Queen Mary 2 Review

Ian Warren – 04-12-2013 - Cunard - Queen Mary 2


We spent 4 nights onboard in November 2013 enjoying a mini cruise before the busy Christmas period. It was our second time on Queen Mary 2, or QM2 as she is often referred to, as we spent a few nights onboard back in 2008. That was before I became an independent cruise consultant with GoCruise.

The journey through Southampton to reach the ship was a nightmare, due to road works in the city, and an earlier accident, so we were relieved to finally arrive at Ocean Terminal. Our cases were taken from us, and the car park company parked our car, while we walked quickly through to check-in, and we were actually onboard within about 15 minutes.

It was a little surprising that there were no hand gel dispensers at the bottom of the gangway, or as we entered the ship. The fact that there was a letter in our cabin from the Medical Director, advising us of the importance of regular hand washing and use of the alcohol gels, to reduce the possibility of Norovirus, made it even more surprising. Throughout the cruise the gel dispensers were in position outside entrances to the various restaurants and buffet areas, but we were seldom encouraged to use them, and many people didn’t.

We had a basic inside cabin on deck 4, but it was a good size with plenty of storage space. The cabin steward made a point of introducing himself to us on the first day, and gave us a good service throughout our cruise. It is good that each cabin has a fridge, with a regularly filled ice bucket, and a safe. There wasn’t the usual problem of trying to figure out how to work the safe, and remember the number you thought of, as you can use any card with a magnetic strip. I was therefore able to lock and unlock the safe with my Shell Drivers Club card! The half bottle of complimentary sparkling wine which was on ice in our cabin when we arrived was very nice. Sound proofing could have been a bit better, as anyone talking as they walked past the cabin could be clearly heard.

The food we had during the cruise was always good, but seldom really special. Service in the Britannia restaurant ranged between satisfactory and excellent, depending where you sat and which waiters served you. We were lucky to have some really friendly table companions for dinner. Talking to other passengers around the ship, some thought the food and service was amazing, but a number said that it wasn’t as good as they get on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. I can’t comment on the food and service in the Princess Grill or Queens Grill, as these venues are of course reserved for passengers in the Princess Grill Suites and Queens Grill Suites. Having said this, I do have customers who travel in these suites, and they always give me very good feedback.

Kings Court is the self-service restaurant; however it appears to have been an ‘after thought’ by the ship’s designers. It is a series of different sized rooms on deck 7, with no real connection, and doesn’t have the feel of a food court.

We tried the afternoon tea in the Queens Room one day, and it was a good experience. A host of white gloved stewards served tea, finger cucumber, salmon, egg and cheese sandwiches, very nice cakes, and scones with jam and cream.

Entertainment was varied throughout the ship, to try and cater for all tastes. Over the four days this included a comedian, a Beatles tribute act, singers, juggler, dance shows, pianists, jazz musicians, a string quartet, quizzes and karaoke. There was also a night club, cinema and Planetarium. During the day there were a number of guest speakers around the ship.

I must say that, unlike many of the modern cruise ships, the QM2 isn’t particularly easy to find your way around at first. She is similar to her predecessor, the QE2, in that there are half decks, dead ends, and strange lay-outs. You can often find yourself one end of the Britannia Restaurant, and to get to the other end you have to go up a deck, along to the next stairs, and then down again.

Cunard wouldn’t be the best option for all passengers, as not everyone wants the formality. While I am happy dressing formally for a few nights in a cruise, I tend to prefer smart casual for the other nights. However, with Cunard gents have to wear a jacket on all nights which aren’t formal, although a tie is optional, and this rule did appear to be well adhered to. When helping my customers decide which cruise they should go on, especially for their first cruise, asking questions about their likes and dislikes is very important. There is a cruise for everyone, and it is important to ensure they go on the right one for them.

Overall it was an enjoyable short break, and it is good to meet new people and spend some time relaxing, and the following information is to give a general feel for what the ship is like.

Ship Facts & Figures – having entered service in 2004, and had a refit in November 2011, QM2 is the largest ship in the Cunard fleet. She is 151,400 gross tons, and carries over 2,600 passengers, and 1,250 crew members.

Accommodation – there are 23 different grades of accommodation, with 1,310 staterooms and suites, spread across 8 of the 12 passenger decks. Ranging from 159 sq ft for a standard inside, up to 2,249 sq ft for a Grand Duplex, the accommodation is split into 3 main categories: -

  • Britannia – this covers inside, outside and balcony stateroom grades AA – ID. Your ensuite stateroom will have a satellite television with film & music channels, fridge, hair dryer, safe direct-dial telephone, fruit basket on request, bathrobe and slippers, nightly turndown service with Chocolate, and 24 hour room service. There are both 220 volt British 3-pin and 110 volt 2-pin sockets. There will also be a half bottle of Bon Voyage wine in your cabin on embarkation day. If you are in an AA Club Balcony you will also have a Pillow Concierge Menu, and a full bottle of wine as opposed to a half bottle
  • Princess Grill – in addition to the Britannia benefits you will also receive a Concierge Service, a full bottle of wine (instead of a half bottle) and fresh strawberries in your cabin on embarkation day, in-suite dining from the Princess Grill Menu, personalised stationery, Atlas, Pillow Concierge Menu, full bathroom with bath and shower, soft terry robes and slippers, and priority embarkation, and exclusive access to The Queens Grill Lounge
  • Queens Grill – in addition to the Princess Grill benefits, you will also receive a Butler service, Champagne with strawberries on embarkation, bar stocked with spirits or wines and soft drinks, pre-dinner canapés, fresh flowers and exclusive access to The Queens Grill Lounge

