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Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise review
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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


Queen Elizabeth 2
‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ 
June  7-19, 2003

By John Fields

DAY1
Saturday 7th June dawned warm and dry and the suitcases had been packed since yesterday, only the final few items to include. A lazy morning until our hired car arrived at 12:30 pm to collect us for the 70 mile journey to Southampton. The driver arrived on time and after collecting our two traveling companions we were soon en route. This would be our fifth cruise on the now 34 year old QE2 and our friends first ever cruise.

Cunard advertises check in between 3:00pm.and 4:00pm, but most passengers are through and waiting to board by then. We arrived at 2:30pm and, as we have recently received our new platinum cards for having sailed more than 7 times with Cunard or one trip of over 48 days, we were able to check in at the no wait Grill Class check ins. This is a new innovation and to be welcomed. QE2 is still a class orientated ship with passengers in different staterooms eating in different restaurants, a system in place when the ship was purely a transatlantic liner and one not likely to change now. The six-star Queens Grill restaurant is for the most expensive staterooms and is an elegant dining room for up to 300 passengers where one can dine at any time between 7:00pm.and 9:00pm. The Britannia and Princess Grills are smaller with only around 100 passengers in each and dining as in the Queens Grill. Next the Caronia restaurant for the C styled cabins, a larger restaurant but the same arrangements for dining. Finally the Mauretania restaurant for the bulk of passengers traveling on decks 4 and 5. Two sitting at 6:30 and 8:30pm. All the restaurants are spacious, with classy decor, ornaments, and pictures and the Mauretania is still a step above the dining experience on many cruise ships these days. The Maitre D’s in all restaurants actually make you feel welcome and at home. The multi-national crew likewise.

I realize the strict dress code is not to everyone’s taste these days, but is in my view all part of the holiday and to be enjoyed. For those who do not want to be so formal there is the self service Lido where one can have breakfast and lunch if you wish and at night a self service dinner in good surroundings, candles on tables, wine if you wish, and excellent service from the mainly Filipino waiters.

Going back to our check-in, a pleasant surprise awaited us as we found we had been upgraded from Cabin 2050 to 2099 and so entitled to eat in the Princess Grill. After registering our credit card we boarded immediately via Deck 2 and the impressive Mid-ships lobby with a harpist playing and the history of Cunard surrounding us on the murals on the walls. A welcoming crew member showed us to our cabins.

Two bottles of Champagne, one on ice, awaited us with a plate of strawberries. A good size cabin, two portholes (this is an ocean liner), comfy beds, walk in wardrobes, safe and bath and shower.

After boat drill it was time to go on deck, enjoy the sailaway with a small combo playing, and listen to the commentary about the history of Southampton and the Solent as we make progress out to sea.

After all the unpacking, a drink in the Chart Room bar before dinner. With our friends new to the ship we decided to try a different bar each day so they experienced the ship in full. We usually dined around 8:00pm, giving us time for a rest on the bed after the full days at sea or on tour. Over the coming days we had a cocktail in the Chart Room which contains the original piano from the Queen Mary and played each evening and lunchtime by the resident pianist. The Crystal Bar at the entry to the Mauretania restaurant, again with a pianist--a large bar with windows looking both to port and starboard. The Yacht Club which in the wee small hours is the QE2’s answer to a disco, again great views to the stern of the ship and particularly good on this cruise as we sailed out of the fjords in the early evening. The intimate Princess Grill bar leading directly to the dining room. Quite a choice as well as the Golden Lion pub for a pint.

To dine on the QE2 is an experience--a menu with excellent choices as well as an a la carte alternative. Trained staff who remember your name and quickly learn your likes and dislikes and who are not backward in giving a recommendation. Our senior waitress was a charming bubbly girl from Ireland who had been on the ship 6 years and her deputy a cheerful Scottish guy. It was a very Celtic corner as the Maitre D’ also lives in Scotland and one of our party hails from Wales. Needless to say the food was divine.

Day 2 En Route to South Queensferry
A calm North sea as we awoke with even a little sunshine. After breakfast and a walk around the Promenade deck we decided to attend the multi denominational church service conducted by Captain Ian McNaught . A good attendance and we had a special prayer for good weather on the rest of the cruise. A retiring collection for Seaman charities.

