Queen Anne Maiden Voyage: What Was It Like? The Verdict

Queen Anne Maiden Voyage: What Was It Like? The Verdict

I need to confess I am a Cunarder.  I have been on all the ships currently sailing; Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.  Since 2010 I have been on a dozen cruises and I have reached the Platinum loyalty status with Cunard.  When I was given the opportunity to sail on the maiden voyage of the new Queen Anne I must say I was over the moon.

With the building of the ship delayed due to Covid a date of January 2024 was finally set for the first voyage but this was further put back to 3rd May 2024.  While it was frustrating to wait a further five months I was happy because it meant we would be visiting A Coruña in North West Spain and Lisbon in Portugal during the week long cruise at a time when it is warm and sunny.

Having been fortunate enough to get to sail on the first cruise of the Queen Anne and having an insight into how it compares to their other vessels and the Cunard brand as a whole I will share those experiences with you for those of you booked on future trips or those that may be thinking of booking one.

Arriving In Southampton – No Fan Fare

sailway queen anne a coruna
Sailway Queen Anne in A Coruña Spain

Unfortunately when we arrived at the cruise terminal in Southampton you wouldn’t have guessed this was a maiden voyage.  No bunting, no flags, no fan fare at all.  Just get yourself on the ship as if it had been sailing for years.

There were fireworks when we left port and they were brilliant but apart from that it was a damp squib.  It felt like they were waiting for the naming ceremony in Liverpool on 3rd June to really celebrate and this was just a trial voyage, although that wasn’t what we were led to believe when we booked.

Apart from a half bottle of fizz in your room and a half filled glass in the restaurant on the second night (Gala night) there was no opportunity to celebrate.  There was a captains drinks event later in the cruise, which was nice around the Pavilion pool, but nothing special and not what you would have expected from a first voyage of a Cunard ship.

First Night Was Chaotic, Many Unhappy

queen anne artisan food hall maiden voyage
Artisan Food Hall no self service

Everyone accepts that they never expected things to be perfect first time around but the first night was chaotic and frankly awful.  Almost everyone was unhappy.

We arrived at 8:20 for second sitting in the restaurant.  The queue went around both decks 2 and 3 with no one was allowed in as they were no where near finishing serving from first sitting.  When we eventually got into the restaurant the table was not laid and we waited 10 minutes for that to happen.  We waited another 10 minutes for a bread roll and another 10 minutes for a glass of water.  After sitting there for 40 minutes with the menu we asked when we would be able to order to be told “I don’t know”.

With the Artisan Food Hall finishing serving at 9:30 we decided at 9:10 to abandon the restaurant and go to deck 9 to at least get some food.  As you will read later there is no self service in the food hall anymore and everything is served to you from behind the counter.  The queues were horrendous and they were running out of food as so many had come up from the restaurant.

We did manage to get a meal but only one plate before they ended service.  Those who came up after 9:30 who still had not been served in the restaurant were told their only option was to wait for the evening service at 11pm in the food hall or go to their room and order room service.  Imagine the reaction from people dressed up for dinner on the first night of a maiden voyage to be told they had to go sit on their bed an eat if they wanted dinner that night.

Naturally the queue for the pursers office was hours long and some people were livid.  Still despite the debacle on the first night Cunard offered only a bottle of fizz in the stateroom later in the cruise as an apology.  It simply was not good enough.

When we finally retired to the Commadore bar hungry having given up on getting any more food we then found the ship had an expansive menu but over half the drinks were not available on the ship.  The bartender blamed customs but given the ship was already 5 months late and it operates out of Southampton where the other three ships sail from that seemed a lame excuse.  They simply didn’t prepare well enough.

Steady Improvement Over The 7 Days

cunard queen anne menu gala night

Things did get better.  The second night, the first Gala black tie evening, was much better although service was still very slow.  We finished our dinner in the restaurant at 10:45pm having sat down at 8:30 and we didn’t have desert either.  By that time we couldn’t be bothered to wait for desert. We had already missed the show and much of the evening entertainment on board.

Generally things got better day by day but service was slow for the whole 7 day cruise.  It became common to wait 20 minutes or more from ordering a drink to it arriving at your table except at quiet times.

