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Cruise Review: Queen Mary 2 July 06

Friday 14th July 2006

After a very long wait since booking this trip over 12 months ago, the day has finally arrived when I get to board the QM2 with my Mum and show her this magnificent ship.  I had viewed her not long after she was launched and made up my mind that I had to make sure my Mum gets t sail on this magnificent ship.

So at 9.15am our mini coach arrives and me and Mr C load up with the luggage that I finally got around to packing at the 12th hour, and head down the road to collect Mum and Jack.  Mum comes toddling down the driveway supported by her new black diamante walking stick – that she has now decided she likes, because it makes her feel like the Queen Mum.

We know we are going to be earlier getting to Southampton than our embarkation information suggests we arrive, but when have I ever been one to play by the rules?  We arrive at the QE2 Terminal at 11.45am (we were asked to arrive at 3.30pm by Cunard)  Checkin was open and deserted.  We were checked in by two very nice ladies, and it was quite a lengthy process as one of the checkin ladies was in training.  Everything was checked and double checked, credit cards were authorised, and security photo’s taken.  We were allocated a wheelchair assistant to push mum from this point which was much better as we didn’t have to struggle through the security scanning etc with her.  We were taken by lift up to the waiting lounge but it was deserted.  Wheelchair man wanted to play it by the book and parked mum up in the ‘wheelchair spaces’  but Im having none of it and insist he follows me through to ‘clip board woman’ at the door.  Well, this clipboard woman must have been standing in for someone because she was far to pleasant for the position of ‘mighty clipboard carrier’ and she let us embark straight away!  Not before we agreed to the embarkation photo though.  Just after mid day and we are in our cabin!

On embarkation, Mum had her first wow moment at the exact same point that I originally made the decision she had to come on this ship – just along from the Lobby towards stairwell C.  The vast open corridor with its high ceiling and beautifully carpeted deck, not to mention the sculpted walls – I swear I have been on ships smaller than this corridor, so no wonder it takes your breath away!

We go up to deck 4 around the corner and there is our cabin, and wow what a perfect inside cabin it is.  Very light and airy but sophisticated with a kind of 50’s elegance.  Light wood fittings edged in black with black and gold soft furnishings.  The complimentary bottle of champers also looks very inviting!  Very well laid out and designed, probably no bigger than a P&O cabin but décor makes it appear bigger.  We only have the cheap seats on a D6 inside cabin but we couldn’t have wished for any better.  The bed is huge (and very comfy) two bedside units with a good size drawer 2 shelves below.  A dressing table and large interactive TV that does all sorts of weird and wonderful things.  A fridge stocked with mineral water, coke, diet coke, sprite, & ginger beer. 4 decent sized drawers that are deep but not particularly wide. And a cupboard full of shelves. Plenty of hanging space and hangers although my dresses are too long to hang nicely.  The bathroom is well planned and beautifully fitted. Nice long shower cubical.  Bathrobes hang on the back of the door and Canyon Ranch Spa toiletries are ready for use.

But no time to waste in cabins we have a ship to explore and things to do.  We collect Mum from next door who still hasn’t got over being onboard so early.  We cant get her out of the cabin without her gasping at all the lovely carpets.  Everywhere we go she is ‘oooh look at the carpet’  We leave the lift at deck 7 and land at Kings Court – the buffet eating areas.  La Travioli tempts us into  a lunch of pizza, salad, and a scrummy trifle.    A stroll along through the Carvery and Asian cusine and we are stopped in our tracks by the beautiful Winter Garden.  A tranquil tropical garden lounge.  The bar is just opening and it would be rude to not order a drink so we take a seat next to the waterfall.  The drinks look a scary price because they are in dollars but I think they were decided to be ok once the exchange rate had been worked out.  I had a vodka and coke which was large and had plenty of vodka in so no complaints from me.

