Gary Buchanan experiences Cunard's Grill Class

There was a buzz in the air as the good and the great of Britain's cruise industry mixed and mingled on board Cunard's brand-new Queen Anne during an overnight showcase event on 1st May. In addition to the soaring Grand Lobby with its sculpted mural and curved staircase, the eye-catching glass-domed Pavilion, and the retro glamour of the Queens Room, it was the undeniable stylishness of the Grill Suites that was the  focus of attention for several connoisseurs.

Cunard Queen Anne sailing
“The Grill Class product is great value and provides one of the last unique luxury experiences at sea today,” said one respected commentator; another pundit noted, “The exclusivity and elevated service are cherished by guests. There are few similarly luxurious options for Brits seeking a combination of grace and chic.”

While devotees of 'Going Cunard' are familiar with the term Grill Class, it does require some explanation for those unaware of this curious categorisation, which can trace its origins back over a hundred years. The name is derived from the Grill Room on RMS Aquitania, the legendary Cunard liner that was given the moniker 'The Ship Beautiful', following her launch in 1914.

Decorated in Jacobean ornamentation, this sumptuous, extra-tariff restaurant served grilled meats and was an intimate alternative to the grandiose first-class dining room. However, it wasn't until RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth ushered in the 'Golden Age' of travel following the Second World War that the term 'Grill' assumed its distinguished cachet.

Designed with a nightclub atmosphere in mind, the Veranda Grills were secluded aeries tucked away at the stern on the Sun Deck. 80 first-class passengers, which often included royalty and film stars, enjoyed à la carte meals and dancing until late into the night for a supplement of ten shillings. Endorsing the aura of forbidden pleasure, this theatrically decorated room was accessed by a private lift operated by a young bellhop who was guaranteed to receive a handsome tip.

When QE2 was launched, she too had an exclusive Grill Room which was available to all first-class passengers for a supplement. Three years after her maiden voyage in 1969, several penthouse suites were added, and to accommodate guests in this top echelon of accommodation, the Queens Grill was created, and the Grill Room became the Princess Grill. Subsequently, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth were all designed with both Queens Grills and Princess Grills. Now Queen Anne is continuing the popular concept of Grill Class.

QA Grill Suite

As holidaymakers seek ever more sophistication, cruise ships have adapted to appeal to them, so round-the-clock dining, showstopping entertainment, and  great views don’t cut it any longer. However, a private sanctuary that ups the ante in the luxe factor and purrs opulence, refinement, and privilege certainly does. The notion of a ship-within-a-ship encompassing the services and amenities that are a hallmark of smaller, ultra-luxury ships is a perfect solution for those travellers seeking to embrace the benefits of the prestigious lifestyle within these inner sanctums.

Designers of Cunard ships ever since Queen Mary 2 have elected to situate suites in the top-of-the-range tier at various prime locations across the most desired decks. Grill Class guests can savour an experience straight out of the pages of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. On Queen Anne, they dine in their dedicated Queens Grill or Princess Grill, both set in a prime location on Deck 10, which upholds an open seating policy. There's the option to relax in the nearby dedicated Grills Lounge at cocktail time or for a dainty afternoon tea, and, one deck above, they can laze on superior deck furniture at the private Grills Terrace that offers a discrete sunbathing halcyon, far removed from the hoi-polloi.

Queen Anne terrace
True to her Cunard lineage, Queen Anne offers a range of accommodations, from the ample to the opulent. Grill Suites come in a variety of grades, six for the Queens Grill and two for the Princess Grill. The two 1,440sq ft Grand Suites (Q1 Grade) are located port and starboard on Deck 6 midships and have spacious living areas and dining rooms. There are four 896sq ft Master Suites (Q2 grade) situated amidships on Decks 5 and 7. All have large walk-in wardrobes. These opulent havens boast a décor that incorporates subtle, calming tones of green, taupe, and grey that are in harmony with the dark wood and marble accents.

Princess Grill
Equally urbane, just slightly smaller, are the 34 Penthouse Suites (Q3 and Q4 grades), which span between 532sq ft and 647sq ft. The 25 Queen Suites (Q5 and Q6 grades) measure 507sq ft up to 577sq ft. In all Queens Grill suites, butler service is available to streamline and personalise guests’ needs.

