My wife and I joined Cunard's Queen Elizabeth for her 'Maiden Festive Debut': a 22 night Caribbean. Check-in was relatively swift though there was a short wait of some thirty minutes, once through the check-in desks, while some final onboard procedures were cleared. As with most Cunard embarkations, Staterooms were ready at the time of embarkation.
Our accommodation, a P1 Princess Grill stateroom on 8 Deck had a reasonably large balcony, two comfortable fully reclining chairs, matching foot stools and table. Inside was ample storage space, a good bar area with fridge and more than adequate shelving. Additional drawer space was available under the king size bed. Our luggage arrived at the stateroom at the same time as we did which, on balance, justified the small tip I passed to the porter on arrival at the terminal.
Though experienced Cunarders this was our first time onboard the Queen Elizabeth. Our immediate impression was one of considerable style, elegance, traditional decor and quality. Being so very quintessentially British is what Cunard is all about and we were not to be disappointed: indeed, it was interesting to hear the Entertainment Director promising passengers at the first nights show a memorable cruise, as opposed to the usual banter of rival lines repeating the well worn mantra of how good they are; he wasn't wrong either.
As requested our table (for six) in the Princess Grill was perfectly positioned at the forward end of the restaurant offering panoramic views forward and to the starboard side. Recent speculation on this website regarding the poor choice of food in the Grills proved completely unfounded. Indeed, we would confidently say that this was by far the best Princess Grills food and service that we have experienced to date. Breakfast menus were comprehensive, lunches both excellent and appetizing and dinner menus outstanding. The daily changing table d'hote menu was supplemented by a most comprehensive 'a la carte' menu and, had one wished, one could have ordered Dover sole, fillet steak, or rack of lamb, to name but a few dishes, every night. On three occasions we lunched in the Grills Courtyard, a popular facility on sunny days.
We dined with a friend in 'The Veranda' Restaurant one evening and the setting and decor of this speciality restaurant is stunning. There is an extensive menu and all dishes, with the exception of the Degustation Menu, are priced separately as opposed to the restaurant having one set cover charge. We all found the food and service in The Veranda exceptional. We recently dined in The Murano Restaurant on the Celebrity Eclipse and would consider The Veranda to be in a higher league.
There is an excellent Wine List onboard Queen Elizabeth with some very decent wines at reasonable prices.
We did not use the Lido buffet on any occasion, but passed through out of general interest and to take a few pictures. It appeared well laid out with various food stations and good quality seating areas.
Queen Elizabeth's deck layout has been enhanced from that of her sister ship Queen Victoria. The addition of a number of stern staterooms has given rise to a larger sun deck area (Lido Deck) at the rear of the ship. Grills passengers have also benefitted with the allocation of an additional sun deck on the same level as their Grills Lounge (The Terrace). All upper deck areas were well provided for with sun beds, tables and chairs and there was no evidence of 'sardine' bed positioning anywhere: indeed, small tables are provided between each pair of sun beds throughout most of the ship. One popular area that we noted was the circular area of the Yacht Club roof. Ample seating was also available on the extensive 'Promenade deck'.
The Cunard Insights programme produced a number of guest lecturers who covered many varying subjects, often producing three or four lectures, on sea days. These included an RNLI Coxswain, a Queen's Counsel and Criminologist (Professor Herbert Kerrigan Q.C), an Underwater Archaeologist (Robert Marx) and Scientist and Doctor Lord Robert Winston who was an outstanding speaker on numerous thought provoking subjects.
The entertainment programme onboard was varied and of a high quality. Top of the bill was Des O'Connor and a 'Jersey Boys' tribute act by the name of 'The Unexpected Boys'. Musician Kenny Martyn was excellent as was comedian John Martin. Likewise singer Petrina Johnson, her usual wonderful self. Variety was the essence and for those whose particular taste was not the evenings main attraction, other options were available.
Cunard's IT programme 'Connections' proved popular and topical: again covering a variety of subjects to suit all interests and the knowledgeable presenter was obliging with incidental information. The ship's internet facilities are good. Wireless connection is available almost throughout the ship with strong signal reception. Speeds were generally better than we have previously experienced though satellite connection was lost for a number of days due to weather conditions.
Queen Elizabeth now operates of a computerized self service photographic system. Activated with a passenger's key card and utilizing 'facial recognition software', passengers can review, order, recall and amend pictures taken throughout the cruise. In addition an offer was available whereby, for a set price ($350), passengers could have all their professional onboard photographs transferred to a CD for personal use: this included all portraits, gallery shots and shore photographs in addition to a further CD of Queen Elizabeth's professional photographs. Under the offer all onboard printed pictures were reduced to $12.
Self service launderette facilities are provided on each of the accommodation decks and include complimentary detergent. They are perfectly adequate providing common sense is used in their operation, though it was noticeable that many passengers were oblivious of the simple and clearly displayed operation instructions.
There were no 'tender' ports on this cruise and on most visits the Queen Elizabeth was afforded good convenient berths. We did not use any ship's excursions but found particularly good beach facilities in both Barbados and Tortola.
We were pleased to be invited to join the Hotel Manager's table in the Britannia Restaurant for the New Years Eve Gala Dinner. Again, both the food and service were excellent and one could sense a great atmosphere all around. Our sea position on New Year's Eve precluded a Deck Party. Three main venues were nominated for celebrations and passengers could make their own choice as to where to celebrate. Cunard provided complimentary champagne for toasting the New Year in, indeed, from where we were positioned it was most plentiful.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. It offered plenty of variety in both activities and entertainment, all to Cunard's usual high standard: and, of course, some great dancing. We found no evidence of any 'cutbacks' in the quality of either the food or service provided. All staff we met, and that was many, were obliging, cheerful and more than helpful. Some interesting figures were revealed during the course of the cruise which I am happy to share. There were 1,971 passengers onboard representing some 28 nationalities. There were 53 nationalities represented on the staff. At the Cunard World Club Parties there were in attendance 660 Gold Members, 277 Platinum and 216 Diamond members. Between them those members have completed 7026 Cunard voyages and their totalled days with Cunard equalled 313 years and 4 months. Silver members (two Cunard cruises) do not qualify for attendance and were therefore not included in the figures.