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Everything posted by david,Mississauga

  1. Don't be put off by the Pan Pacific - or any hotel - being sold out 10 months in advance. You can keep checking and there is a good chance rooms will become available. A friend recently decided to join our group for the November train trip. At the time he made that decision the Pan Pacific was showing as sold out but a week later there were rooms available at a reasonable rate.
  2. Even if we don't count the free drink packages sometimes offered to Grills guests and the generous in-suite alcohol in Queen's Grill staterooms and suites, there are still some free alcoholic beverages. Some would say we shouldn't count the Pol Acker provided to all passengers on embarkation, so we won't go there. All passengers are invited to a drinks reception with the captain. Members of the "club" at the Gold level and above get a second reception and those at the Platinum and Diamond level get a third. The "regulars" know all this and I mention it only because there are often new members of the forum and other members who have never travelled on Cunard and might not know this.
  3. Although I would never start a conversation about the QE2 I would certainly join in when someone else started it. To me, the QM2 in almost every way is a superior ship to the QE2, but there are a few things I miss – one being the traditional dress standards. It was jacket and tie for gents every night, at least on crossings. On our last crossing of the QE2 just six months before her retirement in 2008, every night except the first and last was formal, i.e, four formal nights. Also, on boarding the QE2 there was a certain je ne sais quoi one felt immediately. I have never experienced that feeling on any other ship before or since. Regarding changes to the QM2 the crossings took six nights until 2010 when they became seven. Unlike many on this forum, I like the seven nights but if the crossings went back to six maybe there would be a few more every year. Regarding the dress code, on our 2009 crossing there were three formal nights and one semi-formal. In 2010, our first seven-night crossing, there were four formal and one semi-formal night. As we all know that has been changed to three formal. As to the redecoration, I don’t care for most of the new carpeting except in the staterooms. That, of course, is a matter of personal taste. I agree that the Carinthia lounge is attractive, but I also liked the previous Winter Garden. I know I’m in the minority on that opinion, but there are others who agree. I do like the slightly more elegant décor of the new Club balcony staterooms on Deck 13. As for service and food, I have noticed no downgrading. I have had the good fortune of dining in all four main restaurants. I like them all.
  4. Until two years ago I was reluctant to book a sheltered balcony for the reasons given above and by others. But we liked it very much - again, for the same reasons that others have stated. I am tall enough that if I sit up straight I can see a little of the ocean. Another plus is the balcony is bigger than a standard balcony.
  5. I'm not sure when the procedure changed, but as of this year there is the necessity of "up and down to board." Previously everything was done on the lower level where the taxis and buses drop off passengers. Now you start off on the lower level with baggage drop-off, then you go up to the convention centre Hall C to check-in with the cruise line, then back down where you started, then everything else (security, U.S. border control, waiting area to board) is on that level. If you can use the escalators it may reduce the amount of walking, but if accompanying a person in a wheelchair you have to use the elevator and I recall a fair amount of walking. That is fine with me but not everyone will be as enthused as I am. It is straight-forward, though. There are plenty of signs and a lot of helpful staff. If hotel porters have taken your luggage you can skip step one and go straight to the check-in at Hall "C" from the west side promenade of Canada Place. Further information is available here. Click on "boarding and disembarkation." The graphics shown are the same as those in the cruise terminal. https://www.portvancouver.com/cruise/passenger-information/
  6. There was on time when we did not stay in the Club section. We had the breakfast buffet in the restaurant. It was good - lots of smoked salmon as well as everything else that is usually found on hotel breakfast buffets.
  7. If you have luggage you want loaded on to the ship you will need to go down to the lower level to the drop-off area. There is a ramp from street level down to the lower level. You have probably read that you then go up to the check-in area in the convention centre then back down to where you started to go through security, etc.
  8. We don't have "saver" fares in Canada and the U.S. but there is no apparent consistency in whether we get a booklet or not. For our three voyages in 2016 and 2017 we did not. I was surprised to get one this year for our Alaska cruise. It went to the travel agent who forwarded it to us.
