At last the most anticipated ship of the year was launched in October and named by Her Majesty the Queen. On an unseasonably warm and sunny day in October we were gathered with a host of dignitaries and celebrities from the Prince’s Trust to witness the pomp and ceremony of the naming of the 3rd Cunard ship to bear the name: Queen Elizabeth.
At the modern & spacious Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton we were treated to champagne, canapés and tea while being entertained by a 30’s style jazz band resplendent in tails and spats. A taste of things to come on board! This was certainly an occasion to remember – after all not every ship is launched by the Queen! We were supplied with an order of Ceremony and separate guest list in glossy keepsake brochures.
During the proceedings we spotted Alan Titchmarsh, Judith Chalmers, Simon Weston, Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth), Alan Wicker and Jimmy Saville among others. We were entertained by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at the outside seating area and the delights of Lesley Garrett.
The Cold Stream Guards marched on to the stage and were put through their paces together with the fanfare of Trumpeters of the Irish Guards.
After the Queen had inspected the ship she arrived in her Rolls Royce to name the ship and press the button to release the champagne bottle and “Yes” it did smash – always a good sign. Incidentally the Queen is the only person alive who has been present at all 3 Queen Elizabeth ship naming ceremonies: when she was 12 years old in 1938 for the original Queen Elizabeth and in 1967 for the QE2.
As with all Cunard cruise ships they cut a very imposing presence in any port of call. This together with the established Cunard name and sailing on a Queen seems to attract attention away from all other ships in any particular port. The Queen Elizabeth is a home away from home for Queen Victoria fans and also Queen Mary 2 patrons. The decor on board is lighter, fresh and 30’s style in contrast to the heavier & darker Victorian theme of the Queen Victoria.
The aft pool deck has been extended further back for much more sunbathing space and you can no longer overlook the suite balconies below from the stern of the ship. Gone are the pastel tones and light wood shades that can be found in the Lido buffet restaurant of the Queen Victoria to be replaced with a much more sophisticated and sumptuous decor. The forward top deck games area has been upgraded to a covered bowls / croquet lawn club and looks lovely complete with Astroturf.
On decks 2 and 3 further enhancements have been made. The staircase in the Grand Lobby bears a wooden fresco of the original Queen Elizabeth and the portrait of her Majesty the Queen is not to be missed. The Chart Room Bar (found on Queen Victoria & QM2 ) has been replaced by an extended dining room area of the Britannia restaurant which accommodates the single seating Britannia Club dining for high grade balcony stateroom passengers. Also the Cafe Carinthia and the Veuve Cliquot champagne bar have been merged to form one larger bar area.
At last on board there is a new alternative dining restaurant which replaces the Todd English restaurant found on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. This one is French and called the Verandah; it is has a sparkling 20’s style decor and looks very enticing indeed. They have also enhanced the shops on board with a Fortnum & Masons plus changed the art auction show room to an art gallery with reasonable prices. Unlike the art found at auctions on board other ships – the pictures and paintings for sale in the showroom on board the Queen Elizabeth are items that you would actually want to hang on your wall and show off!
As with all Cunard cruise ships you will still find the signature touches that make these cruises simply unbeatable. The FREE guest launderettes on each deck, the Commodore Club and the Golden Lion pub serving FREE Fish & chips at lunchtime. Of course the Queens Ball room particularly sets Cunard ships apart from others. This is a big band formal entertainment venue and the setting for daily afternoon tea with white china and white gloved waiters serving scones and clotted cream.
Don’t forget the FREE alternative dining evenings in a section of the Lido restaurant – dine by reservation with Waiter service and menus. They alternate the themes of Traditional English Carvery, Indian, Oriental, French and Italian throughout the cruise.
The Royal Spa is well worth the extra charge payable for the hydro therapy pool and the thermal relaxation lounge. The fitness centre is free and the segregated changing rooms each have a FREE Swedish sauna that are very popular.
All in all – a lovely sophisticated ship and not just a cloned production line job!