Not long before we are joined by Amanda and Mick, so more drinks are partaken in!  Be rude not too!  Lynchburg Lemonades for the ladies this time – mmmm nice!`  It’s a glorious sunny day outside and after a stroll along the prom we head for the Terrace Bar.  I have never seen so many people sunbathing in Southampton, its just like being in the med.  Now as its sailing day, we think Long Island Iced Teas would be in order!  Oh yes, well worth the anticipation.  By the time Cruisa and Jules and co embark and join us we are on our second Long Island iced tea ‘hic’  A few more beverages on deck in the sunshine follow, but as its nearing safety drill time we decide to be good and head to the cabin for life jackets.  By the time we get back to the cabin our cases have arrived (well they have  had a few hours as we have been out sampling the bar menu)  so we quickly unpack, but by this time its gone 5 and I reckon Arcadia must be due to sail past, so we run upstairs armed with camera.  And there she was, in glorious sunshine just approaching alongside.  What a fantastic sight.  She made my heart thump anyway, and when they had the blasting of the horns session ‘well’ what needs to be said?

Oh well to late for safety drill – oops!

So its up for the sailaway party on the aft deck.  What a fab band are playing, why cant P&O have somebody this good and this lively?  None of that cheap and nifty P&O style sailaway champagne either.  Oh no, we are served little bottles of Verve Cliquet at $6 per bottle so reasonable and nice!  Saila way from QE2 terminal is never the same, but it was good.  The wind is picking up now so we retreat to the Golden Lion to discuss the evenings plans.  After yet another drink, we decide we only have 30 minutes to get ready for pre dinner drinks (LOL a lot of drinking going on have you noticed!)  But we are showered and back on parade in the chart room ontime.

We just have time for one drink before we make the decision to go to dinner at 8.45pm.  We know full well that Mum will be spitting feathers if we don’t turn up on time.  Our table is on the lowers level, right in the back corner, in a small annexe.  Cant say it’s the best of tables because as we are in the corner it means that half the table has to face the wall.  But, hey at least I get to make an entrance as I have to pass the entire length of the restaurant lol.  Salvador is very pleasant and serves us quickly.  I had the beef and all main courses are plated which for me did leave me wanting some more veg, but other than that it was very nice.

After dinner its karaoke in the Golden Lion.  We got a nice table in the corner with big comfy leather chairs which turned out to be ideal, as Mr C needed a sleep by now.  How he slept through Mick and Jules rendition of ‘Babe’ I don’t know lol.  Jules was on a mission and she was soon back over to our table to tell us she had nominated me and Amanda to be her backing singers to the ‘shoop shoop song’ Well we thought we could handle that, the crowds went wild when we did a bit of a dance too!  Some very good karaoke acts, but not as good as the pianoist/singer that followed.  He was extremely good, so we finioshed off the night in there.  We woke Mr C and dragged him up to G32 the nightclub, just to see what was going on.  It was jumping in there, but we just didn’t have the energy so decided it was time for bed.  We left
Juliet threatening to kill the DJ because he wouldn’t play a Killer track for her!  Well, Ive never heard of them so there’s no point hanging around to help her out.  The long drinking all day drinking session was giving her some dutch courage and I didn’t fancy the DJ’s chances so we made our exit.

Saturday 15th July – At Sea

I had the best nights sleep in ages.  The bed is sooo comfy.  We were woken at 8.00 by the steward with our breakfast that Mr C ordered in his wisdom the night before. Cornflakes, full English, hot toast and jam, Danish, muffins, orange juice and tea.  I sat up in bed while he served. Then as soon as we had eaten enough we turned off the lights and went back to sleep until 11.00am!  I woke up and had my juice and muffin – perfect.

It’s a lovely sunny day outside but its breezy. We find Mum and Jack a nice spot on prom deck then go for a little wander around.  We went up on top deck where there is two pools and Jacuzzis and the most open deck space I have ever seen, but its deserted!  Not a sole about!  What a waste.  I have nicked named it the ‘lost city’ up there.  So it was back to collect Mum and Jack and take them to the photo shop and jewellery shops.  Jack bought his embarkation photo and the restaurant photo, but although they were nice I refused.  They were $27.50 each!!!  So overpriced and then he tries the hard sell with the frames and photo albums.  Outrageous!!

Lunch time now so we decide to eat in the Golden Lion.  The fish and chips are highly recommended and we all really enjoyed it. Not long before we are joined by Amanda and Mick which means its time to sample todays cocktail of the day ‘Tequila Sunset’  then we sample the vodka and anything else we fancy.

