Queen Mary 2 Cruise Review
Queen Mary II
Described as a “once in a life time experience” for me this was “Once too many”.
Like many, I wanted to experience this iconic ship, history of a trans Atlantic crossing the QMII represented. I use this in the past tense as Its clear since Carnival took ownership of the Cunard brand it’s all about cost cutting rather than maintaining or increasing standards of what the brand once represented.
After sailing on Norwegian Cruise lines earlier in the year for 14 days and with nothing to fault from the staff, food, decor, service, entertainment and value for money, I was excited to be sailing with Cunard with the expectation they would raise the bar to another level.
We booked a Britannia Club Balcony Stateroom (13030) on level 13.
Britannia Club offerings from that of a standard Britannia stateroom.
A separate restaurant (yet not a separate restaurant as they advertise and portray it to be) the separate restaurant is in fact the same Britannia restaurant all other guests access with a small semi closed off area where Britannia Club guests are able to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The only advantage is having no set time of either an early or late seating.
From embarkation to disembarkation you are reminded who’s in charge and it isn’t you the paying “guest”.
Embarking in Southampton was slow and painful with guests having to wait for no apparent reason through several security check points. No recognition or express line is provided for Cunard’s Platinum members.
The frustrations continued and grew throughout the entire voyage for most passengers we spoke with.
Within minutes of boarding the ship, the look on the faces of crew greeting guests was a grimace and a look of “here we go again”. Later these feelings were acknowledgment constantly as trying to get a smile out of 95% of them usually only came if you initiated it.
The overall sense from the majority of the staff is they simply don’t want to be there at best or they simply don’t want you to be there.
The class system is alive and well on QMII with separate dining and bar areas which separate Britannia, Britannia Club, Princess and Queens Grill guests.
This didn’t bother me personally nor was an issue, like flying you get what you pay for depending on the class you travel. The problem is if you make new friends with people from a “higher” or “lower class” than yourself your dining options are limited to say the least.
In simple terms you cannot dine together as this is frowned upon and not allowed. Well, that is unless you want to line up 50 deep to eat in the main restaurant “Britannia”. Not so bad one would think, that’s if you have the strength and patience to navigate the following obstacles.
Firstly, the Britannia main dining room only has two set seating times, early or late, these are pre allocated to all guests travelling in Britannia Class from day one of sailing.
Secondly, we continually noticed each day for breakfast lunch or dinner many guests waiting to be seated. Even though many tables sat empty and an army of white jacket wearing waiters lined up to escort guests to an empty table the Maître D was in no rush whatsoever to seat people. Again this was a clear sign of who’s in charge of your unhappiness.
If Cunard wish to continue the archaic class system they may want to remind their staff why they’re there as they’ve forgotten their place in the system Cunard adopts.
When staying in a fine hotel or sailing on a fine ship when asking staff a question or having a request will usually start with “no problem”. Not on QMII, prepare yourself the first response will be either “no” or “no it’s a problem”. They use the right words however in the wrong order.
We researched the ship before we booked and were looking forward to the Verve Cliquot champagne bar as we had visited the house in France and thought it would be lovely to experience this onboard. Incorrect!
They advertise a Verve Cliquot champagne bar but what you’ll find is a Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar!
How they managed to refit and rebrand the entire bar and neglect to upload a new image and information to their official website is incomprehensible.
Other iconic brands such as Hérmes have also made a swift exit to distance themselves no doubt from this floating disaster.
The entertainment is basic at best and in no way world class. The main show they have on board has not changed since 2003!
I’m not talking a high end broadway production such as Cats or the Lion King its a dance show. Well that’s a partial lie, the show hasn’t changed but the “talent” has. When the show was first introduced to Cunard, extraordinary dancers from Eastern Europe were employed and ever since the mastermind behind the show has pulled out of Cunard and rehoused her dance troupe to the more glamours Holland America, Cunard has continued to cut costs and now paying peanuts to the new “talent” and have received new monkeys.
I spoke with a senior staff member over drinks one evening who will remain nameless for obvious reasons. They did manage to shed some light as to why this may be the case.
Carnival are desperately trying to hang on to the luxury and grand history the Cunard brand represented, again past tense with hallways strewn with huge pictures of royalty, celebrities and white gloved fine dining. Pictures are all you’ll experience on the QMII as nothing onboard resembles the brand that once was.
