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QM2 - Queen Mary 2 - Transatlantic Trip Report

QM2 - Queen Mary 2 - Transatlantic Trip Report

Aug 31st, 2015, 04:58 PM
  #1  
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QM2 - Queen Mary 2 - Transatlantic Trip Report

I've been asked to write a trip report so here goes! My husband and I had such a busy summer that we just needed to get away, anywhere. Our daughter was to go with us so I looked at some last minute options but found that I was too late to find any triple accommodations...

...until I got an email about a sale on a Cunard Transatlantic crossing on the QM2! (Note: they don't call this a cruise, although I do). This was a one day FLASH sale for balcony cabins at $799 per person, less than the cost of an oceanview cabin. I called, they had a triple available and voila - we booked that afternoon. No planning - nada! (I checked the price later and some balcony cabins ran around $2000 so we were very happy.)

I'm going to admit that I wasn't actually too thrilled about the prospect of this cruise. I had read that the average age was about 70 and that there weren't too many activities on board. I read about lectures on board. It honestly sounded a bit boring because I love being busy on cruises. However, my husband has always wanted to go on a Transatlantic cruise on Cunard so I indulged him once I saw the sale. The point here is that I was wrong! We all loved this ship. There were people of all ages, even a good number of kids and younger parents. We fit right in and loved this week.

We also added on a few days at the end in England and booked a flight to Newark using air miles. I'll switch over to the Europe forum once I get to that point.

To start, we drove our car to Newark Airport, parked at ABC Parking (which worked out great at around $8/day) and booked a car service, Carmel Limo, to take us from a terminal to the Red Hook pier in Brooklyn. They picked us up in a decent town car and drove the 3 of us for an hour to the terminal for the price of $88 including tax, tolls and tip. That was an amazing price. (The cruise line transfers from Newark would have cost us $180 and would have gotten us to the dock much later.) The driver was prompt, polite and friendly and I would definitely use them again.

https://www.carmellimo.com

Drop off was standard as with any other cruise line. No additional amenities, not even cookies or lemonade as with Carnival, no champagne as we boarded as with Celebrity. I had heard that this would be fairly hoity toity but not so far. Everyone looked to be fairly regular folks...just like us...with the exception of the man in front of us in line. He had these pale blue felted loafer type shoes with purple edging and pinkish-lavender monograms and was carrying a Vuitton bag for wifey. Presidential suite material if I ever saw it. I'm sure he appreciated the harpist in the lobby as he passed by.

In our pre-cruise documents, we were given a boarding time of 3:30...which we promptly ignored. We always arrive early so we can have lunch on board, which we did again. We arrived at the terminal at about 10:30, thus avoiding the lines, waited a bit in the waiting area and boarded underneath the "Leaving Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit!" sign near the front of the line about 12:15. No one batted an eye that we didn't adhere to our specific boarding time.

There were no crowds in the buffet which was good because the tables were scattered about in little nooks, many by the widows with spectacular views of NY. The food was typical buffet fare which we enjoyed. Since this was a British line though, we did have a laugh at the massive number of tea bags on display. Think Costco size boxes...times 10! Tea lovers (like me) - it was tea heaven!

After lunch, we wandered around the ship and went to our cabin where we were greeted by a chilled half bottle of champagne (finally!), compliments of the captain, went out on deck to enjoy the wooden lounge chairs with thick cushions to enjoy the sparkling view of the NYC skyline. It was a perfect day for a view.

We took our champagne out on deck to enjoy the sail-away party (I didn't expect typical cruise type music but it was a great band XtaSea) and toasted the Big Apple as we passed the Statue of Liberty, pulled under the Verrazano Narrows suspension Bridge, past Coney Island and out of sight of land for a week. Really the perfect start and we were already unwinding.
kwren is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 02:36 AM
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Sounds great - always wanted to to this --waiting for more!
Rhea58 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 04:58 AM
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Great start. I will follow. .
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 11:57 AM
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Looking forward to reading this. We did the west to east crossing about 4 years ago on the Queen Victoria. It was wonderful.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 12:40 PM
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Hi Again - I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed the QM2. I am definitely not hoity toity… and have been on the ship 3 times. (Sort of think of it as "my" ship.) The last time for 23 days (long story)…I think Cunard does itself a disservice with some of its advertising. I became friends with a mother and daughter on board. The daughter,( zippy, financial professional), said she had expected a Ritz experience and got more like a Hilton experience. I suppose traveling in the Grills is "ritzy" however. I have a friend who lasted one day out of NY on a Carnival cruise so guess "Hilton" isn't so bad.

