A big ship, but not crowded: I sailed on Cunard Queen Elizabeth
Big Ship Suites is a collection of itineraries on larger cruise ships but enjoyed in the comfort of those ships' suites and private areas. Some would argue this is the best of both worlds: a ship with lots going on during the day, loads of restaurants to visit in the evening, but with the option of retiring to the tranquil surrounds of private areas and your own suite. It’s a great way to holiday for couples, families and multi-generational groups. As part of the Panache Cruises difference, we send our cruise connoisseurs away to experience and enjoy cruises for themselves. Victoria was the first to experience part of our Big Ship Suites experience.
In mid-October I was fortunate enough to be invited to sail on Cunard’s iconic Queen Elizabeth. We were to sail on a three-night mini cruise from Barcelona to Rome — to say I was excited before embarking would be an understatement.
After a seamless check in, it was brilliant to finally see this ship in all her glory. We’ve all seen the adverts on television for Cunard’s Christmas campaign, but nothing prepares you for walking into that Grand Lobby — a palatial starting point aboard this ship, featuring classical wood panelling decoration, a grand piano and a huge mural of the ship.
In fact, you can find beautiful art throughout the ship. Another example sits in the main dining venue, Britannia — a beautiful piece, even if I’m not quite sure what it was depicting! The food here can be considered a work of culinary art, and you can enjoy a selection of delicacies from the buffet. The dining venues on board are brilliant, with a wide range to choose from. Britannia is the main dining venue, but The Lido serves beautiful pan-Asian fare or the Golden Lion is a typical gastropub for anybody craving a taste of home! For a typical steakhouse at sea vibe, head to Steakhouse at the Veranda — I’d recommend the salt beef brisket hash, delicious!
My absolute favourite dining experience had to be the Afternoon Tea in the aptly-named Queen’s Room. Regardless of whether you’re cream-first or jam-first, there is no better way to relax after a busy day ashore taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a destination. But culinary excellence aside, there are plenty of other reasons to experience a Cunard cruise.
There is never a dull moment on board. As we beelined for Naples on the itinerary's second day, we had the privilege of listening to a lecture from Sir Steve Redgrave, no less, about his glittering career as one of Great Britain’s greatest olympians. Sir Steve was the guest speaker for this particular sailing, but the Cunard Insights™ enrichment programme offers talks, seminars and discussions by well-known historians, explorers, top diplomats, politicians, scientists and other notable experts. Jason Manford, Ben Fogle, Ross Kemp and many others are also in the cruise line’s schedule to hold talks.
Still, if listening to an hour-long talk on rowing is not really your cup of tea, then the Royal Court Theatre hosts plenty of shows throughout the day to keep you entertained – all of which can be found in your daily planner delivered to your room each evening. On the other hand if you fancy something a little more active, head to Deck 11 where you’ll find the Games Area. Play boules with fellow sailors — deck tennis, croquet and more! On this deck you’ll also find two pools to relax by, and we had plenty of sun to soak up on our three day sailing.
I cannot without good conscious speak of my amazing cabin. I stayed in a balcony cabin with a stunning view of the sea and even had a welcome bottle of bubbly waiting for me in the minibar. The suite had everything I needed, with a large plush double bed, a television and entertainment system on the wall, a comfortable sofa sitting opposite a desk (from which I wrote this article!) and an en suite bathroom with a walk in shower behind a curtain, a large mirror and plenty of space for all my toiletries!
It’s at night that this iconic ship comes alive. My favourite night had to be the gala dinner — black and white theme. Cunard promises two gala dinners per seven-day voyage. There is no obligation to dress up, however most guests do take part. It was fabulous to see everybody looking so elegant. I felt like a filmstar as I walked down the grand staircase for my evening meal. I don’t know how Cunard managed to do it on such a big ship — she has capacity for 2,081 guests and stands tall and imposing in port — but the Queen Elizabeth is so intimate and cosy. Every corner of this ship is comforting and warm, but elegantly traditional and classical. I loved it.