I sailed on QM2 in April and have been reading posts on Cruise Critic for several months now. I'm a huge fan of QM2 and think Cunard has achieved something extraordinary in the entire process of building and marketing her.
That said, it's clear that there are problems with Britannia Restaurant. The good news, it seems to me, is that the problems are consistent -- which suggests to me that they are eminently fixable.
But since I know next to nothing about restaurant management, I'm very curious about what people who do understand the business think should be done. Since I imagine Cunard has been made well aware of the problem at this point, I'm also hopeful that Captain Wright will offer some insight as to how Cunard views the problem and what the possible solutions are.
More specifically, here are several questions that reflect some of the problems passengers have mentioned about Britannia on the boards and my own curiosity:
How do you address problems like uneven service, or overtasked waiters and waitresses?
What can be done to make such a huge operation work more smoothly, and still keep the employees happy and available enough to have relaxed, pleasant interactions with the passengers?
How can you address the unrealistic expectations and rude behavior of guests when things aren't just perfect?
What about the conflict of marketing/delivering an experience of 1930's (class based, socialized?) glamour to a much more mass market 21st century clientele?
Thank you, in advance, for your replies. I think this could be very interesting.
As you have sailed on the QM2, I know you appreciate just what a visually magnificent ship this is both inside and outside. I also know you will understand it would be inappropriate of me to comment on areas of the ships operation on a public website. Having said that I can assure you every area of the operation is always under scrutiny both from shipboard and shore management. Believe me it is our combined wish to get everything as near as perfect as we can humanly do. We pay the utmost attention to our guests comments and strive for improvement where it is perceived there is room for same. The Britannia, as you know, is a beautiful and most impressive restaurant which has had its challenges in the first 6 months of operation. It has, and is receiving a great deal of attention to the operation and we will get it right. We do notice a trend of improvement in the ratings for guests dining here and please be assured if anyone experiences any shortcomings [as in all other areas] then they should make these known at the time and they will be addressed by shipboard management. We would like the chance to do something about it before the guests disembark. Like you I'm no expert in restaurant management [ I'm just a simple sailor!] but I am most interested in doing my best to ensure all our guests receive a first class vacation which is why I do read these boards for feedback. I am limited to my access to the web while I am on board so please do not be offended if I cannot answer all posts.
We look forward to welcoming you back on board the QM2 and thanks for your objective posts.
Captain Paul Wright
p.s I do share appropriate and helpful posts with onboard management
My wife and I are booked on the July 28th Eastbound crossing (B1, stateroom 12024 dining in the Britannia). This will be our first crossing on QM2, after my 5 on the QE2 and 2 on the France. Naturally we have taken a keen interest in comments about the dining.
I must say, I am extremely impressed that Captain Wright posts regularly on this site! He is a marvel. I hope my wife and I have the opportunity to meet him onboard next week.
We just returned from our July 5th crossing which was fabulous. We loved our cabin, 12052 which was so centrally located that moving about this big ship was a breeze.
Captain Wright, we were delighted to be seated at your staff captain's table throughout our incredibly smooth crossing. Our dinner companions included Ms. Rennison and other very interesting and exciting dinner mates. Mr. Wells was a most gracious host, please thank him for us.
The food and service in the Britannia was wonderful and your staff is very professionally trained. We enjoyed the Britannia so much that we dined there for breakfast and lunch on most days,m as well as dinner. We enjoyed the open seating at those meals as we were able to meet many of your guests.
It was a pleasure meeting you and crossing on your amazing ship. Thank You.
Thank you for your refreshing, confident and informative reply. On the one hand, I had no doubt that Cunard was aware and acting on the situation. On the other hand, I could not have imagined the combination of leadership, experience, humility, and concern for both passengers and crew that your reply conveys.
I do want to put my concern about Britannia in context, so I am sharing (below) one of my recent comments from another discussion board. While I'm sure that you get many compliments about QM2, I also know that it's not always possible to take the time to really step back and take in what has really been accomplished -- which is extraordinary.
I'm still hopeful that there are a few actual, aspiring, or just armchair restaurant management types who will comment on the specific operational changes that might be made in Britannia -- simply because I'm curious.
Best wishes to you,
- - - - - - - - -
2005 Cunard Brochure Comments
"I'm probably gushing, but my first reaction after leafing through the 2005 brochure was "they've done it." What I mean is, I think Cunard has managed to recapture for QM2 -- if not for the brand -- a unique and powerful marketing position in the travel field held only by the likes of earlier liners, The Orient Express, possibly some great hotels etc.
"It's not just the ship....
"It's the ship plus the history of the company plus the history of transatlantic crossings (from Mayflower to great liners to WWII convoys and beyond) plus the headline grabbing plus the 'spontaneous' arrival celebrations in every new port plus the drama/romance/intrigue and even 'daring' (in part due to terrorism) plus the "state of the artness" of everything on board from interior design to technology.....the list goes on (associations w/ England, White Star service, Commodore Warwick...), but it's a combination of authentic experience, historical substance, style, and fantasy brought into a modern era where there aren't many such genuine embodiments of same.
