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Queen Mary 2 Cruise Review – November 17, 2009 Sailing

Written by:

January 7, 2010.

This past November CruiseReviews regular Kenneth Eden was once again aboard Queen Mary 2. Mr. Eden is a Cunard aficionado and was kind enough to provide a review, which I am featuring here.

Queen Mary 2 Cruise Review

Sailing Date: November 17, 2009

Itinerary: New York – Caribbean – New York Ports: Cristobal, Panama, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, St. Kitts, Tortola

A no problem flight to LaGuardia, and a not too long wait for Cunard personnel to find us, and off we went to the ship in Brooklyn. There were two dozen passengers waiting for transfers to the ship, and since we are Cunard Diamonds, we had preferential transfers and were taken to the ship by private van, not by bus. We went to the Grills check-in counter and were sequestered in the Grills waiting area, by no means a pretty or special place, just a place to wait until our suite was turned around and ready for us, and then we boarded. Staff in their dress blacks, white gloved, were waiting to handle our carry-ons, and lead us to our suite, port side, on 10 Deck. We waived them off, preferring to rush to our suite to share our excitement together. We could have found it blindfolded.

Our Princess Grill suite was typical of all new ships of today, the familiar bedroom section, with TV, sofa (not a third Berth), the balcony, large enough for two real teak steamer chaises, walk-in closet, bar area with fridge and glass door upper cupboard with Waterford bar ware of all types, and a granite top. No liquor, just soft drinks and water in the fridge. Fully stocked liquor comes with the Queens Grill suites. The bath was also very typical, less glitzy than our Princess suite on the Victoria. Iced were three bottles of sparkling white wine, a bottle of champagne from our travel agent and platters of canapés and cheese, and heavenly chocolate dipped strawberries. We met our steward, Leo, and as it turned out, we knew him from Oceania Cruises, as our steward once on the Regatta.

We were invited to take lunch in the Princess Grill, before general boarding, and we did so. We had already polished off the canapés and cheese in our suite, and were ready for what we hoped would be a wonderful lunch, and it was. After lunch, we sped to the Canyon Ranch Spa to make our massage appointments, and to our absolute delight Christiaan was still aboard, and we made the first of three appointments with him, which eventually turned out to be four, and then five!

Ships muster; our allocated muster station was inside, Kings Court. All ships muster stations are inside. It matters not who you are, celebrity or movie star, all passengers report to their assigned stations. We saw no celebrities. Once on the Mary we did have Bruce Vilanche sailing as a passenger, and he was in our lifeboat station. We returned our life vests to the cupboard in our suite, and set off to revisit our favorite ship, looking for any changes that may have taken place. A comparison between the Mary and the Victoria is only natural, and the differences will be outlined later on.

The biggest, and at first, I was not at all pleased, was a major change in the beautiful Chart Room. Gone were the long, deep-seated forest green leather sofas that lined the interior starboard wall, and gone were the leather club chairs that lined the windowed port side wall. In their place were overstuffed sofas and chairs, done up in tan ultra-suede. The center of this vast lounge, with its sweeping wide floor, is now taken up with the same chairs, and settees, with cocktail tables. The lavish sweep of the room has been ruined with furniture, I thought. Well, where the Chart Room sat few people, it now seats many more, and is more clubbish, and not at all ruined, as I thought. The champagne bar, Veuve Clicquot, still has the chic look it has always had, but no caviar. With this recession, caviar was not selling, and it was done away with, for now. Champagne, cocktails and canapés and house pates were available.

This cruise provided 6 full days at sea during the 13 days. There were four gala “balls”, the traditional Cunard Black and White Ball, the Masquerade Ball, the Buccaneer Ball, and the Thanksgiving Ball. There were five formal nights, with required tuxedo or dark suit for men and gowns for the ladies. Only a fool would not dress appropriately on a Cunard Liner. Other evenings were informal, suite or sport jacket with tie, and semi formal, jacket of blazer, no tie. There are no casual nights.

We enjoyed Panama, taking a tour to the old city, and driving around the new city, to some extent. It appears many Americans and Canadians are retiring there. High rises and condos are everywhere, as well as a branch of John Hopkins, which was built for retiring North Americans, linked by satellite and computer to the famous hospital in the states. Many of the chain restaurants were there that you see all over the states. The US dollar is the official currency and English to official language. It felt like the states, but I would not live there. Soldiers armed, to keep the peace, if you get my drift, a placed in plain sight in the city. Cristobal, where the Mary docked, is not a place to walk around on your own. DON”T.

