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|Cunard Queen Elizabeth
Introduction, Overview and Picture Gallery
Our first visit onto the new Queen Elizabeth was on 10 October 2010. We were fortunate and privileged to be invited to one of two open days, held on the weekend before the Queen came to name the ship. She then departed on her maiden cruise on Tuesday 12th October, a very appropriate day as it was also our wedding anniversary. The QE2 was launched on 20th September which is Pauline's Birthday so we have links to both of the newer Cunard Elizabeth Queens.
Since it was a celebration weekend we decided to stay in Southampton for three days and we also booked a trip on the vintage Steam Paddlewheeler, the Waverley, which was going to be one of the flotilla of boats accompanying the Queen Elizabeth out of Southampton on her maiden cruise. The Waverley was built in 1947 and so is much older than the QE2, but unlike her she still operates a complete service of day trips around the British Isles. We expected to only spend a short time in the flotilla before the Queen Elizabeth gathered speed and disappeared into the sunset, but to our delight we found that the Waverley had a top speed of over 18 knots and could easily keep alongside for the first part of the journey. The only problem was that everyone onboard, and she was full to capacity, wanted to stand on the starboard side to take pictures. This meant that she tilted and as one of the two paddle wheels started to come out of the water, and we slowed down. There were many occasions when the captain asked those not taking pictures to move to the other side so that we could maintain our speed.
The Queen Elizabeth was going to the Canaries on her maiden voyage, and it had sold out very quickly and although our travel agent tried to make a booking they had failed. Many months later we booked the same journey on the Ocean Countess, formerly the Cunard Countess, and so we were due to depart from Plymouth on 19 October - there is more about this trip down memory lane at An Autumn Cruise on The Ocean Countess to the Canary Islands and Madeira.
Our first journey on the Queen Elizabeth was in 2011 when we did first half of the Queen Elizabeth's Maiden World Cruise. This included the Queen Elizabeth's Maiden Atlantic Crossing, the meeting of the Three Queens in New York, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Mexico, Los Angeles and Pacific Islands as far as New Zealand.
Since the Cruise to new Zealand in 2011 we have done many more cruises on the Queen Elizabeth including A Caribbean Odyssey 2011 - a cruise on starting in late November from Southampton to the Caribbean via the Ponto Delgada in the Azores to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts, Tortola, St Maarten and back via Madeira to Southampton with all the Christmas preparations onboard. The write up includes visits behind the scenes in the Theatre and into the galley.
We sampled the Princess Grillon during A Summer Getaway Voyage in the Princess Grill in 2012 - a bargain booked at the last minute which took us to Zeebruge and Cherbourg but most import, allowed us to sample the luxury of the Grills. Although we never wrote it up we also had a two day journey to Hamburg on the Elizabeth in April 2014 to meet friends and we were upgraded to the Queens Grill.
In 2014 the Queen Elizabeth was based in the Mediterranean for most of the summer and we tried a last minute bargain fly cruise for 14 days - the French Riviera and Adriatic Wonders in 2014 from Heathrow to Rome, Pisa, Monte Carlo which we did not make through bad weather, Toulon, Barcelona, Rome, Corfu, Kotor Dubrovnik and a whole day and overnight in Venice before flying home to Gatwick. Toulon in France and Kotor in Montenegro were both new to us.
In 2015 she was back in the UK and we had two back to back cruises which were both Celebrating the Queen Elizabeth's 5th Birthday in 2015 .The first covered the handover date and the second the naming and first cruise dates! We first booked the cruise initially advertised as the birthday cruise but it was very short and only went to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge so we added the fortnight into the Mediterranean which actually had more celebrations than the first and took us on to Gibraltar, Cagliari in Sardinia, Naples for Herculaneium, Civitavecchia for Rome. Monte Carlo, Barcelona in Spain, Cadiz for Seville in Spain then two days at Sea to Southampton.
The last cruise was a Christmas and New Year Cruise to the Canary Islands and Madeira for the New Year Fireworks 2015 - this was 15 days long and took us straight to the Canaries from Southampton, the weather was grim through the Bay of Biscay but it calmed for Christmas Eve and Day. We could not get into Lanzarote but we had excellent days in La Palma, Gran Canaria and Tenerife before spending two more excellent days in Madeira followed by an incredible firework display before returning via Cadiz and Lisbon.
We have already written at some length about the Queen Victoria and the two are very similar so we do not want to duplicate our already comprehensive Introduction to the Cunard Queen Victoria. This write-up will therefore concentrate more on the areas of difference.
Both the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth are based on the well proven Vista hull built by Fincantieri of Italy, their Ports of Registry are Southampton and their classification society is the Lloyd’s Register. Both are designed for worldwide cruising and are what is called Panamax size, ie they will fit through the existing Panama canal and both are a very close fit with overall length of 293.84 m (965 feet) and breadth 32.26 m (106 feet) but with a max draught of only 8 metres (26 feet). The Vista design has had been modified for the Queen Victoria (and Elizabeth) by extending the hull by 5 metres and adding an additional deck, as well as redesigning the layout of cabins and all public areas of the ship. Some further changes have been made for the Elizabeth - the main external difference is that the Elizabeth is slightly different in shape at the stern with the aft deck (level 9) being appreciably longer - the stern below is almost vertical and the luxury cabins below now have less exposed balconies. This addition space contribute to her carrying slightly more passengers as well as having a much larger and more useful deck aft of the Lido Restaurant on deck 9 - the pools is virtually the same.