The award-winning David Collins Studio was responsible for the design of the Queens Grill Suites, all of which have large balconies. The creative team was directed by Simon Rawlings, whose credits include the imposing Gleneagles Resort in Scotland, as well as the incomparable Claridge's Hotel in London. He told Panache Cruises, “Each detail reflects the commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences for guests and sets new standards in maritime design.”

There are 127 Princess Suites (P1 and P2 grades), all of which cover 302sq ft and are located amidships. They are fitted with comfy sofas, feature wall panels, and have generous balconies. The colour palette is of bold Cunard red hues, as well as overtones of gold trim and wood furnishings. These suites were designed by Sybille de Margerie, whose studio is responsible for the Mandarin Oriental in Paris and the first Baccarat Hotel in Florence. At the showcase event, she noted, “I really enjoyed immersing myself in Cunard's rich heritage, drawing inspiration from my own travels. I focused on striking a balance between tradition and modernity.” 

Princess Grill Suite
All suites have plush bedding gracing Sealy Cunarder beds, which can be configured as king-size or twin beds. There's also a pillow menu. Queens Grill Suites have a mini-bar stocked with a complimentary selection of beer, wine, spirits, and soft drinks, plus a welcome bottle of champagne. The room service menu is complimentary. There's a kettle for speciality teas and coffee-making facilities, while butlers ensure a regular supply of fresh fruit and flowers. In the evening, pre-dinner canapés are served. Other amenities include binoculars and a world atlas. In the marble-clad bathrooms with black and white checked tiling, there's a plentiful supply of Penhaligon toiletries, fluffy bathrobes, and slippers.

Dining at the award-winning Grills is one of the many reasons guests return time after time. In the Queens Grill, they can choose from a dazzling selection of dishes from the à la carte menu, which contains culinary gems and blasts from the past. Ordering 'off-menu' is a privileged option if guests fancy indulgences such as Lobster Thermidor, Châteaubriand, or Beef Wellington. They simply make the maître d’s aware of their request in advance (usually during lunchtime for dinner orders), and the chefs will strive to satisfy any gastronomic preferences.

Dining
The Princess Grill doesn't offer the same range of 'off-menu' epicurism, with the most requested items including Dover Sole and Rack of Lamb. In both Grills, desserts offer the head waiters an opportunity to show their table-side prowess when they prepare Crêpes Suzette, Cherries Jubilee, and Bananas Foster.

A special new Gala Evening menu has been created by two Michelin-starred chefs Michel Roux, for guests in the Queens Grill and Princess Grill. There will also be an exclusive series of Le Gavroche residencies at sea, as Chef Roux brings his iconic London restaurant to Queen Anne and Queen Mary 2 during four Norwegian Fjords voyages in 2024. The five-night residences will showcase a variety of signature seafood specialities and elevated culinary classics. Guests can sign up for a five-course tasting menu infused with flavours of the sea.

Cunard chef
During the showcase event aboard Queen Anne, which was immediately prior to the maiden voyage, I dined in the Princess Grill. From the exceptional modern British menu, my selection included Duck Liver and Madeira Parfait with Smoked Duck; Celeriac and Apple Salad; Lobster Bisque with Aged Cognac; Grilled South Coast Lemon Sole Fillets with Samphire, Capers, Creamed Leeks, Crushed Jersey Potatoes, and Sauce Nantua; Pistachio Soufflé; and finally, a cheese trolley offered a selection of Cunard 'Stowaway' Ewe's Milk Cheese, Smoked Blyton, and Stilton.

Cunard holds a special place in cruise culture as well as British consciousness, and passengers hanker after a retrospection to an era when the sway of the Grand Salon was a metaphor for decorum and haughty grandeur. It would have been all too easy for designers to create a pastiche of Art Deco meets smart deco. Instead, the fleet of four ships revels in a wealth of modern patrician comforts that coexist in perfect harmony with the decadence and romance of yesteryear.

Aboard Queen Anne, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria, Grill Class offers guests a gilt-edged ticket to a unique realm of glamour and untold bragging rights.
Call Panache Cruises on 0161 513 8200 if you want to learn more about Cunard Cruises

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