  9. Yes, I accompanied my wife. It is a good thing I can walk quickly because it was a fairly long route and the chap pushing the wheelchair moved quickly. The shore staff - employees of Intercruise - are not permitted to go on the ships. So the passengers in a wheelchair will have to wait at the foot of the gangway for a crew member to come off the ship. At least for the Queen Elizabeth it was a very short distance to get up the gangway ramp to the boarding of the ship on the promenade deck and into a lobby where the lifts/elevators were. The same applied to our previous cruise on a similar Vista-class ship, the Noordam. My wife elected to walk (slowly) on board from that point as did some others. Similarly, it takes two people to get a person off a ship.
  10. The underground passage actually goes into the convention centre, but there is a large opening to the adjacent hotel lobby. If the luggage has been taken from the Fairmont hotel (people who have stayed at the Fairmont have told me the staff does that) you need not go to the lower level of the cruise terminal. The same with luggage collected by the Pan Pacific. The lower level has the baggage drop-off area and it is also where wheelchair assistance is offered. Those without luggage will be directed along the west side of Canada Place at street level to an entrance marked "cruise passengers." Another thing to remember about this underground passage is there are stairs at some point. I don't recall specifically what part of the tunnel has the stairs. I seem to recall it is worse going from the convention centre to the food court than in the other direction, though. If stairs are a problem you can go from the food court to the underground entrance of the Skytrain. An escalator will take you to the street level right beside the cruise terminal entrance.
  11. For our stay at the hotel a few weeks ago bookings were available about 11 months in advance. The rates for booking well in advance are quite steep. For every time we have stayed there the rates have come down about four to six months in advance and we were able to re-book. A usually significant discount is available to members of the CAA/AAA.
  12. Although I have never booked the cruise package, I have noticed two aspects of it which can be appealing: the breakfast in the restaurant and late check-out. If you are really hungry in the morning you could have a light breakfast in the Club lounge then a significant one in the restaurant. As for luggage transfer to the ship, that is available to all guests. For those on the cruise package maybe the tip to the porters is included, but they don't make that clear.
  13. The evening hors d’oeuvres are available between 5:00 and 7:00, so it seems you won’t have too much time. There were cold cuts, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, bread and a few other things I don’t remember. There was also a selection of hot hors d’oeuvres. They were mostly stuffed pastries. I don’t recall what the contents were, but they were tasty. The only thing I missed was smoked salmon, but there was plenty of that at breakfast to make up for it. If you are really hungry you may want to have room service deliver something more substantial to the lounge or your room to augment these offerings. In the evening there are desserts, but these were very small. We didn’t bother on our most recent visit. There are always delicious cookies and some other snack which contained pretzels and other crunchy items. Non-alcoholic beverages are available from the fridge at no charge. There is a price list for the honour bar. We had generous glasses of respectable B.C. wine at $12. We despise making tea in a mug so we are pleased that they have cups and saucers and teapots. I rarely drink coffee but I was talking to other guests who said it was good. For breakfast there were cereals including porridge, juices, yoghurt, fruit, cold cuts, cheeses, pastries, bread with a toaster, of course, and my favourite; smoked salmon. Although advertised as a “West coast continental breakfast” there was some hot food: scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage (maybe both) potatoes and pancakes. Breakfast is available until 10:30 on weekdays and until 11:00 on Saturday and Sunday. There is a cruise package which includes breakfast in the restaurant. The one time we were not in the Club section we had the buffet there and it was quite substantial. But what is offered in the lounge is enough for us. After all, one can go back and get more.
