During the day, there are plenty of activities to choose from on Queen Elizabeth, but a lot are unhosted: paddle tennis, shuffleboard, croquet, deck quoits (similar to ring toss), darts, needlework and knitting, and chess.
Other options might include dance lessons, movie screenings, daily trivia and bridge lessons. Foil fencing lessons are held in the Queens Room at no charge, though you will need to get on the sought-after sign-up list to participate.
An instructed watercolor class is held a handful of times (in a section of the Britannia Restaurant) for $35 a session (and limited to 25 spots). Bridge lessons are available free of charge.
Collect stickers from the various activities in a booklet and redeem it for prizes at the end of your sailing.
Cunard is also well-known for its enrichment program, and there are technology seminars, cooking demos and art talks -- proper ones, not just attempts to sell the art in the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery onboard. Guest lecturers vary as part of the Cunard Insights program and offer in-depth talks on wildlife, architecture and politics -- largely depending on your itinerary. An onboard naturalist joined us for our Alaska itinerary and was heavily involved in the onboard programming.
An interesting behind-the-scenes option is the free galley visit, held once per cruise, which provides cruisers a sneak peek at the logistics involved in the ship's culinary operation.
Daily meetings include get-togethers for solo travelers, Christian fellowship, LGBTQ and Friends of Bill W.
There's live music all over Queen Elizabeth. Evenings kick off with either a harpist or a pianist in the Grand Lobby, which is lovely if you're enjoying a pre-dinner drink in the Cafe Carinthia or the Midships Bar, both of which overlook the area. A singing pianist entertains in the Golden Lion Pub, interspersed with quizzes and karaoke, while there's mellow piano up in the Commodore Club, another great pre-dinner and late-night drinking spot.
At the heart of a Queen Elizabeth cruise is dancing, and there is dancing every day, morning, noon and night. Most of it is in the Queens Room, a lavish ballroom built for this very purpose. During the day you can find dance lessons here. Every night, there's ballroom and Latin dancing before and after dinner, usually to a live band, as well as dancing at afternoon tea and classes in the mornings. Single ladies are kept on their toes by gentleman hosts. The Queens Room is also the venue for jazz concerts and classical piano recitals. Formal Royal Balls take place every few nights (on the gala evenings).
The other big evening events are the shows in the stunning theater, complete with 20 V.I.P. boxes. A dedicated Royal Cunard Company of singers and dancers stage variety and dance spectaculars (including a performance based on "The Greatest Showman"), which are interspersed throughout the week with guest acts -- a comedian or a capella group, for example.
For $69 (plus 15 percent) per couple, you can book one of the boxes. The full package includes a Champagne cocktail and a tray of petit fours in a private lounge, attended by Cunard's scarlet-uniformed White Star Bell Boys, and a half-bottle of Laurent-Perrier in the box. It's a lovely idea, and there's a real sense of excitement when the ticket, like a proper theater ticket, is delivered to your stateroom. Our only criticism is for the plastic screen in front of the seats, which means everything on the stage is slightly distorted.
Evenings bring plenty of other diversions, as well. Forward of the Queens Room is the Empire Casino with the Golden Lion Pub on one side. The casino has table games like roulette and blackjack, as well as numerous slots. Bets range from a $5 minimum to a $200 maximum, or $25 to $500 on a high-rollers' table.
There are a number of comfortable and stylish places to drink onboard Queen Elizabeth, including a traditional British pub, a lounge with a surprising cocktail menu and a not-so-hidden gem.
Cafe Carinthia (Deck 2): Cafe Carinthia is a light-filled space that serves as a coffee and tea lounge as well as a bar. Complimentary pastries are offered for breakfast, with light bites in the afternoon for lunch and tea time. Specialty coffees and teas are served alongside wine and mixed drinks. All drinks carry a fee.
Queens Room (Deck 2): The venue for afternoon tea and occasional galas, the Queens Room is an elegant space with a stage and a spacious dance floor lit by a huge Swarovski chandelier. Big band nights with ballroom dancing and Latin nights are regular occurrences here. On port days, the lounge often serves as a meeting point for tours.
Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2): Golden Lion is a traditional British-style pub and the place to be for viewing sports tournaments or playing trivia over a round of draft beers. The beer selection is respectable, with a selection of British brands like Boddingtons. Occasional pub lunches and dinners are served here, for free. Karaoke is held here on select nights.
