Highs and Lows of Cruising on The Cunard Queen Mary 2. Rough Seas & Norovirus Included!

Highs and Lows of Cruising on The Cunard Queen Mary 2. Rough Seas & Norovirus Included.

Gary Bembridge On Queen Mary 2 Deck Caribbean Sea

Gary Bembridge On Queen Mary 2 Deck Caribbean Sea

I have just spent 3 weeks on Cunard’s flagship ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2. First we crossed the stormy winter North Atlantic to New York, accompanied by a Force 11 gale and 30 to 40 foot waves. Then from New York we proceeded to the sunny, warm and very calm seas of the Caribbean, accompanied by a breakout of Norovirus on-board. So not exactly smooth sailing! So, has the experience put me off cruising and Cunard in any way?

In this article I ask:
1.    Has the experience put me off cruising?
2.    Has the experience put me off Cunard, and the Queen Mary 2 in particular?
3.    Has the experience made me call my cruise agent to cancel the 45 day world voyage segment on the Queen Mary 2 from Sydney to Dubai we have booked?

Surprisingly for some reading this, but absolutely not!
In fact, we were madly flicking through the Cunard brochure while on-board trying to figure out if we can squeeze in another cruise, or even repeat this Christmas Caribbean trip again before we set off on that 6 week world voyage journey!

Of course, not everything – and everyone – has been perfect on this 3 week long journey. And so in this article I will share the highlights and the low lights about Cunard, the Queen Mary 2 and the Winter Crossing and Caribbean Christmas journeys. In another series of posts and podcasts to come, I will also be sharing the interviews that I did on-board with the Entertainment Directors, Hotel Manager, Head Chef, Social Host and a Gentleman Host. But for now, here are the highs and the lows…..

My 3 Cunard Queen Mary 2 Highlights.

Overall experience, especially the Queens Grill. Food and Crew Attitude Is Stunning.

While I think that Cunard need to do more to differentiate and build more into the Grills Experience to justify the premium, without a shadow of doubt the Cunard Grills Experience is a great one. If you travel in Queens Grills on Queen Mary 2, the food in the Grills Restaurants is fantastic, and the passion of the Butler and Stateroom Attendant is invaluable. Throughout the ship the service, food and attitude of the crew is excellent. There is a pride and passion across all aspects of the ship. You are made to feel welcome and valued. Crew manage to keep cheerful, find time to chat and engage if you want to.

Queen Mary 2 Ship itself.

The ship is magnificent.  I love it. When you travel on it you can enjoy the fact that it is one of a kind. No other ship shares its design and layout. As it is built to be an Ocean Liner to do many sea day journeys due to the Transatlantic Crossing schedule, the ship holds dramatically less passengers than cruise liners of similar size. There are many large pubic areas, lounges, theatres and other spaces that you just do not have on regular cruise ships. Even though the ship is now 10 years old, it is still grand, classic and appealing. In port it is still the ship that everyone turns to look at and photograph.

Cunard Insights Program.

This is fabulous. I love the speakers program we had on both the Crossing and on the Sea Days on the Caribbean leg. I wrote about this in another article, but the mix of speakers and the calibre is to be much celebrated. The talks are fast paced, entertaining, visual and very insightful as based on people’s personal experiences. We had 2 Maritime Writers that I have been fans of for a long time (Ted Scull and Bill Millar) on different legs, so I was a geek in heaven too. All the speakers were engaging and learnt about things as diverse as the history of skyscrapers in New York, the economics and trends of theatre on Broadway and behind-the-scenes of some of the most famous crimes and criminals in the UK.

My 3 Cunard Queen Mary 2 Lowlights

Moaning and Complaining Passengers (!): Glass Half Empty, Not Half Full.

It is said that you cannot chose your family in life – but everyone else you can chose. On a cruise you have limited capacity to do that due to the nature of being on a ship. On the Caribbean leg of the 3 weeks I have to say that at times the passengers were a bit of a lowlight at times. The constant moaning and complaining was annoying, almost all conversations you have with people, or listen in to, have a moan and complaint element to them. It amazes me that the crew on the Queen Mary 2 stay so polite and friendly! What was really surreal was standing in the (long) line waiting for your turn in the future voyage sales office. In line you are listening to the many people there bitching, complaining and snipping about Cunard, the ship and the voyage, while briefly interrupting their barrage to advise the rest of the line with details of the future cruises and voyages they were there to book with Cunard. The positives are greater than the negatives, but people do seem to prefer to talk about what they did not like. Is this a trait of all of us these days?

Norovirus Non-compliance:

Though what was a real low light for most was that we had a breakout on the 2nd leg of my journey of Norovirus. It is most likely that it was brought by passengers on-board in New York, as there was no issue on the Crossing. The main issue was though that it spread fast and thick as people did not stick to the small but not terribly inconvenient hygiene actions to stop it spreading. People were even reportedly set off the ship in some ports as they would not stay in their cabins once they had it. The virus spreads fast and easily through touching surfaces, and despite the constant cleansing by the crew if people with it are out touching and spreading it there will be an outbreak. I know it is not a popular line to take that it is the passengers that are the issue, but if people had complied with the requirements to ensure there is no break-out (as they did on the Crossing), then we would not have had things like cocktail parties and behind the scenes tours cancelled. It also would have created much less work for the crew – and not meant their own Christmas and New Year parties were cancelled for them to do extra cleansing duties.

Royal Court Theatre Shows and Entertainment.

The production shows and the guest entertainers are pretty weak. They are also on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The Royal Court Theatre Company has some young talent within in, but the shows generally are poor and predictable. They lack a slickness and generally have poor storytelling and cohesiveness. The guest entertainers that are brought on board feel more in their twilight than their prime, and again feel predictable and provincial. Maybe the passengers like this, although the shows are never more than half to three quarters full with many people leaving during them so I do not think so. It would perhaps be more exciting and dynamic to have younger and rising talent that could be used to build their experience and bring new dynamics and energy. The shows feel all too uninspired and you can, and will, see shows of better calibre in your local small town and pubs. This is a real pity. Other cruise lines do the main theatre entertainment better in my experience.

What are you highs and lows based on any trips you have done with Cunard / Queen Mary 2?

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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