Embarkation was a breeze - we got to the terminal by taxi at about 11am and had our suitcases taken off us by a porter and were directed to check in. Once at the check in area we had to wait for check in to open which the staff said would be at noon but it was open by 11:30am. We were checked in by a friendly and efficient staff member and were then allowed to go on board straight after this.
When we boarded we had a very warm welcome by the first crew members that we saw on board and when we got to the grand lobby all I can say is WOW! It is a lovely understated but grand ship and it was exactly how we imagined it would be.
When we went down the River Elbe in Hamburg we watched as a hotel played "Land of Hope and Glory" waving sheets out of the window as we went past!
Our group had 2 cabins - a balcony cabin (6041) and an inside cabin (6022). Even the inside cabin was nicely appointed and seemed very cosy (in a good way). The balcony cabin was quite spacious and had a nice sofa to relax on. Even though the balcony cabin was near the lifts we heard no noise whatsoever even on the night that we had to put out our bags (unlike MSC where there was just shouting and banging down the corridors!)
The cabin steward for the balcony cabin was okay but missed things out - for example, we only had one bathrobe and slippers even though there were 2 of us and things seemed to be too much trouble. In fact she looked very tired and overworked! However the cabin steward in the inside cabin was excellent and nothing was too much trouble.
The furniture in the cabin itself was of a very good standard - comfortable beds with soft duvets but the TV could have been a bit bigger. But then again you don't go on a cruise to watch TV!
Food & Drink
We had lunch one day in the Golden Lion which served traditional "pub grub". We had cottage pie, fish and chips (with mushy peas!) and a ploughman's between us. All 3 meals were delicious and piping hot and were very filling.
We also had lunch and breakfast in the Lido which was also very nice with hot food. You could also get sandwiches, pizza and pasta made to order for lunch here which was a nice touch. Tables were cleared away quickly and it was never difficult to get a table. I just wish I had the mascarpone dessert that they had as it looked delicious but I did not see it again.
We dined in the Britannia Restaurant on second seating. Our waitress, Agata, was absolutely fantastic and nothing was too much trouble for her. She worked very hard and even when one of us ordered a main course but did not like it when it came (nothing to do with the food itself, we just made a wrong choice off the menu) the dish was whisked away and an alternative swiftly provided so that we could all still eat our main courses at the same time. We were also provided with a folder of menus from the whole cruise which was a nice touch. The wine waitress was also very good even remembering my choice from the wine menu from a previous night and making recommendations where appropriate. The food in the Britannia restaurant was lovely and piping hot. It was not too much but you weren't feeling hungry at the end of it either. The chocolate volcano was to die for.
We had afternoon tea in the Queens Room one day which was very much a traditional affair with a string quartet playing in the background whilst white-gloved waiters poured tea and coffee and served cakes, sandwiches and scones as many times as you like. There were also a couple of alternative teas if you did not want to have the standard tea. The scones were also served with clotted cream which was gorgeous.
Breakfast in the Britannia Restaurant was nice and you could order al a carte off the menu or have the "Express Breakfast" which was the usual English Breakfast but we were surprised to see the lack of black pudding bearing in mind they market themselves as being very British. The waiters did seem quite rushed at breakfast on disembarkation day however and we did have to ask for some more coffee a couple of times.
The service in all of the bars was very good and you didn't feel pressured in to buying a drink if you just wanted to sit and take in the view.
The ship itself is very understated but grand at the same time. It did take a while to get our bearings as there are 2 main staircases on this ship - one in the grand lobby and one by the Golden Lion pub. The Queens Room is definitely one of the best rooms on the ship - very grand with a lovely dance floor. There was also a croquet lawn and short bowls mat if you wished to play. There was also a giant chess set on the Lido deck but a couple of pieces were broken.
The grand lobby often had live music playing so was a very nice place to relax and read a book. This is a great place to have pictures taken as well.
The Garden Lounge was a conservatory/winter garden area where you could have champagne afternoon tea if you wished for an extra charge or just have a drink or two. It was nice to have a room where there was plenty of light without going outside.
The Commodore Club was at the bow of the ship and gave a good view of basically what the captain saw.
We did see the spa but did not go in as I think there was an extra charge for using the indoor pool and facilities there.
We did not use the pools on board as it was a Northern Europe itinerary and the weather wasn't that great but they seemed nice enough.
There was entertainment going on most of the time on board the ship but you didn't feel pressured into doing anything if you didn't want to.
The shows in the Royal Court Theatre were very good including a very funny Liverpudlian comedian and on the final night a variety show including a singer, dancers and the comedian again. I do agree with a lot of other people on here that the boxes in the theatre have Perspex in front of them which way give you a distorted view of the stage. You can sit in these boxes for free unless it is a special night in which case you can pay and have champagne in the box.
There were plenty of other things to do during the day such as a pub quiz, karaoke, bingo and live cooking demonstrations from the Executive Chef.
At night there were many venues to choose from such as the Golden Lion with karaoke (with a strange selection of songs) and the yacht club which turned into a disco with live music earlier on and a DJ later. It was very lively on the 2 nights we went - unusual for a cruise ship.
We loved the QE so much that we have already booked to go on her again as part of the 3 Queens Event in 2012 and cannot wait!