This was a 16-night voyage from New York City to Southampton with calls at Halifax. Nova Scotia, St. John's, Newfoundland, Isafjordur (Iceland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Greenock (Scotland) and Dublin. The ship was re-positioning from a season in Alaska back to her homeport in the U.K.
Entering service in 2010, Queen Elizabeth was the second of the enhanced Vista-class cruise ships built for Cunard Line by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. Her exterior design and interior layout are similar to the Vista and enhanced Vistas sailing for Holland America Line (See our introduction to the Vista Class). However, her interior décor is much more elegant and traditional than the ships sailing for the other lines.
The ship is almost identical to Cunard's Queen Victoria. However, whereas the Victoria has an art nouveau flavor in its décor, the Elizabeth has an art deco flavor. Both ships seek to recall the golden age of ocean liner travel. The result is that inside, the ships have an impressive, sophisticated elegance.
People often ask whether Queen Elizabeth and her sister are like Cunard's larger flagship Queen Mary 2? Queen Mary 2 is a one of the kind design ocean liner whereas the two smaller Cunarders are a variation on a design of cruise ship that is used by other cruise lines. QM2 is larger, faster, stronger and more stable than the other two Cunarders because she was designed to carry out transatlantic crossings in all types of weather. On the other hand, the smaller ships can go to ports that are too small or too shallow for QM2. Whereas QM2 is grand and spacious, the smaller ships are more intimate. Some people find the floor plan of the smaller ships easier to navigate and less confusing than that of QM2.
Surprisingly, some people confuse the Queen Elizabeth with the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2). Not infrequently, people have told us that they cruised on QE2 last year. Of course, that is impossible because QE2 left service in 2007 and is now a hotel in Dubai. The current ship did not act as a troopship in the Falklands War nor is she capable of 30 plus knots of speed - - that was her predecessor. QE2 was a much in different design, style and atmosphere than the current Queen Elizabeth.
This is not to say that the current Queen Elizabeth does not have the Cunard flavor The public rooms have familiar Cunard names, the officers and crew wear Cunard uniforms, the daily programmes look like Cunard programmes and offer activities such as formal balls that were offered on past Cunard ships.
At the same time, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria also have a taste of the atmosphere that you find on the smaller ships of P&O Cruises such as Aurora. This could be because like P&O Cruises, the majority of the passengers on the smaller Cunard ships are usually British and both lines seek to meet the tastes and desires of their core passengers. Also, Cunard and P&O Cruises are managed out of the same offices in Southampton and there is some exchange of officers between the two lines. In any event, Queen Elizabeth is a Cunard ship but her Cunard is somewhat different than the more international and more cosmopolitan Cunard of QE2 and QM2.
On a longer cruise such as this one with a large number of sea days, people settle into a comfortable routine. Even though there are other alternatives available, you tend to have breakfast and lunch at the same time each day in the same restaurant. Between meals, perhaps you exercise or go to a lecture, a watercolor class or a dance class. Towards evening, maybe you participate in a trivia quiz or have drinks with friends. This is followed by dinner where you talk with your dining companions about the day or about your life prior to the cruise. After dinner, there is a show, dancing and/or after dinner drinks. This comfortable routine becomes a way of life. It seems like you have always lived like this and that this way of life will never end.
The port days provide contrast. Perhaps you take a tour or go off and explore on your own. Whereas the sea days are restful and blend into one another, the port days are days of adventure, fertile ground for creating lasting memories.
On this cruise, there were eight sea days. Cunard does a good job with sea days. The lecture program is always a highlight and on this voyage there were professors who talked about the history of flight and about weather forecasting, and an executive producer who spoke about the theater. Brian Wood MC spoke about his experiences as a British soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan and the unscrupulous and unsuccessful attempt to cast him as a war criminal. Jim Kennedy, former Director of NASA's Kennedy Space Program talked on space exploration.
The dance classes each day in the ship's ballroom were quite popular as were Susan Klibanoff's watercolor classes. There were also quizzes and other activities hosted by the entertainment staff.
Alternatively, you could make independent use of the facilities aboard including a large library, a fitness center, and the spa. And, of course, there were always deck chairs and a good-size pool for a cruise ship..
As the ship drew closer to the Arctic Circle, the weather became colder and the outdoor facilities correspondingly less attractive. However, the weather was good during most of the voyage and so people still went outdoors.
We dined in the Britannia Restaurant on this cruise. The Britannia is the ship's main dining room where the majority of the passengers dine. For breakfast and lunch, it is open seating. For dinner, it follows the traditional two seating system. For dinner, guests are assigned to a specific table at either the early seating or the late seating.
