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Old October 23rd, 2007, 03:19 AM
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Default Puzzled by very variable service on QM2

On a recent QM2 cruise, we experienced such a huge variation in service, from perfect to appalling, that I am still puzzling over it weeks later. This was our first cruise ever, so we have nothing to compare it to.

We were on the Splendors of the Fall QM2 trip from NYC to Quebec City and back. We had 2 Princess Grill junior suites, one for us and one for our kids, 7 and 4. As we also booked an extended trip in NYC through Cunard, our total package was a very hefty price.

We had heard a great deal about the wonderful service on Cunard ships, so we expected to be treated at least decently and presumably with some respect and graciousness. Not quite so.

We had great service from our wonderful waiters (especially Luciano and Mauro) in the Princess Grill and from the concierge in the Grill-level concierge lounge. But we were treated astonishingly badly by the Food and Beverage Manager, the Purser's desk, the vile weasels in the Cunard merchandise shop, the Cruise Director and Social Hostess, and others.

Our cabin steward was a waste of space. Having not been on a cruise before, we were not sure of the division of labor for some things, and on the first couple of days asked him for help a couple of times. His reply was "not my job" and to stay out of sight. I'm sure he worked hard at the specific tasks of his job, but he was a terrible front-man for Cunard. I once heard him mimicking another passenger in a very mean sing-songy way, which made me very uncomfortable. And on disembarkation day, we returned to our rooms 15 min. before our disembarkation time and found he was already stripping the sheets and doing other work -- and didn't apologize or offer to come back later. Another steward passing in the hall had to call him out of the room to get him out of our way!

The cruise director and the social hostess treated our children as if they were radioactive, when they were in fact amazingly well-behaved and charming. (On the last formal night, they had a great time dressing up for dinner, and ripples of applause passed around the Princess grill as they went in. At the beginning, it was clear that people were tense that their meals would be ruined by young children misbehaving, but the novelty -- and the fabulously personal service -- kept them very engaged. They became great favorites of many tables, and we had people coming up to us all over the boat to congratulate us on the kids.)

We took the kids to the masquerade ball, and my son and I ventured onto the dance floor, which clearly distressed the social hostess who didn't want anything "different" from her conception of what the agenda would be. I would almost say she was hateful towards my charming 7 y.o. boy. She and the awful cruise director made us feel extremely unwelcome. How hard is it to be kind to a child? Why were these people, who are supposed to make sure you're having a wonderful time, so hostile to us?

The Play Zone gets high ratings, but we found it to be a glorified and worn-out babysitting service. As the date of the cruise was after school started, there were less than 2 dozen kids on-board. My daughter liked a craft project that was left to dry on a table and I asked if she could do one herself. The zone manager said no, she couldn't, he didn't have anymore because they didn't restock their supplies after summer. It seemed to indicate that the childcare programs are just a sop for the larger number of families that travel in summer, but they don't feel they have to do anything for the kids in the off season. There was no sense of dedication to the job, enjoyment of children, or graciousness and generosity of spirit or service. It made me so sad to see a little girl plopped in her stroller, bottle in her mouth, watching a video, while the staff stood around talking to each other rather than trying to engage with the kids.

In the Kings Court buffet, I had the misfortune of putting soured milk in my tea. I took the milk thermos to a nearby member of the waitstaff and gently suggested they needed to replace the milk; his reply was "Oh yeah, right." It had an authentic British feel - that is, British lower class uneducated. I really would have expected they would train their staff to apologize for such problems, rather than appear to approve of them.

I bought a couple of tall tea "mugs" from the shop's 2 for 1 sale (with the Cunard First Class logo on them) to give to staff who had given us good service. On the evening before disembarkation, I discovered one of them was broken inside the box, and took it down to the purser to see if they could exchange it for me (the shop had already closed). An hour later, a replacement mug was delivered - but a different, cheaper, and far inferior mug. I called down to the purser's desk and was told by the fellow who answered that they got that particular (ugly) mug for me because the mug that was broken was the one I got "free" when I bought "the other one". What a ridiculous, weasley thing to say - how in the world could someone think they could get away with such a stupid arguement? If you move past the idiocy of saying that one random mug was the "free" one (how could they possibly know which I picked up first?), why should it be replaced with something inferior? It was a difference in cost of less that $5, but the twit at the desk argued with me about it for at least 10 min., which surely cost Cunard more than the price difference. I pointed out to him that he was leaving a lasting negative impression of Cunard's service quality and throwing away a client's satisfaction with the cruise over a very nominal amount, and he just didn't give a damn. Ironically, I meant to give that mug to the concierge, and had to leave her a note explaining why she got an ugly mug instead of the one I bought for her.

