Queen Mary 2 Scandinavian Explorer

My wife and I embarked on Queen Mary 2 at Southampton on September 29 for a 9 night voyage entitled ‘Scandinavian Explorer’.

We effectively had two primary aims for booking this cruise. The first was to experience the double sail away from Hamburg on board Cunard’s Flagship and the second was to experience the one level of accommodation offered by Cunard that had somehow eluded us – Britannia Club.

We were also aware when we booked this cruise as to the likely nature and significance of the double stop in Hamburg. In simple terms although we had booked a 9 day Southampton to Southampton cruise this was effectively a three in one cruise for us.

We arrived at Southampton’s Queen Elizabeth 2 Terminal and had, as part of our booking deal with Go Cruise, complimentary car parking. This is run by CPS and both the efficiency of the porters and CPS was outstanding. Being Cunard World Club Diamond members we were given priority embarkation and after a very short wait in the reserved embarkation lounge we were soon on board.

As with all Cunard embarkations guests’ staterooms are available immediately on embarkation. Our Britannia Club stateroom was on 12 Deck, starboard side…

Britannia Club guests on Queen Mary 2 have an exclusively reserved area for dining. An open-seating dining arrangement is in operation for all meals and guests’ table allocation stands for all meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Table waiters remain allocated to guests tables for all meals.

We soon got to meet our stateroom attendant, Carlos, and he was left in no doubt as to where our loyalties lay…

…before we headed off to the sail away party on 8 Deck aft which, as always,  was exceptionally well attended with supporting music by  the ship’s resident Caribbean Band, Vibz. The champagne flowed…

…and our cruise was off to an excellent start.

Our evening began with a spot of dancing in the Queens Room…

…prior to joining our table mates in the Britannia Club Restaurant.

Britannia Club

As mentioned earlier, this was effectively a 3 leg cruise and so it turned out that on our table for 8 ourselves and one other guest, a delightful American lady doing the full 23 day round trip, were the only permanent guests. Otherwise we had an excellent mix of British, German and Swiss nationals – a true reflection of Cunard’s cosmopolitan cruise base.

Breakfast and lunch menus followed those in the main Britannia Restaurant,  however in addition to the table d’hote dinner menu the Britannia Club offered an  la Carte menu, effectively extending the available choices. An example of the standard Dinner Menu…

…and the Club A la Carte Dinner menu…

And one dish from the standard menu, the marinated Peking Duck Entrée…

Additional benefits to dining in Britannia Club are the more personal table service with dishes prepared table side…

as well as a full cheese board selection being offered  in place of plated cheeses.

On Passage

There were four sea days during this voyage and a full programme of daily and evening entertainment was available including two cocktail parties. There were some particularly high quality speakers in Cunard’s Insights programme including Captain Kim Sharman, a retired Royal Naval fighter pilot and Jumbo pilot for Cathay Pacific, Dr Sue Bowler of the Royal Astronomical Society and the outstanding Film Maker, Director and Producer,  Robert Neal Marshall who very kindly presented me with an autographed copy of  his ‘Three Queens’ DVD…

The Insights lecture programme is presented in Illuminations which is also the venue for the Planetarium. A full Planetarium programme was shown on sea days  and the following photograph shows the dome in its lowered position ready for the next Planetarium show…

One of the joys of sea days with Cunard is the packed daily programme, far too many activities to list but while traditional pastimes like afternoon tea stand out…

Afternoon tea in the Queens room with the Harpist providing the background music.

another daytime entertainment of  particular note on this voyage was an afternoon  Jazz concert held in the Chart Room….