But are the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria Liners or Cruise ships? Firstly the hulls have been analysed to ensure the steel structure can meet the repeated demands of the Atlantic Ocean. Detailed calculations have been carried out to identify any critical areas and strengthening has been added to the steel decks and bulkheads to meet predicted stress levels. In particular the bow strength has been analysed with respect to the dynamic loading and pounding experienced by the fore end of the ship in extreme seas. The local ‘scantlings’ or thickness of the steel structure have been increased on the Queens to meet these requirements. Secondly the Queens are separated from current cruise ships by the style and quality of the interior, for example the theatres are amazing. You would ’t get a better theatre in London or on Broadway and whatever you can do on Broadway or in London you can do in there with extremely advanced technology for the stage, lighting and sound systems. The third factor is not strictly a technical one but with a ship’s company of circa 1,000 to look after circa 2,000 passengers the level of service is modeled on the best the classic ocean liners had to offer. They may not have competed across the Atlantic with the classic liners of the last century on tight schedules but on the longer liner runs to, for example, Capetown or the Antipodes I know which I would prefer and the increased manoeuvrability and shallower draft increases the number of ports available and where it is possible to dock.
Both ships are driven by the same Azipods each of 17.6 MW but the engines are different - the Elizabeth has 6 Diesels (4 x MAK - 12M43CFCT and 2 X MAK - 8M43CFCT) driving dedicated generators providing a total of 64 MW which provides a large margin for economical operation, maintenance and for the large auxiliary power demands of a luxury ship. There are three bow thrusters giving 8969 HP total. Combined with Azipods this gives superb manoeuvrability and tugs are rarely required although some busy ports require them to be on standby.
The differences in layout, decor and functionality between the Victoria and Elizabeth are small and in most cases the changes are for the better. They almost have exactly the same designs of stateroom, presumably using the same computer software for the layouts. However there appear to be slight differences in layout, with some inside staterooms being turned by 90 degrees, easy to do with software. The staterooms also have slightly improved storage over the original fit on the Victoria with additional under bed drawers and drawers in the bedside cabinets although there is a serious shortfall in our inside cabin (D6 -5036 ) is that there is only one chair (for the desk) and not even a stool for the second person. Our records of the Victoria show our cabin there had a easy chair and seat at the 'desk'. There are better flat screen televisions which also seem to have the capability to act as monitors although I have not been able to test this as we do not have the cables.
There is a new stateroom category of Club Balcony, which are more expensive than standard Balcony cabins; they are exactly the same size but give access to a single sitting dining room called the Britannia Club, as on the QM2. That dining area is where the Chart Room was on the Queen Victoria. We liked the Chart Room very much and it is a pity the area has been removed on the Queen Elizabeth, however the restaurant is very nice and offers open dining in an environment similar to the Princess Grill. We do not understand why that area was sacrificed rather than the photographers area as with modern technology and for environment reasons there seem absolutely no requirement to print and display thousands of largely unwanted pictures. The only other difference we have noticed is that the Cafe Carinthia and the Champagne Bar on the Queen Victoria have been merged into an enlarged Cafe Carinthia on the Queen Elizabeth. The remaining layout almost identical, and the names are the same, with the exception of Hemispheres on 10 Deck which is renamed the Yacht Club. The retracting roof has been removed on the Elizabeth and the new Garden Lounge is more practical with a single door onto the sheltered decks round the pool reducing draughts and improving seating - areas can also be more easily separated for functions and reserved ares - it is no longer used for art auctions.
The internal decor is different and mos people think the new colour schemes are more relaxing than on the Victoria and there is an obvious Art Deco theme to it all. The layout in the Britannia restaurant is slightly different with a very effective double staircase and the screen behind the Captain's table continues the theme. We get the impression that the layout of tables is slightly more open with more tables for two, another plus point. Although the overall number of passengers is higher the Britannia Club provides more than enough extra area. We have had galley tours on both the Queens and the layout is similar but the equipment is different.
At the other extreme the Gym is in the same place and size but the equipment is different and there are a number of new 'cardio' machines including extra cross trainers which Pete uses and a couple of machines he describes as duck waddlers which seem to be a cross between a stepper and a cross trainer with a sideways swing which brings a whole new set of muscles into use. There are also a couple of new Xtreme bike simulators which need a course to drive them. The new machines are all Italian and we were down to one cross trainer at one point on the transatlantic sector and it took to Curacao before they were fixed - hopefully teething troubles.