On the first informal night, when the Kings Court restaurants are mostly by reservation only (a fact not adequately communicated in the daily ship schedule), I had a rude experience with the Food and Beverage manager. We had returned to the ship rather late and our kids were exhausted. It takes a while to get them dressed for dinner, so I thought I'd dash down to the Carvery part of the Kings Court to grab a simple meal for them. I was quite surprised to find that it was off-limits to those who didn't have a prior reservation, and that the only buffet choice was the more exotic Lotus asian/fusion part of the court. There was nothing there my kids would eat, so I was in a real quandry. (We didn't use room service because they were unable to handle the call volume and didn't answer the phone at all; clearly a lot of people were using them that night). I saw a man with lots of gold braid (the F&B manager, Bernhard Fischer) talking to another passenger and waited my turn to ask him a question, e.g. what other food options do we have tonight? The woman in front of me had also missed the news that most of the restaurants were by reservation only and was quite distressed. It was already apparent that Mr. Fischer was having a stressful night, as I had seen him barking (nearly yelling) at a server. When I got his attention I started by saying that we had also been surprised to find that reservations were required - intending to lead in to the question of what other choices did we have for young children who were too tired to dress up for the grill. He cut me off mid-sentence to bark at me that the information had been printed in the schedule, and then he turned and walked away. I felt so scolded and humiliated, I was near tears. I had to go back to our rooms to get the whole family dressed in the "informal" mode, and we finally got our exhausted kids to the grill at about 8 pm. Thankfully, our wonderful waiters took great care of us and the kids and saved our evening by making us feel so cared for.

Does anyone have any insight into why staff on the QM2 were generally so ungracious and many times outright rude? Was I expecting too much? We aren't people who show off or demand a lot of attention. We were generally well-dressed on the boat, and very well-dressed (all 4 of us) for dinners in the grill. But I had a persistent feeling that the staff did not have a basic attitude of respect for us or other passengers, or that, for some reason, we were assumed to be traveling at the lowest level of accomodation, rather that the second highest.

We're already booked for a QE2 trip next summer, as I really want to cruise on her once before she is dropped in Dubai, but I don't want to pay tens of thousands of dollars again to be treated the way we were treated on the QM2.

Thanks for any replies.

Carol E.
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 05:54 AM
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Carol,

Your story echos very much the experience we had on QM2, When it's good, it's good, when it's bad - it's attrocious.

We, too, had occasions when staff blanked us or spoke in a high minded manner leaving you with the sense that you've been reprimanded.

Our solution to this has been to not cruise on QM2 - but go for QE2. QE2's smaller size lends her more easily to a polite crew.

I'm sure you'll find the attitude entirely different.

P
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 08:49 AM
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I too am shocked and appalled to read of your experience on the QM2. And, in response to your question, I have to admit that I am clueless. I have no idea why service levels could vary so much on any large cruise line. They should have policies and procedures in place to ensure service levels are relatively even throughout each and every department on the ship.

The only place where I can comment is your observation about the cabin steward stripping down the beds before you had even vacated the cabin on disembarkation day. I have seen the same thing on other cruiselines, including Princess and Holland America, and I have to say that it doesn't much bother me. These people have a TREMENDOUS amount of work to do on disembarkation day, and I would imagine if the cabin is empty for any period of time, they are gonna get to it as quickly as possible. Maybe they want to be able to get off the ship for an hour or so, perhaps to make a phone call home, and the only way they can do that is if their work is 100% done. So, I don't object at all if the cabin steward comes in to strip down the beds before I have "officially" vacated the cabin. Usually they will do this sort of thing, and even reconfigure the beds if such is necessary for the passengers using the cabin after you ... as early as they can get to it. After all, they know you're not gonna be using the beds any longer. Most people only come back to the cabin to use the bathroom before disembarkation ... and generally the cabin stewards won't touch that until you have disembarked. After all, they don't want to clean the bathroom only to have you dirty it again.

