For the best part of two weeks Cunard's Queen Elizabeth has been undergoing a refresh at a shipyard in Brest, France. Though not on the same scale of sisters Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, workers have been busy remodelling the spa, the Golden Lion pub and the décor throughout (the new china alone cost £60,000!).
We've been given exclusive hard hat access at the shipyard to get a sneak peek at what changes are in store when Cunard's youngest Queen gets out of drydock.
On 3rd January 2019 the third of Cunard’s three queens, Queen Elizabeth, will set off on a round the world cruise via Cape Town, Australia, Japan and Alaska before heading back to Southampton through the Panama Canal.
In preparation for the journey, Cunard has decided to give the 2,081 passenger ship a little nip and tuck.
More than 2,000 workmen from countries as far and wide as Venezuela have been flown in to carry out the update.
Sparks fly beneath the ship as welders carry out essential maintenance work and the elegant and, usually exclusive, Queen's Grill on Deck 11 has been turned into the nerve centre for the refurbishment; it's chaos with paperwork, hard hats, plans -- and plenty of biscuits.
In the Queens Room ballroom, meanwhile, the soundtrack has changed from the usual waltz and Latin music to the clacking of sewing machine needles as craftsmen, flown in from Italy, whip up new covers for the ship's hundreds of upholstered seats.
David Bristow, maritime commercial manager, projects and planning, takes us around the ship. He said: "It's a really graceful upgrade. It's really special."
Here's a little more about what you can expect from the makeover:
The spa is plusher
On the whole, the Queen Elizabeth’s refurbishment is pretty subtle. Some of the most obvious changes are taking place in the Royal Spa on Deck 9 and Deck 10, which will be renamed the Mareel Spa after the phosphoresce of the ocean.
Blue will be the presiding colour here when the revamp is complete. Many of the mocha mosaic tiles are being painstakingly replaced with blue ones in areas like the sauna and the laconicum, and brand new blue day beds big enough for two are being brought into the sanctuary.
The headline news here, though, has to be about the new Serenity Suite and the Harmony Suite. The former includes a huge spa bath where treatments will take place, and the latter features a series of plump upholstered relaxation loungers and a flat screen television.
New SoSounds technology is also being set up in the heated bed section so passengers don’t have to listen to the same music as their fellow spa goers as they unwind.
They're upping the quintessentially British element
From the big things like the ship's name to the finishing touches like the Fortum & Mason hamper ordering service, the Queen Elizabeth has always oozed Britishness. It's a stiff upper lip of a ship. Ahead of the world voyage Cunard is taking its dedication to all things red, white and blue up another notch.
The biggest talking point has to be the two traditional beer pumps that have been installed in the Golden Lion pub on Deck 2. With a classic wooden base and brass and black handles, they're the sort of things you'd find in an oldey worldy English country tavern.
The pub is also being given a new, slightly riotous-looking red, yellow and blue carpet, and the soft leather seating is being reupholstered.
There are new carpets throughout
More than eight miles of new carpets will have been laid inside the Queen Elizabeth by the time the revamp is finished. They’re deep and spongy underfoot.
"When the ladies put their heels on these carpets, they'll sink a few inches," jokes David.
Art deco is still the watchword as far as the patterns, motifs and designs of the carpets are concerned. There are still plenty of stylised floral designs and geometric shapes like there was before.
There's also still a lot of the coffee and cream colour scheme that the Queen Elizabeth is known for in the revamped carpets. What is new, however, is a greater emphasis on the colour blue.
Of particular note are the new carpets in the Yacht Club on Deck 10 with their splashes of rich royal blue, those on the grand stairway on the entrance to the two-tier Britannia Restaurant with their sky blue swirls, and those in the restaurant itself, which feature a spectrum of blue hues from aquamarine to deep sea blue.
So all in all, more subtle than dramatic, but definitely a refurb which consolidates Queen Elizabeth's place as one of the most elegant ships at sea.