As with most ships plenty of choice for entertainment. The morning quiz, deck games of quoits, tennis and golf practice, art classes with a wonderful lady from Miami we had met before, Bridge with two experts and the oft repeated heritage trail which lasts about 45 minutes and shows and tells the history of the Cunard memorabilia around the ship from the origins in 1840.

Another Cunard ritual is afternoon tea in the Queens Room at 4:00pm. A bust of Queen Elizabeth II presides over the scene with a regal eye. On the dot of 4:00pm a galaxy of waiters, complete with white gloves, dispense tea or coffee, sandwiches, and cakes on silver trays while either a harpist or pianist plays. An experience in short supply on other ships.

Tonight was the Captains’ welcome on board Cocktail party in the Queens Room. His hostess this evening was Maureen Ryan, a Cunard employee who first worked on the original Queen Elizabeth in the 1960s, albeit in a very junior role, and who has a wealth of knowledge at her finger tips. A long line for the introduction, and a photo stop but it is an enjoyable occasion and you chat happily with those ahead and behind you in the queue. After receiving Champagne from a line of waiters, it's time to circulate. Several Champagnes later, it's time for dinner.

Day 3 South Queensferry ( Edinburgh) Scotland
An early anchorage within spitting distance of the Forth rail and road bridges, in calm waters enables the tenders to be made ready quickly. A tender port is always a chore but it seems to work well with not too long a wait today. The passengers on excursions go first and we are away on time. We have decided on a half day trip to the highlights of Edinburgh and a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia now a tourist attraction and docked at Leith the port for Edinburgh. A very good courier, an elderly Scottish lady, has all the stories of Edinburgh at her finger tips. We see the Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood House the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland, The Georgian Squares and Princes St the main shopping area. No distance at all is Leith and the Royal Yacht, the entrance is through a shopping mall, but there is a good informative display prior to going aboard telling her history and showing the important guests who have either sailed on her or been entertained. One sees the private quarters of the Queen and Prince Phillip, simple but tasteful, the reception and dining rooms, the royal garage on deck complete with Rolls Royce and the crew quarters, galley and engine room. Well worth a visit. Many past American presidents have enjoyed hospitality on board when she was in service.

Day 4 A lazy day at sea, Nothing to report

Day 5 Hellesylt & Gerainger, Geraingerfjord
Here we are in Norway, dry but cloudy and a coat will be needed. The first stop is Hellesylt to allow ashore only those on all day excursions. We sail on up the fjord past the most spectacular area at 10:00am. High cliffs and waterfalls everywhere, June is a good time to visit because the snow is still melting and so the waterfalls are in full flood. We enjoy a coffee in the Queens Grill lounge as the fjord drifts by. By noon we are in Gerainger and after a quick lunch in the Lido tender ashore for our afternoon trip to the summit of Mount Dalsnibba . Plenty of hair pin bends and spectacular views, after a coffee stop above the snow line we are on the summit and have a great view down 4,000 plus feet to the ship below. Gerainger is the most spectacular fjord ,can be busy with cruise ships in the summer. Today there are three others including Costa Romantica.

We leave at 6:00pm with a sailaway on deck.

Day 6 En route to the North Cape
Perfect sunshine and, as we are so far north, it is still shining as we dine in the evening. This is the reason we have come so no complaints.

The usual day at sea. In the early evening we have a Cocktail party with a senior officer as part of the platinum experience, about 100 guests, lots of officers as hosts, held in the Yacht Club with hot and cold canapés. At Midnight we can still see the sun.

Day 7 The North Cape
A disappointment, it is cloudy and cold, very cold in fact with a rough sea. We are unable to anchor and tender to Skarsvag. Those 4,000 reindeer in the brochures will miss us as will the small tourist industry. We spend the day sailing near to the North Cape and at Midnight the Captain takes us as close to the sheer rock cliffs as he can and a hot toddy is provided.

Day 8 En Route to Trondheim
Today the sun is shining and the weather is warming up again. After a very enjoyable lecture by Bill Miller--‘Mr Ocean Liner’ on ships of the past and present. He is on board doing a series of four presentations each one full of facts and information, it is 12.00. noon and time for the loyal toast.