You are one of the few people I know of who didn't complain about the
Kings Court. Of course, your report has just started -
Grandma is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 03:48 PM
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Hi Grandma, and everyone else. Thanks for coming along on the ride!

No, I'm not going to complain about Kings Court! We enjoyed the food for the most part and it was always pretty quiet when we were there during normal meal times. We were expecting a zoo as, again, that's what I had read beforehand and so were pleasantly surprised.

One tiny negative about them though was that there were no chocolate croissants to be had in Kings Court. When I first asked if they ever had any, I got a variety of stories, some of which changed during the conversation. Finally I was told they were only served in the Grills. What were we, steerage?

So I ordered them from Room Service. Problem solved!
kwren is offline  
Sep 1st, 2015, 04:16 PM
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Thanks for the tip!
Grandma is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2015, 09:29 AM
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I've been trying to figure out how to approach this trip report. A day to day report won't be too interesting it because one day sort of ran into the next. Hopefully, dividing it into categories will be a good idea. If not, I guess I'll figure that out too late.

Because we had wanted to know for packing purposes, the temps in August weren't hot - maybe in the low to mid 70's possibly up to the high 70's one day. The first 3 days were overcast and the other days sunny. The ocean was amazing - calm and flat all week. Soothing, mesmerizing. Tiny whitecaps here and there. I could have watched it all day.

ACTIVITIES

So I've sailed on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, once on Princess and once on Disney. With the exception of perhaps Celebrity, these were usually pretty flashy cruises with 'bigger is better' entertainment, lights, noise, excitement. Long lines to shake Mickey's hand. Hairy chest and belly flop contests. Loud music. One similarity was the "bargain" tables lined up outside the rather high end shops.

Cunard was calm, refined, sometimes downright elegant, but people weren't for the most part dressed up during the day. The public areas were rarely crowded. It was relaxing. The activities followed a set formula most days. Various computer workshops, bridge classes, casino tournaments. You could usually count on a lecture at 10 and another at 11. There were ballroom and line dance classes every day. Of course a spa and gym. You could pay for watercolor classes or wine tastings. They had several fruit carving demos and a couple of bingo sessions. There was a needlework and knitting group if you brought your projects along. My impression was that they tried to offer what the other cruise lines offer, but only in small snippets. There were a lot of classical music combos playing around the ship.

Various halls had little upholstered chairs lined up along the walls between large picture windows. Another hall had a line of game tables. (Unfortunately, there was a sign saying that board games were no longer available due to health precautions.) Luckily, we brought 2 small games so did use a table one day, but we were the only ones there. Most people seemed to be sitting out on the deck chairs watching for dolphins, whales, fish - anything - but which on this trip, never materialized. It sure was nice sitting out there though. A snooze was not out of the question.

A big draw that I did not take advantage of were some acting workshops. I talked to some people who did give them a try and they really enjoyed them.

But what we liked was the Planetarium. Yes, on a ship! Getting tickets not so much. Tickets are free but due to the smaller size of the seating area in the theater, they are limited. Here is my tip: There were 2 shows, the first shown for 2 or 3 days and then they switched to the other. Forget getting tickets for the first day of a show unless you like to get there extremely early - they had all been given out within the first 5 minutes. We were there early and still didn't get any. We got there early the next day and by 9:15 they still had a lot left. Wait for the second day. By the way, we saw one of these same shows in the NYC Planetarium. We remembered it because it was narrated by Tom Hanks. That one was better than the first one, narrated by Harrison Ford if you would only be going to one. Second tip: do not sit in the back row - those seats do not recline. Do not sit in the first few rows - you have to lean too far back to see anything. Center of whatever row is obviously best. Get to the theater 15 - 20 minutes early to get the best seats. That's when people started to line up.

