Sailing aboard the worlds largest Ocean Liner
Cruise: Northern Europe and Fjords.
Date: July 11 – 22, 2004.
Itinerary: Southampton (England) – South Queensferry (Scotland) – Geiranger (Norway) – Alesund (Norway) – Bergen (Norway) – Hamburg (Germany) – Rotterdam (Netherlands) – Southampton (England).
First impressions last, and I was very very impressed with the size of this mighty vessel as we drove up to the Queen Elizabeth II terminal at Southampton. No photo does her justice, she really is amazingly large. I have been aboard QE2 numerous times so I know what a big ship looks like but this ship’s size took my breath away. The layout at the Southampton terminal is very functional and worked well. Photo ID, and then boarding by time card – a good and orderly way to organize 2,600 passengers. Once aboard I was amazed by the lack of help offered – no one offered to show us to our cabin, or carry the hand held luggage – something I was accustomed to with QE2. Never the less the ship’s interior left a lasting impression – she is a very grand ship.
I was in cabin 8.097, which was an obstructed view balcony cabin on deck 8. Originally booked on Deck four, I was upgraded and appreciated the gesture after a decade of loyalty to Cunard Line. The cabin was fantastic – very comfortable and had all the amenities that you could ask for.
The interactive QM2 TV works very well, especially for ordering shore tours, as the queues were long at the cruise sales desk. The cabin was tastefully decorated and had plenty of room in both the closet and the bathroom. I was traveling with my family, and two members of my family were in cabin 4.145, which was an inside stateroom, also tasteful, plenty large enough and included all the amenities that were in 8.097.
The vessel slipped out of Southampton virtually unnoticed and lifeboat drill was conducted where I met fellow QE2 fans. My muster station was in the Kings Court, and I only hope it functions better as a muster station then it did as a restaurant. Although functional during quiet times and attractive to look at, Kings Court ’s multiple entries and disjointed layout makes it chaotic during meal times (excluding dinner when it breaks into smaller individual restaurants.) None of our family frequented Kings Court (unless we missed the times for Britannia) due to this hectic atmosphere. Never the less – the food was of good standard in Kings Court and the elderly could have assistance from the floor staff.
After boat drill we explored this mighty vessel. The features are fantastic. Illuminations – the ship’s planetarium is absolutely brilliant. There were three shows the best of which was “Search for Life”, narrated by Harrison Ford. Illuminations also acted as a lecture hall where I met, and listened to Bill Miller, noted maritime expert and author, talk about the great ship’s. It also holds the ship’s cinema which works well in the theatre seats. Just aft of Illuminations and accessible from decks two or three is the Royal Court Theatre of the Performing Arts. This room is far superior to any show lounge I have seen – it is fantastic! It has a sunken band pit (that raises if needs be), a rotating stage and an extra special feature whereby the stage “grows” stairs in the middle. These can rotate and form a one sided pyramid. This allowed for some real 1st class shows that were thoroughly enjoyable.
The Britannia Restaurant is stunning to look at. Our table was 112, on the lower level near the stairs. Our wait staff – Romolo and Edwin, looked after us very well. They were fantastic, prompt, polite and a lot of fun to talk to. Where this restaurant fails is in the kitchen which is slow due to the huge demand of such a large restaurant. The food was of good quality (although not as high as experienced on other Cunard ships). I think this is mainly due to the lack of “warming” stations whereby food can be kept hot while the whole table’s main course, or starter, arrives so that a family of four can be served at the same time. The result was that one or more of our table’s diners were left waiting while others had to eat in order to have a warm meal.
The atmosphere in Britannia was fantastic – soft music was nice, playing Tubular Bells – one of my favourites, added to the friendly and relaxed, yet regal atmosphere. There were only four formal nights on our 11 night cruise and they were the best. A restaurant such as Britannia is in its element on a formal night – it is so grand that one must wear a suit and tie so as not to clash with its splendour.
The word Cunard often is associated with the older cruise passenger but I was surprised to see that there was a higher number of young people aboard QM2 then experienced on QE2, however the majority of the passengers are over 50.
The ports of call were amazing. First South Queensferry where a short train ride would result in a day trip to the centre of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, a city that has kept its ancient buildings and really is a very special place to visit. Norway embraced QM2 as if she was their own. They loved her. Being on QM2 in the Fjords was something else – it really was a very special occasion.