Queen Mary 2 also offers an iStudy programme where complimentary seminars and workshops of 45 minutes are given on ipads, Tablets, iTunes and the new iOS7 system. Guests wishing further tuition/study can sign up to various workshop packages…

Of course no passenger is under any obligation to attend or partake of any activities and many just choose to settle down with a good book in one of the many seating areas around the ship, or even just sit and watch the waves pass by on 3 Deck…

Evenings are also action packed on Cunard’s flagship. When not dancing before and after dinner my wife and I often enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the Commodore Club…

attend an after dinner show in the rather unique Royal Court Theatre…

and fortunately we remain young enough to shake a wicked leg into the early hours at…

Queen Mary 2’s very own Nite Club

 The Itinerary

Our first port of call was Hamburg. My wife and I had visited Hamburg earlier in the year with Queen Victoria, and  my review of that visit can be found at

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/hamburg-in-a-day/

So for this visit we planned something a little different. We took the train from Hamburg to Bergedorf where we utilised the local bus service to take us to the Memorial Museum of the Neuengamme concentration camp

… a sobering and thought provoking experience. The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, located on the historical site of the camp, commemorates the over 100,000 people who were imprisoned in the largest concentration camp in northwest Germany during World War II.

Our early evening departure from Hamburg was the amazing experience we had heard so much about: and one not to be missed. It really is quite amazing how the residents of Hamburg and the towns along the banks of the River Elbe throng along the banks, flags waving

Watch the video, the music is coming from shoreside…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZZDVmm9ojo

Further down the Elbe the Hotel Louis C Jacob put on their own display…

…complete with towels, bed sheets and a resounding ‘Land of Hope and Glory’…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkGM_T0zP0M&feature=youtu.be

All quite amazing and a very good reason to book a starboard side cabin and not a first sitting dinner.

Our next scheduled call was to Helsingør in Denmark.  It is known internationally for its castle Kronborg, where William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet was set.

Unfortunately weather conditions precluded our anchoring here and the closest we got to the castle was this…

The next day our entry into Oslo proceeded perfectly and we enjoyed a full day in Norway’s capital city…

Karl Johans Gate – Norway’s most famous street

There followed another sea day before our second visit to Hamburg. Something different this time as once again we boarded the ultra efficient German railways and headed to the historic medieval town of Luneburg…

… a gem of a tourist town that features on cruise ship excursions but is equally easy to visit by oneself – preferable actually because one can actually spend more time here.

Our second Hamburg sailaway was equally  good,  though partly completed in the evening twilight.  Hey, these great fans of Cunard  still line the banks of the Elbe then attempt to out do each other with firework displays accompanying their traditional patriotic British anthems!

Summary

We had an excellent cruise whilst achieving both  our initial aims. There was no disadvantage to the changes of some 800 passengers at either stop at Hamburg, indeed, we felt no effect whatsoever and on one occasion benefitted from the earlier shuttle buses to Hamburg’s HBF railway station.

The changing table companions gave conversation and banter a whole new twist and was never in any form  detrimental to the dining experience – there is always the option for a table for two, of which there were an adequate number in the Club Restaurant.

Our impression of the Britannia Club is that it offers the perfect balance between the Britannia and Grills experiences, and one which  will certainly be of interest to those who may not wish to stretch finances to grills level but would like to experience the flexibility and ambiance available in Club.

This booking was made through Martin Spence of Go Cruise Franchise. Excellent service Martin, thank you very much.

I would additionally mention that this booking also qualified under Cunard’s Vantage fare promise for an additional $370.00 worth of On Board Credit. The system does work.

Footnote: I intend to add our visits to Oslo, Luneburg and the Neuengamme Concentration Camp to my Port Reviews section in the near future.

Why not sign up ‘to follow’ and be first to read them.

3 responses to “Queen Mary 2 Scandinavian Explorer

  1. Richard, Your account of our cruise is “spot on!” Is an exciting and articulate memory of our wonderful trip. A major highlight for me was meeting you and Barbara ….. A most lovely couple!

  2. Dear Richard,
    how much fun reading your account of our Cruise. It’s been like doing it all over again. I’ve already passed on your Blog details as an absolutely true and and solid source of information to some people who intend to embark into this kind of educated adventure. And of course I have provided you with an additional German flag. You and Barbara are the best travelling compagnions one can wish to meet on board. Best regards from “Queen Mum” and myself.

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