Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Cunard
Ship: Queen Elizabeth 2
Sailing Date: n/a
Queen Elizabeth 2 - 1979 - 2002
I have traveled on the QE2 for well over twenty years and have seen many changes, some good, some not so! For many years I was making the Transatlantic crossing (although British, I live in Los Angeles), and in more recent times, segments of her World Cruise since she calls here at L.A. Harbor. In the earliest days, the ship was nominally "two class" but there never were physical divisions; The Queen's Room was the First Class entertainment venue and the Double Down Room (now the Grand Lounge) was for "Transatlantic Class" passengers. Shows were done twice, a performance in each place. My very first crossing was in a single outside cabin on Four Deck, rather small but very well laid out. I made friends with another passenger who was sailing First and we compared cabins - although much larger than mine, it was not as well configured. We also compared menus; there was then only a little difference between the Grills and Tables of the World, mostly the availability of lobster and shrimp, and of "off the menu " items. In more recent years I traveled once in Princess and then Caronia class accommodation and have dined in the Caronia Restaurant in both of its locations. Since Carnival has had control, the menus have become more standardized and about three years ago my companion and I sailed from New York to Southampton in Caronia, BUT discovered that the menus in Caronia and Mauretania were absolutely identical! We then down-graded ourselves for the following World Cruise. The re-designed Caronia is an attractive room in an old fashioned way, but the food and service (in my experience) no different to Mauretania. The type of passenger who sails has changed, many with table manners leaving something to be desired and who seem more at home in the (relatively new) Golden Lion Pub, which has a knees-up and karaoke every night, not as sedate as years ago! The least publicized bar, more refined, on the ship is open to all - the Princess Grill Lounge. Tucked away, it has no music and is like a small New York bar from the 30's. Very nice and more civilized than the huge Crystal Bar before dinner. One peeve is the price of drinks - for example, a glass of ordinary California White Zinfandel goes for $5.00, plus the automatic 15% gratuity - a *bottle* can be bought for less here in California, same brand, same stuff! Since there is no tax at sea, the prices seem very high and there are no bargains to be found.
The first sailing I found it difficult to navigate the lifts (elevators) and different decks, but these days it's like going home. The Lido is quite the best place for breakfast and tea; early in morning one can just choose from the very good buffet without having to be nice to the wait staff - and tea time is much more pleasant being able to look aft and to the outside. The Queen's Room for tea is like God's Waiting Room, so *many* elderly people thinking they are at the Savoy or Ritz when it never comes close to that. There is a pianist which adds to the atmosphere of gentility. Service much slower than in the Lido, but sandwiches and cakes the same. The sandwiches would never pass muster at a truly first class establishment, nor really the cakes; sandwiches far too thick (although the fillings can be very pleasant) and made with spongy bread. However, it is a nice sense of occasion every afternoon and so scores highly just because it's done. But dinner will be in a few hours, so tea is merely an interlude. Lunch and dinner in the restaurants are pleasant and relaxed, quite different selections to the Lido. There is a definite effort to make everyone happy and the senior staff enquire as to one's satisfaction - something which does not always occur in the finest places on land. Years ago, the staff was all British, rather than just the officers, but now very mixed and I think the service tends to suffer slightly as a result. But overall, it is the same as many a good restaurant in London or Los Angeles.
It should always be borne in mind that QE2 is an ocean liner, not a cruise ship as such. She was built principally to get from A to B. The swimming pool may be small by some standards but who needs to swim when crossing the North Atlantic? Even in mid Pacific I did not swim and few others did. The sun decks area all open and with plenty of room for all, especially on the upper decks. The entertainment can be very middling, but early in 2002 we saw two different revues which were exceptionally well done by any standard. The comedians and puppeteers are not to my taste, but "different strokes for different folks!" The classical recitals are by fine younger artistes and the movies up to date. Some people criticize the decor, but I would have rather it stayed as it was designed; The Queen's Room had marvelous white lacquered furniture which matched the "futuristic" pillars ; now most of the furnishings are standard hotel issue; the main Lobby had greenery all around, where the rather unattractive black and white mural is now which fills in the space that was originally given to plants. The 1936 RMS Queen Mary is prized for her art deco designs, QE2 should be admired for her typical 60's look of Swinging England. For anyone wanting a real taste of ocean travel, a crossing from Southampton to New York (or vice versa) is without a doubt the best way to go. Relaxing, gracious (mostly) and a fine reference point for other voyages. Even the smallest cabins are really quite OK, since one spends so little time in them. I have had inside M3 and although not as grand as some of the others, the bed was comfortable, the stewards helpful and all the amenities of the ship available. Of course there are newer ships, but few are genuine liners. The old SS France (now the Norway) is one of the few grand old ladies of the Atlantic but apparently nowhere near its glory days. The QE2 manages to retain its allure and it is well worth trying - even a three day teapot cruise! Despite some shortcomings, more than anything else, like an older Bentley, QE2 has STYLE and a certain glamour all of its own. It is to be done at least once!
Elliston Cavell, Los Angeles.