Midships (Gin & Fizz) Bar (Deck 3): The Midships Bar is the perfect place to go for a drink before or after dinner. Also known as the Gin & Fizz Bar, you'll find menu of more than 40 gins with thousands of tonic combinations. Even if you think you don't like gin, bartenders might change your mind with their scholarly level of knowledge and a flourish when it comes to complementing flavors that enhance or hide the gin, depending on your preference. For the already converted, we recommend one of the perfect pours (go with Queen Victoria). For skeptics who don't mind sweet, try the Mary Rose cocktail -- it was a favorite on our sailing.
Garden Lounge (Deck 9): The Garden Lounge is a popular hangout space during the day, accommodating readers and crossword puzzle-doers with comfy cane chairs and specialty coffees, teas and a full bar. The sunny solarium setting was inspired by the glass houses at Kew Gardens in London.
In the morning, a great selection of fresh juices and smoothies are available for purchase. Fencing lessons are held here, along with live music performances in the afternoons. On Alaska sailings, an Alaska Outpost is located in one corner with maps, educational materials and office hours with the onboard naturalist.
Lido Pool Bar & Grill (Deck 9): The Lido Pool Bar, at the back of the ship, is the site of the sail-away party on the first afternoon with a DJ playing party music, while onboard performers encourage passengers to dance and there's even a Champagne cart (but you'll have to pay for drinks). Other days, the bar serves patrons at the adjacent pool, weather permitting. A selection of drinks -- including great mocktails -- as well as crisps (potato chips) are on offer. Some afternoons you can even grab a hot dog or hamburger and munch under a shaded canopy.
Yacht Club (Deck 10): The casual nighttime venue onboard Queen Elizabeth is the Yacht Club, which serves as a nightclub with DJ-ed music after hours (9:30 p.m. and later). There is a dance floor, a bar and plenty of seating near windows overlooking the pool outside. The Yacht Club features a full bar with a specialized menu of old fashioneds (whiskey and bitters)if you're feeling adventurous, ask if your drink can come in a tiki cup. (Drinks are not permitted on the dance floor.)
Commodore Club (Deck 10): During the day this space functions as an observation lounge with excellent views of the sea from the front of the ship. By night, the relaxed atmosphere continues with mellow musical performances, low lighting and intimate seating. The lounge boasts a nautical theme that is complemented by a series of detailed (and pricy) drinks inspired by former Cunard captains. We were also impressed by the breadth of the drinks menu -- virtually any spirit you might want (and some you have never heard of) can be poured in the Commodore Club. It's the ultimate spot for a nightcap.
Churchill's Cigar Lounge (Deck 10): Enjoy a cigar at Churchill's (purchase from Commodore Club first, prices range from $20 to $40 apiece). A nod to the former British prime minister and his affinity for cigars, it's one of the few places to smoke (but not cigarettes) inside of the ship.
Grills Lounge (Deck 11): The dedicated lounge for passengers booked in suites is at the top of the ship, near the Grills restaurants. There is also an upper terrace and outdoor courtyard.
There are two pools on Deck 9: the Pavilion Pool, midship and the aft Lido Pool, which is surrounded by a huge sunbathing area and serves as the venue for sail-away parties. Each pool has its own bar and two Jacuzzis.
Queen Elizabeth offers some unusual outdoor activities -- though none involve water slides or adrenaline-pumping attractions. The covered Games Deck, a throwback to simpler pursuits, is up on Deck 11, with paddle tennis, short mat bowls and croquet. Vintage murals and white lampposts complete the nostalgic feel. Nearby, a netted golf area allows you to practice your swing.
Table tennis is available on Deck 9, outside of the spa near the midship pool.
Passengers seeking sun on Queen Elizabeth can find real estate (and padded loungers) near both pools (midship and aft on Deck 9). Suite passengers can relax in privacy on the Grills upper terrace on Deck 12. Padded wooden loungers providing some shade (good for reading) can also be found around the promenade area on Deck 3.
The front desk, also known as the Purser's Office, is located at the foot of the atrium on Deck 1. Adjacent are the tour office for shore excursion assistance and the voyage sales office for booking future Cunard cruises. Many of Queen Elizabeth's public spaces can be found surrounding the stunning three-deck Grand Lobby, which features curving staircases and a carved wooden panel by the nephew of the Queen, David Linley.
Above, stretching from Decks 2 to 3, is the library -- a dying breed on many cruise ships. Here, it is a venerated space. Polished wood paneling, stained glass and a two-story spiral staircase draw you in to a space packed with approximately 6,000 volumes, including a notable reference section that includes works on the various ports and destinations from each itinerary the ship sails. A mini-museum of ship memorabilia is at the front, and ocean-view desks are at the back. The library desk is staffed on and off throughout the day, and a librarian must be present to borrow any books.
