Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth Cruise Review
Elegant art deco detail meets British formalities on the high seas.
Play Zone was designed for kids aged up to 6 years old, supervised by British registered nursery nurses and youth coordinators. There were Play Station 3 games, arts and crafts stations, toys, games and a private outdoor play area. Next door, the Zone was for older children and teens.
Queen Elizabeth’s Internet Centre was located on Deck 1 and offered 21 Mac computers for checking email. While the equipment was good, we found access to be very clunky, with service not available for multi-hour periods. We didn’t find the attendant particularly knowledgeable about the service or the problems we had connecting; the venue was staffed two hours in the morning and 2½ hours in the afternoon on sea days, and 2 hours in the evening on port days.
The pay-as-you-go rate for internet use (using the ship’s computer or our won laptop) was.75 cents per minute. Packages brought prices down: 120 minutes was a more-reasonable $47.95 (.40 cents per minute), for instance. Printing was charged at.50 cents per page.
Next door, Connexions 1 was a learning facility with 19 Mac computers used for hands-on classes. Among the free options were 30-minute classes on iPads, iPods and iPhones and Tablets. “Next Step” worshops were $30 and included 60-minute sessions on Apple’s iPhoto (managing and editing images, creating books, calendars and slideshows), Adobe Photoshop Elements (basic repairs, effects, using layers), Apple’s iMovie. There was an advanced seminar called Using your iPad Efficiently, priced $10. All but one of the classes was offered only once, so it’s a good idea to check the schedule at the start of your cruise.
More than perhaps any other cruise line we’ve traveled with, Cunard believes in a dress code, and Queen Elizabeth is a dressy ship. While it’s not necessary to invest in a wardrobe overhaul to embark, many passengers use a Cunard cruise as an opportunity to show off their fanciest finery. The rules sound imposing, but after a day or two we felt very much at home.
During the day, casual dress was encouraged, but bathrobes and bathing suits were “not suitable” for indoor public areas. After 6 p.m., evening attire fell into one of three categories, carefully detailed in ship literature before and during the voyage. On our seven-night cruise, two nights were designated as Elegant Casual: Jacket, no tie required for gentlemen; dress, skirt or trousers for ladies; no shorts or jeans. Two nights were Semi-Formal: Jacket and tie for gentlemen; cocktail dress or trouser suit for ladies. On the three Formal nights, black tie or formal dark suit was required for gentlemen, evening dress or other formal attire for ladies (gentlemen’s formal wear was available for hire or purchase onboard the ship). Note that the dress code for the Lido Restaurant at dinner was Elegant Casual nightly, for those who didn’t care to put on the dog on Semi-Formal or Formal nights.
Additionally, on each Formal Night a themed ball was scheduled, and themed attire was encouraged (though not required). The first of these was the Cunard Ball, with black and white dress and featuring the “Officer’s Gavotte” dance in the ballroom; 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. These sounded intimidating before we boarded, but the festivities were easy to enjoy from the sidelines (only a small percentage of the attendees wore themed attire).
On most other cruise lines dress codes aren’t strictly enforced—not so on Queen Elizabeth. One gloriously sunny afternoon we were milling about the Lido Restaurant as it was opening for the evening; a few minutes after 6:00, managers gently reminded three separate men that shorts were not permitted after 6 p.m. Our advice: Don’t get stressed out with the dress code, but pack accordingly and then focus on enjoying the overall experience.
Editor’s Note: In March 2013, after our voyage, Cunard announced that it was loosening its dress code for its cruises going forward. Formal evenings remain, requiring “dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen; evening or cocktail dress for ladies.” Other nights are now designated as Informal—"jacket required, tie optional for gentlemen; cocktail dress, stylish separates or equivalent for ladies."
Complimentary washers and dryers were available on all of the decks with cabins, except Deck 1. Each had an ironing board and iron, and laundry detergent packets were provided. The machines got a real workout during our cruise, and in the laundry room on our deck two of the three dryers and one of the three washers were out of order. Full laundry and dry cleaning services were also available.
General Health & Safety
We felt safe and secure aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and sanitation practices seemed well in order. The Muster Drill was conducted in an orderly, efficient manner. We were required to bring life vests from our cabin, for instructions in wearing them. Our room keys were not scanned, and names were not taken during a roll call.
The Medical Centre was located on Deck A (forward) and a doctor was available for routine, non-emergency consultations. Hours were generally 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. daily. Seasickness tablets were available at the Purser’s Desk.
Smoking was not allowed in any public areas except for the Churchill’s Cigar Lounge (located next door to the Commodore Club) and in designated areas of the open decks. Smoking was not permitted in the casino. Smoking was allowed on cabin balconies.
Tips, Alcohol Policies & Loyalty Program
A hotel and dining service charge is added to the checkout bill for all guests, divided between waitstaff, cabin stewards, buffet stewards and others. The amount is $11 per day, per guest (including children); for those staying in Grill accommodations the service charge is $13 per day, per guest. Additionally, a 15-percent gratuity is automatically added to every drink order, including minibar purchases.
The ship’s alcohol policies are somewhat vague, and leeway seems to be granted to individual embarkation ports. Cunard states: “There is no restriction to the amount of that can be carried onboard.” But the line also warns that Cunard “reserves the right to remove alcohol at the gangway should the need arise. It is not our intention to invoke this policy as a matter of course and we will only implement on occasions where we consider it likely that the health, comfort, safety and enjoyment of guests may otherwise be compromised. Should you wish to take wine or champagne onboard to celebrate an event, the number of bottles you take on will be at the port authorities discretion.” For wine consumed in restaurants the corkage fee was $20.
We did not find Cunard’s frequent sailor program, Cunard World Club, to be exactly flush with benefits. Cruisers are automatically enrolled after their first voyage. At the entry level, the Silver tier, starting with their second cruise members receive up to 5 percent off early bookings on select voyages and other perks. After a second cruise (or 20 nights), members attain Gold status, availing two hours of complimentary internet access, a cocktail party, and “preferred” reservations in the specialty restaurants.
After 7 cruises (or 70 nights) members are elevated to Platinum status, which adds an additional two hours of complimentary internet, a 20 percent discount on laundry and dry cleaning, and a complimentary wine tasting and Senior Officers’ Party. With 15 voyages (or 150 nights) comes Diamond status, with further benefits.
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