It has been so long since I cruised with Cunard, I had forgotten about what it is which makes this most famous of all cruise lines, and its three fabulous ships, so iconic.
I have made an error first up in talking about "cruises" - Cunard does "voyages" thank you! It is clear that much thought and effort (not to mention expense) has gone towards creating a brand around a fleet of three new, and similarly wonderful ships, which at every turn, evokes voyages of elegant grandeur, nostalgia, and a touch of whimsy. I also find very little which is "cruisey" about this ship - the lobby buzz has failed to board, as has buzz in general. Generally, a very quiet place, this is more a superb conveyance, by sea, from Point A to Point B, than it is a pleasure palace home from home for a long awaited cruise holiday - pleasurable though it is, if you get my meaning.
I am on a brief 3-night "teaser" from Sydney to Melbourne, on the brand new Queen Elizabeth, as she wends her way around the globe, on her maiden world cruise. As an avowed devotee of the old QE2I admit that while mourning her demise, I paid only scant interest in the building of her successor, and her subsequent launch in October, 2010.
That said, I was delighted to be invited to take this short trip, and it was with much anticipation that I hopped onboard. The Queen Mary 2 is in Sydney also, and as seems so often to be the case with Cunard, there is a milestone to be celebrated. This time it is 70 years since the original Queens Mary & Elizabeth were in Sydney Harbour together, so there is much "whistle tooting", water cannoning, and helicopter hovering, as we depart in the bright midday sunshine. The sail away party was fun - certainly to watch - as the platoon of gentleman hosts took their partners for some soft shoe in the sun!! - with a very Australian CD providing the music - Give me a Home among the Gumtrees et al! All delightfully informal, and I wonder what the (many) guests from the UK and America thought of that. I should note that the sailaway bevy was Lanson champagne.
Our genial Captain is Julian Burgess, imbued with the special Cunard strain of bonhomie - always a "dry" quip or two in his addresses, yet very commanding and, one imagines, a good guy to have in charge should anything go awry.
Kids while notably absent on this cruise, are beautifully catered to with fantastic (separate) facilities for the little ones and teens alike. I suppose there is an extended family market to be taken care of but I don't really see this as a great ship for children. For the very big kids there is an amazing spa and gym complex, which seems to be de rigueur on all new ships these days. This one is outstanding.
So, QE2 lovers, let's end our period of mourning, and hail the new Queen. It's all here - the majesty, the formality when it counts, the elegant public rooms, even the rumours in the laundry (some things never change!). I digress to tell you that the hot topic in the laundry on Deck 4 was the basket of clean laundry which has been residing underneath the ironing board - for weeks! Clearly the owners have long since left the ship sans smalls, without realizing where they are!
$4.75 beers and $5.50 cocktails are a welcome treat, but I note the waiters in the Queen's Room are serving afternoon tea sans white gloves. Tsk tsk! And somehow the new Queen's Lounge, as large and grand as it is, has an ambience more akin to a packed church hall after a funeral, than the palatial tea palace it purports to be. I think I prefer watching the gentleman hosts take their partners for a gentle waltz, than listening to a solo harpist, and indeed perhaps that is possibly what occurs on other days.
The new library is 2-storey and very swank - I miss the friendly librarian from the QE2 though. There is still a book-shop but it isn't adjacent the library anymore which seems a shame - the two go so well together. I suspect the selection of books isn't quite as good either.
The royal blue and caramel furnishings, and blonde timber finishes in the staterooms are light and bright, and contrast with the liberal use of dark wood panelling, and warmer rich colours in the public areas. Even the lift lobbies are absolutely beautiful. The Grand Lobby is truly grand (if the perpetual queues at the Purser's Desk are not!).
God's gift to cruise ships and beauty spas - phalaenopsis orchids are everywhere.
One of the special things on QE2 was the memorabilia collection, which I never tired of looking at. So much of it has been relocated to Queen Elizabeth - including the bronze bust of the Queen which used to grace the old Queen's Lounge, and which provided many a backdrop for a treasured photograph - and continues to do so in its new home. I was delighted to see the memorabilia tours not only operating each day, but attracting many willing participants.
The Royal Shopping Arcade is a little disappointing. The logo shop is doing a cracking trade with its heritage inspired merchandise. Harrods has given way to Fortnum & Mason, and I eagerly snap up some $8 tea caddies, and noted the bargain prices for Duty Free liquor. But, the jewelry store is uninspiring and the perfume store likewise.
The daily activities programme is probably the best at sea with a bewildering array of information, activities, and entertainment - no chance to be bored on this ship!
Saving the best till last!! The Queen Elizabeth, with her extensive use of wood, creaks like a beauty!!!!
To sum up, I like this ship, and if you have fond memories of QE2, you will also.
For a few more photos of The Queen Elizabeth please access our Snaparazzi section
Anne Rogers 24 February 2011