FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Cunard aptly invited the Queen to name its latest new-build ship Queen Elizabeth last October and came up with a vessel fit to bear the reigning monarch’s name.Climb onboard and you’ll find that regal memorabilia abounds. A large contemporary portrait of Her Majesty hangs in the three-deck-high Grand Lobby, while the ship’s galleried Queen's Room is embellished with busts and portraits of Elizabeth, and paintings of her royal palaces. And indeed the ship itself feels positively palatial in parts, as did its predecessor, Queen Victoria.
PUBLIC AREAS: I found Queen Victoria impressively elegant when it launched in 2007, and Cunard has clearly decided to stick with a winning formula, as the line’s two newest Queens have much in common. Layouts of shops and main public rooms are similar on both, as are beech-veneered staterooms elegantly decorated in shades of gold, honey and cream. Each ship also has a splendid Victorian-style theatre, complete with boxes and a spectacular two-tier, wood-panelled library. You will also find sumptuous spas on both ships, complete with sea-view gyms and thermal suites featuring steam and sauna rooms, heated recliners and a large hydrotherapy pool.
DINING: Large-windowed, wood-panelled versions of Cunard’s signature Queen’s Grill and Princess Grill restaurants are to be found on Deck 11 of both ships, and top-paying Grill class passengers are provided with a private sunbathing deck, an Italian-style alfresco courtyard for open-air dining, and a stylish private lounge with concierge service. Art Deco fans will also love Queen Elizabeth’s Britannia Restaurant, which is lined in lacquered walnut and passengers occupying AA grade balconied staterooms can use the Britannia Club restaurant.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment aboard Queen Elizabeth has been designed to make her stand out from her predecessors; she is the first Cunard ship, for example, to have her own, 29-member theatre company. Appropriate, really, for a ship that’s something of a show-stopper.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: So what distinguishes Queen Elizabeth from Queen Victoria? Well, Queen Elizabeth's public room décor is warmer than Victoria’s, and while Victoria’s speciality restaurant is run – as on Queen Mary 2 - by US chef Todd English, Queen Elizabeth’s speciality restaurant, the Verandah Grill, is styled after the first-class private dining rooms aboard Cunard’s original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth which, during the 1930s' heyday of transatlantic liners, hosted royalty, tycoons and film stars.
ITINARIES: Queen Elizabeth is UK-based and this autumn and winter offers a variety of itineraries to the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Baltic, the US East Coast, the Canaries and the Caribbean. On January 10th, 2012, she embarks on a 107-night World Cruise.
VERDICT: A very elegant ship with all the trimmings. Everything one has come to expect from Cunard, and more. She may be the newest ship in Cunard's fleet, but she certainly hasn't dispensed with tradition, in decor or service.
First Launched: 2010
Length/Tonnage: 90,000 tonnes
Passengers: 2092 (Double Occupancy)