Cunard Queen Elizabeth cruise ship review

Good
Editor's overall rating
4.0
Jason Kerr
Managing editor
25 September 2020
Overall
Rooms & Suites
Dining
Nightlife
Wellness

Queen Elizabeth facts

Cruise line:
Cunard
Name of ship:
Queen Elizabeth
Number of passengers:
2,081
Gripes:
Lack of inclusions.
Maiden voyage:
2010
Refurbished:
2018
Kids friendly:
Yes
What you'll love:
British traditions like afternoon tea and gin & tonic.

Overview


The MS Queen Elizabeth is a large cruise ship that embraces British traditions. The restaurants are grand, there is a pub and even a West End-style theatre. However, it's important to note that life on board is different to other cruise ships. As this Queen Elizabeth review explains there are four classes of service and some parts of the cruise ship are reserved exclusively for first class ticket holders.


Queen Elizabeth Survey Results


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Detailed Queen Elizabeth Review


My review explains the pros and cons of a Queen Elizabeth cruise vacation. I rate the restaurants and bars, as well as the nightlife. There are also video tours of the staterooms and restaurants. In addition I share insiders tips to help you make the most of your time on board. Click on the tabs above to go to each part of this Queen Elizabeth review.

What’s hot

  • Champagne afternoon tea.
  • Ballroom dancing and fencing.
  • Great art deco vibe.

What’s not

  • No beverages included.
  • Service can be patchy.

About Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth is a Vista-class cruise ship in the Cunard fleet. She was built in Italy and debuted in October 2010. Queen Elizabeth is 289 m. / 964 ft. long with room for 2,081 guests. That’s almost the same as her sister-cruise ship Queen Victoria, but somewhat less than the famous ocean liner Queen Mary 2. Interestingly, because Queen Elizabeth is not a true ocean liner the bow has extra steel plating so it can cope with rough ocean crossings.

The Steakhouse at The Verandah on Queen Elizabeth.

The glamorous Steakhouse at The Verandah restaurant on Queen Elizabeth.

The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship had a major refurbishment in November 2018. During that time the Royal Spa got an extensive renovation. Also the Royal Arcade and Golden Lion Pub had a spruce up, while elsewhere on the vessel the decor was updated to make it “more British”. 

On Queen Elizabeth there are four different classes of service:

  • Britannia.
  • Britannia Club.
  • Princess Grill.
  • Queens Grill.

These can be likened to economy, premium economy, business and first class. It’s worth noting that Princess and Queens Grill guests have exclusive access to certain areas of the cruise ship. 

Food on Queen Elizabeth

The food on Queen Elizabeth can be outstanding, but that depends on where you choose to eat. There is a buffet and a pub, as well as cafes and fine dining restaurants. My Queen Elizabeth review rates them all. Most guests choose one of the restaurants for dinner, however some of these are reserved for Club or Grills guests only.

The Britannia Restuarant on Queen Elizabeth.

The art deco-inspired Britannia Restaurant.

The Britannia Restaurant is the biggest dining venue and is where Britannia-class guests eat. It is a multi-level restaurant serving tempting dishes like Alpine Pepper-crusted Goose Breast, Rack of Lamb and Pan Fried Sea Trout. It has a busy atmosphere and sometimes the service can be patchy. 

Britannia Club guests can eat in a more intimate venue called the Britannia Club Restaurant. The service is better, but the menu is almost identical.

Princess Grill guests dine in their own elegant restaurant which has a more de luxe menu. While Queens Grill guests dine in the most exclusive venue, the Queen’s Grill Restaurant. As a matter of fact it serves some of the best food at sea, like White Sturgeon Caviar and Duck L Orange. Queens Grill guests can even order off-menu.

The Steakhouse At The Verandah is a specialty restaurant on Queen Elizabeth. It’s a glamorous, upmarket venue with a fascinating heritage, but the menu is a bit unadventurous with options that include a burger and seafood platter. That said, it’s a great dining alternative and is open to everyone, but it costs extra:

  • Lunch: US$25 per person.
  • Dinner: US$39 per person.

The Lido Restaurant on deck 9 is a sprawling buffet venue which is especially popular at lunch time (the self service buffet my be subject to COVID-restrictions when cruising resumes in 2021). In the evenings part of it becomes an alternative dining venue with waiter-service and a theme which rotates between pan-Asian (Bamboo), Indian (Coriander), Mexican (Aztec) and pizza (La Piazza). Check the Daily Programme newsletter for details. It’s worth noting that dining at Bamboo, Coriander, Aztec or La Piazza cost extra:

  • Dinner: US$19.50 per person.

There is also the poolside Lido Grill which serves burgers and hotdogs. Cafe Carinthia has a tempting array of sweet treats and the conservatory-styled Garden Lounge offers drinks and snacks.

