's potluck as to what you get and how pleased you are with it.  What I always do is check them out on disembarkation and make a list of cabins I'd like on a future cruise. 

In general, the cabins are smaller and less luxurious than on other ships and the fittings (built in items such as dressers, nightstands, etc.) are dated/worn.

I don't expect much from on-board entertainment - after all, if the performers were really good, they'd be on Broadway or at least Las Vegas!  And the QE2 has never had very good entertainment and this trip was no exception.  They had a theatre group "Broadway Bound" on board and they were pretty sad - couldn't sing, couldn't dance and not very sociable.  One headliner was awful; I've never heard so many negative comments (and from British people, who are usually so polite!)  They didn't like her costumes (one was completely see through over her breasts which was NOT popular at all) and her repertoire was totally wrong for the audience ('70's & '80's songs for a clearly Gershwin/Porter/Clooney audience).  No audience reaction, people walking out or not clapping at all. She was the featured entertainer for two nights and you'd think that she would have caught on and changed, but NO.  Very small audience anyway and those who came left early.  A complete contract was a West End performer who entranced the audience.  Personable, good singer, appropriate songs.  Her second night performing was standing room only.  Other nights had the usual mixture of magician (another horrendous show - I've truly never seen such a bad magician;  his wife did an act & she was even worse than him - people thought it was a spoof, but when their laughter got the wrong response, we realized...)  An Irish comedian who was funny and the crowd loved him; the crew talent show - very, very popular with the passengers and some were better than a few of the paid entertainers.  Same old stuff, nothing memorable except the West End performer and the awful magician.

Dance hosts:   This is another area where I don't expect much, but if you like to dance and are looking forward to dancing with these men....buyer beware.  As on most ships with hosts, these hosts were elderly (the newest was 83) and they don't dance well.  In fact, two of them just shuffled around the floor, regardless of whether it was a cha cha or a waltz.  Of the other two, one did his own version (he limped) and the other was a decent dancer.  I think that most dance hosts are saving their energy, so don't expect much!  The cruise staff was supposed to supplement the hosts, but they weren't there much (showed up and danced once or twice, then left, and showed up again just before the band stopped for the night).  However, the band was great, the Queens Lounge is very sociable and the dancing can be entertaining to watch.  Plus, plenty of couples were having a grand old time.  Even with hosts, it's still the best ship for dancing.

Lecturers:   This is an area where QE2 excels.  They always have interesting, polished speakers whose area of expertise appeals to the passengers.  In the past, I've listened to well-known authors, newsmen, restauranteurs, actors, etc.  On this trip, we had a famour London newspaper editor, the royal florist who lectured on the British royal family, a naval architect, a wine expert and some one else.  Even with great weather, lectures were well attended and had lots of questions/answers.  Another nice thing Cunard does is videotape all the lectures and show them throughout the day on the television.  The lecturers were knowledgeable, animated and were very sociable around the ship.

Cruise staff:   Never saw the cruise director (Les Rolinson) at all.  He didn't walk around the ship, didn't introduce all the entertainment - he wasn't a presence at all.  On other ships (and QE2 previously), everyone knew who the cruise director was!  Some of his staff were very hardworking and never had a moment to chat (running various games, setting up activities, etc.) but the social hostess (Maureen Ryan) was superb.  Very gracious - she took time to speak with as many passengers as possible and truly listened to them.  She was extrememly popular with the passengers.  On the other hand, the social host (Michael) was aloof, snide and actively avoided passengers.  So, it all depends on who they hire!! 

There always seem to be a wide range of activities on board.  On sea days, I played team trivial pursuit, went to dance class and a lecture.  Trivial pursuit had between 100-130 participants and was well run - no arguments about answers allowed and most teams were pretty serious.  Dance classes were large too, but it was amazing how the instructors could teach so many people a variety of steps in 45 mins.  Very social and a good way to meet people.  There were bridge, needlework, arts/crafts, etc. get togethers too which all seemed to have a following.

The on deck sports activities were very popular - I never saw so many serious shuffleboard players on a ship!  The gym was well used - there was a sign-up list for the 4 treadmills, 2 stairmasters and 3 bikes (maximum of 30 minutes) which worked well. 

We only had 3 ports:  1)  Dakar, Senegal which I loved.  Cunard was worried about security and whether the local guides would meet their high standards and they were pleasantly surprised.  It's a lovely city - nice architecture, lots of flowering bushes/trees, very active and bustling.  The tour guides spoke English very well and were informative.  They were frank about pickpockets and the vendors.  No problem for me, but I have common sense and acted the way I do in New York or London.  Some of the women were terrified and wouldn't get off the buses.  Ah well.  2) Tenerife, Canary Islands:  In port on Sunday, so some grousing that many shops/activities would be closed.  I stayed on board ship in great solitude. 3)Lisbon, Portugal:  Wonderful city.  Didn't take any tours but wandered around on my own.  In general, I think Cunard's excursions are the same quality as other cruise lines. 

All in all, I was disappointed with this trip (my 7th on QE2.  Certainly Cunard's deep discounting in the UK resulted in a different type of passenger than normal and I see the Carnival mind-set encroaching (e.g. art auctions, inch of gold, higher priced drinks, etc.)

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