But as for the way you and your children were treated in the Play Zone and by the Social Hostess and cruise director ... I don't understand it. Personally, if I were you, I would write to Cunard's home office with a very nicely worded, though clear recitation of the facts, and let them answer your questions. As far as I can see, they certainly owe you an apology. I can certainly not envision any justification for some of the things you report, and I would make Cunard aware of them. Perhaps some of the service staff ... such as the Cruise Director's team, the high level managers such as the F&B manager, and the Play Zone staff may be in desperate need of some retraining in customer service principles.

Sorry you had a negative experience in some aspects of your QM2 cruise. Hopefully, they were made up for with other aspects of the experience of being on such an elegant ship.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old October 30th, 2007, 06:12 PM
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We sailed QM2 and all was fine. But then again we were in an obstucted balcony, didn't have to deal with conicerges etc and had no kids with us.
We have recently sailed with Costa and although it was a great cruise it couldn't touch QM2 for that feeling of everything just that bit better.
We met no unfriendly staff and had no troubles with eating. When we did go to the Lotus on an evening when we should have booked then they gave us a table no problem.
On my return sailing I had a noise problem in my cabin and was immediately upgraded. This is more typical of Cunard than what you have experienced.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 01:35 AM
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i really take exception to you comment about the British being uneducated.I find it raciest and uneducated , i think you should grow up get a life and move on from this experience.Seeing as you come from a country of circa 200 years old you have little class, which you have just proved by this vile comment.
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Old November 12th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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My wife and I love the QM2. We're going for our third trip on her in February. Our trips on her have met with very few problems.
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Old November 13th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Britannia Rules the Waves
i really take exception to you comment about the British being uneducated.I find it raciest and uneducated , i think you should grow up get a life and move on from this experience.Seeing as you come from a country of circa 200 years old you have little class, which you have just proved by this vile comment.
Brit!!!! Let's take that again..... Take 2....

'I really take exception to your comment about the British being uneducated. I find it racist and uneducated. I think you should grow up, get a life and move on from this experience. Seeing as you come from a country of circa 200 years old, you have litttle class which you have just proved by the vile comment.'

But let's now correct the inaccuracies....

1. The OP was referring to one member of staff who displayed poor manners. The OP was not referring to the entire British race.

2. Before you start accusing posters of being uneducated, maybe you should check your post for grammar.

3. This person could easily be in their forties. Perhaps older than you?
In any case, they don't need to grow up (more).

4. You presume that the OP is from the US. What has the 'age' of the country to do with anything here? Can you infer that because a country is only '200 years old' that all people from that country have little class/manners? Ahem. That in itself could be construed as being racist.

5. There is no indication that there is a class issue in the OP's experiences. They are reported very matter of factly.

Frankly, I find your post rather more rude than the OP's.

Maybe you had a bad day.......

Meercat (Who is British).
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Old January 4th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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Well....I do sympathize with you. I was recently on a 10 day Splendours of the Caribbean sailing on the QM2, and experienced similar, if not worse service. As a former Cunard employee, and frequent cruise goer (10+ cruises), I was rather appalled. I booked the cruise for my 40th birthday, and was very anxious to sail on the QM2. I had been on briefly for the NYC luncheon in 2004, and finally was able to book. My wife and 2 children (also 7 and 4), as well as my parents sailed.
I booked over 10 months in advance, in a B3 balcony cabin, and was unaware of the location of my cabin. When I boarded, I realized I was sleeping in the crews quarters. Not literally, but most of the cabins surrounding my cabin were actually occupied by crew members. I was made aware of this at 2am the first night at sea, when someone began banging on my door. When I opened it, I was shown a printed out picture of a man, and was asked "did you see this man"? "he is missing". I was then asked if I was crew or passenger......I was fuming.
I went to the purser's office the next day, and they played it down like it was a common occurrence, and looked at me like I was silly for complaining.
One day my daughters and I decided to play basketball on the sports deck, at around 4pm. A crew member came into the court, and told us that they received a complaint from a cabin on the deck below of too much noise. I was not playing a full court game with 10 adult men, I was playing with two little girls. So we were told that the court was now closed. Very rudely I may add.
There were some other instances, but the main issue I did have was that when I originally booked my cruise, I was told (by a cunard reservationist) that there would be a $250pp on board credit on my booking. Well, being a Cunard loyalist, I had no reason to believe that I wouldn't receive it, but when I got on board, there wasn't any credit, or any record of any credit. I again went to the Purser, and they treated me like garbage. I couldn't find anyone who could understand my issue. I was told over and over, "please resolve this with your travel agent"... but my travel agent was CUNARD!!!!
I called Cunard Corporate when I returned from my cruise, but was not helped at all. I was given an email address to contact, and was given a 2-4 week window to receive my answer.
I cannot believe this was Cunard.
I do agree that for the most part, the play zone was great for the kids. The older one more than the younger. And my waiters and entire restaurant staff was great.
I hope this is not the new Norm on Cunard, I would be truly disappointed, and saddened.

