White Star Service on Cunard includes the use of tea bags. My grandfather, an old White Star man, would not have approved. A proper teapot with a strainer is the way he made tea. Sometimes he would use a tea ball and later in life used a tea bag for a fast breakfast, but for entertaining, proper tea only please.
After my first two encounters with the Dining Room Matre’d I wrote that he spoke with that peculiar British combination of obsequiousness and snootiness. I have since warmed to him. But in the beginning…
We signed up for ‘open seating’ which on the QM2 apparently means that you need to make dining room reservations well in advance or you get pushed to late seating. Our first day each guest room was assigned a time. Ours was 8:15, which seems odd for a family with two little kids. I called to make a new appointment, 7:30 allowed us to watch the sail out all the way past Sandy Hook and Breezy point and still have some time after dinner. Based on experience with other lines we thought dinner would take about an hour and a half. It took two had a half hours and when we were done it was past the kids’ bedtime. We missed the production show scheduled for late sitting.
The next day I attempted to make reservations on their iPhone app but their Wi-Fi does not work in or near our room. Cunard’s app is more primitive than the HAL’s, something I did not think possible. To get online I need to go to a lounge, so I decided to call the Matre’d from the room. The Matre’d may have been having a bad day. One of our tablemates used the word “rude” to describe her call with him. The earliest reservations we could get for the rest of the cruise were for 7:30.
The second night our service was even slower. We arrived for our 7:30 appointment. The main course arrived at 9:00 PM and we waited for desert 20 minutes after the main course was cleared. The desert apparently was waiting too because the ice cream was one third melted. Brian took the kids to bed before the rest of the table finished their coffee. Fiona had wanted to attend the Gala party at 9 PM, she had dressed for it but that didn’t happen.
The kids were terrific. It helped that a retired New York City educator, Lorraine, sat next to Liam and was an engaging conversationalist for the kids. It was wonderful seeing Liam holding an adult conversation and Fiona adding appropriately; except the time she turned to Brian and said, “Can we talk Politics now?” Brian decided not. Lorraine was impressed and the kids enjoyed Lorraine.
When we got to the podium on the third night the Matre’d apologized for the earlier nights and said that with the children, he would give us a table on our own where they could pace the service more quickly. He did, they did, and we got to the show and music that night. To my delight Liam likes jazz and we enjoyed listening to the combo at the jazz club.
Night four in the dining room we had arranged to eat with Ivy and her parents. Ivy is Fiona’s new best friend. Liam thought we would be eating in the “King’s Court” the on-board cafeteria, because it would be quicker. The actual King would probably not find his court pleasing. Kings Court is where we eat breakfast, including bread toasted on one side. Very English. I skipped the kippers. Liam prefers the main dining room for dinner and when he heard “main dining room” he ran back to put on his suit and, for the first time, tied his tie without help. Fiona was already dressed for the occasion. Brian and I skipped the sports coats and ties.
By this time the Matre’d had warmed to us and our charming grandkids, and was happy to rearrange seating for the two families. Service had speeded up since the first two nights, but with Fiona’s friend and a great round of storytelling with her parents we wouldn’t have minded slower service.
Day 5 the smiling Matre’D greeted us, (he is really charmed by the kids) and we were set up with a table for 6, the 5 adults and Liam and an adjacent table for two, the two girls, who had a wonderful time together. It was another “smart casual” night, but Fiona came in and said “Grandpa, I really wish you would dress up.” I said I would wear socks under my Crocs. “Is that good enough?” She waited it a few dramatic beats, sighed and said “Oh, okay,” in such a way that I put on regular shoes and my sports coat. The kid is into control.
Day 6 we offered to Ivy’s parents that we take her to dinner so they could have a “date night.” They accepted. The girls had a wonderful time.
It was a gala night — dress up. Many more tuxes than we are used to seeing on Holland America. Brian, Liam and I had coats and ties and did fine, and it seemed to please Fiona. Being a formal night, the service was a little more leisurely. I had double turf and no surf. We enjoyed the baked Alaska. As we approach England, I’ve concluded that White Star Service is pretty good. The room stewards and bar stewards are excellent. The food is tasty and well presented, after a false start the Matre’d was both helpful and delightful. The service is not as attentive as on other cruises we have taken, and certainly not as fast, but is courteous. In the main dining room, you don’t it want particularly fast but you also don’t want melted ice cream. I can handle tea bags.