Our table was a large table for eight during the second seating. The guests were a mixture of British and American guests, both couples and solo travelers. It was a convivial group with good conversation.
We also enjoyed the food. The menu was varied and the items tasty.
During our last voyage on Queen Elizabeth, the specialty restaurant was called “The Verandah” and featured Mediterranean fine dining. It has since been changed to a steakhouse and is now called “The Steakhouse at the Verandah”. This has been a successful change. While the old menu was good, it was not terribly exciting. The steakhouse menu combines popular favorites with some creative innovations such as the “Cunard Burger,” which combines premium beef and an interesting blend of spices. We were also impressed with the excellent service in this restaurant.
Queen Elizabeth also offers extra-tariff alternative dining. This takes place in a section of the ship's buffet restaurant, the Lido Restaurant, each evening. The menu varies with some nights Italian cuisine, some nights pan-Asian, some nights Indian and some nights Mexican. Several cruise lines have tried out the idea of transforming a section of their buffet restaurant into an extra-tariff dinner venue. Regardless of how you change the lighting or the table settings, these venues still look like cafeterias and we do not find the idea of paying an additional charge to dine in a cafeteria attractive.
As is becoming increasingly common in the cruise industry, guests staying in the suites and larger staterooms on Queen Elizabeth have their own dedicated restaurants. These are the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and the Britannia Club. They are single-seating and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We found the service on Queen Elizabeth to be generally good. Our room attendant and some of the dining room staff provided excellent service from the start of the voyage. Others were somewhat distant at first. However, as the cruise progressed and they became more familiar with our likes, they too became attentive and friendly.
The main evening entertainment venue is the Royal Court Theatre. This is home to the ship's production cast who put on several song and dance revues, which were well-received. On the evenings when the cast was not performing, there were visiting performers including comedians and various musical acts. Of these, the most popular was the Barricade Boys - - a group of male singers who have appeared in the musical Les Miserables.
Naturally, Queen Elizabeth's ballroom, the Queens Room, was the venue for the formal grand balls. However, there was ballroom dancing with a live orchestra each evening in the Queens Room.
On this voyage we had an inside stateroom. It was roomy and had adequate storage space. The decor was very similar to that of QM2. However, the bathroom was much smaller than those on QM2. In size and arrangement, it was rather like those in ships that debuted in the 1990s. The industry has moved on from such condensed facilities.
The ports on this cruise were quite diverse.
Halifax is a sizable city with several attractions within walking distance of the cruise port including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and a large Victorian fortress complete with re-enactors. Nonetheless, many cruise ship passengers opt for the tour to Peggy's Cove - - Scenic but too many tourists. On this day, Queen Mary 2 was in port with Queen Elizabeth and the two ships celebrated coming together in the birthplace of Cunard's founder, Sir Samuel Cunard. (See separate article).
It was Queen Elizabeth's maiden call in St. John, Newfoundland (not to be confused with St. John, New Brunswick). The harbor entrance is a narrow gap between two towering cliffs. We have been on several ships that have had to cancel this port because the winds prevented from entering the channel. However, the weather favored Queen Elizabeth and she had no problem transiting the impressive entrance to the harbor. The city itself is small but unspoiled by commercialism.
Isafjordur is also surrounded by towering cliffs but these are even more stark. The crystal clear Icelandic air combined with bright sun in a cloudless sky to enhance the beauty of the port. It is a very small town and thus the main attraction is the natural beauty that lies all around the town.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland is a significant city. Nonetheless, it is a very walk-able city. We spent the day exploring the city's numerous art museums. Many of the guests on Queen Elizabeth took tours out into the countryside to see the waterfalls, geysers and other nearby natural wonders in this stark land. We did such a tour on a previous cruise and were impressed.
There were showers in the morning the day Queen Elizabeth came to Greenock. However, by afternoon, there was sunshine. We took a public bus into nearby Glasgow to view the museums. For the return, we took the local train. Although the bus was less expensive, we preferred the train because it was faster and in better condition. However, boarding a train in Glasgow can be confusing. The day we were there, there were two similar looking trains departing from the same platform. A young couple in our carriage found out when the train conductor came by that they should have been on the other train.
Dublin is one of our favorite cities. We took the shuttle from the cruise port to St. Stephen's Green. This park is within walking distance of many of Dublin's most famous sites. Disappointingly, most of the National Gallery was closed in order to do “essential maintenance” but we enjoyed a good art exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Society.
Above: Captain Simon Love speaking at a reception in the Queens Room.
Above: An inside stateroom.
Below: A Cunard Burger in the Steakhouse at the Verandah.
Above: The Britannia Restaurant.
Cruise ship review - - Cunard Line - - Queen Elizabeth - - 2019