Monday, January 31, 2011

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth's Maiden Call in Los Angeles

On Saturday, January 29th, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth graced the Port of Los Angeles, in San Pedro.  As the second largest ship in Cunard's fleet of three,  she dwarfed the Norwegian Star, docked behind; and she dwarfed the Sapphire Princess, at berth 93. 

It was great for San Pedro to have the three large ships in port at once.  In recent months, San Pedro has lost two ships as they've pulled out of Mexico Itineraries.  I was looking forward to doing a ship inspection on Queen Elizabeth, all spanking new and shining.  She's on her Maiden World Cruise, first time in Los Angeles, and Cunard has a reputation to uphold. 

That reputation for exquisite ocean travel steeped in history and British culture is certainly visible on board - sumptuous leather chairs, beautiful fabrics, polished wood and brass.  We were unable to see any staterooms as guests were on board, but the public areas are beautiful.  There is an air of intimacy despite the size of the vessel.  The Royal Court Theater looks like a London West End Theater.  I was really enjoying the site inspection, until we sat down for lunch.

I realize a site inspection is NOT the same as sailing on the vessel.  It is designed to show travel agents what it looks like, and literally to have a "taste" of what the guests experience.  If our seated lunch is an indicator, then guests not staying in the "Grills" area are in for a fairly rude awakening.  The wait staff seemed to struggle with the service; they were not warm; they were not rude but they were not pleasant either.  They seemed to resent having to serve lunch. 

The Brittania Restaurant is in the aft section of the ship.  Our table was squeezed up against the window, giving us a view of the Norwegian Star, but so close that the servers were unable to adequately reach some of the people at the table.  So, instead of gracious service, they leaned over others, or in one case, handed me someone's plate to pass down.  Hmmm.  Several people ordered beef, medium rare.  They got beef, cooked to the point of grey meat.  I ordered salmon, which came over cooked, over sauced, dry and fishy.  The salad course was excellent, and the desert was amazing but the main?  Not so much. 

I've had similar service issues when I've sailed on Princess - and the Queen Elizabeth wait staff reminded me of that sort of mediocrity.  I wonder if this is because of the parent company, the Carnival Corporation.  Carnival owns Carnival Cruises, Princess Cruiese, Holland America, Costa Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, and Cunard.  It's a thought, and I would love your feedback.

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