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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Although a number of the recreational pursuits were light, there was a great selection of activities. The entertainers aboard were excellent, and the main theatre was a classy venue for shows.

Royal Spa & Fitness Centre

Managed by Steiner Leisure, the major player in cruise ship spas, the Royal Spa was properly elegant and subdued and featured a full-service salon. The ship’s gym was accessed through the spa, as was the Royal Bath House, a surcharge facility within the spa.

Massages ranged from a back, neck and shoulder ($69 for 25 minutes, $109 for 50 minutes) to Swedish massage ($119 for 50 minutes) to sports or bamboo massage ($129 for 50 minutes, $179 for 75 minutes); the Royal Spa massage for two was $259 for 50 minutes, $355 for 75 minutes. Several Ayurvedic treatments were available, including Shirodhara ($99 for 25 minutes), Shirobhyanga massage ($130 for 50 minutes) or Chakra Rasul ($175 for 50 minutes). Fifty-minute facials included Elemis Skin Specific, Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing, Oxydermal, and Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift ($109 to $145). Men’s facials, barbering and grooming were available, along with hair, nail and waxing services for women. A 12.5 percent gratuity was added to the price of all treatments.

The Royal Bath House was an extra-charge facility located within the spa, which could be accessed by the day or with a pass for the full voyage. The bathhouse included a thermal suite with heated ceramic loungers, sauna and steam grottos, a relaxation area, and an indoor hydrotherapy pool.

The gym was stocked with the latest equipment, with treadmills, bikes, bench presses, cross-trainers by TechnoGym, along with rowing machines, weights, and more. In the aerobics room there were stretching and legs, bums and tums sessions at no charge, and available for $12 were Fab Abs and Pilates classes (there were also bikes for spinning, but no sessions scheduled on our cruise).

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Pools

The Pavilion Pool was protected from the wind but still fairly open for sunning. There were two small Jacuzzi tubs and a pair of shower stalls for rinsing off, and in addition to sun loungers, sheltered outdoor furniture was available. A second pool area, the Lido Pool, was a popular spot for eating, sunning and swimming. There were two Jacuzzi tubs, a couple shower stalls and a good quantity of loungers. The pool depth was 4-feet, 9-inches at one end, 6-feet, 8-inches at the other.

Other Recreation

Deck 11 forward served as the Games Deck, and we found a nifty collection of outdoor activities with an English bent. There was Short Mat Bowling (like lawn bowling), Croquet and Paddle Tennis. There were instructions for each, and tournaments were announced in the Daily Programme.

There was also an informal and inviting Card Room. Beginning and intermediate Bridge lessons were offered on the first full day of the cruise, and unhosted Social Bridge sessions were scheduled on remaining days. There were also several Scrabble box sets available for play (along with an Oxford English dictionary).

Other Decks

The Promenade Deck was the one deck that circuited the entire ship. Jogging and power walks were permitted only from 8 a.m, to 8 p.m. (three laps equaled 0.9 mile). There were a deck chairs lining the corridor at midship. Deck 10 was the uppermost deck straddling the ship’s mid-section. There were plentiful loungers, four shuffleboard courts, and the Ping Pong tables were much in use. There was also a netted area for golf practice.

Shows & Entertainment

Queen Elizabeth’s handsome theatre was modeled after the Gaiety Theatre on Isle of Man, a classic opera house still in operation. With seating for 800-plus, sightlines were excellent owing to the Royal Court’s steep rake and minimum of obstructions (we loved the box seats flanking the main seating area); portable headsets were provided for hearing-impaired guests.

The theatre was used for several different types of performances, best of which was La Danza, a dance review that showcased various styles from around the world. It wasn’t the type of show we’d normally jump for but we were impressed. The 55-minute performance utilized both backing tracks and a live band—there were great costumes and fine choreography to showcase the energetic 12-member team of hoofers. Also worth seeing was Vanity Fair, an English-style review, with songs from Mad Dogs and Englishman and Crazy for You. Again, the costumes were snazzy, though no real sets were involved (for this or any of the shows we saw). Other live shows included a comedian, a pickpocket act, and a classical vocalist.

