The Grill restaurants on Queen Mary 2 - - the Princess Grill and the Queens Grills - - are the dining rooms for the guests staying in the ship's suites. They are five star dining venues providing a luxury cruise experience.
Located together at the aft end of Deck Seven, the Queens Grill is on the starboard side and the Princess Grill is on the port side. The Queens Grill is the restaurant for guests staying in the ship's largest suites while Princess Grill is for the guests staying in the smaller suites. “ That is why we sort of classify ourselves as the junior suites - - but only in terms of the size of the suites,” explains Princess Grill Maitre d' hotel Patu Kerel.
“We are a smaller restaurant to the Queen's Grill. We have a 150 guests depending on the occupancy of the suites. Because we are a little smaller, you could say a little more intimate, it is more relaxed here.”
“There are differences in the menu.” Both restaurants begin with a menu of chef's selections which change daily. In addition, both restaurants have ala carte menus that offer more items. The Queens Grill ala carte menu is more extensive than the Princess Grill menu.
“You have quite a wide selection here off the breakfast menu but next door, in addition to that menu, you also have a grilled menu - - petite filet mignon, lamb chops, black pudding. There are always three fish available each evening. And then we will go into the ladder to see what other fish we have and that becomes another choice for you. Then you have your maitre 'd options, [items which the maitre d'] can cook tableside - - different pastas, different styles of steak. That is what makes that side a little more special, not just the [written] menus that you can have, not just what you can think of but also the specialty of your maitre 'd.”
The Grill restaurants on Queen Elizabeth 2 had the reputation of being able to provide anything that a guest might request such as rattlesnake and other exotic items. Changes in health and environmental regulations make carrying such an inventory impossible today. But “within the confines of what we can carry, you can ask for anything and that is the beauty of it. Some guests will give us a pre-voyage warning. They realize that we don't normally carry a specific thing. So they will e-mail ahead and we will purchase it.”
Items are prepared to order in the Grills galley. “The Grills have their own chefs. We have our own and do our own production here. To be honest, the soup comes up [from the main galley] but everything else is prepared here from scratch.”
Of course, the food is only one aspect of a luxury dining experience. “The philosophy of the room is that we are a mini-grill. Attentive service but not overbearing - - it is that personal touch in small rooms like this. The crew member serving you the first day is with you throughout the voyage. Your lead waiter stays the whole time. We have a three man team within a station. We have got you for seven days and can build up a repore.”
Waiters are handpicked to work in the Grills. “You have to have worked a few contracts and then you are selected. You have to have personality. You have got to have the willingness to go the extra mile. We want a certain person. When you are paying [a large] amount of money for a crossing, you obviously have a very high expectation of the person who is going to be serving.”
The guests “are not necessarily the most demanding people. They turn out to be the least demanding. They have everything in life and they turn out to be the nicest people you can imagine.”
“When we do Crepes Suzette,we do Crepes Suzette tableside. We have the space to do it. It is a dying art simply because restaurants just want to cram more people in. We have the space to do that individual service. We will finish your steaks tableside, we'll do your rack of lamb tableside, and all the desserts we can still do tableside.”
Above: Filet mignon.
Below: Crepes Suzette
Above: A Princess Grill place setting.
Below: Head waiter Ionel Tamasanu preparing lamb chops tableside.
Guests have the “same table breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, that is the plus of [dining in] the Grills. You know that your table is ready and waiting for you throughout the opening hours of the restaurant. When it is a good time to come. You are not being pressured to come at 6:30, eight or nine. You just come when it is convenient to you.”
“Here, you can sit and talk away and have the most leisurely dinner you can ever imagine. Go outside after you have had your main course, go for a walk, enjoy the sail from Hamburg. Then you can come back and have dessert and coffee. That is the difference, the guests can ask and we can suggest because there is no rush. That is the subtle difference that we have.”
The Princess Grill has a number of tables for two. Guests usually request them for privacy. However, they often end up talking to their neighbors. “They strike up very good friendships.”
There are also larger tables that are usually occupied by singles and/or couples who did not know each other before the voyage. “They are always afraid of how that is going to work seeing how it is an open time [and so people might arrive at the table at different times]. Over a period of a day or so, you all get to talk and what we find is that everyone settles into a routine. Occasionally, someone will come a bit later but that is purely because they wanted to go to the early show. But generally, everyone fits in with each other so they can come because they want to come to interact with other people.”
“You have people here who are fitting their meals into their schedules and you also have people whose main focus is coming to enjoy the Grills experience.” People In the former category, can time their dinner so that they can see either the early or the late show in the ship's theater or so they can participate in some other activity going on elsewhere aboard. People in the latter category “are here to dine. They do not want to be rushed, they want to come at the time they wish, they are not really interested in going to the show. From here they will go to the casino or one of the lounges just to kick back and relax after they have dined.”
The Princess Grill follows the ship's dress code. “Obviously, we are not going to send somebody back [to their suite] because he forgot his dinner jacket. We go grab a jacket, walk behind him and put the jacket on the chair. We have spare jackets and spare ties. There are lots of other companies that cater to people who do not want to dress. But this one does want to dress.”
Another alternative is to dine in your suite. “We will send the menu up [to the suites] so they have not only the room service menu but also during meal hours, they have access to the Princess Grill galley as well.”
There are, of course, other lines catering to the luxury market but what distinguishes the Grills from other luxury restaurants is the range of choice offered to the guests. “I daresay there is no restaurant at sea that has the scale of menu that we have,” asserts Princess Grill Maitre d' hotel Patu Kerel. “Even the Seabourns and the Silverseas - - they don't have an ala carte menu. They have a beautiful daily menu, which is stunning and hits all the marks. But that is it. You have three or four choices of main course which are absolutely five star but that is it. That is the difference.”
Traditionally, most luxury cruise ships have been small ships entirely devoted to the luxury market. Now, however, several other lines have followed in Cunard's footsteps and created luxury restaurants for the suite guests on ships that also cater to other categories of the cruise market. (See, e.g., Norwegian Epic, the larger MSC ships, and Quantum of the Seas).
“They are trying to emulate us because they realize that suite guests are looking for some exclusivity. What I like is that you have the choice of feeling like you are sailing on Seabourn [while] having the facilities that only a ship of this size or Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth can offer. I think that is what Cunard has captured - - the ability to have that but also to have this.”
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Mairre d' hotel Patu Kerel