This theater also hosted the lectures which were interesting but finally made me feel like I should take notes because they were serious topics, and recent movies. I went to several lectures the first 3 days, but finally stopped in order to spend time out on the deck.

Another interesting activity was the galley tour, which did not need tickets. Again, we were told to line up early so we did. This however, wasn't as good as other tours I've been on. We were handed a paper describing what is done and we were sent through the kitchen. A couple of workers were stationed to direct the flow of people, but no one told us about anything and we didn't have time to stop and read about the various areas. Not very informative but it was fun anyway, especially to see the kitchen escalators. The end of the tour ended in the dining room where we could see chefs making sushi, which we could eat, another with a huge tray of beautiful hors d'oeuvres for us and another chef carving fruit. The head chef was there to answer any questions. Just like the entire week, very low key.
kwren is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2015, 08:53 PM
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I suppose that the whole idea of a TA cruise is to relax so it seems their activities are in keeping with that theme.

Personally I don't like so many sea days but many people do.

Did they have a band by the pool? If so I'll bet it was not too loud.
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:55 AM
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We're doing a 15-day transatlantic in November and for us it's a good mix of sea days and ports.

Celebrity Eclipse, Southampton to Boston, then New York overnight, Bermuda overnight, Port Canaveral and Miami. Easy way to visit friends in New York and Boston.

I have lots of reading planned, trivia quizzes, films, a massage or two, for us the sea days will go quickly.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2015, 12:37 PM
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jacketwatch - I thought all those sea days would drive me crazy but then I realized that I have gotten to the point that the Caribbean ports have started looking alike and sometimes I don't even get off the ship. I then remembered many a port visit when we got up early to beat the breakfast crowd at the buffet, got on line with hundreds of other eager people to catch an early tender, spent a full day off the ship, rushed back at the end to quickly grab a shower and get ready for formal night. Whew! This was so much more relaxing and stress free!

I actually didn't go to the main pool because it wasn't that hot out, but I think that most days they had a band out there from 1 - 2:30. That was the same band as at sail-away and they weren't overbearing that day. We rather enjoyed them.

Cathinjoetown - that sounds like a very nice itinerary. I would like to try that one...and I do like Celebrity if you have never tried them.

One thing that amazed me was that, for us, this cruise was the 'destination' (except for a couple of days in London which we tacked on at the end just for fun since we were there), but most people we met were using it as transportation to Europe instead of flying. Some went this way because they were bringing their dogs with them (funny how one person with a "service dog" for medical problems, thus allowing him to keep the dog in his cabin instead of in the kennel, never once had the dog with him any of the many times we ran into him. Granted, I may not understand all that being a service dog entails but it did seem curious.) Many of those we met who were using the cruise as their mode of transport to Europe were going on to 1 or 2, or even 3, other 'typical' cruises within Europe, and then boarding this same ship to go back to the US weeks later. I had never heard of or considered doing something like so it opened up a whole new world of possibility. Well, until I realized that maybe I'd rather spend all my time in Paris or Rome instead of in the middle of the ocean, that is. It must be nice to have so much time to do this. Someday maybe I will have the luxury...

I forgot to mention above that one night there was a 3D version of Madame Butterfly. That was unusual to say the least but we did enjoy it. They also had the typical Bingo and art auctions which we did not attend.
kwren is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2015, 03:42 PM
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kwren…. have you ever posted on Cruise Critic? I'm certain your report would be welcomed there…. especially on the Boards.
Grandma is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2015, 04:55 PM
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It's nice to have a band that's not too loud. On the NCL Getaway last May you had to shout to talk.

Yes it does seem like many Caribbean ports are very much similar though I do like their vibe.

Nice report, still following. ,
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 6th, 2015, 06:30 AM
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CABINS

Because of the sale we got, we were placed in the next to last cabin at the back of Deck 4. We were told that it had a "sheltered" balcony, but the agent wasn't really getting her point across (perhaps intentionally). I will try to do it justice: A normal cabin with a good-sized balcony. That's the easy part. Picture enclosing the outer end of the balcony with a metal wall and then cutting a big picture window opening in it. Voila! We had the air and view but no glass. The only negative was that when we were sitting, we could not see out except for the sky. We were looking at the metal. it served it's purpose though and was probably easier to maintain being lower on the ship. Upper balconies were typical with the glass enclosures.