In the Queens Room nightly music offerings included Big Band Concerts, with a smooth, polished 13-piece band, along with Ballroom and Latin dancing. There were 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.

Empire Casino

Compared to the big-name brands catering to the U.S. market, Queen Elizabeth had a smallish casino, with 54 slot machines. But this appeared to be sufficient on our cruise—we never observed the facility heavily used. Table games included Blackjack, Face Up Blackjack, Roulette, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Poker and Three Stud Poker.

The casino was the only place on the ship where cash was accepted, and U.S. dollars only. There was a full bar here, serving the ship’s standard cocktail menu.

Retail

The Royal Arcade was a gallery of interconnected stores on Deck 3 offering good shopping opportunities—in fact, we found a somewhat broader selection of merchandize than is availed on most mainstream cruise lines. Products from Chopard, Fabergé, Anya Hindmarch, Zandra Rhodes, Emporio Armani, Molton Brown and Gina Bacconi were among the more unique finds showcased at the Royal Arcade, in addition to the usual suspects for watches, jewelry, clothing and duty-free cigarettes and alcohol. Merchandize was priced in U.S. dollars throughout.

Near the shopping arcade, but easy to overlook was the Emporium, a cubbyhole boutique with a few specialty items. This included Cunard-brand chocolates and Queen Elizabeth-logo products, Fortnum and Mason teas, as well as sundries such as deodorant, toothpaste, insect repellant, shaving products, sun block and over-the-counter remedies.

A gallery of photos taken by the ship’s photographers was available for purchase at the Images Photo Gallery. Individual prints were $24.95 each. Photos could be ordered as prints or on CDs—a package of 10 was $149.95, 15 was $199.95 or an unlimited number was $299.95. Ship photographers were not overly aggressive, which was refreshing. A video of the voyage was also available for purchase at the end of the trip. We reviewed one but we were pretty unimpressed with the quality—it made our overall journey look like a bore.

Managed by Clarendon Fine Art, we found a lot of nice artwork hanging in this gallery, with a good deal more subtlety and nuance than is common in the art showcased on mass-market ships. Though most of it was not pieces that we’d jump to buy, we enjoyed perusing the canvases. Another thing we liked: There were no hard-sell art auctions on our voyage.

While most cruise ships have just a small collection of paperbacks for sale, Queen Elizabeth’s had a genuine Book Shop with a selection of several hundred titles for purchase. This included fiction and nonfiction (mostly paperbacks), a few travel guides, a particularly good selection of children’s books, plus lots of books about the ship and the Cunard Line. Also offered were diaries, pens and notecards.

Just outside the Book Shop, don’t miss the display cases with royal memorabilia—Christmas cards from Charles and Diana, photos and newspaper clips about Queen Elizabeth and Cunard Line through the years.

Other Venues

The ship's excellent Library is among the finest at sea, with more than 6000 books covering a range of stories, styles and subjects, including a large collection of travel guides for the areas Queen Elizabeth commonly sails. The latter were not available for check-out (they could be read in the comfy chairs here), but other titles could be borrowed. There was also a small collection of jigsaw puzzles, plus Chess, Checkers and Yahtzee sets.

The intimate yet stunning Grand Lobby atrium occupied three levels starting from Deck 1, accented by a striking wood mural of the Queen Elizabeth as a backdrop to the curved staircase. At the lowest level was the Purser’s Office, the Shore Excursion desk and the future cruise sales desk. Wrapping around the upper decks of the lobby were The Verandah restaurant, Café Corinthia and the Midships Bar. A couple events took place here during the cruise, such as a pastry demo one day, but otherwise this beautiful space was under-utilized.

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Sections

  1. Intro
  2. Cabins
  3. Dining
  4. Drinks
  5. Recreation & Entertainment
  6. Kids, Services & Other Details
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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