3.30pm and its time for tea!! LOL.  So we collect Mum and head to the grandeur of the Queens room.  Theres a queue, but mum is having none of it and jumps the queue because she can!  She has decided to abandon us as we are waiting for a table for 6, and decides she will be ok with a table for two.  Soon after I spot a table and we are in.  White gloved stewards flock around us with tea, sandwiches, cakes, scones, more tea, more cakes, more scones – they just kept serving us.  Perfect, cant fault it!

Decide we need some fresh air and brace ourselves for the chilly wind, but the sun is shining and we jump in the Jacuzzi to keep warm.  Fantastic!  I just chill out and watch the ships wake behind us.

Captains Cocktail in the Queens Room at 7.30 until 8.45.  Well how many drinks do you think we can fit in in that space of time?  We did ok, didn’t over do it but we had what we wanted.  Of course we didn’t have to stay for the full hour and a quarter but it seemed rude not to.  We entered dinner via the Grand staircase, well it seemed a shame to not maximise my black n white gown to the full lol.  Dinner was superb.  Once we figured out what everything was it was all to die for.

After dinner we retired back to the Queens Lounge for the ball.
we counted 6 male social hosts, all over the hill, but the ladies obviously love it because they were never off the dance floor.  The big band played all night and there was a very good male singer whose name escapes me.  A little later the professional dancers came on and did the ‘come Dancing’ bit. Excellent.  The band finished at 12.15 so it was time for our carriages.  Well it should have been, but we thought a stroll to the Commodore Club right at the front of the ship was called for.  Very relaxing and a perfect way to finish off the evening.  But you cant go home on a Saturday night without a curry, so it was back along to the Kings Court for a curry, hot chocolates and cookies.  Now we should really have gone to bed at this point as it was 3.00am but there was such a lot of activity outside as we entered the River Elbe, we just had to go out for a nosey.  There were boats, and lights in the sea marking the navigational lanes, the moon was lighting up the sky and there was this funny bendy cloud that made the sky looked curved! (or was that the intake of Martini cocktails and southern comfort?)

Sunday 16th July – Hamburg – QM2 Day!

Yes, the Germans were so excited by our visit today that it is officially called QM2 day.  Thousands of people are being bused in just to come and look at QM2!

We are woken by the loudest chirpiest steward at 8.00am as he delivers our breakfast – doesn’t he know I had a drink or three last night?  Mr C had the full English again, while I chose the healthy option of fruit platter.  We also had juice, tea, toast and pastries – yummy.

As the good people of Hamburg seemed so keen to see us we decided to get up and go ashore early. Wow!  How many people on the quay side?  The place is rammed.  They have look out towers set up, food stalls and attractions, and thousands of people are just peering through the high security fence at us.  The film crews are all there and they are wandering around the ship all day.  Groups of travel agents and clients are on and off the ship all day.

We took the shuttle bus into town.  Very nice place but it was closed as it was Sunday, and we had Mum in the chair with us so a quick tour around the square and we were back on the bus to the ship.

The ship is deserted as all the German passengers disembarked this morning, so we have the decks to ourselves for a while, but its so hot – even too hot for me.  It was simply baking.  I tried quite a few cocktails but it didn’t help to cool me down any.  We fetched lunch from Kings Court.  I had oriental chicken from the Lotus and a made to order sandwich from the Kings Galley.

I kept standing under the shower to cool off but I was defeated and had to retreat to the coolness of the cabin.

After a cooling shower I went on another explore of the ship. I walked right around prom deck each lap is just under a third of a mile. I took a look out the front where there are these propeller type sculptures rising out of the deck.  I found the library, which is the largest library at sea!  But I was more interested in the cabinet of shipping memorabilia and all the ship books and jigsaws etc that was for sale in the shop.

We took pre dinner drinks very early in the Chart Room this evening, entertainment provided by the string quartet, so that we could go onto eat early in Kings Court because we wanted to see this spectacular sailaway that the Captain had promised us.  We hadn’t realised that the Italian and Asian Restaurants became waiter service with reservations during the evening, but it looked very nice with candles etc on the tables.  But we chose the Carvery.  I had fillet steak cooked to order and I have never been to a restaurant and had such tender steak!  I also had to try the lasagne, chicken, carrots, baked new potatoes etc. We sat on the opposite side of the restaurant to everyone else and it was a very civilised evening meal.