We love Curacao, and this was the only real shopping port on this cruise. It is rare to have a long Caribbean cruise that does not call at St. Thomas, or St. Maarten, but this one did. We wish we had more time there, as the place is lovely, the people charming and the shops had good deals. We sailed at 1:30 pm.

It has been years since we were last saw Grenada. We loved it. We had lunch at BB’s CRABBACK, on the waterfront, owned chef and his wife, reviewed by Oprah, frequented by celebrities. It is not inexpensive, but the local cuisine and fresh fish are excellent. Shopping, Dots Plaza, on the harbor, offered fresh, clean spices, packed nicely, and great Grenadian rums. Tikal, up from the harbor, had wonderful oil paintings and pottery. We have collected Haitian works for years, and a famous artist from Haiti now lives and paints in Grenada, and we could not resist a purchase. There are also trinkets that are locally made as well.

Barbados, once a favorite place for us to go to the beach, is now just a mere stop for us. Once Cunard owned a beautiful resort, Cunards Paradise Beach, and of course, the beach was the place to go, especially for passengers and crew, on a Cunard cruise, no more, though. The resorts and hotels do not welcome passengers any longer in Barbados, and shopping is, well, not what it used to be, and best done at the pier, in limited shops, mostly touristy shops at that. In port, however, were NCL’s Norwegian Dawn, Carnival Victory and P&O/Village at Sea ship, Ocean Village. What a sight as the Dawn sailed out at dusk, the three ships tooting and saluting one another, bound unknown delights.

St. Kitts, I really do not care for. I cannot put a finger to why I feel that way. Shopping is, ehh, the people, not overly friendly, and that is about it. We have opted for a beach day there in the past, and we should have gone to one on this visit. Again, the other ports on this cruise were ready for Christmas, all decorated and festive, again, as in the past; St. Kitts was not decorated up.

Our last port was Tortola. We walked and poked though the shops, bought quality souvenirs, and enjoyed this British isle. A major nod to modernity is the traffic light, brand new, and across from what else, Diamonds International. The walk button did not work, and well, it was nearly useless, cars ignored the red and green lights and did their own thing anyway. We had a nice lunch at Pussers Rum Factory, as well as shopped in the store in the rear of the building. The craft shops had some excellent items as well.

One of the perks for Diamonds is the complimentary lunch at Todd English during the cruise, and we took advantage of it, where we had no time to do so on the Victoria last August. We also made reservations and had dinner there, which is not complimentary. Both meals were outstanding, and the menu and cooking style unique enough to make the meals stand apart from the Cunard restaurants.

The entertainment on this cruise, as it was on the Victoria and previous Mary cruises, was, and is, spectacular. The costumes are top notch, and the talent amazing, especially the dancers. We had four main show “spectaculars” as well as the usual comedians, violinists, pianist, et cetera.

During the last forty or so years Cunard has always had a true LINER, most notably the iconic Queen Elizabeth II, sailing with two consorts. In the 1970’s the consorts were the Cunard Ambassador and the Adventurer, smallish cruise ships, into the 1980’s they were replaced by the much loved Cunard Countess and the sister ship, Cunard Princess, and they were replaced when Cunard Line bought Norwegian America Line and got the splendid Sagafjord and Vistafjord, this creating Cunard/NAC for these two ships. It must be noted, with other owners, the Ambassador, Countess and the two NAC ships are still sailing today. So, now begins the era when Cunard has ever had three Queens in the fleet.

The Queen Mary 2, the largest, most opulent ocean liner ever built, and she truly fits that billing, and her two consorts, the Queen Victoria and soon the brand new sister ship, Queen Elizabeth. There will be differences between these ships, to be sure. The Victoria has the theatre boxes in her grand Victorian theatre, the Mary has the sheer size and thick hull of an ocean greyhound, the new Elizabeth will offer the Britannia Club as a bookable restaurant stateroom category, as it is available of the Mary, and not on the Victoria. There are other comparisons to be sure, but what these ship offer is what has made Cunard the hands down winner in passenger pleasing since 1840, and it is what makes these ships and all others that have sailed before them so special, and that is, simply put, the word CUNARD.

We had three cocktail parties during this cruise, all with pre-made cocktails and glasses of wine and champagne, all offered full open bar, and all three did not end until the last guests left. Being Diamond level, sure we had our diamond parties; yet, gala parties were also held for non-diamonds. Cunard makes everyone feel special, and all welcome. We’ve sailed Cunard since 1969. We keep coming back for more.

Cunard’s new motto, or slogan, or whatever, is: We are Cunard.

That sums up the Cunard experience perfectly.

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