The Verandah Restaurant restaurant was first introduced on the Queen Elizabeth by Chef Zimmermann. Chef Zimmermann is the Culinary Ambassador who is responsible for all the Cunard ships and masterminded the concept and implementation of the Verandah Restaurant which is based on the Verandah Restaurants on the original Queens. He was aiming for the first Michelin Star afloat - he used to have one ashore. The Verandah is open for lunch on Sea Days and every evening. It is small with a maximum seating of around 70 but is normally limited to about 40 covers to maintain the level of service. There is a small supplement for both meals but we get a 'free' lunch as we are diamond club members.
In the evening there is a degustation menu which we often have as it loses little in repartition. It is a five course fixed menu, followed by cheese and a tasting plate of four desserts. It costs a supplement of $35 each and we are often tempted instead of the a la carte. The example below is from 2014 and that time we asked our sommelier, Lloyd, for his choice of wine by the glass to go with each course. It was more expensive than our usual bottle of wine, but well worth the extra, and the total was equivalent to 7 glasses whereas a bottle only contains 5. In 2015 we found the cheese course has been dropped although the excellent cheese chariot still exists and it can of course still be added in.
Petite salade de coquillages et de homard, velours de tomate "grappa" et avocat
Lobster and shellfish Salad with Avocado & Vine Ripened Tomato Jelly
Riesling, Carmel Road USA
Torchon de foie gras de canard mi-cuit a la poire, nougat brulé
Duck Foie Gras with Pears, Cooked "au Torchon", Served with Nougat Brulee
Carmes de Rieussec, Sauternes
Pigeon roti, enéves, ahatoignes et coings, sauce "Grond Veneur" au chocolat amer
Roast Pigeon Breast, Endive, Chestnuts and Ouince, "Grand Veneur" Sauce and bitter chocolate
Poélée de Saint-Jacques et langoustines au beurre de citron vert, pates imprimées d'herbes, emulsion cremeuse de cepes
Scallops and Langoustines, Sauteed in a Lime Butter, with Herb Printed Pasta, Creamy and Truffle Emulsion
Sancerre, Domaine du Nozay
Grenadin de boeuf poelé aux morilles, legumes primeurs a la truffe, pommes soufllées, jus réduit au modere
Organic Beef Fillet Sautéed with Morel Mushrooms, Baby Vegetables with Block Truffle, Soufflé Potatoes, Madeira Glaze
French Cheese Trolley
Quartet of desserts
Muscat de Rivesaltes, Languedoc
Coffee and Mignardise
The pictures which follow have been chosen from a number of such dinners - we have not been carrying out quick changes of clothing!
The lunch time and full evening menus only have a few overlaps and have not changed a lot over the years so again the pictures below are from several years
The following pictures taken round the Queen Elizabeth show something of the Decorations and celebrations which took place over Christmas and the New Year
This text has not been updated to reflect a couple more tours since 2011
We first had a Galley Tour on the Queen Victoria which was a rare privilege because only small numbers could be taken round at that time because of Health and Safety implications. We enquired on the Queen Elizabeth at the start of the World Cruise and one was set up for passengers which attracted far more interest than expected and a large party was led through. This time they were clearly prepared for large numbers and everybody was gathered in the Restaurant and given an introductory talk by the Executive Chef Nicholas before we were led through in groups. During the initial talk we were introduced to the various senior chefs and their staff who filled the double staircase – in total there are 110 chefs and another 60 support staff.
The first stop was beside the giant dishwasher which takes everything through on a conveyor belt and delivering it two minutes later clean and sterile at 170 degrees Fahrenheit so it dries almost instantly. We were shown the machines providing all the drinks, including the all important Espresso Coffee machine! We saw the starters being prepared and plated on mass before being held chilled ready for serving. Each dish has an example prepared by the executive chef to be copied - it was difficult to tell one from another. Apparently the demand for all the options is quite predictable, for example first sitting orders are predominantly fish and second sitting has far more carnivores. The demand is continuously monitored and adjusted from a command station as the meal progresses. Much of the food is cooked to order and each 'to order' dish has a station where up to 8 plates are readied simultaneously. There are separate galleys for each of the restaurants and the Britannia Galley is on two levels. At the end of the bottom level of the Britannia Galley is a separate area which currently handles the Verandah Restaurant.
The highlight was the construction of the gingerbread village and other creations in preparation for the Christmas displays and the Chocolate Fantasia. Cunard has always been famous for such set pieces which used to culminate in the Gala Midnight buffets on the QE2 – sadly space does not allow for them in the Lido on the new Queens but Nicholas is determined to keep some of the traditions alive with replacements such as the Viennese Teas, Chocolate Fantasies and other extravaganzas as long as possible.
The galley tour itself took about 30 minutes with plenty of opportunities for questions and to speak to the chefs in individual areas. The galley is a model of cleanliness and efficiency and everything seemed extremely professional, organised and under total control - a complete contrast to the impression the TV impresarios try to give - but one has to be professional to deliver 850 4 course dinners plus all the extras twice an evening every day of the year to Cunard standards. yet in parallel cook to Michelin standards individual meals on demand for the Verandah Restaurant.