First world problems for sure but when you are paying top dollar for an inaugural voyage of a Cunard ship frankly you expect much better.

Trial Voyage But At Top Prices

queen anne maiden voyage apology letter and fizzOne of the biggest gripes from people aboard was the fact this was obviously a trial voyage.  There was no fan-fare or razmataz apart from the fireworks yet they sailed with a full ship and charged people top prices.  Reasonably people expected things to be up to scratch, especially as she was sailing 5 months later than planned.

People I spoke to wish Cunard had been honest and perhaps offered a 25% reduced rate and told people it was a trial and some elements would be a work in progress.  I think most passengers would have accepted that but that is not the approach Cunard took.  They charged us top prices but did not offer top service.

All passengers received to even know this was a maiden voyage was a notebook and folder in the cabin, one per cabin and not per person too.  It was quite poor.

I must say I felt sorry for the pursers, they were busy constantly.  The desk is hidden away and understaffed too.  Surely they would have known that there would be issues on the first voyage and they would need more staff on the pursers desk but in another sign of cost cutting that didn’t happen.  The most people I ever saw behind the pursers desk was three at any one time, with people queuing all around the Grand Lobby.  The pursers themselves were great though each time I dealt with them.

What About The Ship Itself?

queen anne name plate on shop angled view maiden voyage

I have to admit my first impressions of the way the ship looks was not that good.  I didn’t really get to see her properly from the outside until we disembarked at A Coruña on day 3.  After the rain lifted in the morning there was glorious sun bathing the Queen Anne but I didn’t get the same feeling looking at her than I got with the other three ships, the QM2 especially.  She seems boxy and looks more like a typical American ship than a classic Cunard ship.  The funnel is weird and there is just something about it that I don’t like.  It’s a perfectly nice looking ship but it didn’t give me any feeling of belonging as with the others.  That may just be a personal preference although many people I spoke to on board had similar feelings.

queen anne deck plan

The Queen Anne was designed to be modern, to attract a younger generation of travellers to Cunard.  They have certainly hit this brief in places with more open spaces on board.  The Golden Lion pub, for example, is much bigger as are the other bars and communal spaces around the ship.  They have, however, removed a lot of character from those rooms with the aim to maximise sitting space (to sell stuff to us) seemingly more important than adding character to the spaces.  The pub, for example, is just one large rectangular room and while it has a pub vibe it doesn’t have the same ambiance of the Golden Lion on the other three.

golden lion pub queen anne maiden voyage

Another example is the theatre.  It doesn’t have the character of the other ships.  No boxes to sit in just one large bank of seats and a stage.  It seems that maximising space was the major concern rather than adding character.  This is one example but it is true of most of the spaces on the ship.

queen anne theatre show maiden voyage

The Grand Lobby isn’t really that grand and doesn’t have the classic features of the other ships.  The Commadore bar is big but lacks character, you cannot sit at the bar and when in there after sunset the room is just too dark, you can barely see your drink on the table.

commadore club pianist evening queen anne maiden voyage very dark

Those are just a few examples but it is a theme that covers most of the spaces on board.  There seems to be an attitude of how big can we make these spaces to maximise revenue while saving money on adding the character that Cunarders who have sailed for years enjoy.  The fact the ship is smaller than the Queen Mary 2 but has pretty much the same number of passengers of says it all.  Space is at a premium and they have opened it all up but lost a lot of the style in the process.

queen anne pavilion deck at nightIt is worth pointing out that the Pavilion Pool deck is fabulous, the best on all the Cunard ships.  The pool is big and heated and you can actually swim in it and there are enough whirlpools that you don’t need to wait to get in one.  There are no changing rooms.  They have been removed on the the the Queen Anne to make more space for seating.  So you can go to the pool area but you can’t get changed there, meaning your only choice is to go to there in your dressing gown from your cabin.  Our stateroom was on deck 1 so that was not exactly convenient.

Oh and the spa was great too, no complaints there.  I paid for the 7 day access to the thermal suite for $150 and it was worth every cent.  There were issues, such as no soaps in the showers on numerous occasions in the changing rooms but other than that the spa is excellent and I would recommend you try it if you go aboard.