  14. A lot has been written about the delays in embarking in Vancouver and detailed comments have been posted about improvements. Our recent experience was three weeks ago today, the 10th of June. Our last Vancouver embarkation was four years ago on a Holland America ship. That day had three ships with over 7,000 passengers embarking. Because we went early it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It is often said the most convenient time to arrive for embarkation is very early or at the last minute. Those who arrived late that day did not do well at all. There was so much of a delay due to insufficient U.S. officials that all three ships departed at least an hour late. This year is the first year in a long time that Cunard has offered Alaska cruises. Cunard promises priority check-in to passengers in the “Grills” and to those in the top two levels of their loyalty programme – but only in Southampton and New York. We rarely travel in a suite but our loyalty has given us Diamond status with Cunard. My wife has difficulty with her knees and, although she usually does not request wheelchair assistance when travelling except when flying internationally, we had our travel agent contact Cunard. The Cunard agent recommended she accept wheelchair assistance for boarding the Queen Elizabeth. My dear wife can walk a fair distance, slowly, but standing a long time is particularly painful, so she agreed. Because we always stay the night before a cruise at the Pan Pacific hotel atop the terminal, we were able to have the hotel’s porter collect our luggage from our room (and our friends’ room). We were advised we could by-pass “baggage drop-off” and go directly to the Hall C check-in. But those who request assistance are told to present ourselves to staff at the lower-level drop-off area so we took the hotel’s elevator to the cruise departure level. The Intercruise staff who provide shore services for the cruise lines were friendly and helpful as they have been at other ports where they provide this service. Having arrived at that spot about 10:45, we waited on a bench for a short while and a man with a wheelchair came by a few minutes after being paged. He took us up to Hall C of the convention centre where the Cunard check-in had commenced. To my surprise, there was a Priority check-in sign, but he took us to the designated wheelchair check-in area. There was a large number of check-in clerks, a many as I have seen in New York and Southampton. After an efficient check-in, we were taken through the adjacent hall where the Disney ship was having its check-in. There appeared to be 150 people in the queue to check-in. After a long trip down a hallway it was back down in the elevator to where we started. It was quick going through security and the U.S. border control. At this hour, and there being only two ships in that day, there appeared to be only a small queue in both areas. It was amusing that a person at security told us we had to go to a desk and register the two bottles of Champagne that we had in our hand-luggage. Cunard does not require this nonsense, but I went to the desk and advised the two people there that we were going on Cunard and surely we could bring on board as much as we want, as usual. He smiled and said “Of course, just go through.” The boarding area had several rows of chairs but no-one was waiting. Embarkation had already commenced. I don’t know when it started, but given the number of people who had boarded before we did it could not have been later than 11:00. We were seated with a beverage in the lido at 11:15, just a half hour after arriving at the first point. Staterooms were available between 12:00 and 12:30, which is Cunard’s usual embarkation time. As for disembarkation 10 days later, my wife told the purser’s staff that she did not need and had not requested a wheelchair for that. We were offered priority disembarkation – just five minutes after the suites – and there was no customs or immigration inspection because that was done (such as it was) in the previous port, Victoria. After a short walk to the baggage hall and a short wait for a taxi we were off to the airport. We were very pleased with the improvements at Vancouver.
  15. Just to add to the helpful information you have already received: in reality you don't need to check-in 90 minutes in advance for the Canadian. Unless they have recently changed the rules, the limit for checked baggage is 30 minutes before departure. There is a comfortable station lounge for sleeping car passengers and a section of that is for those who have booked the pricey Prestige service. On our last trip one couple had splurged on Prestige and they were told to check-in 90 minutes before. We all did so at that time and they sat with us in the "poor section" of the lounge. The same beverages and Peak Frean biscuits were available to both regular and premium sleeper passengers. Prestige passengers were escorted to their "suites" first (about an hour before departure) and soon after the basic sleeper passengers were called to board. Whether in Prestige or basic sleeper, it is a great trip.
  16. Unless I have missed it, no-one has mentioned the Pacific Club. The Pan Pacific is now our regular hotel, not just for a night or two before embarking a ship, but also when travelling on VIA's Canadian. The rate for the Club floors can be quite high, but every time we have stayed there it has been considerably cheaper than the Gold levels at the Fairmont hotels. In fact, on all but one of our stays the Pacific Club was cheaper than a basic room across the street or at the Hotel Vancouver. I should also mention that we have always booked initially many months in advance and the rate has dropped siginficantly a few months later so we have re-booked and saved between $100 and $200. We will be back on the night before a transcontinental train trip in November. The rates are a lot lower, of course, but even so they usually are reduced a few months in advance. The Club has the usual goodies that executive sections of hotels offer. The staff are charming, as would be expected. The view from the lounge is west, so we do not pay extra for a "harbour-view" room, meaning facing west. Almost all of the "city-view" rooms have a harbour view - to the east. Early availability of rooms cannot be guaranteed to those who arrive in the morning, of course, but two weeks ago on the night before our cruise we had to wait only until 12:15 for our room to be available. Our friends got their room a half hour later. Until a year or so ago one free alcoholic beverage was offered in the Club lounge, but this has been discontinued. We have never dined in the hotel's restaurants. We are not hungry when arriving in Vancouver by VIA Rail or Air Canada's Business Class service, so we have no desire to have a full dinner. The goodies in the lounge and a drink are quite sufficient. The breakfast offerings are excellent. There are even some hot items, not always available at other chain's executive floors.
