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Saturday, 14 January 2012

QUEEN ELIZABETH 5th January 2012 Part 1


QUEEN ELIZABETH 5th January 2012
Part 1

On 8th October 2010 I was in Southampton with some friends to watch the new Cunard cruise ship come into her home port of Southampton: it was QUEEN ELIZABETH, and she made a splendid sight in the early morning light. We were part of a large flotilla of ships to welcome her in for the first time.

Queen Elizabeth arriving in Southampton October 2010

Fifteen months later I was again in Southampton, and this time I was to sail on the newest Cunarder for myself, for 3 nights from Southampton to Hamburg, on the River Elbe in Germany. There was to be one call at Le Havre, on the way, before a sea day on our way to Hamburg. It was a ‘New Year Getaway’.

It was a wild and damp January winter morning, with trees down on the railway lines in the south of England, faulty signals near Portsmouth, and I felt glad my coastal train was only half an hour late. A taxi whisked me to the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal and on the way there I had a pleasant chat with the driver about the lavender-hulled lovelies of the Union-Castle Line that we both remembered. In the Ocean Terminal I could see BOUDICCA berthed against the quay, held there seemingly only with the help of a large tug nose-in to the side of the hull. The tug seemed to be putting a lot of force into this, as sea water was churning up continuously from her stern. My ticket said I was to embark in Ocean Terminal, so it was a surprise to see BOUDICCA there but I know the weather and wind conditions were dreadful.

I had booked a single use inside grade D8 cabin for my 3 nights on board, and had been happy to be notified of an upgrade to a D1 cabin, so I was pleased to embark and be greeted by cheerful faces as I reached the top of the gangway. My cabin 8031 was large and comfortably furnished, the bathroom was spacious and there was a bottle of champagne in an ice-bucket on the small table next to the settee. Life was already looking good, so I set off to meet my travelling companion. He had booked for the full five days of the cruise from Southampton and back, and had been upgraded four times since booking, so we had a mini cabin-cavalcade between my inside cabin and his outside with balcony.

Then it was time to start to explore the ship and enjoy the new sights and sounds of a ship actually in the sea, and not in a dry dock. My recent experience on COSTA DELIZIOSA and going into the Marseilles dry dock is still so fresh in my mind, that I can’t help comparing it with being here on QUEEN ELIZABETH!

QUEEN ELIZABETH was built for Cunard in 2010 with a gross tonnage of 90,900, to carry 2,068 passengers at a speed of 23.7 knots, and she is another enlarged Vista class of ship (a hybrid Vista/Spirit class), as was COSTA DELIZIOSA. Her home port is Southampton, in Hampshire, England, and she is now registered in Hamilton, Bermuda. Her Captain for this voyage is Captain Christopher Wells. The ship was named by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and I was so pleased to see the golden bust of Her Majesty on board, taken from the QE2 before she sailed to Dubai. There is also a beautiful painting of Her Majesty on board.

There are 12 passenger decks, with Forward A, Midships B and Aft C Stairways and Elevators. The lowest A Deck has the Tender Embarkation access and the Medical Centre. Deck 1 forward of Aft staircase C has staterooms, the Tour Office, Purser’s Office, and Voyage Sales Office. Forward of that is the lower part of the Grand Lobby,

The Linley ship

and then forward of that is the Internet Centre Connexions 1, leading on to more staterooms. Forward again from Forward Stairway A is the lowest level entry to the Royal Court Theatre.

Deck 2 aft is the lower level of the Britannia Restaurant, and forward of the stairway is the Britannia Club, The Verandah,

The Verandah

The Verandah

Cafe Carinthia, the second level of the Grand Lobby, and the lower level of the Library. Forward of Stairway B is the Book shop, Cunard Place, Queens Room,

Queens Room

Queens Arcade, Empire Casino and then Golden Lion pub. Forward again is the Stairway A and then the Royal Court Theatre.

Deck 3 at the stern has the upper level of the Britannia Restaurant,

Britannia Restaurant entrance

A stairway

Stairway C, Images Photo Gallery, Card Room, Midships Bar The Alcove, the top level of the Grand Lobby, and the Emporium/Library.

