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We booked Air Tran on our own. Through Cunard Line we booked transfers from La Guardia to the New York Sheraton and Towers. What a mess. The Town Car driver spoke NO English, the ground reps barely spoke understandable English, and the Town Car had a trunk full of junk, as did the front seat, so, no room for luggage. Finally, after an initial 45 minutes wait, a mini van arrived, barely capable of taking us and five pieces of luggage, with seat belts that would not work. We took it. Cunard had us in the Towers. What a nice surprise.
We asked the concierge for two places for dinner for the two nights we stayed in the Sheraton. We walked to Regency China, remeniscent of a 1960's Boston China Town restaurant I ate in as a kid with my parents, and the food was as good as I remembered it from those early days, with excellent service. The second night we ate at Tramonti, where reservations through the concierge are a must. The food and wine were exceptional.
We enjoyed breakfast at the Stage Door deli. We opted for our second breakfast at Ellens Stardust Diner, which was lousy. Fresh OJ was not fresh, French toast was awful, coffee harsh, "pure maple syrup" was Mrs. Buttersworths, and the place was not too clean. My meal was comped.
We enjoyed some of New Yorks best holiday treats, Rockefeller Plaza, with the big tree and ice rink, and Radio City Music Halls 75th Christmas Show witht the Rockettes. We also took in a matinee of Mel Brooks Young Frankentein, which was just awesome.
Transfer to the Queen Mary 2 was easy, and well planned. At 8:00am our luggage was taken from our hotel room, which gave us time to have breakfast, and we were taken by bus to the ship in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We are now Cunard World Diamonds, and we had express boarding. We were also in a suite with Queens Grill dining. Upon entering our suite on Deck 9, our luggage was already in the suite, as was our butler, Ibrahim. I asked him to unpack our bags. We had lunch in the Queens Grill, and the bags wer unpacked and stowed away while we had lunch.
Our suite was large and proved to be extremely comfortable, and elegant. Upon entering, to the left was a row of closets, typical of any ships cabin, with a marble topped bar, with glass door cabinets above, stocked with assorted bar and wine glasses, with recessed lights. Under the bar console, behind cabinet doors, was the stocked fridge (water, sodas and beer), extra champagne buckets, wine openers and stoppers, bar linens and more glass ware. We had a form to fill out for our prefered liquor, complimentary, full size bottles. Opposite the bar, a shelf, marble topped, with silk orchids, and a large mirror above. The sitting room section of the main suite was nice, which led to the full length row of windows and door to the large veranda. There was a desk, with flat top LCD tv, wireless key board, X-box, flanked by a fllor to celiling wasll of glass. The bed a true king size, handsomely made up with duvet, shams and bolsters. AN ante room led into the walk in closet area and another desk area, or vanity with mirror area, and hair dryer. The huge bath had a Jaquizzi, and was tiled in travertine marble. Fresh cut flowers, and fruit basket were nice touches. Perrier-Jouet Grand Brute was on ice, one from Cunard, one from Mark, our traveL agent. Canapes and chocolate dipped strawberriwes were brought in by Ibrahim.
We went directly to the Canyon Ranch Spa to make our appointments, and were delighterd to learn that Christian was on board, and we made three 80 minute massages each for the cruise. We ended up each having a fourth massage, as as using the salon. Mandril was wonderful in the salon, a good barber, and good stylist, who has been on the Mary since she was fited our, pre-maiden voyage, where he helped to set up the salon for Canyon Ranch.
We have sailed many, many times with Cunard. We have had several Queen Elizabth 2 sailings, as well as many Sagafjord and Vistafjord cruises, Cunard Countess, Cunard Adventurerer and Cunard Dynasty cruises, and now, our third cruise on the Mary. This cruise brings us to 70 cruises total, 19 of which have been with Cunard.
Our first port was Tortola, and we actually booked an excursion, Cane Garden Beach with lunch. The lunch was awful, the ride to the beach equally as awful, and there was NO time for the beach. With four ships in, there must have easily been 9,000 or more passengers in Tortola, and 7,000 on this beach. What a waste of money, and the day. As more and more resorts ban cruise ship passngers, these second rate places will let them in.
One truely excellent day was the excursion booked through Cunard for Sandals Grande St. Lucian Resort, a whole day of bliss and beauty. We were treated as though we were staying at this beautiful resort, and while everything was included, we ate and drank as though we were week long guests. I can not say enough good things about Sandals Grande.
St Kitts, we opted to shop, and the shopping was not as good as we have found it to be in the past. We should have gone to the beach. Interestting to note, there were no Christmas decorations here, and a sullen pall permiated the place. The other ports were lively, and decorated for the season.
