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I never thought we would travel in the Queens Grill of a Cunard Liner, but the "upgrade fairy" kindly favoured us with such a treat on the eastbound crossing of 21st May on Queen Mary 2. Prior to this, the only time we were in the Queens Grill was to attend muster drill on the QE2 two years ago. In honour of our 40th wedding anniversary, which was a few days prior to the voyage, we splurged by booking a Princess Grill stateroom. The upgrade came about three weeks before the trip. The U.S. Cunard site (which Canadians must use) is silent on anniversary celebrations, but the U.K. site promises a number of treats – and the actual anniversary date doesn’t need to be whilst on board, just reasonably close. I took a chance and sent a copy of the marriage certificate to Cunard’s California office and asked if we would qualify for this package. A quick reply assured us we did. The cost of a postage stamp was a good investment: we were provided with some roses, a respectable bottle of faux-champagne (in addition to the real thing provided to everyone in Queens Grill and the not-so-good bubbly sent from the Cunard World Club) a box of chocolates, a certificate from the Commodore and a voucher for a photograph of our choice. On one of the cruise blog sites, those on this side of the pond complain about the discrepancy in this complimentary amenity, so we were lucky to get it.
We had the added bonus of departing from Manhattan’s traditional Pier 90 thanks to a collision between some other ship and the main gangway of the new terminal in Brooklyn. My initial concerns about whether humble people like us would feel out of place in QG were quickly dispelled at the first lunch with the friendly people at our table. We were immediately at ease with a couple from England and another couple from Scotland. A seventh person had been squeezed in at our table for six and this was a stroke of luck. That seventh man was the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of London. A reduced orchestra of 30 was on board to give two performances each of two concerts. The final concert was a thoroughly-enjoyable Last Night of the Proms – with Union flags provided. Three of our table-mates joined the passenger choir. I resisted the invitation explaining that I might be barely acceptable for Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia, but my participation in Handel’s Largo in four-part harmony would be grim indeed. With that explanation the maestro ceased further attempts at conscripting me.
The Queens Grill experience was everything we expected it to be. The two Grills restaurants are almost identical, but as is to be expected there is slightly more choice in QG and the Maitre D’ encourages off-menu ordering, something we never did because the daily and the a la carte menus offered all our favourite meals. It is easy to be spoiled by such a degree of luxury, although Cunard has never disappointed us on any of our seven crossings – the first one was on the QE2 in 1973 – however modest our accommodation. Regarding the “elegant casual” dress code (jacket but no tie required) for the first and last night of a crossing, I had read that many men will wear a tie, especially in the Grill rooms. I have never gone to dinner in an elegant restaurant without a tie and I don’t intend to start now, so I was pleased that a significant number of men, albeit in the minority, felt the same way. On formal nights, formal meant formal to at least 90% of the men. From my wanderings about the ship, I would say the Grills were no more formal than the Britannia restaurant. Most of the women did not wear ball gowns; tasteful long dresses were in the majority.
I have been asked by some friends whether the difference in fare between Princess and Queens Grills is worth it. My answer would be yes – if money is no object. But for people of modest means it probably isn’t worth it. The fare difference between PG and the smallest QG suite, which we had, is usually considerable, although occasionally there is a superb deal offered. PG passengers get the same priority embarkation as QG and use of the Grills deck, Concierge Lounge and Queens Grill Lounge. The small QG suite is about a third larger than the PG rooms and if you put a dollar value on the other benefits: real Champagne, the complimentary in-suite bar (two bottles to start with and the promise of a refill if needed) the Jacuzzi and butler service, it may not be worth it to many people. But it was a fabulous experience and if Cunard ever wants to upgrade us again we won’t say no!