Age: Young Boomer
Occupation:Retired Special Ed Teacher
Number of Cruises: 65
Cruise Line: Cunard
Ship: Queen Mary 2
Sailing Date: August 17th, 2006
We drove the hour to Norfolk to avoid morning rush hour traffic, or break downs in the tunnel, so we would be refreshed for the flight to LGA. Stayed at a Sleep Inn. Bed smelled of former persons cologne, toilet ran
all night, yelling and shouting outside in parking lot, soap as thin as a potato
chip. This place offered free continental breakfast, the skimpiest and crappiest
I have ever seen. Holiday Inn Express is better overall. Took the
"stay-park-fly" package, which included a taxi to the airport. Got the taxi,
went to the airport, tipped driver only to have him run yelling into the
terminal for $11.00 that he claimed was not part of the deal. Not only was he
loud, he was aggressive, tugging at our arms for the money. We paid him and said
Checked in at US Air, waited two hours for the flight. Cunard Line did the ticketing and seat assignment. In fact, Cunard did a better job than our travel agent often does. And, yes, we booked the entire trip with our trusted travel agent, Mark.
We got to LGA, and transferred with Cunard's transfer to the ship in Brooklyn. The lines were huge, and exhausting. They snaked forever. After two hours we were processed and boarded the ship. We were not taken to our stateroom, we were told to take the elevator to deck 11, where we found it on our own.
Our stateroom was the usual modern modular unit, large, with lots of closet and drawer space, king bed, desk with fridge, wall of glass with door to our spacious balcony, complete with two chaise lounges and table. Bed and bath linens were all luxury quality. The bath was very nice, the shower unusually large for a ship. Lighting was excellent as was toiletry storage. The walls and floor were tiled, one floor tile cracked in need of replacement. The robes were "spa" robes, light and comfy, especially on our balcony. Nobody could peak around to see us, nor us them, from the balconies, at least from our deck.
There were only two wall plugs, at the desk. Whereas most ships have flat television screens, the television was the older tube kind. The remote and wireless key pad allowed access to the QM2 Interactive TV System, which for us was fun to e-mail, at $1.50 a pop.
It has been a while since we sailed with Cunard line. We first sailed on the QE2 in 1969, and have sailed in her 3 times, as well as Cunard Ambassador, Cunard/NAC's Sagafjord and Vistafjord and Cunard Crown Dynasty. Cunard made a very nice presentation to have us book this crossing, granting us a nice upgrade, shipboard credit, and a bottle of Perrier Jouet.
It is not a secret that Carnival Cruise Line owns most of Cunard Line, 49% Carnival, 51% Cunard. It is also not a secret that there probably would not be a Cunard Line today nor a Queen Mary 2 if not for Carnival Cruises deep pockets. Thank you Carnival.
This QM2 is a real honest to goodness ocean liner. She is not a cruise ship. Differences are many, between the two. The Mary's draught is 34 feet, her hull three inches thick. We noted that she sails better than the QE2. There is a solid feel to her. She also has the original deep toned ships whistle from the Queen Mary. Next year, for the first time, Cunard will have three Queen's sailing, when the cruise liner (not ocean liner) Queen Victoria comes on line.
We had our passenger drill on the open promenade deck. New York was a glorious sight, crystal clear, no haze.
NYPD helicopters charged the ship, our escorts, as we sailed. There was a lock down in the harbor of all vessels, as we glided past. Our postmistress' son had duty on one of the Coast Guard boats that sailed with us. On deck, NYPD officers, wearing bullet proof vests, armed with personal assault weapons posed for pictures. This festive atmosphere helped to lighten the seriousness of the security. This was our first time sailing from Brooklyn. Miss Liberty surely smiled her approval as we sailed passed her. Not to be missed is sailing under the Veranzzano Bridge, with only feet to spare. We passed Coney Island, and entered the blue Atlantic.
While rummaging around without any clear plan, we stumbled into the library, a handsome place with over 8,000 books. Adjacent to the library is the QM2 Book Shop, a veritable cornucopia of Cunard memorabilia, maritime history books by esteemed authors, including John Maxtone-Graham, William H. Miller, Bill Miller, Peter Knego, posters, pictures and paintings, trinkets and the like, as well as guest author signings, on our trip P.D. James was aboard. The Maritime Quest, a guided or self guided Cunard history tour ends at the QM2 Book Shop.
