Queen Elizabeth 2 - Cunard Line - cruise ship review and photos.

Queen Elizabeth 2
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Queen Elizabeth 2 Cruise Ship Review
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Who would not want to sail on the most famous passenger ship in the world - even if it was for only one night?  The 'Magnificent Eight' jumped at the chance to sail from Southampton to Amsterdam on the Queen Elizabeth 2, or QE2 as most people call her. On June 12, 2000 we set off for Southampton, England and 'The Queen'.

Our trip from Amsterdam to Southampton involves a leisurely car ride, a coach trip, a fast ferry crossing, a 180-mile drive on the wrong side of the road in an English rental car and one death defying taxi transfer.  And yes, we arrive at the terminal in time. Just… Check-in is easy, with staff making an imprint of your credit card and taking a digital photo that miraculously appears on the plastic boarding card later on. We were booked in grade M5 guarantees (the cheapest cabins – yes, we're Dutch!), but are pleasantly surprised to find out the eight of us were upgraded to C5 grade cabins on Two Deck! We run on board at 4pm, after having our group portrait taken by the ship's photographer (alas, we never see the result as the photo shop is closed upon arrival in Amsterdam). Stewards are readily available to guide us through the maze of corridors to our cabins. Ilona and I occupy cabin 2016, all the way forward on Two Deck.

A cozy cabin - VERY cozy. Considering this is a Caronia-class cabin, I am rather surprised by its small size. Two beds, two closets, one nightstand. One porthole. One small bathroom. That's it. Of course we don't need anything more on this one-night trip, but things would have gotten a little cramped if we were to stay here for 7 days or longer. Not to mentioned the full World Cruise… The bathroom is newly refurbished and looks spic 'n span, featuring a good shower (with folding glass door) and lots of Cunard toiletries. The nightstand is almost topping over with stuff. There's a small bottle of champagne in a cooler and two glasses, the Cunard and Seabourn 2001 brochures, a leather-bound folder with useful information, more brochures and leaflets, the cabin keys and of course the daily program. We also stumble across two Cunard bathrobes - for us to use during the WHOLE trip… All 16 hours of it!

After exploring our sleeping quarters it is about time to hit the deck and watch our majestic ship setting sail from Southampton. A brass band plays on the quayside - and on this nice spring afternoon there are bars set up on the open decks. At precisely five o'clock the ship's deep whistle sounds and we cast off - this is the moment we have been waiting for! The Opus band plays on the aft deck for some time - and with all passengers out on deck it's a magical sight as we slowly sail down the Solent towards the Isle of Wight. We stand on deck with our drinks and feel absolutely on top of the world.

When a cool breeze starts to blow, we feel the urge to discover the rest of QE2. And mind you, there is a LOT to see on this huge ship. Other than a cruise ship, this is really a city at sea and every corner brings new discoveries. I will not go into too much detail, but I am pleasantly surprised to find the ship in great shape. I last sailed on the QE2 in December of 1995, and it is good to see that Cunard have gone to great lengths to refurbish public rooms and cabins.

One of my favorite lounges is the Queen’s Room, now done in beautiful blue and yellow with new wood paneling throughout and some very comfortable high-backed chairs. The indoor promenades surrounding the public rooms are redecorated too, and now are truly great places to sit and watch the ocean. The small Chart Room is still a gem with its new upholstery and décor. And the switch of locations of the Caronia and Mauretania Restaurants seems to have been a good decision

Miles of carpeting have been replaced during QE2’s last major overhaul. Most of it in a funny purple/red color that can be best described as rather overpowering. But, this is QE2 and she has a style of her own! Which passenger ship nowadays features a synagogue, florist shop, garage, two indoor pools, a kennel (accommodating three cats, two dogs and one parrot on this transatlantic voyage) and a complete bookshop? OK, the sightlines in the Grand Lounge are not very good, the cheaper cabins might look a little tired and there’s no eight-deck high atrium with glass elevators. But QE2 doesn’t need funky gadgets – she is an ocean liner first and foremost!