Sailaway party was up on the Terrace Pool deck and the sun was still hot and very bright.  We managed to get a table and sampled a couple more cocktails.  Every inch of aft railings was packed with people and we realised we weren’t going to see a lot so we head back down to prom deck.  The shore side of the deck was very busy along the rails all the way down so we decide to go to the other side overlooking the river.  Ha its empty over there and we get a nice pitch next to the rails.  The Captains slowly moves away and begins a long tight turn.  The police boats turn up to stop all the little boats and keep them all in the little basins out of the way.  The thousands of people ashore that had been at the festival along side the dock all day must have had such a spectacular sight as the ship turned and the bow went head to head with them.  Once we were fully turned the small ships and boats came alongside and the floatila began! 

Wow Wow and wow – you had to be there as the sight was unbelievable!  I have never been part of anything like it in all my years at sea.  There were party boats, paddle steamers, barges, tugs, speed boats – hundreds of them! We were told to expect 25 000 people lining the river to watch us, but there must have been hundreds of thousand!  Every single inch of the river edge was packed with people everywhere.  People were on bridges, on roofs. In bars, on balconies and every path and road way was a sea of people!  It was a spectacular sight for us but it must have been even better for them!  We stood on deck for a couple of hours and we were still being chased by steamers and boats full of partying people blasting there horns and often getting a return blast back from us.  It left us all speechless and none of us were expecting any of this.  Cunard obviously knew that today was going to be QM2 day so they missed out by not marketing it in the brochure, because any shipping enthusiast would have wanted to be a part of what we experienced tonight.

We hadn’t had a drink for at least an hour so we head up to the Commadore Club for a ringside seat to enjoy the rest of the view, and we are not let down.  Even though we have left the main town and appear to be cruising past the countryside, there are stil people lining the river and partying letting off fireworks and flashing lights at us.  The whole place must have been in total gridlock as they all tried to make the journey home.

We partook in a couple of drinks but the eyelids were in fighting mode tonight and we headed for bed at 12.30.  Well we headed that way, but we needed to go via Kings Court and the hot chocolate and cookies were calling us.

Monday 17th July – At sea

Breakfast in bed is delivered today at 8.00am!  They just don’t seem to take any notice of the time ion the card.  But it doesn’t bother me because I sit up and eat it then lay back down for another sleep.  At 10.30am we decide a Spa session is in order so we head for the Canyon Ranch Spa.  We checkin and a day pass is $29 per person allowing you to return as many times as you want during the day.  We are the only ones in there so its worth it, just to have the place to ourselves (especially as Im sure the girl only charged us for one of us LOL)  The spa pool was lovely with a stand up Jacuzzi and the lie down bed type Jacuzzi, as well as all sorts of water jets and waterfalls.  There is one Jacuzzi, which is nice to have to ourselves too.  In the Thermal suite there was a sauna, steam room, herbal steam room, foot spa’s and tropical showers.  We had a couple of hours in there but I was starting to feel claustraphobic so we decided to leave.  In the changing room was a free supply of Canyon Ranch products so I smother myself in as many as I can before dressing and leaving.  On leaving the changing room I noticed the relaxation room which would have been nice to have been pointed out to us as it had lovely comfy chairs and tea coffee and juice machines. I could have chilled out in there and looked out to sea with a drink and perhaps returned to the spa.

But its lunch time anyway so it has to be the Golden Lion for the legendary fish and chips.  Mick & Amanda, Dave & Jules had just arrived so we took a seat with them.  Me and Amanda try the cocktail of the day but we are not liking todays.  Its supposed to be some sort of trendy thing with mint leaves in, but they put too much fresh mint in for us.  The others head for the Planitarium for a lie down film viewing of the stars but is not for me.  Besides its baking outside in glorious hot sunshine.

We head for top deck and at last Me & Amanda are satisfied when we find the dog kennels after 3 days of searching.  We also find the burger bar, which could be better signposted.

Its such a glorious day we decide to partake in a bit of deck quoits, and the girls absolutely thrash the boys.  Must have been the4 drinks that aided our ability LOL.

Afterwards we consider afternoon tea in Queens room but we cant take anymore food.  After a bit of a wander around taking a few last photos we head for an afternoon nap.

The beds are so comfy you cant help but sleep, and when we wake up Mr C ordered us a tray of tea and cakes.  Wow!  6 little cakes between two of us, and one of them was a strawberry tart which had to be mine.