In addition there is the Golden Lion Pub which is a relaxed, English-style venue where you can enjoy a quiet ale, or authentic pub food like fish & chips. In the evening there is an entertaining band.

Accommodation onboard 

The guest rooms on Queen Elizabeth are comfortable and practical. They range from Inside and Balcony Staterooms to spacious Grills suites, some of which have separate bedrooms. The guest rooms are spread across the entire length of the cruise ship.

A Britannia Balcony Stateroom on Queen Elizabeth.

Most guests stay in Britannia Balcony rooms on Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth nightlife

When it comes to nightlife Queen Elizabeth has something for everyone. There is the Yacht Club disco, or the more intimate Commodore Club. A string quartet play in the Midships Bar and there is dancing in the Queens Room.

The Royal Court theatre has spectacular shows as well as entertainment by guest artists. Indeed, the standard of the performances is generally very good.

Fitness on board

Queen Elizabeth has a great range of wellness options. There are two pools and a gym as well as Zumba, yoga and pilates classes. There is also bowls and golf on the open air decks. The onboard spa offers a range of relaxing treatments, as well as an Aqua Therapy Centre which has a hydrotherapy pool, aromatic steam room and sauna.

Onboard activities

All the usual shipboard activities are available on Queen Elizabeth including bridge, trivia, shuffleboard and lectures from expert speakers. However, as my Queen Elizabeth review explains there are some more unusual activities too, like fencing and ballroom dancing classes.

The spectacular Queens Room on Queen Elizabeth.

Enjoy ballroom dancing in the spectacular Queens Room on Queen Elizabeth.

There are also Watercolour Art Classes (US$35) and galley tours (usually once per voyage), as well as get-togethers for solo cruisers and friends of Dorothy.

In addition, Queen Elizabeth has a library and a shopping arcade, as well as dedicated spaces for kids and teens.

What’s included on Queen Elizabeth

Your cruise fare on Queen Elizabeth generally only includes accommodation, meals and entertainment. Almost everything else comes at an additional cost.

Beverages are not included in your cruise fare – not even water. So I recommend purchasing a Stateroom Water Package. Other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage packages are also available.

Brochure for Cunard's Premium Non-Alcoholic Option.

The onboard brochures explain the drinks options.

Cunard cruise fares do not include gratuities. So a service charge of 15% will be added to the cost of individual beverage purchases, while a 12.5% gratuity will be added to the cost of spa and salon treatments.

It’s also worth noting that there is a daily “Hotel and Dining” charge of US$11.50 per person per day for Britannia Staterooms and US$13.50 per person per day for Grill Suites. This charge will be added to your account at the end of the cruise.

Dining in specialty restaurants also comes at an additional cost.

On the up-side, free self service laundry facilities are available. Also, in some ports there are transfers to and from downtown. 

Queen Elizabeth dress code

During the day you can dress as you please, but in the evening the Queen Elizabeth dress code is more traditional. Indeed, from 5:45pm the dress code will be either Smart Attire or Formal in bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. This will be advertised in the Daily Programme newsletter.

The Daily Programme newsletter on Queen Elizabeth.

See the Daily Programme for advice about the Queen Elizabeth dress code.

Smart Attire

  • For women this includes casual dresses, jumpsuits and informal evening-wear.
  • Men should wear slacks. Jackets are optional.

Formal

On Gala Evenings the Queen Elizabeth dress code is formal.

  • Women should wear a cocktail dress, smart trouser suit or formal separates.
  • Men should wear a dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with either a tie or bow tie.

There are usually two or three Gala Evenings for every seven days on board.

Fellow guests

The Queen Elizabeth attracts a loyal following of return passengers as well as first time cruisers. 

There is usually a mix of family groups and older couples on board. Indeed, during my Queen Elizabeth review sailing the guests ranged in age from teenagers to those over 80-years old.

Most guests generally come from the U.S.A, U.K, Australia and Canada.

It’s also worth noting that like all the Cunard cruise ships, Queen Elizabeth gay-friendly.

Queen Elizabeth review conclusion

The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship embraces its British heritage. Indeed, traditions like afternoon tea and gin & tonic are a real treat. The West End-style shows are a great drawcard too.

The restaurants on Queen Elizabeth are generally good and it’s worth noting that the first class Queen’s Grill Restaurant is outstanding. Indeed, I rate it as one of the best restaurants at sea.

During my voyage some areas on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship felt crowded on sea days – in particular the pools and Cafe Carinthia. Also, during my review voyage I noted that service can be patchy, particularly in the busy dining venues.

Cruisers should also remember that Queen Elizabeth does not have the inclusions of some other premium cruise lines.

Read the accommodation section of my Queen Elizabeth review by clicking the button below.

The author sailed as a guest of Cunard.

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