Home » Just got back from the QM2!

Just got back from the QM2!

by Vintage Reporter
Ahoy All!
I just got back from sailing QM2 and all I have to say is…it was wonderful! I have crossed on her many times, and this was as great as any previous crossing. And the hotels at either end were equally marvelous.
So from the beginning. I would have written this sooner, but my annual allergy attack came late this year. And it was bad enough that I was incapacitated for more than a week. It was only yesterday that I got my voice back. So this week I am playing catch up. And with Cunard being reservations only between the holidays I am still waiting for some replies from them.
The ship is beautiful. She spent a month in France preparing for entry into service after almost two years lay up. Her interiors had been done not long before the pandemic, so it was a full paint job and mechanical refresh. And of course a deep clean from top to bottom. She looks great. And clean. You couldn’t look any direction without seeing someone cleaning.
Special note for the staff. Many are regulars that came back. Most have served on QM2 5 to 18 years. QM2 is their second home and they were anxious to return. I generally cross in December as my personal holiday. And many recognized me from before and called me by name…after a 2 year hiatus. Amazing.
As this was her first crossing since the restart, there were only 1400 passengers (by decision) rather than 2600 passengers and attended to by her full complement of 1200+ crew. An almost 1 to 1 ratio. So the service was unmatched.
The food….from room service to the dining room was 5 star as it has always been. The guest speakers were all top notch. And the music. Two dance bands, a string trio, two piano players, a live band for the theater shows, and a harpist. The shows in the main showroom were Broadway/West End quality.
The one dance band was fine and most seemed to enjoy their music. But in complete honesty, they were not my favorite. But the floor was full, so it’s just a matter of taste. After enjoying the bands that we are taking with us for our private events, it’s a hard act for anyone to follow. The other music was great. I really enjoyed the string trio. The harpist…..not a fan of harp music. But again, that’s a matter of personal taste. I’d rather listen to out of tune bag pipers than a harpist.
The hotels. The Strand Palace has just had a major redo and is beautiful. The style is somewhat Art Deco and the rooms and bathrooms are all new. Water pressure is low, but that is to be expected in London. The hot water is HOT. The included full breakfast is just that. Full. Eggs, pancakes, several types of potatoes and bacons. Fresh fruit and juices. A big assortment of pastries. And English favorites like grilled tomatoes and baked beans. And of course the location is perfect….the hotel, not the breakfast. Just a few minutes walk to Trafalgar Square, 15 minutes walk to the Eye of London across the river, 15 minutes to the theater district.
The Stewart Hotel in Manhattan. My first time there. Rooms have all been redone. Lobby is stunning (just look up at the ceiling) and the elevator doors are the original art deco metal reliefs. All great for photo ops. Location is also central to everything being 37th and 7th.
What was different on this voyage? A few things. Of course the Covid protocols were for my December voyage. No telling what they will be in April or May. Anyone have a crystal ball? Once we get to 30 days prior, we’ll have a more definitive sense of what is required. But for my crossing, this is what was different.
Masks were worn in the public areas. So when outside of the cabin, all wore masks. Once you got to the dining room, Queens Room, or a bar….you could remove your mask once seated. So when our little group met up for drinks and dancing, we took our masks off while we were seated in our cluster of chairs. Also, we removed them once seated in the dining room. In the theaters, they remained on as it is theater style seating. And like any bar….there is seating at the bar. But not this time. I suppose that the bartenders are less than 6 feet from those seated across the bar, so no one could sit there. It was service only at the chairs. With with a 1 to 1 ratio, drinks came quickly. So wearing the masks was really no different than home and was not an issue from what I saw.
Testing. As a US citizen, I was tested 4 times in 12 days. #1, I had to be tested before boarding the plane. I also had to do a “Locator Form” before departure. It’s so the UK will know your UK address and vaccination status. I also had to have proof before leaving that I had an arrival test scheduled (test #2) and paid for. You must take a test within 48 hours of arrival into the UK and self isolate until our negative test comes back. Self isolation is on the Honor system.
We were again tested (#3) at the pier before boarding. This is done by the port authority. And in full transparency, this bit could have been much better. There were 3 ships in port, so the testing staff was spread out between the 3 ships. Not Cunard, but the port authority is in charge of this. It was 3 hours of waiting in line before check in. I hope that they do something about this before April. However, once the testing was done, we were aboard quickly and ready to start the crossing.
Test #4 was on the last day. This was so that we had proof of a negative status to enter the USA. There is a $25 charge added to your bill for this test. You get a copy of the results, so if you are departing on a plane within 48 hours, you can use the results.
REMEMBER, these are what was done in December. It may be the same OR totally different in April or May. So my experience may or may not be the same experience in a few months.
I did find a drive through testing station at Heathrow. I’m making special arrangements with the car service (for those that want it) to include a stop there for the test. The sooner you get the test, the sooner you can not self isolate. I do not yet have a price, but will let you know when I do. Again, it may be totally different when we go, so lets not worry about it until 30 days before sailing. IF we still need the arrival test, I have the name of the company that does them at Heathrow, so you can make and pay for your appointment without having to find a testing station yourself. I’m a travel professional, and it took me several hours to find this one.
In New York, I needed to show an ID and proof of vaccination to enter any sit down restaurant or bar. Otherwise, it’s the same as anywhere else in the USA.
~Tom Pecena