Cunard Line welcomes the Queen Elizabeth to its fleet

Cunard Line welcomes the Queen Elizabeth to its fleet By: Peter Knego
Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth will offer world cruises. // © 2011 Cunard Line
Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth will offer world cruises. // © 2011 Cunard Line

Web Exclusive

The Details

Cunard Cruises
The Queen Elizabeth will be based in Southampton through 2012 and will offer world cruises in 2011 and 2012.
The christening of Cunard Line's new Queen Elizabeth brought together historical tradition with contemporary taste -- much like the ship itself. The ship's godmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, christened the ship to the accompaniment of vintage footage of the same queen inspecting the QE2, a predecessor to the new ship, and clips of Cunard's first Queen Elizabeth ship at Clydebank in 1938.

The 2,068-passenger Queen Elizabeth has 12 passenger decks and is a slightly larger, modified version of the 2007-built Queen Victoria. The new ship has an onboard version of an English garden -- a canopied Astroturf complex with bowls, croquet and paddle tennis courts. In a press conference prior to the naming, Carnival Corporation chairman and CEO Micky Arison was quick to point out that this new facility overlooking the bow will not compromise deck chair space as there is an expanded Lido area.

Queen Elizabeth's public spaces, which take up the lion's share of Decks 2 and 3, are lofty and ornate but not glitzy. With an 18-foot marquetry panel centerpiece by Viscount David Linley (nephew of the queen) depicting the original Queen Elizabeth, the Grand Lobby brims with balustrades and balconies. The three-level Royal Court Theater has West End-style private boxes, and the Queens Room ballroom glows under Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Even the 6,000-volume library spans two levels that are joined by a spiral staircase. And, the English tradition of afternoon tea is served under a soaring conservatory-style ceiling inspired by the glass houses of Kew Gardens in the Garden Lounge.

The new ship has art deco-style decor in contrast to the Queen Victoria's Victorian interior design. Especially pleasing to the eye are the Midships Bar and the comfortable Cafe Carinthia. The double-deck Britannia Restaurant is a visual triumph, with its grand staircase and oversized glass sconces.

In lieu of the Todd English restaurants on the Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth has the extra-tariff Verandah Restaurant, named for the posh Verandah Grills onboard the first Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth vessels. Executive chef Jean Marie Zimmermann oversees the menus, which are priced a la carte rather than with a general cover charge, and feature farm-to-table-style French cuisine.

Within the casual 24-hour Lido are three special dining options, each for an additional fee of $10: the South American grilled cuisine at Asado; regional Mexican food at Aztec; and the Pan-Asian specialties at Jasmine.

With the advent of the Queen Elizabeth, Cunard now boasts a particularly young fleet.

When asked if there were plans for a new ship, president and managing director Peter Shanks said, "Three is right for now, and we will need to prove the brand before considering a fourth."

Shanks also refused to define Cunard as a luxury line, stating that it is positioned in the premium category, with the luxury option of booking in a Grill Class cabin category. Similar to the Queen Victoria, the Queen Elizabeth's exclusive Princess and Queens Grills are located on top of the ship with spectacular views of the sea. While Cunard's clientele generally prefers traditional, fixed two-seating dining, there is now a single seating anytime dining option in the Britannia Club for passengers booked in AA (Britannia Club level) category staterooms.

Of the new ship's 1,046 staterooms, 127 are suites, 39 are category AA, 572 have balconies, 146 have an ocean view and 162 are inside. There are 20 handicap-accessible staterooms in varying categories with modified doors and bathrooms.

"The new Queen Elizabeth stands out as an all-together richer and more opulent experience," said Christopher Kyte, CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Uncommon Journeys during the ship's christening ceremony. "I am certain that she will soon be widely acclaimed as something quite special by both traditional Cunard passengers and first-time cruisers."