Queen Elizabeth captures the glamour of yesteryear when steamer trunks, formal dining and ballroom galas were all the rage at sea. At the same time, it provides the expected conveniences of modern times like computer lounges and plenty of shopping opportunities.
But while it's a modern ship, Queen Elizabeth relies on its chic, geometric Art Deco-inspired interiors to set the tone. There's no neon or glitz, and there are few gimmicks. Instead of capturing the public's imagination with water slides and high-tech nightclubs, Cunard cashes in on its nostalgic heritage with ballroom dancing, lawn bowls and afternoon tea in the Garden Lounge.
If the onboard aura and sentimental pursuits call up the past, so, too does Cunard's cabin category system in which the cabin you're staying in dictates lounge and dining room access. While this might add to the exclusivity of the ship, it isn't exactly a luxury experience. While the main dining food (and even room service) are high quality, there's some of the same nickel-and-diming that you'd find on any other big ship (charging for water in cabins and on shore excursions, for example) -- just in a more polished setting.
Sadly, with so much going for it, our biggest disappointment onboard came from the service -- a far cry from the touted standard of White Star Service we were expecting. Aside from a select few crew members who were exceptionally helpful or friendly, service onboard was surprisingly lacking. Cabin attendants seemed disinterested or downright depressed, staff bickered in the spa, bar managers reprimanded waiters loudly in front of passengers and servers seemed annoyed by simple requests. Crew either went above and beyond or couldn't be bothered at all.
Apart from a few high-trafficked areas, like the buffet or close to the theater after a show, you'll never feel crowded on Queen Elizabeth; there are plenty of nooks and crannies to settle into and enjoy the quiet that comes with this style of cruising. If you've been feeling like you need a break from the rat race, a cruise on Queen Elizabeth offers you the chance to just sit and watch the world go by.
For more details about cabins, dining and things to do, see the separate sections of this review.
Cunard draws a lot of loyal cruisers, but a more specific breakdown of who sails on Queen Elizabeth depends on where the ship is going. Typically, expect a mix of Brits and Americans with groups of German, Australian and Japanese passengers, as well. Transatlantic and more exotic sailings draw an older demographic, while Alaska attracts a few families and a healthy number of first-time cruisers. Sailings round trip from Southampton inevitably bring more Brits onboard -- a handful of short cruises each year give new cruisers the chance to sample the ship. World cruises attract a mix of older passengers from all over the globe -- and the well-traveled variety at that.
Daytime: During the day, stylish casual wear, including jeans and shorts, is fine onboard. The Britannia Restaurant requires a casual wear dress code for breakfast and lunch.
Evening: The evening dress code comes into play at 6 p.m. On informal nights, which are still more formal than on most cruise lines, smart attire is required; men should wear a jacket (ties are not required) and ladies may opt for a dress, skirt or trousers. No jeans or shorts are allowed.
There is no limit to the glamor on formal nights, called gala evenings -- typically three on a 10-night sailing (two on Alaska voyages). People make a big effort to dress up, with lots of long gowns. Many gala evenings are also themed -- masquerade or Roaring Twenties -- so be sure to check out the schedule before packing to include any costume elements.
For passengers who don't want to dress up on formal nights, the nightly dinner buffet in The Lido -- along with the Golden Lion Pub, the Carinthia Lounge, the casino, the Garden Lounge and the Yacht Club -- has a casual and relaxed dress code (still no shorts). You'll have to be dressed up to visit anywhere else onboard, including the theater.
There is a relaxed dress code in the Britannia Restaurant on the first night of every cruise, which does not require a jacket.
Not permitted: Swimsuits, sarongs and gym wear are allowed poolside, on deck and in the spa and fitness center, but passengers must be covered up in any other areas of the ship.
Shorts, torn or tattered clothing, sandals or sleeveless T-shirts are not permitted in any part of the ship after 6 p.m.
Included in Cruise Fare
The Britannia Restaurant (or appropriate suite-level dining venue), the Lido Buffet, meals in the Golden Lion Pub and room service
Daily afternoon tea in the Queens Room
All shows in the Royal Court Theatre and live music throughout the ship
Use of the Games Deck
Use of the fitness facility, but not all classes
Most daily activities, including fencing lessons, unless otherwise noted
Not Included in Cruise Fare
Gratuities ($11.50 per person, per day, for Britannia-grade cabins and $13.50 per person, per day, for Grills suites)
Automatic 15 percent service charge on all drinks; 12.5 percent on spa treatments
Alternative dining dinner in the Lido Buffet and Steakhouse at The Verandah
All drinks beyond water, tea, coffee and select juices in the buffet
Spa treatments and use of the thermal suite
Theater box seats for select shows
Photos and artwork
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Stunning week away up to the Western Isles of Scotland & Liverpool