Dining Options – the main restaurant you dine in is allocated dependent on the grade of accommodation booked for your cruise: -

  • Britannia – two sittings at 6.00pm and 8.30pm
  • Britannia Club – one sitting from 6.30pm to 9.00pm
  • Princess Grill – one sitting from 6.30pm 9.00pm
  • Queens Grill – one sitting from 6.30pm to 9.00pm

Other dining options include 24 hour room service, the Golden Lion Pub, which serves gastro pub-style favourites including Fish & Chips, The Queens Room for white glove afternoon tea service and the Boardwalk Café. Kings Court is a self-service buffet area for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late night buffet. However, during the evening some areas are partitioned off, so that they can offer speciality dining, for a supplement, including offering Italian and pan Asian. Another speciality dining venue, also available at a supplement, is the Todd English Restaurant.

Destinations - QM2 is perhaps best known for being the only ocean liner still offering regular transatlantic voyages between Southampton and New York, and will have made 10 westbound and 10 eastbound voyages by the end of 2014. Also during 2014 you will also be able to book onboard to visit the Norwegian Fjords, North America & Canada, Northern Europe (including the Baltics), Iberia and Canaries, Caribbean, as well as a number of short break mini cruises from Southampton. She will also start the year with her 119 night world voyage.

Onboard Facilities & Entertainment – during the day there are plenty of activities going on to keep you occupied, including art classes, card and board games, dance instruction, an extensive library, deck sports, outdoor swimming pools, whirlpools, spa and fitness centre, Fairways Golf Simulators and the only Planetarium at sea. There will also be a number of lectures and talks given by guest speakers. At night you can choose from a number of bars and lounges, cabaret shows, music recitals, watching movies, ballroom dancing, quizzes, karaoke, the casino and more.

Dress Code – there are now just two dress codes on Cunard, and these are: -

  • Formal – this consists of a tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit and tie for men, and an evening or cocktail dress for ladies, or they may prefer a smart trouser suit
  • Informal – a jacket is required for men, but a tie is optional, and for ladies it would be a cocktail dress, stylish separates or equivalent

There will generally be 3 or 4 formal nights on a 7 night cruise, and 4 on a 14 night cruise. On formal nights if you would prefer to dress more casually you are able to dine in the Kings Court buffet restaurant, and relax in the Winter Garden bar. Children under 18 do not have to adhere to these dress codes, but should dress as smart as possible in line with them.

Children’s Facilities – the minimum age for children to participate in the clubs without a parent or guardian in attendance is 2 years old. However, if your child is aged between 6 months (the minimum age to cruise with Cunard) and 2 years old, then you can take them but will need to stay. The clubs are as follows: -

  • The Play Zone (2 – 7 year olds) – this play area is permanently supervised by qualified early years staff, and activities include arts, crafts, puzzles, books, toys and computer games. There is also a sheltered outdoor play area with equipment such as cars and tricycles. Evening sessions start with activities, and then there is a movie, with cushions and bean bags for them to settle down on. There is a strict sign-in and sign-out procedure, and the children cannot leave the area until they are collected by their parent or guardian, or someone aged at least 18 authorised by them, who must have their shipboard ID with them
  • The Kids Zone (8 – 12 years old) – this area is supervised by Youth Staff, and has games, activities, games consoles, sports activities etc. They will be taken on supervised outings to watch shows in the Royal Court Theatre, and movies on the giant plasma screen. Parents can opt to allow these children to sign themselves in and out if they wish, but the Youth Staff are not then responsible for them once they sign themselves out
  • The Teen Zone (13 – 17 years old) – there is a programme of general activities which are centred around various public rooms onboard, and these can include table tennis, team games and sports, discos, quizzes etc. They will also go to watch the shows in the Royal Court Theatre, and watch films in Connexions.

In addition, there is a night nursery available from 6pm until 11pm, for children aged 12 months to 23 months, on a first come first served basis. Parents are requested to settle them to sleep before leaving the nursery though.

Please note that the exact age groupings can vary sometimes, depending on the number of children onboard for each age group.

General Points

  • The onboard currency used in the shops, bars, salons, restaurants, shore excursions desk etc, is the $US
  • Gratuities for your cabin and restaurant stewards are added to your onboard account. The amounts charged are $11.50 per person per day for Britannia guests, and $13.50 per person per day for Grill guests, including for children, but the amounts charged can be amended at the Purser’s Desk if you wish
  • A service charge of 15% is added to your bar bills
  • Smoking is not allowed inside the ship except for Churchill’s Cigar Lounge, which is reserved for cigar and pipe smokers. From 16th May 2014, smoking is no longer allowed on stateroom balconies, so the other places you can smoke onboard are aft on deck 7, the starboard side aft on deck 8, and on the port side upper level of G32 (nightclub) from 6pm each evening, or when there is inclement weather