The ship may grow on me over time, especially if I end up having a better voyage on her, but I never see myself having the same affection for her.

Staterooms and Cabins

stateroom bathroom queen anneOur stateroom on deck 1 was really good.  We only booked an inside room but ended up with an outside room and that was nice.  There is a big window and the room was spacious and clean.  The bathrooms are much better, especially the shower which is now way bigger and easier to use compared to the older ships.  The location was also great being near the Spa, easy access to the restaurant, bars on deck 2 and 3 and the theatre.

Speaking to passengers on higher decks with balcony’s many were not happy.  Regular Cunarders said their cabins were around 15-30% smaller compared to the Queen Mary and Queen Victoria / Elizabeth.  They felt they were paying the same money for much less.  There were complaints about wardrobe space with some people saying if they were on for longer than 7 days they wouldn’t have room for their clothes.  This isn’t something I experienced but it was a common issue I heard over and over again.

stateroom oceanview queen anne maiden voyage

There was no guidebook in the stateroom as you come to expect from the other ships.  We could, for example, find the menu for room service but we couldn’t find the number to call.  This meant we had to call the pursers and they were so busy it took ten minutes just to get the number for room service.  There was also no map of the ship provided to passengers, which you would have thought was even more important on a first voyage.  We asked for one and eventually got one from the cabin steward on day 3.

There was no water provided in the mini fridge as you usually get with Cunard.  They have decided to replace this with bottle refill stations on all decks, which is a good idea and surely saves plastic waste.  The issue was none of them worked and none were fixed during the voyage.  This means to get fresh water you have to go to the food hall on deck 9 or order from room service.  You would have thought given they knew the bottle refill stations were not working they would go back to providing water in the cabin.  Obviously not.

Dining Areas

britannia resturant queen anne maiden voyageApart from the first night the Britannia Restaurant was nice. All food was superb, once you actually got it. The service was never brilliant but it was a first voyage so you can accept that.  Breakfast was slow in the restaurant on all days I went but lunch service in there was good and fast on all occasions.

One thing to note about the restaurant is only once in 7 days and a total of around 15 visits was I offered a drink other than water by a sommelier.  If the aim of the ship is to make more money then they are certainly failing in the restaurant.  In the end I would order my drinks from a bar outside and take them to dinner with me.

Lunch in the Golden Lion was nice as always but the wait for food was terrible, all throughout the voyage.  I only went there twice in the end for lunch and only ate there once when told on the first visit food could take up to an hour to arrive.  They have made the pub around a third bigger but they don’t seem to have the staff to accommodate that, at lunch time especially, which is a shame.

My biggest bug bear was the Artisan Food Hall.  It is no longer called the buffet because it isn’t a buffet.  You can’t help yourself to any food, not even a bread roll, everything has to be served to you.  There was a lot less choice compared to the buffet on the other ships and it is the only time on Cunard I have come away from a dining area still a little hungry.

They are very regimented with the timings in the food hall.  If you arrive after 9:30pm there will be no food and there will be no way to get any other than room service until 11pm.  Then the late night service runs in the food hall from 11pm – 12:30am but there isn’t a lot of choice and again come 12:30 that is it until breakfast, apart from room service.  I did end up ordering room service on evening around 12:45am (mostly to get some water) and it took 50 minutes to arrive.  When it did come I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to sleep, leaving most of it uneaten.

To make things worse they only had one side of the food hall open.  Considering the ship was full that was really disappointing and further limited the choice.  Usually I would eat in the food hall daily but on this voyage I only used it three times due to the lack of choice, queues to be served and lack of character in there.

The drinks stations are also in an awful place.  They are right in the middle of the walkways and as it is not easy to walk front to back of the ship on the upper decks (due to the position of the Grills) and so the food hall is used as a throughfare.  I saw several people spill their drinks as they turned around from the drinks station as others walked past.