Today is June 14th and the official birthday of her Majesty the Queen and so in true Cunard tradition there is a champagne toast in all the public rooms to the Queen courtesy of Cunard. Another fine touch and appreciated by the 1128 UK guests on board and the 285 from America. QE2 is truly an international ship, as we also have 52 from Spain, 27 from Germany and the remainder from 25 other countries ranging from Costa Rica to Japan.

Day 9 Trondheim
This time we dock and the ship is soon cleared for going ashore. Sunny again and Cunard have laid on a shuttle bus to the centre of town. After breakfast we take the bus to town and walk the short distance to the Cathedral. As this is a Sunday there is a service in progress, with a boys choir from Minnesota singing. Beautiful stained glass windows including a rose window to rival anything in France. This cathedral was started in 1075 and is where several Kings of Norway have been crowned.

Nearby is the restored Archbishops Palace containing museums with medieval weaponry, etc. To complete our cultural experience in the centre of Trondheim is the completely wooden palace of Stiftsgarden. Built between 1774/8 originally as a private residence by a rich widow to out do her neighbors, has anything changed!!!, it is now owned by the royal family. Conducted tours take place and the whole palace is full of interest and charm, including one room with a complete pink decor.

We sail at 6:00pm and take cocktails in the Yacht Club watching the fjords drift by as we head for open sea.

Day 10 Aalesund
We are lucky with the weather, again it is sunny. Aalesund in a sheltered position on its fjord has a touch of Amsterdam about it. Much smaller but similar architecture it was rebuilt in 1904 after a disastrous fire. We dock in the centre of town and spend the day enjoying the view from neighboring hills and a trip to an aquarium. This is a quiet part of Norway and the surrounding scenery is quite breathtaking.

Day 11 Bergen
Sorry to harp on, but I am English so the weather is the top priority. Again sunny and Bergen is supposed to have 300 days of rain a year. We dock and the shuttle bus ride is 10 minutes to the centre of town. Shuttle buses are free on the QE2 unlike some ships and usually drop you near a shopping mall or hotel in the centre of town.

Plenty to see in Bergen, it is a World Heritage site. There is the Bryggen on the quay side with its old Hanseatic merchant houses. A first class fish market with fresh fish in tanks where ever you look, good shopping, this is the most commercial of the ports we have been to in Norway. We take the funicular railway, only 3 minutes to the top of Mount Floien for a great view and spectacular walks in the countryside. Edvard Grieg the famous Norwegian composer was born nearby and his house is open to the public.

Back in town time for coffee. Norway is expensive for both English and Americans but well worth a visit. Those fjords float by as we sip our cocktails in the Chart Room.

Day 12 En route to Southampton
Time for saying good bye and enjoying some sunshine on the Sun deck. There is a small bar and the staff look after you with chairs and covers. This is also the area where afternoon tea is served when the weather is good.

We take back the library books, borrowed from the most comprehensive library afloat and staffed by Julia and June who, as well as selling postcards/ books/prints and QE2 memorabilia, always provide a daily general knowledge quiz and crossword. Local destination travel books are always available to browse.

Our last night is full of good byes but we do feel we have enjoyed ourselves. Before we leave some words on the entertainment provided--always an important ingredient of a cruise.

QE2 has...
A resident production company "Broadway Bound"‘ comprised of five girls and five guys who have three 45 minute shows in their repertoire. Singing and dancing to a high standard they perform in the Grand Lounge.

A resident classical trio of three young ladies from the Ukraine, who play piano and two violins. They perform in the Theatre several evening of the cruise with different programs.

On this cruise we had a comedian, a female instrumentalist, a Spanish singer, a comedy act involving the piano and singing, a West End singer and a magician who all did at least on 45 minute show. A jazz band who played in the pub and a Scottish dance band. This was in addition to the regular QE2 orchestra one of the best afloat.

The quality of lecturers was also first class with Bill Miller from America with his talks on liners of the past, port lecturers from Norway, Michael Brunson a British TV reporter turned author, Norma from Miami teaching watercolors, as well as bridge and computer lecturers.

For short cruise it could not be beaten. I hope this has whetted your appetite for the QE2, a grand old lady with a few years left yet. Not a cruise ship, but an ocean liner taking you on a cruise.


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