(5 p.m. EDT) -- A fittingly royal touch for Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth was unveiled last night.
The backdrop to the sweeping staircase descending into the 90,400-ton ship's magnificent Grand Lobby, the first area passengers see on boarding, is going to be an intricate marquetry panel, two and a half decks high, depicting the original Queen Elizabeth -- and designed by master wood craftsman David Linley, nephew of the Queen.
Viscount Linley, whose clients include Oprah Winfrey and perfume magnate Jo Malone, trained in cabinet-making and founded his design company, Linley, in 1985. He has gone on to become a huge international success, creating exquisite inlaid wooden furniture that comes with a hefty price tag; at the big reveal of the panel last night in Linley's spacious Belgravia showroom, journalists and Cunard executives awkwardly circled a £16,500 table, not quite knowing where to put their drinks down.
So what's the thinking behind the panel? Peter Shanks, president and managing director of Cunard, told the gathering last night: "We needed to fill that space with something which would not just be dramatic, a "wow" factor in an area already full of "wow," but which would also reflect our emphasis on traditional and sumptuous materials.
"Once we had decided on the theme and the medium, it didn't take us long to conclude that no one was better qualified for this detailed but monumental work than the company of the exceptional craftsman David Linley, whose creative ability and mastery of wood is renowned."
The panel is undeniably stunning and will make a superb backdrop for formal photographs. It'll be made of nine wooden veneers, including Indian ebony, American walnut, bird's eye maple and grey ripple sycamore. The finished product will be shipped to the Fincantieri shipyard at Monfalcone, Italy, where Queen Elizabeth is under construction, and assembled over a period of four days.
David Linley commented: "I recall my father saying the interior design of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 made one proud to be British, so I am hoping our achievement on the new Queen Elizabeth will make him -- and others -- equally proud."
What was discreetly kept quiet last night, though, was the fact that Linley has been commissioned by a cruise line before; the tables, chairs and lamps in the library and the grandfather clock in the Thackeray Room on P&O's Oriana are all his handiwork.
Other decor plans include a five-metre-high sculpture, destined for one of the public areas; the artist was chosen in an open competition, judged by Cunard and the Telegraph.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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Cunard Adds The Wow Factor With Royal Artwork Commission
May 20, 2010