Cabin was nicely appointed but nothing out of the ordinary. We were happy with it. Very nice shampoos etc. in larger than hotel-size bottles. The steward had placed the water glasses and ice in the refrigerator but the couch opening up into third bed prevented us from accessing them at night. I kept trying to leave them out but he continued to move them all back in the refrig. No biggie. I also asked him for wine glasses which he provided. We didn't know that we should keep them in the room though because we never did this on previous cruises. One night we poured wine, went out and about, went to dinner and left the glasses in the restaurant. However, there were no replacement glasses. When I asked for some more, the attendant got agitated and said we should not have taken them elsewhere and he had to get more from a bar and didn't want to do that. I apologized, but later, despite being upset, he did get us more glasses. I was afraid to take them anywhere in case I forgot to bring them back so we just used the water glasses, which he said could be left anywhere on the ship instead.

There were no towels animals on this cruise, but we did get nightly chocolates on the beds. Better than that though, one night we came back to the most amazing plate of piles of chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries and a very tall delicate and colorful pulled sugar "tower" in the middle of the plate. Keep the towel monkeys and stingrays - this was me all the way!!! Never saw anything like it!
kwren is offline  
Sep 6th, 2015, 03:01 PM
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Who needs that kind of shelter?

I don't feel that the attendant should have gotten agitated with you about the glasses. A calm explanation would have been more appropriate. I mean you are the customer after all.

That chocolate treat was a very nice touch. .
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 6th, 2015, 05:27 PM
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Have been on the ship several times and never had such a treat. Do you suppose the steward offered it as an apology for being so pissy about
the glasses? -

The mother and daughter I mentioned above had a sheltered balcony and liked it… they had breakfast out there every morning. I've always been in cabins with balconies… but I appreciated the light more than anything.
In the Carribean or a warm climate it might be a real plus.
Grandma is offline  
Sep 7th, 2015, 03:48 AM
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It didn't matter so much about the balcony being sheltered - there wasn't that much to sea (pun intended) anyway!

Jacketwatch - I agree with you about how the cabin attendant handled the situation. He even told us he wouldn't replace the glasses, but he ended up getting us more anyway. There was another time we took the glasses out of the cabin after that. We had them at dinner and I remember our waiter removing mine from the table once it was empty. I had to quickly ask for it back. My husband put his under his chair. We had to get those darned glasses back to the cabin!

Grandma - I am still amazed at that sugar tower and chocolates. The pulled sugar structure looked like beautiful seaweed - colorful, delicate and at least a foot tall. It was red, free, yellow and clear with bubbles in the sugar with the "leaves" swirling up and around. There were 20 pieces total of 5 types of truffles...and 4 chocolate covered strawberries. Anyway, it didn't occur to me at the time that this might have been about the wine glasses because there was more recent (minor) incident on our minds at the time. It would have been perfect timing for that.

That night at dinner, my daughter found a piece of plastic in her ice cream. We told the waiter who immediately brought over the head waiter. Next thing we know, the poor chef had been dragged out to apologize. We kept telling him over and over that it was OK. When we got to the cabin, there was that beautiful plate. However, in retrospect, it probably didn't have anything to do with the plastic incident because two days later, my daughter received a plate of chocolate covered strawberries with a formal letter from the food and beverage manager addressed to her apologizing for the plastic. It went on to talk about Cunard's standards, the strict food safety policy, how everyone was trained in food hygiene, etc.

