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Queen ElizabethQueen Elizabeth
The Art & Soul of a Cunard Liner

by Linda Coffman

October 2010, Southampton, UK — On board Queen Elizabeth for the naming events, Peter Shanks, CEO and Managing Director of Cunard Line, told those of us in the American media group that his mission was to make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up during the proceedings. At the actual ceremony itself, he said, "In our 170-year history, Cunard has owned three ships bearing the name Queen Elizabeth. The first was launched in 1938. The second was launched in 1967. And the third is being named today, in 2010. And there is only one person here who can claim presence at all three Elizabeth namings: and that person is... Her Majesty The Queen." At that, Queen Elizabeth II smiled and arose to give Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth her name and bestowed her royal blessing upon the liner. That did it for me, Shanks' prediction came true and I got a shiver down my spine.

Queen Elizabeth Lobby
The Grand Lobby
Queen Elizabeth 2 Bell
QE 2's Bell

We are once again reminded that Cunard ships are ocean liners, not cruise ships, and they sail on voyages, not cruises. What's the difference? Queen Elizabeth features the double- and triple-height spaces that define grand passenger liners. Cunard's long tradition of excellence sets the standard for Queen Elizabeth, and her interior spaces reflect the grandeur of the line's history. Dramatic soaring spaces flow easily into intimate alcoves.

On no ship does art play a more significant role in the décor than on the new Queen Elizabeth. Signature art deco style pieces mingle seamlessly with contemporary art commissioned for the ship, including the 18.5-foot marquetry panel anchoring the sweeping staircase of the Grand Lobby. The three dimensional sculpture depicting the port bow of the original Queen Elizabeth parting the sea was created by David Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon, and Her Majesty The Queen’s only nephew.

Yet, artwork commissioned especially for the ship doesn't overpower the simplicity of such historic pieces as the QE 2's ship bell at the entrance to the line's signature Commodore Club, although Cunard might want to consider putting it under glass as passengers can't resist the temptation to ring it as they pass by.

Wood paneling, intricate mosaics, sparkling chandeliers, and cool marbles combine with the dominant art deco flourishes to give Queen Elizabeth a distinctive personality of her own, while including overtones of the late 1930s when her predecessor, the first Queen Elizabeth, was built. The iconic silver Queen Elizabeth 2 model created by Asprey of Bond Street, London in the early 1970s—and displayed for many years on QE2—now greets guests at the Yacht Club entrance and is an important highlight of the current Queen Elizabeth’s art collection, demonstrating the enduring history of that famous liner. Other priceless items from Queen Elizabeth 2 and the original Queen Elizabeth are found throughout the newest Cunard Queen.

Admittedly, my three days on board weren't nearly long enough to experience the ship as a passenger would on a voyage, but let's take a look around. Welcome aboard!

Queen's Room Entry

The 1969 bust of Her Majesty,
Queen Elizabeth II

Grand Spaces
No Cunard liner would be complete without a ballroom and Queen Elizabeth is no exception. The Queens Room is two decks in height with a 1,000 square foot dance floor centered beneath shimmering crystal chandeliers. Greeting guests as they enter is a bust of Her Majesty that resided in the Queen's Room aboard QE 2 from 1969 until that liner's retirement in 2008. Adjacent to the Queens Room is Queens Arcade, an inviting space to enjoy afternoon tea.

Equally as grand as the ballroom is the Royal Court Theatre. Spanning three decks, it is distinguished by upper level private boxes, where—for a fee—occupants can sip champagne while watching productions by Queen Elizabeth's own theater company.

Dining
As on other Cunard vessels, the level of accommodations you reserve determines your assigned dining room. The Grand, Master, Penthouse, and Queens Suites dine in Queens Grill, Princess Suites dine in Princess Grill, AA Club Balcony Staterooms in Britannia Club, and all others in Britannia Restaurant. 

Queens Grill & Princess Grill—High atop Queen Elizabeth, both single-seating Grill restaurants are cantilevered over the side of the ship and offer splendid sea views from every table. Guests also have exclusive access to a private lounge for cocktails as well as an adjacent Courtyard for al fresco dining.

Britannia RestaurantBritannia Restaurant—Simply a stunning dining room (pictured left), Britannia's two-deck height is emphasized by a backlit decorative ceiling and a sweeping staircase, down which every woman on board will want to make a grand entrance in her formal night finery. Dinner is served in two assigned seatings.

Britannia Club Restaurant — Similar to Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth also offers Britannia Club dining, where guests accommodated in AA Club Balcony Staterooms dine in a single-seating at the time of their choosing during restaurant hours. However, new for Queen Elizabeth is that it is an entirely separate dining room. Rich in art deco flourishes, Britannia Club features a ceiling with backlit decorative glass panels, a sand-blasted decorative glass wall, and panoramic windows for sea views.

Verandah Restaurant—Located just off the Lobby on Deck 2, the light, bright, and elegant Verandah Restaurant celebrates fine French cuisine. As in the days when The Verandah Grills on Queen Mary and the original Queen Elizabeth were among the most exclusive dining rooms at sea, this latest incarnation is sure to be one of the most celebrated restaurants afloat. The room's art is inspired by the playful and whimsical murals on the first two Queens and the vintage menus on display tell a story of the dining experience on board the original Queen Elizabeth. Reservations are required and there is a fee.

Casual Options—Here's where you'll find choices as diverse as breakfast and lunch served buffet-style in the Lido Restaurant, traditional British pub lunches in the Golden Lion Pub, and pastries and tea in Café Carinthia, a stylish patisserie. In addition, the Lido Pool Grill aft on Deck 9 serves up a lunch alternative. I highly recommend the pub grub, especially the fish and chips.

Where else are you going to play, relax, and sleep on board?

Queen Elizabeth -> Part Two

Queen Elizabeth -> Part Three

Photographs, Courtesy Cunard Line & © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

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