After changing for dinner we meet up in the beautiful circular Midships Lobby on Two Deck and proceed to the Caronia Restaurant. The advantage of dining in the Caronia Restaurant vs. the Mauretania Restaurant is the fact that the Caronia operates on an open-sitting basis. You can come for dinner anytime between 6.45pm and 9.00pm. We arrive at the Caronia around 8.00 pm and are welcomed by the friendly Maitre d’ and shown to our tables. The restaurant received a complete makeover during the ship’s last refit and now boasts wood paneling, crystal chandeliers and very nice classic looking furniture. Our nice German and Italian waitresses introduce themselves and present us with the dinner menu. We feel utterly glamorous. But then something goes wrong.

We have to hail the Wine Steward in order to secure a bottle of wine with dinner. The $32 bottle of Chardonnay is excellent, but our Steward forgets to fill a glass and runs off before we can say "Chardonnay", leaving one of us 'wineless'. My chilled blackberry soup is very good, but some of my friends find the garlic soup rather "starched".  The waitress comes and asks if we would like more of these yummie cheese rolls. We say yes. She promises to bring them right away. They never appear. The same thing happens with the salad. We order our salads together with the main course - and are still waiting for them as you read this. At our other table, coffee and petit fours arrived before dessert, and the Polish waitress can't stop yelling at her equally Polish colleague. In Polish, of course!

Now all of these things can be considered "minor incidents" - and I would never dream of mentioning them so extensively if it wasn't for the fact that Cunard keeps referring to "impeccable Cunard White Star Service". We might have experienced White Star service, but it sure wasn't impeccable! Perhaps it was due to the fact that this was the first night out, which of course is always a little chaotic. But when I compare this experience to my previous trip on QE2, I must say that dining room service (and food) hasn't improved. And that's an understatement. 

After dinner we proceed to the Grand Lounge, where we easily find a good spot to watch the Welcome Aboard Show. We're still debating whether the hour-long monologue interrupted by two very short "commercial breaks" (i.e. a dance couple and a singer) can be interpreted as a "show", but I guess it sets the tone for the entertainment on this voyage. It's clear that people don't travel on QE2 to see feather-clad girls trying to evade laser beams and pyrotechnics at the stomping beat of yet another Las Vegas hit.  So it is with great pleasure that the Cruise Director introduces us to 'lovely' Maureen from the Library, Knut from the Card Room ("Hello, I'm from Norway and you can play backgammon with me") and Helga who is in charge of all German-speaking passengers ("Guten Tag und Wilkommen an Bord").

We leave the Grand Lounge prematurely and head for the Yacht Club, where we are in for some serious Party Time! The Yacht Club's excellent band "Opus" plays old-time cruise favorites and we are having a great time on the dance floor. The band's break is used to run to The Lido to LOOK at the Midnight Buffet. Of course we manage to end up sitting at a table with a plate in front of us munching away on some nocturnal goodies. After this midnight snack Mayke, Loes, Teun Wim and I call it a night.  I fall asleep to the faint sound of the mist horn sounding every five minutes or so, while QE2 speeds through the night at 27 knots, gently rolling as only a LINER can.  Meanwhile, Ilona, Janneke, Adrie and Demis manage to keep the Yacht Club open until 3am!

The next morning I wake up to the sound of the bow thrusters. When I look outside, I see that we are just tying up in the IJmuiden locks. Weather is dreadful; misty and damp. But even the bad weather hasn't hindered a number of people to drive up to the locks and look at our magnificent ship. While the ship navigates the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam, we enjoy a substantial breakfast in The Lido and make our last rounds before it is time to disembark. QE2 docks at precisely 10am at the desolate CERES Terminal, as her huge draft doesn't permit her to dock at the regular Passenger Terminal.  From the quayside we finally have a good look at the ocean liner that we called "home" for just one night. We felt like it was "our" ship, and isn't that what it's all about?



Photos and text: © 2000 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com. Cover photo © Luis Filipe Jardim

This version published on July 15, 2007. Revised on October 26, 2008

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