We returned to the ship after a brief run around Bassiterre, not buying anything. We wanted to have lunch at the Boardwalk Cafe on the Mary. When we got up there, we were told we could not have an umbrella at the table, and we would have to dine in the full sun-120 degree, as it was too windy. It was not windy, it was stifling. RCI's Legend of the Sea, docked next to the Mary, had deck tables festooned with umbrellas, but not so on the Mary. Somebody did not want to have to do much work at the Boardwalk, is my guess. We changed for lunch in the Queens Grill .
We were invited to a cocktail party just down from our suite, and we held one in our suite as well on another night. Ibrahim set the entire party up, and it was quite lavish. Interestingly we learned that the hors d'oeuvers and canapes were complimentary as catered by Cunard for the party..
Barbados was a waste of time, downtown Bridgetown is trying to make a comeback for shoppers. There is limited shopping at the dock, not anything to write home about, save it for St. Thomas, is my rule. Don't get me wrong, Barbados is one gorgeous island, and there are wonderful shore excursions to take. Just don't count on the shoppin, thats all.
In Barbados we docked, and it is quite a sight to see this monsterous ship maneuver into the harbor and tie up at the pier. In with us was the Seabourne Pride. Also docked was the Freewinds, Scientologies cruise ship, the former Commodore Cruise Lines MS Boheme. Other ships o note, in St. Thomas, Carnival Legend, in St Lucia, Ocean Village 2, one of two Ocean Village ships, former Princess ships Regal and Crown Princesses, now part of P&O's Ocean Village adults only ships.
Imagine being in St. Thomas with only one other ship in. It was nearly desserted in town. In fact, it was spooky. Here we shopped, not heavily, but enough to satisfy the need. I am glad to point out that Little Switzerland is back and in fine form, offering more of what has made them so famous throughout the years. We also did some shopping on the Queen Mary 2.
Our Diamond pins arrived, and we had the third of our formal nights to wear them. Yes, they are gold pins, with a genuine diamond. The first formal night was for for all guests, the second, gold, platinum and diamond gests, the third, THE gala party, hoted by Captain Christopeher Rynd and his senoir officers, held in the G32, strictly for Queen and Princes Grill and Diamond passenegrs. All parties were open bar.
The Queen Mary 2 was oppulently decked out for the holidays. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, was celebrated each evening with the lighting of several mennorahs on board, by a Rabbi. For Christmas. there was a myriad of trees and wreaths placed around the ship. The Grand Lobby and the Britania held the largest trees, and all told, for the season, the ship was gorgeous. The Queens Grill, regal with a tree donned in gold shimmering baubles and lights, with a mennorah on the desk.
The Queens Grill is special, and the suites that give entry to this world of plenty and privacy, are indeed pricey. Nothing is not granted for meal time, special ordering is encouraged, as well as from the more than ample, grand menu's. Service is beyond compare. We had every meal in the Queens Grill, with the exception of three lunches, one of which was in St. Thomas, the other two on shore excursions. We thoroughly enjoyed one breakfast in our suite.
This is what makes the Queens Grill so special. The menu's, as prepared for breakfast, are more extensive, as are the lunch and dinner menus. However, the real reason to book the Queens Grill is for the al la carte menu at dinner.
Available each night, this is a brifer description of the al la carte menu. Be assured, all items are sauced and presented properly.
jumbo shrimp cocktail Molossol Russian caviar smoked salmon foie gra Parma ham
fresh made lobster raviolli duck foie gras angel hair pasta with fresh tomato and basil escargots Bourguinonne
SOUP & SALAD
vine ripened tomato soup Caesar Salad
White Dover Sole (boned and fileted at table) grilled Scottish salmon
GRILLS & ROASTS
T-bone steak Angus beef filet New York strip sirloin milk fed veal rib cutlet rack of lamb chateaubriand for 2 whole roast duckling for 2
an ssortment of side dishes, Canyon Ranch Spa dishes and flambed desserts ans wellas a cheese trolley were always available.
The wine list was commendable. In fact, our sommelier, Fernando, was a waiter on Royal Viking Line, and we remembered him from our cruises with that fine line.
As Diamonds we were treated to a comlimentary lunch at Todd English, the food was superb, the ambiance lovely, the service, just ok. Our waiter wore a dirty white jacket, the serving tray stained with what liiked like spilled coffee. At first, we thought he was our bus boy and, his English was poor as well. The bloody Mary had little or no vodka. The free lunch was actually charged to our ships account. Not the Todd English experience we rememberd from our transatlantic crossing last summer.
I hate to rate a ship, 1 to.... or give it a star rating, and so, I will not do that. To say that we love Cunard, and this ship, and have never been turned off by Cunard Line is a true testament as to how contented we are when we sail Cunard Line ships. There is a special magic on a Cunard ship, and the Queen Mary 2 has the magic ten fold.
The food, suite, service and the entertainment, especially Apassionatta, were excellent. The spa exquisite. Nothing on the ship was scuffed or in any state of disrepair We love Cunard. We look forward to more Queen Mary cruises, as well as sailing Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth.