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Paul Kennedy

Age: 57

Occupation:Designer

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Cunard

Ship: Queen Mary 2

Sailing Date: April 15th, 2006

Itinerary: UNKNOWN

We originally booked this transatlantic crossing as just the crossing plus the flight London-New York beforehand. We decided to add on the two-day pre-cruise hotel stay a couple of weeks afterwards. When the tickets arrived, no mention of the hotel portion of the package. I contacted the travel agents who told me no booking had been made. After 24 hours, they had made a hotel reservation in New York at the Hilton on 6th. Avenue. The only drawback was that we would have to get cabs from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the ship, but they would refund the cost of the fares.

On checking in at London Heathrow, we were told we had been upgraded to business class, which was a nice surprise and as a result, our luggage was given priority at JFK. We were one of the first off the aircraft, the first through immigration and our luggage appeared in the carousel within minutes of our arrival in baggage reclaim. On exiting to arrivals, we saw a Cunard representative and asked on the off-chance if our names were on his transfer list. He leafed through the hundreds of names on his list and said if we would like to wait, he was sure there would be room on a bus for us. Seeing the length of the list, we opted to take a cab rather than wait and so twenty minutes after landing, we were on our way into Manhattan. A great start to our holiday.

This transatlantic, not only the first of 2006, was also the first sailing from the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. On the morning television news channels, the QM2 was the major topic, allied to the gala event being held on board for the City mayor and other local bigwigs. Our check-in time was 1pm, but not knowing the time it would take to get there and expecting traffic jams with VIPs and passengers all trying to get to the terminal, we decided to leave the hotel at ten minutes to eleven. Thanks to a lunatic cab driver and the distance not being as far as expected, we were in the terminal at 11.20.

There were a couple of minutes delay behind limousines and other cars to get into the terminal area and there was a fair amount of confusion outside the terminal building itself, but we offloaded our luggage, went through security and checked in.. The call to board came very quickly and we were boarded before midday. Everything went very quickly, albeit not necessarily smoothly, but for the first sailing from there and with the VIP event, it was a commendable effort.

We started by checking our cabin (8045) on Deck 8 starboard side. This is a restricted view cabin, but the lifeboat outside is a small command vessel; small enough to look over, under and around to give a reasonable view of the sea. The layout was exactly the same as our Deck 4 hull balcony cabin on our first cruise nearly two years ago, but much brighter without the hull cutting off the light. We specifically chose this cabin because of the small lifeboat and also south facing for this crossing.

I wrote a review of QM2 after our previous cruise on her and whilst I praised the ship, I was very critical of the service that we had received. In this instance, service was vastly improved in all areas and the staff, especially in the Britannia Restaurant seemed very much happier. Service at dinner in the evenings was impeccable, and previously, it had been appalling at breakfast and lunch, but on this occasion, it was excellent during these meals as well.

Presentation of food at mealtimes was excellent, and ingredients were first rate. Portions, however, from my point of view, were enormous and I struggled to finish most dishes. That was me only, though. Others at the table seemed perfectly able to have a starter, salad course, entrée and dessert meal after meal!

We ate only once in King’s Court, on embarkation day, and unfortunately, my original criticism of the restaurant still stands. Too many counters in too many different places not quite serving enough to make a whole meal. I wanted cold meats with salad for lunch. The cold meat counter had pasta salads, but the vegetable salads were at another counter down the corridor. Perhaps it’s just a question of familiarisation with the layout, but I admit to being biased – I like to be served in a formal dining room by liveried stewards!

We had lunch one day in the Todd English Restaurant. It really is a lovely room and the service was absolutely first class. The food ingredients were top quality, but for our English tastes, I’m afraid the menu was too fusion – too many strong and strange flavours where they were not expected. Other people I talked to loved it, so I would still encourage people to try it at least once.

Nearly two years on from our last cruise on board, the condition of the ship looked just as pristine as it had then. Everything was spotlessly clean and credit to our cabin steward, John, who had our cabin cleaned and beds made up by the time we were back from breakfast.

There were a lot of daytime activities that in fact we didn’t attend. We spent most mornings reading in the Commodore Club, firstly because I think it is our favourite spot on the ship as it’s smaller and more intimate than most of the other public rooms and we were away from the activities. In the afternoons, after a long, leisurely lunch in the Britannia Restaurant, we attended plays by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), watched a film and read even more.

Of the six nights, we only attended shows in the Royal Court Theatre twice. This was because we had seen the main productions, Appassionata and Pop at the Opera on board QE2 last summer. We did see Appassionata again, and it was excellent, and also an Elton John lookalike, Jonathan Kane, who was superb. Around the ship, at various times during the day, there was live music. We particularly like the pianists who played in the Commodore Club in the evenings. We did not like the jazz music played in the Chart Room before late seating dinner – it was far too loud and made holding a conversation almost impossible.

Other facilities such as the spa or the gym we didn’t use, nor the pools. The weather was too inclement. Thick fog for two days, one sunny day and then two days of heavy rain. The sea was calm, but there was some movement and vibration that we put down to the damaged propulsion pod. This will have been removed by our next cruise and it will be interesting to see the difference.

On our last disembarkation, because we were on Deck 4, we were among the last to get off the ship at about 11am, but was all extremely well organised taking precisely 12 minutes from being called to disembark to switching on the car engine. This time, though, it promised to be different because our car was parked at Heathrow Airport. We booked a coach connection through Cunard at $70 per person. We thought this a bit expensive, but were unable to find anything cheaper.

In the disembarkation instructions, we were asked to wait in the Royal Court Theatre, fine for a night time show but very dark and gloomy to sit in during the day. We sat down just after 8am and to our delight were called at 8.30, found our cases within a couple of minutes and boarded the coach. We had perhaps 20 minutes to wait for the coach to fill up before it left for Heathrow. We had to transfer to a local bus to take us to the hotel where the car was parked and then drive the 100 miles home. Despite the two buses and the drive, we were home at least an hour earlier than we have ever been from Southampton.

All in all, we found great improvements all round on board the ship, a relief after our previous experience and a relief since we are booked on again at the end of July.

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