The vessel is, as I said, stunning. One of our favourite spots was the open deck just aft of Todd English. There was a very nice pool there and a bar service as well as a fantastic view. The ship has a fantastic amount of deck space and one can actually get fitter being aboard, if you walk. A pet hate of mine is people who abuse the elevators. (For example, I get in on deck 13 and want to go to deck 2 – and someone will get on deck 7 to go down to deck 6. Now if they are unable to walk stairs due to health reasons etc. that is fine but these are not disabled people they are healthy 50 year olds who are just lazy – so in short I avoided the elevators as much as I could. Hint: If you want to get from Deck 2 or 3 to deck 7 use the Grand Lobby elevators. People seemed to avoid them probably due to their glass walls. Ladies with skirts – beware!!
The excitement really peaked in Hamburg where close to 1 million Germans lined the shores at 7:30am to see QM2 enter the harbour. Now this was amazing enough as it was but then they threw a festival on the parkland near the docks. The shore tour guide told us there had been a count down in the newspapers for 14 days and we saw the car park that was being used for motor homes and caravans of those who had traveled in from other cities. The party lasted all night and at 23:00 there was a fireworks display and laser light show which was acknowledged by QM2, blowing her magnificent horn in thanks to the city. The next morning some 600,000 lined the banks as we sailed out, we had air force jets fly over and a Luftwaffe escort (helicopters) out of German territorial waters. WOW.
Before we get to our last port, let’s talk bars. Commodore Club was by far the best bar on the ship – sophisticated, elegant and quiet with a forward view it really is fantastic. I met a barman who used to work on QE2 in Crystal Bar and he remembered me by name – a nice touch. In fact most ex QE2 staff remembered me which was fantastic; it really makes you feel at home on this beautiful city at sea. The Chart Room on ‘Mary’ is by no means as good as that on “the other ship”. One really should not compare QE2 and QM2 because they are so different. There is no better or worse, just different, but that said, if the line insists on using the same name for two totally different bars, then I must say QE2’s is far superior. However, Chart Room on QM2 is very nice during the day when it is quiet. It gets very crowded and smoky in the evenings. The Golden Lion is also very different to that on its namesake but is a typical English style ocean going pub and is very nice. There is a live band and draught beer, the best being Bass – by the pint of course! I saw a few eating the fish and chips – typical English fare. Sir Samuel’s Wine Bar looked nice, but seemed empty almost all the time. I never did drink in the Atlantic Room, but it was visually pleasing.
Rotterdam gave a small greeting, but a fantastic send-off. The shore tour taken was to The Hague (or Den Hague) and our arrival back to QM2 was prolonged due to the masses of people who had made it to the docks by 13:00. Throughout the cruise many passengers including myself took some time out to visit the stunning Library and Ocean Bookshop. Located at the forward end of Deck 8, these beautifully decorated rooms, with their rich wood paneling and tasteful lighting, allow for the perfect setting for one to select a book. There are forward facing windows which add to the charm, and an elevator that leads up to the Observation Area. What makes this elevator so unique is its glass wall, whereby one can see over the side of the vessel while inside the elevator – a real novel idea.
The ship has a very unique interactive television system that is superb. Its best feature is the ability to book shore tours through the TV thus bypassing the lengthy queues at the Tour Sales Office, located next to the Pursers Office. The system is easy to use and also has access to your personal QM2 email address. Passengers can send and receive email (at a cost) which is great as it is sent from “Your name @ QM2″ so everyone knows you are off having the time of your life!
Just before we depart QM2, lets talk aft – the Queens Room Ballroom & G32 nightclub. What an odd combination. G32 is one room that I never really used.
It seems so strange to me to have G32 accessible only through the grand ballroom. In my opinion, disco music and a ball room just don’t mix and neither do the dress codes. G32 was visually very much a state of the art night club with plasma screens, smoke machines and a good bar.
The Queens Room is visually stunning – absolutely fantastic in design and appearance. It is one of the most fantastic rooms I have ever seen; it really is a work of art and is delightful for afternoon tea and the Ascot Ball. Access is via deck 3L – which houses either the art gallery or photo gallery depending what side of the vessel you choose to walk down. If the photo gallery wants to make more sales they should reduce the US$27.50 price tag on the personal portraits.
I rate QM2 5 stars. Although a few minor design issues that I pointed out, the over all product is fantastic – she truly is a wonderful ship. Queen Mary 2 is a ship I would love to get back aboard. The ship at first stuns you with her “wow” factor, and then after a few days wraps her gigantic arms around you and becomes your home away from home – the hallmark of a great liner. Long live Queen Mary 2.
Note: ** This review is the opinion only of the reviewer and is not a guarantee that the service or experience aboard this vessel will be exactly that which is reported in this review. Every cruise differs from the one before it. Images on this website may be subject to copyright – do not reproduce images or text from Chris’ Cunard Page.