Overall Review: Christmas Cruise on Cunard Queen Mary 2

Our first cruise over the Christmas holiday! This was our 19th voyage with Cunard, so it is obvious we like the line a lot. Every cruise line has a personality. Formal nights, fine dining and attentive service ticks all the right boxes for us. This was the first year we skipped the Christmas party and decorating the house activities and set sail for the holidays. How did the trip measure up?

Overall Score: 96/100.

We have sailed with Cunard 19 times. We often compare the current experience to those on previous trips. If you don’t, plenty of the passengers around you will! We had a good time. There were far more pleasant surprises and few disappointments.

 Evaluating the Cruise: This is done across 10 categories, each worth a maximum of 10 points.

  1. Boarding and Disembarking: In 2023, most of the information Cunard once gathered at check in is now done online. This speeds up check-in enormously. Boarding is done in timed segments. Our timeslot was 1:00 PM. Everything proceeded very smoothly. When going ashore in port, Cunard used to scan the barcode on your boarding card with a handheld device. Today, you lay your card on a panel, similar to tapping a credit card and the system records the details. It’s all very fast. Disembarkation in New York was quick too. 10/10.
  2. Health: Many of the Covid restrictions have been relaxed, but they are still careful about health. Paper towels, not cloth towels in the public restrooms. Large parties like the World Club reception have returned. The online advance information indicates they conform with the protocols for each port. You can request to be seated at a larger table in the dining room once again (1st or 2nd seating). There is no “Captain’s Table” on formal night, presumably because you would be mixing strangers not traveling in a group. 10/10.
  3. Ship Design: Everyone knows Queen Mary 2 is an ocean liner. There were no problems with rocking and rolling on our voyage to and from the Caribbean. Passengers who sailed transatlantic the week previous told a different story, but I think they sailed through a Force 10, which is beyond Gale and into Storm category. In terms of interior design, the ship rarely felt crowded, although it was sailing full, with 2,600 passengers. (10/10)
  4. Stateroom: We occupied a balcony stateroom in Brittania grade. Brittania represents about 87% of the accommodations. Balcony staterooms average about 260 square feet, which I think is larger than the industry average. This was a sheltered balcony, which you find on decks 4,5 and 6. This means you see the sea through a huge opening cut into the side of the ship. Cabins on Deck 8 and above have glass railed balconies. There was plenty of room. 10/10.
  5. Shopping: We have never found this ideal on any cruise ship. Generally speaking, the shops tended to have few customers when we walked through. The duty-free liquor store’s prices were higher than on previous cruises. To their credit, the shops offer a price match guarantee. When I bought Bombay Saphire gin on shore at $17/liter, they reduced the onboard price of $29/liter to match it. I bought another two liters. There was an onboard promotion for a chain of jewelry stores with a presence in the different ports. This was on TV, and in lectures. It felt self-promotional. The port maps they distributed highlighted the locations of their stores, omitting other businesses they were not promoting. 8/10.
  6. Food: We were generally happy with the food served in the Britannia restaurant. On this occasion the selections appeared to have been scaled back. Less beef, for example. However, the Christmas and New Year gala diners had spectacular selections. Worried about gaining weight?  The portions in Britannia are tasty, but on the small side. You can ask for seconds. We dined in the Verandah Steakhouse restaurant three times in 12 days. That was excellent. There is a supplemental charge, but the portions are huge! 9/10.
  7. Drink: Cocktails, beer and wine onboard are fairly priced. You can bring your own wine into the dining room for a modest corkage charge. The wine list is extensive and has plenty of bottles under the $40 price point. Cunard lets you bring a bottle of two of your own wine onboard. Some of their wine list selections are priced at about retail back home. 10/10.
  8. Entertainment: We did not attend many lectures or evening shows. I attended the Wine and Food pairing lunch in the Verandah Steakhouse. It was about 2.5 hours long with five courses and nine wines!  It was $80 well spent. They also offered a fine wine tasting, which only accommodated eight to 10 people. It featured eight Pinot Noirs from the Old and New Worlds. This was $120 per person. I attended and had a great time. We caught a bit of the comedian’s show in the Royal Court Theater. We were not impressed. We saw some of the lectures on TV. Good films on TV. The daily quizzes are very popular, drawing big crowds. . 9/10.
  9. Ports: The ports were good. Of the five ports, Barbados, Dominica and St. Maarten were the standouts. I have developed a new appreciation for booking shore excursions. Piers are often located in the less attractive parts of town. My disappointment with walking around onshore was countered by other passengers raving about the beauty of the island they experienced, once the tour got them out of town. 10/10.
  10. Staff Attentiveness: Cunard has high standards. Our cabin stewardess was fabulous. We were barely out of our cabin before she was in changing the towels and making the bed. She was always cheerful. Our waiter, assistant waiter, headwaiter and sommelier were very good. They learned what you liked and anticipated your needs. I am amazed they can “reset” and do this over again when one group of passengers departs and new ones arrive. We were very impressed. 10/10.

High Points: There were plenty!

  1. Singing Christmas carols. It’s announced ahead of time. Passengers gather around the huge Christmas tree in the grand lobby as the Captain and officers lead the singing. Hundreds of adults and children attended. The quality of singing was superb.
  2. Santa’s arrival. This was another event drawing hundreds into the enormous Queens Room. Santa and his elves arrive to give presents to the children. It was a high energy event.
  3. New Year;s Eve. Five parties to choose from! Years ago, the luxury hotel in your city likely has a dinner dance in the ballroom where everyone dressed up. This experience is recreated. There was a countdown to midnight. It was fabulous!
  4. The gala dinners. Two of the formal nights were Christmas Day and new Years Eve. The table settings were spectacular. The food was excellent, including lobster, Beef Wellington, Filet mignon and Baked Alaska. The party favors were great too.
  5. Religious services. They are not forgetting Christmas is a serious holiday. There were several services for Christmas including both Midnight Mass and an interdenominational service led by the Captain.
  6. Internet. This has improved greatly! You buy a package either one day at a time or for the entire voyage. We have heard Cunard now use Starlink, the service offered by SpaceX/Elon Musk. Internet access and stability has greatly improved.

Areas for Improvement: There are very few.

  1. No Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party. We are thrilled the large parties have returned. We had the World Club party and the Senior Officer’s reception, but no “shake hands with the Captain” welcome party.
  2. The onshore jewelry shop promotions. Although billed as “how to shop onshore” and similar themes, these tended to promote specific stores that did not please all guests.

Overall, we had a great experience!

Photos credit Bryce Sanders

Many thanks to Cunard Line and to All Things Cruise.

See voyages All Cunard Ships

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Queen Mary 2
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