I thought I was alone, thanks for your post.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 03:32 AM
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I've also noticed a worsening of the service ever since Cunard was purchased by Carnival Cruise Lines. The same applies to Costa Lines, originally owned by an Italian company. It seems like the super efficient management methods employed by American companies (increasing profit margins no matter what and creating new profit centers where none existed before) are undermining the British and Italian characters of Cunard and Costa Lines for which customers are willing to pay a premium for. Examples of this are the grossly underpayment of staff members, which causes morale problems, and the real or perceived loss of status by some higher ranking staff due to the loss of special perks. For example, the ship's chief doctor at dinner table during one cruise was complaining, actually he seemed quite upset, that he was forced to move into a much smaller and sparsely furnished cabin. As his wife and kids frequently travelled with him, he thought this was totally unacceptable. The doctor, with many years service at Cunard, was looking forward to leaving for another company. Certainly the fact that he was voicing his dissatisfaction to a tablefull of passengers didn't look well for Cunard. And staff members that are not paid an honest wage are less likely to provide good service and more likely to get short with passengers. In the long run this short-sighted view will end up diluting the Cunard brand and cause serious damage to its reputation.

It's fine for Carnival to own foreign cruise lines, but they should remove themselves completely from day-to-day management of these companies which thrive on their uniquness to provide a level of service and ambiance not found on other ships. British-educated managers should call the shots at Cunard ensuring the company retained it's British flavor and classy service. Sure, this would probably result in lower profit margins, but also in higher levels of customer satisfaction and the survival of Cunard's unique travel experience. It will be a sad day, after more than 160 years, if Cunard were to become just another Disney Cruise Line.
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Old February 7th, 2008, 07:50 PM
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Hi, Sorry to haer about your time on QM2. I have sailed on her 4 times and on the QE2 several trans-Atlantic crossings. The service on QE2 is superior to QM2 for sure. I have always saild Princess or Queens Grill and always tip the stewart $100. as soon as I arrive in my room or I make a point to seek him or her out introduce myself and partner and insist they address us by first names. I always have the fresh fruit, water even sliced lime and lemons 3 times a day! I have a sweet tooth and my favorite cookies or sweets were always on the bar on a covered dish. I do agree that the help especially in the duty free shop for spirits was bad on my first trip.That trip was a long weekend trip from NYC to Nova Scotia 2 years ago on the Labor Day weekend. When I asked the woman how much booze and cigarettes I was allowed she replied she did not know and that she cannot be expected to know what every port of call has for requlations. I remined her she was only a clerk on a ship and she need not have that kind of attitude. I felt better but got her name and wrote a letter to the Cunard President when I returned. Six month later when I was on the ship again she was gone! As for samall gifts for the staff, I always bring baseball caps with "Brooklyn" on them as I am a native and since the ship docks there and its a very popular name with some of the British staff as it is also Beckham's childs name. I have encountered staff who have remember me from trip to trip. All in all always a good time. As for the Todd English I ate there twice. The first time was due to some friends were traveling in Britanic so it was a way for us to all eat together. We had a table near the rear windows. It was wonderful as it was a formal evening and we were close to the side door and would go outside between courses to stretch and have our wine. The second time was just 2 of us and we had a table to the left as you walked in on the isle. We did not enjoy it as it was noisy and the food was just on the same level as Queens Grill. The last trips we did not nor do we ever plan to eat there again. We are traveling again next week for President weekend in Queens grill. I quess I will post my comments then. I have sailed on other lines and execpt for the Radisson s "Paul Gauguin" in Tahiti this ship is the best!
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