The shops on the QM2, called Mayfair Shops, consist of Chopard, Escada, Hermes, H. Stern, Swarovski, $10.00 Shop, and Harrods of London, selling high quality logo items as well as favorite Harrods items. Adjacent to Mayfair, is the Photo Shop, which sells cameras and film (this is not where the pictures are displayed).
Cunard/ConneXions, on Deck 2, offers computer lessons, and passenger computer use, which is billed to your stateroom account. Set up in here was A Diamond at Sea series of auctions, finishing a nine week run on the ship. I was not impressed. The ships art auctions were held in the Winter Garden, and this time, we skipped them. We also skipped bingo. The casino, also on deck 2, showcased the most attractive casino we've seen at sea. It set to one side, and is not a room passengers must walk through to get from point A to point B. We did not use the casino.
Illuminations, the movie theater, is also home to the Planetarium. The Planetarium show time of your choice may be reserved, or not, and like the movies, free. One not too impressive feature in this theater were broken chairs, seats that did not recline and chairs with the seats missing. The planetarium show was boring to boot. Next to the Planetarium is RADA, Royal Academy of the Arts, which gives acting lessons and the history of the theatre in lecture sessions, and short theatrical productions.
In addition to these diversions, there are all manner of ship board activities. Shuffle board, puzzle and game corners, outdoor covered pools and hot tubs, basket ball, tennis, dance lesson, male dance hosts, video arcade, arts and crafts, it is endless... brochures from the 50's stated that on a Cunard crossing "Getting there is half the fun". That is still true.
Our son Jason and his wife, remember my first Princess review when he was 17? Now he's 24, they took care of our dogs and cats while we sailed. While roaming the decks we came upon the kennels. There were six doggies, two poodles, an English Bulldog, a sheltie, a black lab mix, and a cute variety dog, being entertained by a kennel attendant. It so happened that the couple next to us in the Britannia Restaurant had the poodles and two cats in the kennel. They were going back to Scotland after seventeen years in the U.S. They also were transporting two cars.
The Canyon Ranch Spa was a delight. Deck 7 contains the spa, Deck 8 the salon and barber shop. We had three massages each, and enjoyed the hydro-pool. There are saunas, steam baths and a gym as well as chiropractic service. Full use of the Aqua Center is included with spa services, or a Spa Club passport may be purchased.
The Play Zone, for kids, seemed quite nice. Nannies are available, as are baby sitting services. Minnows, the kids pool, and toys and parties are planned, as are special meals.
The dining scene is varied, and wide ranging. Room service is 24/7, with hang on the door breakfast order, or full room service. Room service may be ordered by phone or interactive television. There is no liquor shop on board, it may be ordered through room service.
Way up on 12 is the Boardwalk Cafe, a small venue featuring hot dogs, burgers and fries cooked to order, and salads, and free ice cream. A grand Cunard tradition is tea in the Queens Room.
When we boarded we had lunch in the Kings Court, made up of La Piazza, Italian, Carvery, roasts and sandwiches, Lotus, oriental, and Chefs Galley, where chefs cook your dinner with cooking demonstrations. We opted for Lotus, which was very good. What was not so good is the lay out it was too crowded, narrow passageways, passengers rushing and jabbing trays, pushing to get iced tea which is not our thing. The place smelled of garbage from bussed tables. We were forced up here for last morning breakfast of premade eggs, premade omelets and pancakes, pre-toasted toast and horrid coffee. Cunard can surely do better.
All meals in the Brittania were excellent. One I would pick is the "maple" syrup. It is the pure thing in the Britannia. Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon fresh sliced off the plank, hot-cooked to order omelets, hot toast, enjoyable coffee, (frozen orange juice), and beautifully fresh berries, fruits and melon, full American and English breakfasts, what more can I say. Breakfast was a pleasure each day.
As was lunch in the Britannia.
TODD ENGLISH We had lunch and dinner at Todd English. Suffice it to say Todd English was very rewarding. Lunch is $20.00 per person, dinner $30.00 per person, tip is extra. We ordered the "sample menu" and braised beef. The meal and service were exceptional. We returned to Todd English for a three hour dinner, which was a magical culinary experience.
There were three major production shows during the crossing. The first, Zing Went the Strings, paid homage to Judy Garland. The second, Apassionata, featured the extraordinary talents of the dancers, with Flamenco, Bola, samba, the male dancers boy-masculine, the girls, lithe, with legs for days. The third production, Rock @ the Opera, was astounding. Costumes, dancing, singing and lighting, the full orchestra, gave a powerful professional performance.