The Artisan Food Hall also has no character as with many of the other areas on the ship.  The have bland white tables and no cubby holes to sit in as with the other ships.  It is all about just squeezing in as many as possible and has nothing to do with the dining experience anymore.  Funnily most Americans I spoke to liked it but most Brits I spoke to didn’t, which maybe goes to show how the ship has been designed more for a US cruiser.

I didn’t use any of the paid for restaurants on the ship but those I spoke to that did said they were nice.  The biggest complaint I heard was people felt rushed in those fee paying dining areas with food coming too quickly with a general feeling of they wanted you in and out as fast as possible.

I can’t comment on the dining in the Grills as I don’t have that type of money but I did speak to several guests in the Grills who said it was very good but lacking character as with the other areas.

Other Points In Brief

  • The safety drill is now much better, simply attend your assembly station and have your card scanned then watch the safety video in your room at your leisure.
  • Theatre is uninspiring and the tunnel access on deck 2 seems dangerous to me if there was an evacuation called.
  • The ship is very stable, the best yet.  You can barely feel it move even in the Bay of Biscay.
  • Toilet tap sensors are rubbish, the taps seem to run constantly turning on and off with nobody near them, they must waste so much water.
  • Toilets and communal areas were kept very clean although the carpet is not very good, it already looks ten years old in the Grand Lobby.
  • Food is excellent, when you get it.
  • They try to close bars too early.
  • Open decks are nice but you can only walk around the ship on deck 3.  You cannot walk front to back of the ship on deck 10 or 11 due to the Grills.  This means the only route to the back if you are not a Grills passenger is via the food hall on deck 9, badly thought out.
  • The sky bar is lovely if you can get a seat.
  • The only smoking area on the ship is deck 14 forward, the observation deck.  The concentration of smokers means if you don’t smoke you really cannot enjoy that deck.  Only smokers seemed to get the benefit of the observation deck.
  • Black pillar lights on the observation deck were mostly broken and many simply fell over in the wind.  There were open electrical connections and despite reporting this issue they didn’t fix it for days.
  • The photographers are less in your face, if you want a photo get one but if not they leave you alone. The digital photo system is much better now compared to the old days of printing out all the photos and placing them on racks.
  • When we were in port there was no signage to gangways that we saw.
  • You no longer receive receipts with your drinks but we kept being double charged when we would order things to be told they didn’t have them only to have to order again.  We were told the old order would be cancelled but it often wasn’t and so we had to go to the pursers desk a lot to have duplicate charges removed from our bill.
  • I didn’t see a single painting or image of Queen Anne on the ship.  There may have been one but it must be hidden away.  You would think they would put her front and center.
  • Entertainment was good.  Hosts were friendly and nice.  Lots of quizzes and activities to enjoy throughout the day.

Best and Worst Aspects

pavilion pool deck queen anne maiden voyage taken from deck 11

The best aspect by far is pavilion pool and surrounding area on deck 9.  They have done a great job with that I must say.

The worst aspect is the sterile layout to fit more people in coupled with the fact there are not any more staff to accommodate those bigger areas.  This means if an area, like the Golden Lion, is busy you will wait an age to be served if at all.

My Verdict: I Prefer The Other Three Ships

queen anne docked in lisbon maiden voyageAs a Cunarder I must say I am unimpressed with Queen Anne’s maiden voyage.  I didn’t expect it to be perfect and I knew there would be issues but given the time they had and the fact they ran a full ship at top rate means it should have been a lot better.

They may improve over time but I don’t think I will ever have affection for this ship compared to the others in the fleet.  My next voyage certainly will not be on the Queen Anne, most likely the Queen Mary 2.

If I were to give it a rating out of ten for a Cunard ship I would give it 3/10.  If I was to give it a rating as a cruise ship in general though I would give it 8/10.  It is a nice ship just not a nice Cunard ship.  They really have thrown away a lot of their valuable heritage on the Queen Anne, which is a big reason as to why people use them.

I accept they want to be modern and appeal to a younger crowd but should that be at the expense of their age old loyal travellers who go on Cunard for a different type of experience compared to other cruise ships?  I am only in my late 30’s and in the cruising world that is young, just because we are younger doesn’t mean we don’t like tradition and heritage.

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