We wanted to see what this new ship was like. So on 23rd May we boarded her for a six-day min-cruise up and down the Channel.
First impressions were good. The Queen Elizabeth is still so new that the paintwork sparkles, the woodwork glows and the whole ambience is fresh and bright. The subdued Art deco style is restful and reassuring, evocative of the great days of ocean liners. Layout is thoughtfully planned, with spacious public areas and easy-to-follow routes around the ship.
The downside? Our A3 cabin was decidedly smaller than those we are used to in this category. Whilst it is neatly laid out and well appointed, we’re not sure we would want to spend a longish time (eg for a world cruise) in so small a space. However, the beds were splendidly comfortable and a feather pillow was found for Caroline, so we slept well.
The staff seem to be highly motivated, cheerful and well trained, mastering the art of being helpful without being obtrusive. We like the way in which tips are added automatically to one’s account. Then if anyone deserves something extra, one can always add it.
The food was excellent. We’re always astonished at what a chef can achieve on board a cruise ship, and this catering was exceptional. Plenty of choice, creative ideas on the menu and the Lido buffet was definitely a notch above the usual standard for this level of eating. But we missed those intimate little (often Italian style) alternative eateries which we have come to enjoy on other ships. Instead, the huge Lido buffet is turned into a partially alternative eating area providing a different menu (eg Asian, Mexican, South American) each evening. The snag with this is that whilst the food may be quite exotic, the setting is still that of a conventional buffet. Added to which, the Lido is long and rambling with no consistent scheme for the display of food. Confused couples drift back and forth wondering where they should start their search for a meal.
The Royal Court theatre is quite astounding - a real theatre with stalls, circle and boxes, with none of the usual problems with sight lines and seating. Shows were of a good standard with a particularly amusing comedian/pianist.
The library is also spectacular. It occupies two decks, joined by an impressive spiral staircase, and one can choose from some 6,000 books, many of them almost new. This is the best ship’s library we have ever come across.
Afternoon tea is quite genuinely a special experience. In the Queen’s Room white-gloved waiters and waitresses serve a choice of teas with accompanying scones, sandwiches and cakes. It’s all very elegant and “Cunard”.
Poor weather meant that we really couldn't make best use of the ports visited (apart from a few hours in Amsterdam and a trip to Blankenburg) but we noted that Bruges, Paris, WW1 battlefields and other interesting locations were included, which could be ideal for some visitors.
We thoroughly enjoyed our mini-cruise, but would a sparkling ship, fine cuisine and attentive staff compensate for a smaller than usual cabin on longer trips? We’re still undecided.