The ship was full of music, with live jazz in the chart room, piano in the Commodore Club, string quartet in the lobby, harpist at dinner, and live music on deck. A fine group performed in the Queens Room, big band style. A group from St. Lucia played excellent live disco music Club 32.
When we first toured the QM2 we ran around with our tongues hanging out, the ship is that impressive. Elevators doors, highly polished with art deco etchings, carpeting unlike anything we've seen on a ship, rich paneling, art everywhere, huge urns billowing with exotic fresh flowers, carved wall panels, glass "murals" fill the public passageways and stairways.
The Grand Lobby spans five decks, with a polished aluminum panel of the QM2 spanning two decks, the Britannia Restaurant, with its two deck tapestry of the christening of the ship, captains table placed in front, center.
Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar, in gold and beige and champagne tones, two large Lalique urns on pilasters, the patent black liquor baby grand, and its menu create a tres chic atmosphere. The menu features champagne, with or without caviar. A selection of pates and pasties are offered, and are charged to your ships account.
Nearly every ship we have sailed has had a room like this, the Chart Room. They were called North Cape Bar on the Sagafjord, Vistafjord, and Royal Viking ships, Ocean Bar on the Statendam class Holland America ships and Polaris Bar on Stella Solaris. It is the bar that hugs port or starboard side, with horseshoe shaped bar, club chairs, and live music, and, it is extremely popular. Here, seven Lalique wall sconces have been placed between the windows.
The ship is gorgeous. To review its interior splendor completely would take many pages. To review its wonderful dining would take many more. Take my word for it, better yet, sail the Queen Mary 2, and you will see for yourself, the ship is truly grand.
We took a shore excursion from Southampton. We went to Stonehenge and learned that we were lucky in that visits to Stonehenge would not include the ruins in the near future. The town of Salisbury was nice, with its ancient quaint Britishness. Gracefull swans glided in ponds, flowers billowed from planters and gardens, butcher shops and bakeries and green grocers took the place of supermarkets. It was fairy tale perfect. We found a nice place for lunch, the Market Inn, a tavern/restaurant. The food was really good. Bathrooms immaculate. The weather that day was typically Brittish, cold, damp and drizzly. Soon we were back on board the Mary, sailing the East Solent, into a jade green North Sea, to Hamburg.
While we were ashore, a $50.00EU gift card was placed in our stateroom. That was to help celebrate Hamburgs premiere
department store, Alterhaus, celebrate 125 years in business.
Sailing into Hamburg was quite the sight. Hundreds of boats, both pleasure and sightseeing, tooted and whistled to welcome the QM2 Hamburg has adopted the ship, and the locals come out to support the ship calls there. It was funny to see faux paddlewheels Mississippi Queen, Star of Louisiana and Texas Star sailing the Elbe River.
We both felt a big let down when we left the Queen Mary 2. Leaving the ship after a cruise should be sad, but the QM2? It was agonizing. Well, we chose the best hotel in Hamburg, Raffles Veer Jahreszeiten. The hotel was elegant, the restaurant worthy of a grand hotel, so, we selected the perfect hotel for the end of our journey.
Touring Hamburg was a pleasant surprise. The city has Bostons sophistication, New York's chic and Chicago's vibrancy. We found a great Chinese Restaurant, Peking Ente (Peking Duck), in the St. George area of the city, on Lange Reihue 19. Clean, with excellent food.
We toured with Stadt Rundfahrt. This is "on/off" as you wish touring in a double Decker bus, just ask for English speaking, and you may pick up a tour at any major hotel. We got a package deal for $20.00EU each that included the all day tour and the harbor tour. You may tour as long as you want and stay as long at any given place along the tour.
We enjoyed what may, no, IS the best dinner in a restaurant we have ever had
at Landhaus Scherrer, a short cab ride from our hotel. Landhaus Scherrer is billed as the best restaurant in Hamburg. Our dinner took over three hours, and yes, it rightly deserves its title.
We did use the gift card at Alterhaus. We enjoyed Hamburg. We enjoyed Stonehenge and Salisbury.
We certainly, assuredly, enjoyed the Queen Mary 2. It would be redundant to say we'll sail her again, for we will
Cliché? Long live this Queen!