"I think they have accomplished what was certainly a potential -- but by no means a guaranteed success -- overcoming potential snafus all along the way. My bet is that -- barring a major disaster of some kind -- Cunard will have a steady line of people wanting to be on the ship for two years just from what they have done already.
"Truly, I think well-deserved congratulations are in order. It's been fun watching Cunard succeed, and clearly, in some ways that are only now becoming evident, they have mostly known what they were doing all along."
Many of the service and food issues described on the the QM2 Britannia are identical to service and food issues that we have experienced on QE2 Britannia.
My wife and I were so dismayed on a World cruise on this ship that we are affraid to sail Cunard again.
Food service was so lax and many of the waiters could have cared less. It took forever to get our your meals and the ship was not clean too.
When we compare the dining room service and over all quality of Cunard to Celebrity......Cunard fails and its been that way for the last 10 years that I've sailed both lines.
I have seen little effort by management at Cunard to "fix" problems on QE2.
Talk is cheap......Stop talking and get the job done or bring in the "right" people that can or will get it done.
Its the same type of problems, only on a new ship.
We experienced the Brittania restaurant on the maiden voyage, the only fault we found was a personality problem of one of our evening waiters, I don't think he wanted to be there. I think lunchtime seating should be available on the upper floors also. The decor and the design was straight out of the Grand Ballroom of the Queen Mary, and it is superb. The food was excellent, if it seemed a bit rushed. We can't wait to be back onboard.
The problem with the restaurant is that some people have a wonderful experience with quality food and service. Reading other posts I find it hard to believe they were on the same ship yet alone restauarant.
Portion size is a debatable one. One persons idea of a reasonable size portion is to other passengers too small. The Brits tend to prefer to have their meals served piping hot. In Europe this isn't the way, so again is the meal cold or is it an expectation?. I know of one line where the waiter makes a note of the Nationality so the meal can be "heated" in the microwave before serving.
Solving a problem is alright if you can clearly identify the specific issue. The problem with Lunch could be made worse depending on the area the ship is crusing in. I'm sure if the weather is nice many people may opt to eat elswhere than Britannia. On the other hand a sharp change in weather may see higher numbers than expected heading for lunch and consequently it may not be possible at short notice to accommodate the sudden demand.
Sevice time for Dinner is again debatable. A two hour dinner for me is a relaxing and enjoyable experience. On the other hand some passengers expect or demand a quick and short dining experience. It's a hard one to call but I guess waiters should take note of their passengers "expectations" on the first night and try to adjust their service speeds to the table their are waiting on.
As always if there's a problem politely bring it to the attention of the waiter or Maitre'd. I'm sure it's easier to solve a problem then than wait until your return when it's too late.
We were on the 7/22 westbound crossing and although I know people have different experiences, our waiter and service in the Britannia were without fault. The serving sizes were certainly adequate, and I can't believe anyone could ever go away hungry- especially since you could ask for anything you wanted. I know one passenger who couldn't choose between the lobster and lamb entree, so got both. The only thing I would say about the serving size was that it could be inconsistent. I got a huge serving of turkey and vegetables one night and my husband's fish was quite a bit smaller- but still fine for him.
Captain Wright- we loved our first experience on the ship. It was smooth sailing, lovely weather (even the foggy day was fun- with the foghorn sounding every two minutes- and luckily stopping when we retired for the night). The staff and crew were unfailingly polite and helpful. We made friends and had a great time.
We were also on the Westbound July 22nd crossing. I cannot say even ONE negative thing about the entire trip! Granted, we somehow were fortunate enough to be upgraded to a P-1 suite (Princess Grille), so I'm sure that made a difference. I'm also sure Cunard knew what they were doing when they upgraded us....as we signed up for TWO more crossings next year (in a P-1 suite)! I LOVE THIS SHIP! I loved the employees, AND the food! (I must confess, I'd hoped for a little 'rougher' weather! <g>) ...and Captain Wright is one nice gentleman!
If I had to come up with even one constructive suggestion, it would be that dress codes should be more strictly enforced. There were adults in G-32 on formal evenings in short-shorts & collarless T-shirts, and nothing was said to them. I felt this was unfair to all others who attempted to follow the rules!
Still, I'm happy to be one of Cunard's newest "regulars"!
P.S. "EH" we sure enjoyed meeting you and your husband too!!
As with any food operation it takes time and patience for things to work out. Not only does it take these two things for a smooth operation but it takes TRAINING,and also having the wait staff put themselves in the place of the paying passenger or "role playing" which does much for the training of employees in any dealings with the paying public. As I posted elsewhere on these boards, I sailed the QM2 in June to the Caribbean from New York and most certainly would do so in the future...just to see if the "kinks" were worked out.
Just returned from 3 1/2 weekson QM2 (Crossings East & Westbound + Norway fjords, July 5-28). Here's a bit of real, old-fashioned experience, not just gripes. I hope this message doesn't get edited down to nothing; many on this board want to know specifics, and not just complaints. We've got both.