We were feeling pretty spoiled by the time we got off the ship.
kwren is offline  
Sep 10th, 2015, 04:38 AM
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DINING

I mentioned before that we liked the food on this ship. We ate in the regular dining room, not in the Grills. There were a few isolated meals that were just not good (what sticks in my mind was the 4 x 4 flat dry piece of fish accompanied by the cold mashed potatoes), but overall we were happy. On the flip side, I ordered grilled salmon and it was out of this world. We didn't know until halfway through the cruise that there was a set menu you could order off of every night if you didn't care for the nightly menu. It wasn't in writing - you just had to know to ask for steak, chicken, Ceasar salad, etc. The waiters didn't tell us about it so I'm not sure how you would know other than hearing about it in passing. (Other cruise lines print the permanent menu on the left side and the nightly menu on the right. Seems like a good idea.) Our waiters were nice and the service was very good.

There were 3 formal nights, one culminating with the Masquerade Ball, thus accounting for the large suitcases we used this trip, despite my dislike of large suitcases when traveling. Formal nights were truly formal - I didn't see any casual dressers in the dining rooms on those nights. My favorite formal outfits seemed to be the men in kilts. Memories of my junior year of college in Edinburgh Scotland. Nothing like a beautiful kilt to stimulate the appetite. But I digress...

The buffet, as I mentioned before, was also enjoyable for the most part. When we got on, there was an enormous roast beef being carved. It was delicious. (Ignoring the other current post stating that beef should not be eaten on a cruise!) They had fresh sushi out at lunch, wonderful fish and chips, and one day a special crepe station with chefs lined up making crepes to order. Another day had a special French pastry station at lunch. (The regular desserts were OK but nothing to write home about, thank goodness .) Of course we enjoyed the beautiful chocolate buffet one evening at 10 pm. (Very civilized not to be at midnight!!) They had a huge ice sculpture of the ship with interior lighting which was very impressive.

We used room service more on this cruise than ever before...and of course used it to get the chocolate croissants as I mentioned above. Here is a tip. If you order bacon, you get the British style bacon, more like ham. If you want American bacon, specify it on the order form. The first day we ordered bacon, 2 of us were ordering it, so we put '2' for 2 servings and got 2 pieces. The next time, we wanted more, so we put '4', figuring 2 pieces each. That time we got the biggest pile of bacon imaginable - I guess a different kitchen person interpreted that as 4 servings. Killed me to waste bacon, but it was just too much to handle.

Our favorite daily activity was afternoon tea. Not just one afternoon like all the other cruises we have been on (if they had it at all, that is), but EVERY afternoon! I was expecting a small area at the back of the restaurant as we were accustomed to, but instead, tea was served in a huge ballroom filled with small tables, and every one was occupied. There was usually a string trio or quartet and one day there was also dancing. My favorite part was once most of us were seated - all of a sudden, lines of waiters formally dressed in white waistcoats and white gloves, each carrying a silver teapot on a silver tray, came marching out on either side of the room. Each dispersed to his/her section of the room to serve that 'Afternoon Tea', although you could order Earl Grey or Darjeeling instead if you preferred. Then the food! First trays of tiny crustless sandwiches. Very proper and served with silver tongs. Then the next wave was piles of scones and individual containers of clotted cream (our dinner companions said it wasn't the typical cream served with scones - we loved it though). These scones weren't heavy hockey puck-type scones. They were light and fluffy and perfect, especially being served from those silver trays with silver tongs. One waiter made us laugh by serving the little plates of the cream with the tongs (quite the juggling act - I would have had those tongs right in the cream!), but the others we just picked them up. Lastly the trays of desserts just kept on arriving. They were delicious, but it was the chocolate teacup which impressed! A small cup and saucer made out of chocolate and filled with chocolate mousse. To. Die. For. Some people didn't even realize you could eat the cup it was so perfectly made. The next day, they topped that by serving a chocolate paisley shaped cup filled with chocolate mousse. Yup. Ate that too. Each was topped with a square of white chocolate printed with the Cunard logo. Amazing. The food and tea just kept on coming. And then it was almost time for dinner.

And yes. You may have noticed by now that I am a Chocoholic.
kwren is offline  
Sep 10th, 2015, 08:14 AM
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I'm reading this at lunch time…… now I'm hungry!!
Grandma is offline  
Sep 10th, 2015, 08:37 AM
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Sounds just wonderful! I've thought about using a transatlantic cruise one way, flying biz the other way for one of our European trips.
Kathie is offline  

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