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Cruising Aboard: Queen Elizabeth

[hr]John Pond has inspected all the ‘the Queens’ – Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria, when they have been in port, but had not sailed on any of them. Finally, he was given the opportunity to cruise Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, and shares his on-sea review with The Retiree. [hr]

QE-Syd-Harb

Most passengers I spoke to did not know Cunard line was owned by Carnival, who also own Costa, Holland America, P&O and Princess Seaborne. I have sailed on all their lines and they keep the standard very high. The Queen Elizabeth was launched by her majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2010 as the third ship in Cunard’s fleet and a sister to Queen Victoria, which entered service in 2007. Both sisters’ hulls are based on a blueprint shared with numerous other vessels in the Carnival Corporation family. 

Our balcony cabin was similar to those on other Carnival ships. The bathroom was a little smaller, but adequate. I had sailed on Holland America a few weeks before so it was fairly easy to compare. Food and service were about the same as other Carnival ships – high.

The real difference was in the ship’s décor – tasteful, elegant, no glaring glitz, just, in my opinion, good taste. It evokes the era of the 1930s, in which Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth was launched, with many art deco interior touches, beautiful artwork, rich Italian marble, polished wood and soft light, diffused by glittering chandeliers. Every bar or lounge has something beautiful to admire, a piece of intricate wooden parquetry or perhaps a maritime scene. There’s Cunard memorabilia throughout the ship: a Christmas card from Queen Elizabeth II, a solid silver model of QE2 made by the famed London jeweler Osprey and the original bell of the first Queen Elizabeth and more. It all evokes a feeling of old-fashioned glamor and a sense of occasion and old-fashioned pursuits; no waterslides or high-tech nightclubs on this ship.

Alternate-Restaurant

There were many lounges throughout offering music and seemingly non-stop trivial pursuits. The ballroom offered dancing lessons, balls and there were even dance hosts for those without a male partner (sorry, no female hostess for the single men!).

The shopping arcade showcased high-quality merchandise and there was an excellent library. The art gallery displayed a large choice of paintings at fixed prices. No auctions here, thank goodness.

There were some very fine alternate dining restaurants, where for a small additional charge one could enjoy elegant five-star fine dining. Entertainment in the lavishly appointed showroom was something to experience each night and daily afternoon tea is a not-to-be-missed experience.

Afternoon-Tea
Afternoon Tea in Ballroom

It’s good to be aware that there is a 15 per cent surcharge automatically added to purchased beverages. And, at the bottom of the bill that needs to be signed when your drink is delivered, is another line indicating gratuity. Many patrons did not realise that 15 per cent had already been added in spite of it being listed on the bill. Other Carnival ships list this as additional gratuity so beware – you could be tipping 30 per cent.

No additional charge 24-hour room service was appreciated and a refrigerator that actually kept things cold was a great plus. We would have liked more drawers in the cabin and better reading lights. The beds and fine Egyptian cotton sheeting, however made sleeping literally a dream and there were high quality toiletries.

The balcony was oversized and reading there with a cup of tea was something I looked forward to each day.

The make-up of passengers on my cruise were mostly UK, Australian, German, Japanese and Chinese, in that order. On World voyages the makeup of different nationalities changes depending on what part of the world your ship is sailing. The average age of passengers was in the 55+ area. I didn’t see any children on board although there were ‘kids clubs’ available. 

Queen Elizabeth, like the other Cunard ships, operates what could be called a class system in which the cabin grade you choose dictates where you eat. Queens Grill and Princess Grill for those who choose the pricier accommodation could be called the most exclusive dining at sea. Most of the passengers, 83 percent of them, who chose Britannia-grade cabins, dine in the Britannia Restaurant, which is not exactly shabby, but then again can’t be called fine dining.

Balcony-cabin-

In the buffet area waiters do not help you find a seat or carry your tray or even pour water or fetch tea and coffee. You have to line up at a machine for that. Other Carnival ships I have found offer equal or better service, although our evening dining waiter Wong was excellent. Service was sometimes lightning fast or very slow.

When leaving the ship carrying a medium suitcase I chose to wheel, It could be said I was struggling a bit due to my bad knees; I was using a walking stick going down the gangway, watched by several crewmembers, none of whom offered to help. On other Carnival ships the crew were very quick to assist me and carry my bag. I see no reason why this service cannot be improved.

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Elegant-Decor

More Information 

Queen-cruiser
Main Pool Area

The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar. Cunard recommends $11 per person, per day, for Britannia-grade cabins, this is usually added to ones shipboard account and may be modified up or down.

The Good:

  • Overall a very pleasant cruise
  • Great entertainment throughout the ship
  • Staff generally very good, but could improve
  • Food Good – similar to other Carnival ships
  • Tried to book alternative restaurants, but were full on my short cruise. General reports from fellow passengers was that they were very good
  • Outstanding on board shops

Not So Good:

  • Very little to find wrong
  • Very high expectations not quite met, with a little more upmarket training staff could be excellent
  • Dress code confusing to most who didn’t follow it anyhow

All in all, the ship and experience was 4-5 star. Food and service is more in line with other Carnival ships – very good. Would I sail on a Queen again: most certainly.

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Cunard’s stunning Queen Elizabeth will return to Australia next year as part of her 2015 World Voyage. The 112-night voyage will visit 38 ports in 25 countries and includes a maiden call to Yorkey’s Knob for Cairns while in Australian waters. Queen Elizabeth’s 2015 World Voyage sector between San Francisco and Sydney departs on February 8, 2015.

For more information visit www.cunard.com.au or call 13 24 41 

 
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