Queen Elizabeth Festive Debut

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My wife and I sailed on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth for her 22 night ‘Festive Debut’ cruise from Southampton to the Caribbean and return. This was to be Queen Elizabeth’s first combined Christmas and New Year cruise.

Queen Elizabeth

The Ship.

Queen Elizabeth is the third and newest member of the current Cunard fleet. She can carry around 2,100 passengers in a selection of accommodation grades. There are four restaurants for main dining, each restaurant allocated to a particular level of accommodation. Though seasoned Cunarders this was our first cruise on Queen Elizabeth.

On boarding one cannot but help to be impressed by the polished woods and luxurious furniture in the Grand Lobby: a subtle blend of the classic and contemporary; epitomised by magnificent marquetry panel depicting the original Queen Elizabeth…

Entertainment

Queen Elizabeth’s entertainment venues are many and varied. From the 830 seat three deck high Royal Court Theatre, which was designed in the style of a classic opera house, with its 20 private boxes…

to the Queens Room, a double height ocean going ballroom with cantilevered balconies, which each afternoon at sea serves as the venue for Cunard’s famous ‘white glove service’ afternoon teas.

Jazz features around the ship, no more so than in the Golden Lion: a traditional English Pub that also serves those equally traditional pub lunches as well as hosting quizzes and karaoke nights.

No Cunard ship would be without its Commodore Club.  An elegant lounge bar with panoramic sea views ahead of the ship where passengers can while away the cocktail hour with a favourite drink,  listen  to a cocktail pianist pre-dinner and taste mouth watering warm canapés:  or return post dinner for more live piano entertainmet till the wee small hours.

All Cunard’s ships boast excellent libraries – indeed, the best libraries at sea – and Queen Elizabeth is no exception. Queen Elizabeth’s library is on two levels and is interconnected by a wooden spiral staircase.

library globe

library1

Fancy a mid morning coffee and a Danish pastry? The stylish Café Carinthia is just the venue for …

Breaking outside passengers find the decks on board Queen Elizabeth are both spacious and well furnished. Queen Elizabeth has two pool decks, The Pavilion and The Lido…

Both pool decks are serviced by their own dedicated bars and, in addition, the Lido deck boasts a BBQ style Grill.

Passengers travelling in the Grills Accommodation have exclusive use of a reserved deck, known as the Grills Terrace

which boasts its own Al Fresco dining area, ‘The Courtyard’

Dining on board Queen Elizabeth

The main dining room for passengers accommodated in Britannia grade accommodation is the Britannia Restaurant. Two decks high and with a capacity for 878 diners, it operates a two seating system. Table allocation is for Dinner only and an ‘open seating’ system operates at breakfast and lunch times…

For guests accommodated in Britannia Club AA accommodation there is the Britannia Club Restaurant – a single seating restaurant that offers permanent table allocation for all daily meals.

The 142 seat Queens Grill and 132 seat Princess Grill  (picture below) are situated in an elevated position on 11 deck, each having respective panoramic views to either the port or starboard sides. There is a small Grills Lounge on the same deck where pre and post dinner drinks are taken as well as afternoon tea being available exclusively for guests in Grill accommodation.

Finally, a photograph of our Princess Grill Stateroom.

Princess Grill Stateroom

Ample space that we made our Christmas home for the 22 night cruise.

The Cruise.

We spent 3 days sailing to Madeira where, due to some inclement weather, our entry into the harbour was delayed some hours. When we eventually docked and managed to get ashore we had the whole evening to enjoy one of the things Madeira does best, its festive markets and light displays…

Six sea nights followed as we crossed the Atlantic heading towards Antigua. My wife and I have experienced many visits to this excellent Caribbean island and on this occasion we chose to chill out with a visit to a beach that was new to us, Fort James’ Beach, and home of the popular Millers by the Sea Restaurant…

It was now Christmas Eve and today the ship berthed alongside at St Lucia, home of Marigot Bay, once the setting for the 1967 film, Doctor Dolittle. Considerable development has now taken place but the bay and its surrounding scenery still offer considerable charm…

Christmas Day on a cruise ship is traditionally spent at sea, and on this particular day we spent our time sailing past a host of smaller tropical islands, soaking up the sun and anticipating that evenings Christmas dinner and the ship’s entertainment.

Boxing Day saw our arrival at Bridge Town, Barbados where again, having visited this island many times before, we headed, under our own steam, to Carlisle Bay – a 50 minute walk from the cruise terminal – and The lobster Alive Restaurant, which offers customers not only fine food, but also the use of some pretty classy sunbed shades…

Our next port of call was Roseau on the Island of Dominica. We had a break from the beach here (our favourite was to follow the next day) and we visited the Botanical Gardens with its Parrot Centre…

…before walking into Roseau and enjoying the excellent Caribbean food, hospitality and beer at the Cocorico Café

And so to Tortola. We never tire of this island and,  in particular, Cane garden Bay. Not exactly a tight squeeze getting to park the ship…

That’s us next to The Caribbean Princess and there was even less of a squeeze when we got to Cane Garden Bay, considering the potential number of cruise passengers on the island…

Road Town, Tortola was to be our final Caribbean port of call and four full sea days were now ahead of us before our next sight of land. However, another social highlight was ahead of us, seeing the New Year in while at sea. These formal occasions really are the showcase of Cunard cruising and there is a veritable buzz around the ship as the evening approaches and staff prepare the various venues for one big celebration…

My wife and I felt very honoured to be invited, on New Year’s Eve,  to join the Ship’s Hotel manager, Jacqui Hodgson’s table in the Britannia Restaurant where we joined a number of other guests including our very good friend, Paul of Inkpen…

 

Our final port of call was Ponta Delgada,  a city and municipality on the island of São Miguel in the archipelago of the Azores. There wasn’t too much action there, our call being made on a Sunday, however, it was clear to see that the Portuguese went to some lengths to decorate their town in true festive spirit…

 

 

 

Summary

Our Queen Elizabeth Festive Debut cruise surpassed expectations. Queen Elizabeth is a cruise ship that longs to be an ocean liner: it certainly has the look and feel of one when on board. Life on board was in the true tradition of Cunard and its elegant décor and wide range of public rooms, all subtly decorated for festive appeal, gave an aura of both class and quality.

Entertainment was varied and again typical of the Cunard offering and to our entire satisfaction. Food was of an exceptionally high standard and attentive staff provided a service level well above that of many other cruise lines: and a level that certainly it would be hard to find on land.

Queen Elizabeth carries slightly more passengers than her sister ship Queen Victoria but does have increased upper deck space to compensate.  We have no hesitation in recommending Queen Elizabeth to the more discerning cruiser.

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