Britannia sucks. Specifically: Wait service was so slow! Repeatedly. At breakfast, lunch and dinners. And staff did not understand English (eg: For drinks, what does "Manhattan, up" mean? To our guy, it meant on the rocks, and in a bourbon glass, instead of chilled and served in a martini glass. When we objected to both, he brought us them without ice, but still in the big bourbon glasses, with the cherry loose, not speared so you can pick it up without getting your fingers into your drink.) Clueless.
Noisy-- (our table for 8 on the first crossing) was stuck between 2 workstations); waiters dropped a whole tray of dishes twice (clatter!) and a wine ice bucket next to our table; conversation was limited to mates to left or right -- impossible to hear anything from across the table. We asked Neville (maitre'd) to put us at table 200 or 207 for next leg of trip. I watched as he entered us into the computer. When we came to dinner, we were assigned instead to table 78 -- right at the front entrance, where people repeatedly bump into the chairs as they pass by. We demanded a change. Got it -- with 2 Greeks and 3 French people--who didn't speak a word of English. We got a change again, to table 200, at last. But there the service was so uniformly slow, we were always the last to be served our dessert & coffee after everyone else had left. And the table maitre'd was so insolent, I complained directly to both Jacqui Hodgson (Hotel Manager) and David Dance (F&B Manager). We got another table and waiter.
Food: Frequently cold. And ill-prepared Eg: At breakfast, I asked for 2 soft-boiled eggs, specifying that they were to be cooked so the whites were white, not snot-runny; they were so raw, each had only a tiny sliver of white clinging to the shell. I left them, content with coffee and a danish.
A week later, I tried again, specifying again that I wanted the eggs cooked well enough so the whites would be white. You guessed it: they came back with a faint white coat; sent back for them to be boiled some more, because I was really hungry for soft-boiled eggs (you couldn't get them in Kings Court area); 2 more came back, both runny, still no whites. Called over the breakfast maitre d, showed him the snotty things, explained that I don't eat such things; he took them into the galley, came back 15 minutes later with 2 more, assuring me that these were "right"; they were both still snotty. He looked at them and said, "Oh, oh." At least he apologized, and said he was sorry, would I like him to try again? I said no. Three strikes and you're out. Settled for coffee and danish again.
Last evening meal, I ordered the beefsteak tomatoes on bed of mesclun lettuce. Buried under the tasteless lettuce were 2 narrow quarters of a tomato -- pallid greenish-white things, with the heart of the tomato cut out & removed, so all that was left was a one-inch wide piece of tomato with scabby skin, one-eighth inch thick. I sent the salad back. And the tenderloin steak was so tough and gristly I could not chew it. I sent it back and enjoyed dessert instead.
On each of the disembarkation mornings in Britannia(3, for us), you could not get special egg orders (eg, Eggs Benedict; no more soft-boiled for me! "Crew is busy handling luggage. Sorry.") On another morning, our tablemate ordered Eggs Benedict; they came, but the yokes were hard-boiled, firm as rocks. That was the morning our breakfast took an hour and 45 minutes. No excuses offered. Missed the morning lecture as a consequence.
Speaking of lectures, the Connexions Oxford series were WONDERFUL. Great speakers, timely topics. Enjoyed them.
The planetarium was a disappointment -- the 3 showings were mostly computer graphics (haven't they ever heard of real Hubble images?) and inanely over-simplified so that even a 5-year-old would be bored.
The evening entertainments were OK -- but the music was only at two volume levels: LOUD and LOUDER. And the same shows over and over again. How about a little more variety, Ray Rouse?
In short, from our experiences, we will not sail Cunard-Carnival again. We spent $20,000+ and had a great meal and service twice in La Piazza (the Italian eatery -- where the food and service were excellent). BUT -- you had to make reservations a day in advance to get in to the Carvery or Piazza -- not because there were so many people eating there, but because the staff was so short, they could handle only 10 or 12 tables for two. And at Lotus, the 12 courses were a delight -- except the duckling spring roll was hard as a rock, and there was no Saki on board the whole trip. Waiter said "Provisioner did not supply any." (Found out later, that they never did have any, for either crossing or Norway segment. F&B Manager: get a life! --Who ever heard of a fine Oriental meal without either chilled or hot Saki?!? And couldn't you buy any in Southampton, Norway, Germany, or Netherlands??)
And I don't buy the lame excuse that it's a new ship, etc. etc. -- after 6 MONTHS, you'd think they'd have it figured out!
Sorry, but we won't be subjected to such dismal service and food again. We'll take Princess or Celebrity next time, thank you. Britannia & QM2 is broken so bad, it'll never get fixed.
Sorry to sound so negative. I could enumerate a number of other instances of failure on board. On the other hand, the Sailaways from Alesund, Norway, Hamburg & Rotterdam were utterly fantastic. I think a MILLION people came out to line the shores and watch the majestic Queen Mary 2 glide by. They probably all thought they were missing something elegant by not being on board.
And, oh yes, Homer Simpson is indeed on the QM2. In bas-relief, on Deck 2, right next to the Statue of Liberty, in front of his TV, remote in hand. At least the artist had a clue! Cunard sure doesn't.