Examples below are from average disappointing to downright shocking service and certainly not limited to;
1. After arriving in our cabin on the first day we noticed a card informing our pre set table seating for dinner was 1830. As we had requested a late seating I called information to change it. I was informed this was only something the Maître D could do. I asked to be put through to the restaurant and was informed I needed to physically go to the restaurant at 1800. I hung up but shortly after thinking this was ridiculous called back asking to speak to a manager, it was only then the same rude unhelpful woman informed me as we were in the Britannia Club we didn’t have a set seating time. I asked her why then does it say on the card we do? “Well you don’t”.
2. Visited the GODIVA café and chocolate lounge in need of a real coffee. I Ordered a flat white, it arrived burnt and incredibly bitter. When I mentioned this to the waitress, her reply was “you need to put sugar in it”, I said I have already, “you need to put more sugar in it!” I’m not sure what advice she gives to passengers with diabetes! GO DIVA was more fitting for the attitude I experienced here.
3. Attending a function in the Queens room I had ordered a Bloody Mary and after 10-15 minutes of it not arriving I went to the G32 nightclub where the wait staff were collecting drinks from. I stood at the door and got the attention of a manager and explained I believed the waiter had forgotten my drink order. I was told to wait outside the door, scolded like a small child. Asking for his name he replied (Junior).
4. One evening at dinner I asked the Sommelier if it was possible to have a taste of the a wine that was sold by the glass as I wasn’t familiar with them. The look should have been enough but this simple request was as if I had asked him for both kidneys and his first born child. I insisted and much to his disapproval his reply to me was “I’ll have to see what the bar man thinks, it’s not up to me”. On returning with the wine and tasting it, before making a decision he said “it’s good, you’ll like it!”.
5. I was having dinner one evening and knew I’d be running late to meet friends for drinks, I knew they were having dinner in either the Princess or Queens Grill so I called reception and asked to be put through to the restaurants. I was advised they didn’t have the numbers! I insisted I found this odd that they didn’t have the number to their own restaurants. I returned to my table and asked my waiter if he could contact the restaurants and he said I can’t contact both restaurants I needed to know exactly which restaurant they were eating at. Obviously making two quick phone calls was way too much trouble. I decided to leave my meal half eaten and walk myself 5 floors up communicate the message personally to my friends. I found this was the best and only reliable line of communication onboard the ship, walk yourself rather than picking up a telephone.
6. Our stateroom was at the end of the hall leading next to a door leading out to the sun deck. The seals on the main doors (you guessed it are cheap) as for 7 days and nights all I heard was high pitched noises from the winds. Seeing this entire level was added during the “renovations” in 2016 you can’t even put this down to an ageing issue. It’s only a shame they didn’t renovate the staff in 2016 also.
7. One morning at 0800 sitting in the Carinthia Lounge a metre from the bar I was entertained by 3 separate waiters arguing with the bar man. All three had a separate gripe. As entertaining as I found this, again it highlighted the staff are so unhappy.
8. It’s always good to save the worst for last. Where does one even begin with room service? Unless you’ve lost both legs in an onboard accident, DO NOT EAT ROOM SERVICE! Orders would arrive wrong, food quality was terrible and one evening desserts arrived tasting like stale fridge! If the food quality wasn’t bad enough, the angry moody staff delivering it was. If they could throw the tray at you while delivering the stock standard line “enjoy” or better still have any contribution into the design of the cabin door it would be to design a slot like a prison cell so they could slide it to you without engaging with you they would.
Even though overall I found 98% of staff either rude or incredibly unhelpful, It was clear to me this is a result of how valued they feel by their employer Carnival so for this reason I feel for the staff, however in saying that, it doesn’t soften the blow when you’re constantly on the receiving end.
Carnival need to return to basic management practices in the way they treat their staff, placing the same level of importance they’ve obviously place on building their share price.
In 7 days I found the following four staff fantastic and I asked myself, how do they maintained their sanity aboard this floating misery? It’s obvious that the culture onboard is one of fear amongst them. After asking one staff member a question he replied by saying “I can’t ask that for you, I’d be whipped”.
Matthew - Room Steward
Liviu - Britannia Club Restaurant
Kenga - Commodore Lounge
Rakesh - Commodore Lounge
If you like listening to harps, violins and pianos daily as if you were in an upmarket retirement home with average food and the staff telling you when to eat and constantly using the word NO when asking a question then this is the cruise for you.
I have never experienced so many unhappy, miserable and down right rude staff in one establishment.
If you think you’ll be boarding QMII for a smooth sail across the Atlantic think again. Icebergs will be the least of your concerns.
No matter how hard you try and dress up a pig, it’s still a pig.
Working in the travel industry it will bring great pleasure steering people away from Cunard Crisis Lines for many years to come.
Britannia Club Stateroom 13030
Ship - General
Room service 1/10