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This is our 4th, and possibly last, cruise on this wonderful ship. The first time we did the trans Atlantic from Ft.Lauderdale to Southampton via Bermuda and Madeira, and the other three cruises were from Honolulu to Auckland as part of the World Cruise.
We LOVE this ship, it is the reason we became addicted to cruising, but things have changed a lot since 2000 in many, some imperceptible, ways. One of our favourite daily rituals is the 4.00 pm afternoon tea but there, too, changes have been made and not for the better. The sandwiches are now not the little, thin sliced "finger" sandwiches but rather two slices of regular bread slapped togther with not a great variety of filling (what happened to the cress sandwiches?), and the scones are now served cold with the "cream" and jam already applied, instead of the scone separately, then the clotted cream and jam offered on the side. On the same subject, I noticed that the servers no longer wear the traditional white gloves which are so elegant and, when I questioned a rather opinionated young woman "supervisor", I was told that this was a rule imposed by the US government for "health reasons", also that the scones had "never in my ten years on this ship, been served separately". It is interesting to note that, at several officer's cocktail parties we attended, white gloves were worn !
It is true that the servers everywhere were constantly wiping down all surfaces, particularly in the Lido, and that one was required to use disinfectant hand cream before entering the buffet line. There was an outbreak of gastro-intestinal illness (Norovirus?) on the ship and many people were confined to their cabins for three days, including one member of our table in the Caronia dining room. We were at the Doctor's table for dinner and he assured us that there was no real problem but, three days prior to landing at Auckland, an advisory letter was sent out recommending that passengers avoid unnecessary mingling, other than with members of their own party, and that no further cocktail parties would be held until the problem had been cleared up. We also noticed a disproportionate number of passengers with severe colds and coughs, including myself. Symptoms were clogged nasal passages and severely congested lungs, so bad in fact that, for three nights, I had to try to sleep sitting up as it was impossible to lie down without being wracked by coughing.
That said, we were very pleased with the accomodations, having been upgraded from a C-5 to a Q-3 (de-luxe suite), 335 square feet of elegance, partially due to the fact that there had been a royal screwup at Cunard over our paperwork which arrived just 1 hour prior to our having to leave to board the ship, and that only as a result of repeated phone calls and faxes from our TA and myself. I must say that the Passenger Services dept. people at Cunard were wonderful when they were alerted to the problem, particularly a young lady named Savina Fisk who will receive a letter of commendation Crom me. Our return air had also been messed up by the air dept., who had scheduled a flight out of Auckland to LOS ANGELES and then back to Honolulu, a total of 18 hours in the air, when there is a direct flight that takes 8.5 hours. This was resolved by Ms.Fisk who faxed me the E ticket with the amended schedule.
We were unable to tender in at Kona, which was the first stop scheduled after leaving Honolulu, due to heavy swells, so Capt. Ian McNaught continued on to Papeete at reduced speed and then we arrived at 2 pm the day before we were scheduled , giving us an extra half day there plus spending the night dockside instead of at sea.
I had the names of 5 fellow passengers to contact but only managed to meet up with one, we were so busy the whole time that it just never seemed convenient to set up meetings with strangers.
We are dyed in the wool Caronia diners as we love the fact that there is only one sitting and one can start as early as 6.45 or as late 9.00 pm. The Hosts usually arrive later, about 8.30 pm so that everyone is already seated, and only on sea nights, and they add a great deal of fun to the meal, Dr Martin Carroll is extremely amusing and he is a fellow chocaholic so I liked his prescription to get rid of my cold, "have a few drinks and eat a lot of chocolate" !!!
Much as we love the QE2, we probably won't sail on her again in the near future. The Carnival influenece is creeping in, no regular displays of ice carvings or melon carvings which we have so enjoyed in the past, no chocolate dessert extravaganza etc. For the same price, we can sail on twice on Princess which we also enjoy, in some ways more than Cunard now.
I am sure I have missed out several points, please don't hesitate to contact me by E mail if you have any questions, we were in Suite 2084 in case anyone wants to know more about that category.