The Library

Forward of Stairway B is Cunarders’ Gallery, the Queens Room, then Connexions 2 and 3, Art Gallery and Royal Arcade.

Royal Arcade

Prize-winning sculpture

Forward of the Stairway A is the top level seating of the Theatre.

Decks 4 to 8 inclusive are all staterooms.

Deck 9 aft has the Lido Pool, Bar and Grill, and forward of Stairway C is the Lido Restaurant. Forward of Stairway B is the attractive Garden Lounge,

Garden Lounge

The Garden Lounge

which is another of the most attractive areas on the ship to my mind, especially in January when one can sit in very comfortable armchairs, with cushions, and be completely warm and safe from the vagaries of the weather in the North Sea. With a small bar in one corner to provide tea, coffee or whatever was needed, I enjoyed spending time there. Forward of that was the Pavilion Pool and Bar,

Funnel view on deck

Tiling outside the Pavilion

Outside Pool area

and forward and up again was the Yacht Club which was a very popular place at night for music and dancing.

The Yacht Club

Deck 9 forward had the Royal Spa and Fitness Centre.

Deck 10 forward had the Churchill’s Cigar Lounge, and then the Commodore Club which again was such a lovely venue especially at night time. The Games Deck was above this, with its canvas and rope-bound canopies to protect us from the weather.

Chess pieces

I was hoping to learn to play croquet but others had the same idea so that must be for another time.

There were other vessels in Southampton port, including ORIANA, BALMORAL and BOUDICCA, but it was a lovely surprise to look out and see a familiar but unusual small ship coming down Southampton Water towards us: it was the T.H.V. PATRICIA, the Flag Ship of Trinity House, going very slowly past us. We later discovered she went to shelter against the Isle of Wight, presumably to avoid the rough weather out in the English Channel.

THV Patricia

Lifeboat drill was next, in the wonderfully tiered theatre, and we soon departed from Southampton in the dark with the sound of suitable maritime music playing in the background and being blown towards us on the high wind on deck.

The Commodore Club was ideal for a pre-dinner drink, and then the Britannia Restaurant was our next destination for dinner. I had been allocated a table with seven other passengers on the upper level on Deck 3, which surrounded the lower level on Deck 2, and was accessed with the sort of light-edged curved staircase where one can ‘sweep down’ in a very feminine and elegant way. My travelling companion was with other congenial passengers on a table on the lower level, but the Maitre d’ had said he would arrange for us to sit together on subsequent nights. The menu was varied and full of desirable things to choose, so it was a pleasant occasion.

I sat in the middle of an oval table for eight, with my back to a wall. The Wine Waiter appeared with Wine Lists which she rapidly gave to the two men on the table, before rushing away and taking orders at other tables. I wanted to order a glass of wine, but was unable to do so until about 10 minutes later when I managed to catch her eye and wave as she rushed past again. She seemed rather surprised, but gathered herself and gave me a Wine List. It took another 5 minutes before she reappeared to take my small order and then another 10 minutes before the glass of wine appeared. It was obvious the member of staff was under intense pressure and perhaps Cunard need to think again about the number of Wine Stewards they have in this restaurant.

Plates of After Dinner Mints and small pieces of crystallised ginger were outside the Restaurant (welcome back to Cunard, Ann, I thought) and then it was time for the Welcome Aboard Show in the three-deck-high Royal Court Theatre. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company and eight-piece Theatre Orchestra entertained us after we were welcomed by the Entertainment Director Amanda; after that Show it was time to head up to the Yacht Club for music and dancing, with the wonderful silver model of QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 in a glass case at the entrance to the room.

Clocks have to go forward one hour tonight to put us on Continental time, so it was a short night ahead of me despite the beautiful linen and pillows on my bed.

Ships seen: Queen Elizabeth, Oriana, Balmoral, Boudicca (held alongside with a tug), Autostar, Great Expectations, Red Jet 4, Svitzer Ferriby tug, Patricia

To be concluded...

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