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Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth Cruise Review

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

January 22, 2013
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In addition to the soft drinks and water in our minibar, the in-room beverage menu had a good selection of hard liquors. The 1.5-ounce “nip” bottles started at $5.95 for Myer’s rum, Canadian Club or Teachers whiskey, and G&J Greenall gin; 1-liter bottles of these were priced $55 (bottle orders were accompanied by six sodas of our choice). Other liquors included Johnnie Walker Black Label, Glenkinchie (12-year) Scotch whiskey, Courvoisier VS cognac and Grey Goose vodka, at prices ranging up to $7.95 for a nip bottle and $75 for a 1-liter bottle.

The short list of beers included Budweiser, Corona, Heineken, Guinness Draught and Spitfire Real Ale for $5.50-$5.95. Only two wineries were represented on the room service list: Cunard Private Label and Wente Vineyards—$5.95 for 150ml, $9.95 for 250ml and $29.75 for a full bottle—but other labels were said to be available on request. Champagnes and sparkling wines included prosecco from Valdobbiadenne ($7.25 for 150ml and $35 for a full bottle), Delamotte brut NV ($12.75 and $59.50) and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and rosé ($17.50-$19 and $82-$95).

As with the ship’s bars, a 15 percent service charge was added to drinks ordered through in-room dining.

Café Carinthia

Named for the RMS Carinthia, a beloved Cunard liner launched in 1925, this was the ship’s tea and coffee emporium, a classy space with overstuffed couches, potted orchids and art deco embellishments. In this age of java joints on every street corner we were a little surprised that Café Carinthia didn’t open until 7 a.m., when we found it struggling to wipe the sleep from its eyes (on many cruise ships the coffee venue is open 24 hours).

A light menu was available through the day. In the mornings, this included some of the ship’s pastries, while from 12 noon till 2:30 p.m. there was a quiche Lorraine tartlet with mesclun salad, shrimp salad served on rye with roasted peppers and olives, smoked salmon in a lemon pepper bap, etc. At teatime (3 to 5 p.m.), a strawberry tartlet, black and white profiteroles, and Alsacian apple tart were offered. There was no additional charge for these items.

The tea selection was from Jacksons of Piccadilly, tea emporium started in 1815 and now focused on Fairtrade registered growers around the world. Eleven options were availed, including Ceylon Earl Grey, Kenyan, Assam, Chinese white tea silver tips, and Sencha green tea, available infused with, mint, lemon, lime or elderflower. Prices were $2.50-$2.75, served with proper china and a teapot, with a biscuit (no tea bags!).

The coffee selection included Americano, espresso, cappuccino, mocha, and latte (available with various syrups). Prices ranged $2.75-$4.25 for the regular size to $3.75-$5.25 for large. Iced iterations were available ($3-$4.50), along with hot chocolate, which could be spiked with Amaretto, Frangelico, Bailey’s or Grand Marnier ($7.25).

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Commodore Club & Admiral’s Lounge

This was our go-to spot for pre-prandial imbibing. The Commodore Club sprawled across the bow of the ship at Deck 11, creating an observation lounge that was ideal for watching the world go by, or the sun settling in for the night. It also had the most extensive cocktail list on board.

However, at most hours Commodore Club suffered from very slow service. Over the course of multiple visits we found the venue either understaffed or the staff present to be poorly utilized staff. On one visit we waited more than 15 minutes for the cocktail waitress to get to our table—does Cunard realize they’re leaving money on table with all the drink orders not taken? Fortunately, when they eventually arrive, the drinks are very good.

Hot canapés were served at cocktail hour. There wasn’t a lot of heart to them, but the odd good nibble was proffered.

The Admiral’s Lounge is a small area off to the starboard side of Commodore Club. While typically seating only 10, it was used primarily for lectures and private cocktail parties (and as overflow one evening when all the tables were taken at Commodore Club). In the hallways outside the lounge were handsome models of the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.