Next to the library, on Deck 3, is a card room with bridge tables and an alcove where a jigsaw puzzle is almost certainly in play.
Deck 3 is also where the shops are located, along a stretch called the Royal Arcade. The onboard shops feel more like boutiques -- featuring designers like Max Mara -- than the standard duty-free souvenir grab. You'll find logo items and duty-free goods, along with a book shop selling curated books and curios. The Port Shop sells necessities, like toothpaste and shampoo. The Clarendon Fine Art Gallery is also on Deck 3.
The photo gallery is on Deck 3, toward the Britannia Restaurant, and utilizes digital kiosks to display photos to passengers, reducing the waste of unnecessary printouts. The space also sells camera and video equipment and accessories.
A computer lounge is on Deck 1, with plenty of stations for passengers to log on and check email. Internet packages are available for a fee.
There are a handful of meeting rooms onboard Queen Elizabeth on Decks 1 and 3, designated as ConneXions 1, 2 and 3. The Admiral's Lounge on Deck 10 can also serve as a meeting room.
Self-service launderettes are scattered throughout the ship between cabins on Decks 4, 5, 7 and 8. They're a much cheaper alternative to the ship's laundry services and completely free (even detergent). Just be aware that doors lock at 9 p.m., even if your clothes are still in the dryer!
Smoking is permitted in designated sections on Decks 3 and 10, starboard only.
The medical center is located below Deck 1 on Deck A.
The Mareel Wellness & Beauty center (run by Canyon Ranch) is located on Deck 9 and houses a hair salon, treatment rooms, a fitness center and a thermal suite.
Drawing its inspiration from the ocean and the elements, the calming spa offers marine-themed treatments under the "Ocean Discovery" moniker, including seaweed bathing rituals and a luminescence massage. The 80-minute Taste the Ocean includes samplers of these treatments for about $209.
The spa menu includes a variety of body treatments, acupuncture and reflexology, along with manicures, pedicures and hair styling. Prices range from $135 for a 50-minute Mareel massage to $300 for a 100-minute deep-tissue massage. Facials run about $76 for 30 minutes.
A one-day pass to the thermal suite is $35 and includes access to a thalassotherapy pool, heated ceramic loungers, various steam rooms, aromatherapy showers and a sauna. Voyage-long passes are available, but pricing varies by cruise.
A fitness center can be found inside the Mareel Spa. The space is not massive, but contains about 36 machines (including 11 treadmills) for complimentary use, as well as fit balls and free weights. Spin bikes are available by booking a class for an additional fee. Personal fitness instruction is available, also for a fee, as well as a number of classes such as yoga or boot camp -- these typically range from $12 to $18 per class.
A wraparound promenade on Deck 3 provides a nice space for a walk -- jogging is only permitted between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Three laps equal 0.9 miles.
Queen Elizabeth is perfectly family-friendly in terms of the facilities it offers, but it does have the look and feel of a "grown up" ship, and some families might be happier with programming on lines like P&O or Princess. The few children spotted on our cruise seemed perfectly happy and at ease in the surroundings and clearly loved dressing up on the formal nights, but we also got the impression that our fellow cruisers prefer "youngsters" to be seen and not heard.
Both the kid and teen clubs are open from 10 a.m. to noon; 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m. On port days, they open from 2 to 5 p.m. and again from 6 to 11 p.m. A complimentary night nursery is available for infants 6 months to 23 months from 6 to 11 p.m.
In-cabin babysitting services are not available on Cunard, and infants less than 12 months old are not allowed on world cruises, transatlantic crossings or voyages deemed "exotic cruises."
Children ages 2 to 7 are welcome in the Play Zone on Deck 10. (Infants aged 6 months through 2 years are welcome to participate in the programming with parental supervision.) The complimentary kids club encourages play and is a space for young kids onboard to let loose and be silly with activities like an "Aliens Love Underpants" scavenger hunt. There is an arts and crafts corner, a section for building blocks and other toys, and tables for puzzles and board games. There is a designated outdoor play space, as well (for children of all ages).
The Kids' Zone, for ages 8 to 12, provides games and activities geared toward a slightly older age range, including sports competitions, arts and crafts and karaoke.
A separate club on Deck 10 is just for the teens, ages 13 to 17. The Teen Zone provides quizzes, competitions, video games, "chill out tunes" and activities like learning to write your name graffiti-style.