With stunning artwork, Italian marble and echoes of Art Deco, Cunard’s latest liner is a fine addition to the tradition and fleet
Queen Elizabeth was launched by Her Majesty the Queen in October 2010, the third ship in Cunard’s current fleet and a near-identical sister in structure to Queen Victoria. The interiors, however, are different, evoking the Art Deco era of the 1930s and 1940s with a rich blend of warm woods and marbles. Cunard fans and historians will be delighted with the memorabilia from Cunarders past in the public areas, including the bell of the much-loved QE2.
Words: Sue Bryant
Queen Elizabeth is a beautiful ship, despite its rather boxy profile. Everywhere you turn, there’s stunning artwork, rich Italian marble, polished wood and soft light, diffused by glittering chandeliers. The rippling sounds of a harp, mellow piano or a gentle jazz trio throughout the public areas enhance this feeling of old-fashioned glamour.
Queen Elizabeth has 1,046 cabins, 85 per cent of which are outside and 71 per cent of which have balconies. The décor is serene and there’s plenty of storage, although the bathrooms are basic.
This is a three-class ship and the more expensive Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites bring with them the privilege of dining in the corresponding exclusive Grill restaurants (guests who book the standard cabins dine in the Britannia restaurant) . There is also butler service for the top grades and wonderful features in the finest suites such as bathrooms with a view, or wonderful wraparound balconies.
I found the service fairly patchy on Queen Elizabeth. In the Grill restaurants and the Verandah it was superb, as you’d expect from such prestigious venues. But in the Lido buffet, at breakfast, the waiters do not help you find a seat, or carry your tray, or even fetch tea and coffee. Some of the waiters in the Commodore Club seemed stressed and grumpy, too.
Food ranged from the sublime, in the Verandah, to pretty standard fare in the elegant main dining room, the Britannia. The two Grill restaurants, Queens and Princess, are gorgeous, with the evening light flooding in from windows all along one side. Menus in the Grills are more extensive than in the Britannia, with plenty of table-side preparation.
But for really outstanding food, it has to be the Verandah. Everything in here is individually priced at $6 or $7 for starters and desserts and around $18 for mains, and everything we tasted was exquisite, from the melt-in-the-mouth sea bass to the magnificent array of French cheeses.
Fencing lessons are held in the Queens Room at no charge, while there’s a lovely wraparound promenade deck for jogging and walking. The covered Games Deck has paddle tennis, short bowls and croquet. Otherwise, there are lectures in the theatre and all manner of classes, from bridge to chess, and iPad, Facebook and Photoshop seminars in the Internet Centre. For younger cruisers, the ship has well-equipped kids’ clubs.
The heart of the ship is the three-deck Grand Lobby, which has to be one of the most beautiful at sea, with its curving staircases and the extensive use of marble. Other notable rooms include the 6,000-volume, wood-panelled library and the elegant Royal Arcade with shops from Fortnum & Mason, Harris Tweed and Anya Hindmarch alongside the wonderful Cunard bookshop and two art galleries.
There’s a generous range of shore excursions, but veering towards the more traditional and on the expensive side.
Bars and lounges
The heart and soul of the Queen Elizabeth is dancing, mostly in the lavish Queens Room. Other diversions include the busy Empire Casino to karaoke and quizzes in the Golden Lion pub. The plush Commodore Club has sweeping views of the horizon, while late at night the Yacht Club keeps going with a DJ and live band. The ship also has a magnificent theatre.
The Queen Elizabeth is a beautiful ship, but do not expect a luxury cruise unless you’ve booked one of the Grill cabins. Although the setting is elegant beyond compare, what you get in terms of food, accommodation and service is a good but essentially mass-market experience. But for romantics, dance fans and those who simply want to experience a Cunard Queen and the attention it attracts in port, the ship is ideal.
Final verdict: 75%
★ Destinations The Mediterranean and Canaries until early 2012, when the ship embarks on a 107-night world cruise via the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East
★ Who travels? An international mix: Brits and Americans, but also lots of Japanese and Germans. The top suites on the world cruise attract a seriously wealthy, well-travelled crowd
★ Currency US dollar
★ Guide price From £287 for a three-night mini-cruise from Southampton to Hamburg, departing 5 January 2012
★ Contact 0845 678 0013/ or visit cunard.co.uk