  17. Although we were guests of our friend in the Verandah on the QE two weeks ago, he did show me the bill. The charge was broken down to show a lower amount plus a service charge totalling $39. Similarly, the corkage fee of $20 includes a service charge. Sorry, I don't recall the exact amount.
  18. It was a few years ago when we last used the shuttle to and from the station and Westquay. This shuttle may be different than it was then. At the time I don't recall any mention of it going to any of the cruise terminals - or even the Red Funnel dock as in the link below - but it may have. We showed our Britrail passes and there was no charge. This is the best I can find through Google: https://www.redfunnel.co.uk/en/isle-of-wight-ferry/getting-to-southampton/bus-connections/ When I asked MarkBearSF if there was a charge from the Ocean Terminal I wasn't being a tightwad. I like to have the exact change ready so we are not searching for it at the entrance to the bus.
  19. On a recent cruise aboard QE we were treated by our friend to dinner in the Verandah. It was our first time at dinner since the Steakhouse theme was started. Our friend splurged on the Wagyu beef ($30 supplement) and was disappointed. We were given a sample by our friend. It was all right, to my taste, but not worth $30 over the fillet steak I had.
  20. A few years ago I acquired the worst cold I had in 25 years on the e/b crossing. Even though we always travel with some over-the-counter medications they weren't enough, so my first action in Southampton after dropping the luggage at the hotel was to stock up at Boots. Even the delectable "goodies" at Marks and Spencer had to wait. In Canada we used to have both Boots and Marks and Spencer, but sadly they are gone. I certainly don't need an excuse to visit Britain but ...
  21. For the first time we may be in-transit passengers at Southampton next year. We will definitely get off the ship. I know Southampton fairly well and could walk to the Westquay Mall (for our Marks and Spencer fix), but my wife can't do long walks any more. Does the shuttle leave from the Ocean Terminal or the dock gate? I have used a shuttle a few times to/from the railway station and Westquay. As I recall, there was a small charge unless you could show a train ticket. .
  22. We had a voyage on the QM2 in Britannia Club only once and we enjoyed it very much. We had one of the cabins on Deck 13 which had been installed only a few weeks before. I would do it again, but the deciding factor is the fare difference between a good balcony cabin and a Club one. On our voyage it was just a few hundred dollars each. On subsequent voyages it was excessive so we booked Britannia. For our next booked voyage in 2020 (14 days) the difference is Canadian $2500 pp. That is out of the question for us. It is not just the Club which has risen in cost. As much as we have enjoyed the Grills in the past, we have found the current cost excessive. For the aforementioned voyage Princess Grill would be almost triple the Britannia rate. No doubt there will be some good deals in the future, but in the absence of those we are quite happy in Britannia.
  23. A few days ago the senior officers party on the QE was held in the Queen's Room at 11:00 a.m. On that cruise there were 95 Diamond members and I forget the number of Platinum, but it was close to 200. It appeared every one of them was there. There was no problem finding a table and I must say there was a generous offering of drinks and hot and cold snacks. The dress code for this late-morning event was "smart attire (jackets optional)" but it wasn't as shabby as I expected. Many men wore jackets and ties. There were a few men in dinner jackets and many women dressed as for a formal dinner. The first time we attended one of these receptions at the pre-lunch hour I wasn't sure I liked the time, but now I have no preference.
  24. On the Queen Elizabeth Alaska cruise of 10 June the corkage charge was $20, although in the on-board literature it said it was $25. Security in Vancouver's Canada Place terminal doesn't know what ship you are boarding - there are often three - so anyone with alcohol is directed to a table to register the bottles. I had two bottles of Champagne and was told I had to register them at a desk. I told the people at the desk I was going on the Queen Elizabeth and they said, as I expected, to just go.
  25. Regarding noise on Deck 4, it depends on what is directly below on Deck 3. I have never had a cabin on that deck and won't take a chance. There have been many complaints on these pages. Some have said even during the day a nap can be impossible due to rehearsals in the Royal Court Theatre. Of course there are some quiet areas below. A few years ago we booked a future crossing on board the ship. The consultant said to avoid Deck 4 because: "You do not want to be above Illuminations, the Royal Court Theatre, the Queen's Room or G32." That is about two-thirds of the deck.
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