It’s the last evening so we have to pack, but it doesn’t take long and we are soon out booted and suited ready for the last evening.  We had arranged to meet Amanda and Mick in the Winter Garden for our last pre dinner drink and Jules and co are in there too.  Its such a lovely evening that we have to take a stroll along the prom in the sun.  The sea is like glass with only a few ripples as we glide along the coast of England.

Dinner doesn’t let us down – Spring Roll, Loin of Lamb, and a Grand Marnier soufflé.  Jerome the Head Waiter comes for his little chat to see how our day had been.  He has been excellent at his job and makes every table feel special.  He tells us that it has been reported there were 450 000 people in Hamburg last night lining the riverbank to see us depart!  We still haven’t got over the spectacular send off (I don’t think we ever will) and I think we will have to do it again.

After dinner we have the choice of the Ascot Ball, Kareoke in the Golden Lion, or there was Rock at the Opera in the theatre.  We chose the karaoke but it was too loud and when she announced that there was going to be a German version we decided to leave!

It was a long walk but we headed for the Commadore Club.  We have noticed that it gets very smokey in here since all the Germans embarked yesterday, and so we go all the way around to the port side by the pianoist.  He is very loud and starts to annoy us, but then he starts being silly and playing tunes that might upset the germans so we find him quite amusing LOL.  He also played 26 versions of Happy Birthday when somebody asked him if he could play it for their friend – he was very amusing for a cocktail pianoist.  I had great fun trying all the Martini Cocktails that looked to my liking – I didn’t try the one with an oily pratt in it though LOL.  Oh we can amuse ourselves with the simplest of things though!  They are served so nicely as well, lovely glasses and shaken at the table and poured at the table.

The evening just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Kings Court for pizza, hot chocolate and cookies.  The boys have their curry bless em.

Tuesday 18th July – Southampton

Although we have warned Mum not to panic like she normally does on Southampton morning (she fears we will sleep in and miss disembarkation!)  she is banging on our door from 6.45am!!  Doesn’t she realise we have not been in bed as long as her?

Would we do it again?  Without a shadow of a doubt, absolutely YES!!  I know Cruisa was a little unsure, but he needs to get over the ‘its not like P&O’ syndrome (bless him hes been a right moaning Minnie LOL)

There were a lot of Germans onboard with it being a turnaround port in Hamburg and it sort of affects the general atmosphere when the passewngers change half way through, plus of course most of them didn’t want to speak to you.  I think there were 30+ different nationalities, so if you like cruising with the Britts you have to get over that.  Announcements were only made in English and then German and there were probably less announcements than on P&O these days so they weren’t that annoying.

Service could not be faulted.  Everyone knew there job and did it very well.  We had very good bar service on the bars and in the lounges, even when they were very busy.  Gratuities were automatic at $11 per person perday.  This didn’t bother us because it was less hassle and about what we would have given anyway.  It also made the last meal a lot more pleasant because the waiters just got on with their job.  Even the 15% service charge on the drinks wasn’t that bad as the drinks were reasonable measures (better than P&O) and the service was good.  Im not that good at money conversion, but I still don’t think they worked out that bad.  There were no extra charges for room service or alternative dining, even the ice cream, cranberry juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice and lemon were free 24/7 so how can you complain?  Our onboard account came this morning and it was fine considering what a great time we had – it certainly didn’t shock me anyway.

I think we might make this trip an annual event.  It was well worth the money.  It was worth it for the Hamburg sailaway experience alone. Hundreds of small ships and boats and hundreds of thousands of people lining the river – nothing can ever beat that, and I want to see it all again just to see if it was real!

Im glad that my Mum got to sail on QM2.  It was a fantastic experience for her and I know she loved it too!  I couldn’t let her loose on there alone as she would be missing half the time, but I hope to take her back on there.  Jack loved it too and Im sure every one he meets for the next three weeks will hear all about it LOL.

There are many of you who I have cruised with and I cant think of any of you who I wouldn’t think would enjoy the experience for one reason or another.  I cant wait to tell you all about it individually.

The ship does it again in August if any of you are tempted?  And Im sure it does it again next year, so you have no excuses for not being given the chance to try QM2 for yourselves.

I’ve got lots and lots of photos for this one and some very nice ones of the ship if you’d like to see them just click here

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