cruises

Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth Cruise Review

Elegant art deco detail meets British formalities on the high seas.

January 22, 2013
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More than any other mainstream cruise line, a “class system” is still in effect aboard Cunard’s vessels. This anachronism dates to the early days of steamship travel, when guests of different cabin classes did not mingle together; the upper classes had their own dining rooms and entire decks of older ships might be off-limits to those in lower class, “steerage” cabins. On today’s Queen Elizabeth there are four “classes” of passengers, yet the vast majority of the ship is open to all.

On today’s Queen Elizabeth there are four “classes” of passengers, yet the vast majority of the ship is open to all. Tweet It

Britannia Class represents the standard accommodations for Queen Elizabeth, in the usual assortment of Inside, Oceanview and Balcony cabins—in total they represent 84 percent of the ship’s 1034 cabins. We were comfortably lodged in a Balcony Cabin for our journey.

One step up is the Britannia Club level, 38 balcony cabins on Deck 8 that are essentially identical to balcony cabins on lower decks, but guests at the club level have a separate room adjoining the main dining room without set seating times (though sharing the same menu). Fares for Britannia Club cabins average about 40 percent higher than those for the least expensive balcony cabins—a steep up-charge for what is essentially just a more private and quiet main dining room.

Next level up is the Princess Grill category, which represent the entry-level suites. These start at 335 square feet (including balcony), and add in such extras as marble bathrooms with both tub and shower; guests here dine in a private restaurant on Deck 11 with an elevated menu. Top category is the Queens Grill suites, larger still, adding in butler service, nightly canapés and another private dining room on Deck 11. Both Princess Grill and Queens Grill share a lounge as well as a sun terrace on Deck 12 (where meals can be enjoyed when the weather suits).

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Our Cabin: Balcony

Non-suite Balcony Cabins represent slightly more than half the accommodations on Queen Elizabeth, so this is the yardstick by which we’ll judge the ship. Our cabin was attractively appointed with plush bedding and great lighting, but it was not what we would call “luxury” in most other respects.

The cabin measured 192 square feet inside (Cunard says Balcony Cabins start at 228 square feet, but this figure includes the balcony). While we’ve definitely stayed in smaller cabins on mainstream cruise lines, the cabins of true luxury lines are larger: The smallest cabins on the ships of Silversea are 240 square feet (not including balcony); the smallest of Seabourn Cruises’ cabins are 277 square feet (admittedly, their cruises are also quite a bit more expensive than those of Cunard Line). But size aside, we were generally happy with our quarters.

Waiting for us in our cabin when we checked in was a bottle of Pol Acker sparkling wine, a French blanc de blanc we’d never heard of. While the wine is standard for all guests, there was also a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, gifted by our travel agent.

Bedroom

Tastefully appointed, the bedroom area of our cabin yielded no surprises, but the linens wrapping our mattress were upgraded, with a plush pillowtop concealing most of the seam between the two single mattresses, and a cushy duvet on top. The sleeping arrangements were very comfortable. We loved having ample light for reading in bed. Daylight from the balcony opening was well concealed behind a sheer, a blackout liner, and a decorative fabric curtain.

Bathroom

The compact bathroom for our cabin was interchangeable with bathrooms for most other mainstream cruise lines—that is, there was nothing special about it. The small shower (only) measured 30 inches wide and 27 inches deep, at its maximum, with a thin synthetic curtain that could be pulled around—not exactly a generous cubicle for showering. Towels were inconsistently replaced by our cabin steward, even when they were hung up to dry; two pools towels were left for us under the sink. The inclusion of Gilchrist & Soames amenities—shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion—and a jar of cotton swabs were the only “extras” beyond what we usually find in typical cruise ship bathrooms. In all, we were disappointed that the bathroom was no better than ordinary.

Features

One of the best features of our cabin was abundant lighting. There were two main systems: One covered three ceiling lights in the entry hallway, a light on the wall opposite the bed and a light at the balcony door; the second illuminated two ceiling lights above the bed pillows. Both of these could be turned on at the cabin entry as well as switches on both sides of the bed. There were also three reading lights—two at the bed on nightstands and one next to the couch—plus an additional pair of lights over the desk.

The TV in our room was a 22-inch Sharp monitor that pivoted, allowing decent viewing from the couch or bed pillows. The selection of entertainment was diverse. There were three channels dedicated to English-language movies—about 40 in all, each played on one or two days of the cruise, several times in a row (most of the films were from the previous year, with a few older classics thrown in the mix). There were also German-, Spanish- and French-language movies on other channels. One channel each was dedicated to reruns of popular UK and US television programs, along with the major news and sports networks, plus 10 music channels.

At the desk were several outlets for different plugs, including two US. An additional plug in the bathroom, for “shavers only,” could be switched for either 120 or 230 volt.

Under each bed was an under-dresser for storing clothes. There were three individual closets at the cabin entry—two measured slightly over 22 inches, the third was 25 inches wide. In the closets was a pair of bathrobes, slippers, and a safe.

The cabin minibar fridge was stocked with Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and ginger ale ($2.65 each), Cunard-brand water, still or sparkling at $3.95 per 1.5 liter. The latter could be purchased in bulk—six for the price of five. Spirits and other drinks could be supplied through our cabin steward.

The balcony measured about 54 square feet, which was sufficient for two chairs and a small table that we could use—just barely—for a simple meal. The front of our balcony was glass with a railing; some cabins had balconies with metal rather than glass fronting the space.

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Other Cabins

We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Cunard Line. Note that any photos below may be provided directly by the cruise line and not our reviewer.

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Inside

Our Standard staterooms are anything but ordinary. The smallest is more like a “deluxe” guestroom on other cruise ships. And they’re beautifully decorated with fine prints on the walls, soft colours on the sofas and coverlets and turndown service when it’s time to retire. Guests dine in the Britannia Restaurant with a choice of an early or late sitting.

Oceanview

At any time of the day your luxury stateroom provides a welcome enclave of comfort and good taste. Wrap yourself in the soft bathrobe, ease into your slippers, then settle down to a film on your TV. Our turndown service sets the tone for a comfortable night’s sleep. Guests dine at a reserved table for either early or late dining in the Britannia Restaurant.

Club Balcony

Cherish the relaxing lounge area of your private balcony stateroom with direct access to the ocean breeze. Comfortable and stylish, your luxury Britannia Club Balcony stateroom shall be your inviting home from home throughout your memorable voyage. Guests in Britannia Club Balcony staterooms dine in the intimate Britannia Club restaurant.

Princess Grill Suites

For guests in our luxurious Princess Grill Suites, the delights of our Grills Experience are more pronounced than ever before. Your lavish suite occupies up to 513 square feet, with flourishes that include personalised stationery, a Bon Voyage bottle of wine, fresh fruit and concierge service. Guests dine at a reserved table in the single seating Princess Grill Restaurant.

Queens Grill Suites

Queens Grill takes everything that is so wonderfully indulgent about our Grills Experience and raises it to exalted new heights. Luxuriate in your own secluded haven of up to approximately 2,131 square feet featuring marble bathrooms and whirlpool baths. Guests dine at a reserved table in the single seating Queens Grill Restaurant.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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