Immediately next to the Admiral’s Lounge is Churchill’s Cigar Lounge, a small room dedicated to cigar and pipe smokers, with black and white photos of Sir Winston Churchill disembarking the Queen Mary in 1943. The humidor offered a selection of cigars including Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo (and Montecristo 1 and 2), Ednundo and Petit Ednundo, Davidoff Soecial T and Short Perfecto, and the Cuban Hopmann Coronas Major. There was a small selection of port, as well.

The Yacht Club

Set on Deck 10, this was effectively the ship’s disco. On some evenings there was recorded ballroom music for dancing early, then the DJ would emerge at 9:30 p.m. or after to shake our grove things, usually with a different theme nightly (50s and 60s Night, 80s Night, etc.). On our voyage we didn’t see many guests using the disco most nights.

Named after the QE2’s original Yacht Club, note the silver Asprey’s yacht from the QE2 as well.

Queens Room

This splendid, two-story ballroom served a number of purposes during our cruise. Chief among them was dancing, of course—nightly and with a live orchestra. Other entertainments were scheduled here, along with afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea was served here from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., daily except embarkation day. The sandwiches were unexceptional, but the scones, warm from the oven and topped with strawberry jam and clotted cream, were terrific. The event was very popular—rather than wait in line we found it best to arrive towards the end of the hour as tables started to open up. (Afternoon tea was also offered at the Lido Restaurant, though we much preferred the ambience at the Queens Room.)

Nightly music offerings included Big Band Concerts, with a smooth, polished 13-piece band, along with Ballroom and Latin dancing. There was dozens of couples on board with all the right moves, including a few that were knocks-outs. Tip: If you’re not fleet on your feet (as we aren’t) don’t miss the ballroom dance lessons offered early in the cruise itinerary. Wish we’d attended.

On Formal Nights a themed ball was scheduled for the Queens Room, and themed attire was encouraged (though not required). The first of these was the Cunard Ball, with black and white dress; the second was the London Ball, when appropriately decorated hats (with feathers for ladies) were suggested. Other themed nights on Queen Elizabeth included the Buccaneer Ball, the Elizabethan Ball, the Venetian Masked Ball, and the Starlight Ball.

On one sea day, a classical piano concert was held here—Rachmaninoff, Chopin and the like were featured.

The Garden Lounge

Styled after London’s Kew Gardens, this Deck 9 lounge had a conservatory-style glass half-domed roof, making it an appealing hangout when the weather was chilly. It was a good place to stock up on drinks when the nearby Pavilion Bar was not staffed. A pianist played here after 9 p.m. each evening.

The ship’s standard bar menu was available at the Garden Lounge, as well as a selection of fresh squeezed juices and smoothies. Fresh juices and presses included orange, grapefruit, apple, pineapple, celery and carrot ($4.25 each) with non-alcoholic cocktails also offered, such as watermelon and ginger cooler, and the apple and mint Collins ($4.75), also available with mineral boosters like gingko biloba. We ordered a smoothie one morning ($5.50) and were disappointed to see that the principal ingredient was ice, something we don’t bother with at home; among the flavors were mixed fruit, Berry Bliss, Tropical Paradise, Pineapple Blast and Pommeberry.

Midships Bar

This swell-looking bar served as the ship’s Champagne bar, with various Veueve Clicquot on offer, by the glass $17.50 for yellow label, $19 for rosé), by the half-bottle ($46), or full bottle ($82, or $96 for 2004 Reserve). It’s one of the areas of Queen Elizabeth we wished we had utilized more during our journey.

The ship’s resident pianist and (separately) harpist played recitals here at various occasions during our cruise.

The Grills Lounge

Guests staying in Princess Grill or Queens Grill suites had exclusive access to this area of Queen Elizabeth, located at midship on Deck 11. It included a cushy private lounge, a private dining room for Princess Grill guests as well as separate room for Queens Grill guests (with additional menu items available), and a private sun terrace on Deck 12, the highest public area of the ship.

As we were housed in a more humble cabin, maybe next time we’ll upgrade and gain entry.

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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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