It was perfect staying in Winchester as we were so close to the Port of Southampton – less than 30 minutes away. After an enjoyable breakfast buffet many of my passengers strolled the town to get daytime pictures. Some were lucky enough to see the in-house Orchestra rehearsing in the Winchester Cathedral.
Luckily the coach driver for our transfer to the cruise terminal was able to park very close to the hotel – this can be a challenge as the street is so narrow. The driver reported that there were still many highway issues due to the weather. In the height of the snowstorm many drivers abandoned their cars on the highways and other cars blocked entrances and exits to the highways. Even though there was no snow to be found on our short journey to Southampton there were pockets of black ice – the locals are not use to these conditions.
News reports said that it will take a few days before both Heathrow and Birmingham airports get back to normal capacity after the storm. Heathrow was still trying open one of their runways.
Heard many snow storm stories from passengers on the ship. Some didn’t think they would make the cruise. In one instance neighbours helped to clear snow from a 1/4 mile of a residential street so a couple trying to get to the ship could get to the highway.
Check-in was very well organized. There were many porters looking after the luggage and the walkway was covered into the terminal building. Many passengers arrived extremely early because of the weather – they just started boarding when we arrived at 1130am so when we finished checking in we were onboard in no time. Security was quick and efficient.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth is the youngest Queen at Sea. Her grace and Art Deco design have won her many accolades and made her a firm favourites with guests. The heyday of Hollywood glamour is instantly evoked by her elegant wood paneling, gleaming chandeliers, marble flooring and beautiful decorative touches.
For relaxation, Queen Elizabeth offers wide open deck spaces, the Garden Lounge – a large conservatory based on the famous hothouses of Key Gardens – as well as a unique Games Deck, where you can try your hand at a game of croquet or paddle tennis in the middle of the ocean.
A nice bonus when we boarded was that all staterooms were ready so we could drop off our carry-on bags before enjoying lunch. This is a definate perk as on most cruises you wait until mid-afternoon before getting into your stateroom. My checked luggage arrived soon after – I think the quickest I ever received it on a cruise ship.
Walking around my first impressions of the ship – luxurious, looks brand new, easy to find everything, manageable size, impressive size balcony staterooms with ample closet space, comfortable bed and pillows – nicely designed but smaller bathrooms (vanity/desk with hairdryer is located in the main stateroom).
The interior in the public space is timeless – this ship will not quickly date itself like others that are currently modern in style but after a few years may look dated. This ship reminds me of interior of a classic Ritz Carlton hotel.
There is a wide screen television in our balcony staterooms, generous storage, mini-bar, complementary Penhaligon’s toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. Excellent quality, Godiva chocolates are placed on your bed prior to turning in.
After check-in, I joined some of my passengers in the ships Pub for traditional fish n chips – light batter, hot, fresh, melt-in-your-mouth-deliciousness as I would expect in the UK.
Overall the cuisine onboard is healthier than many other lines – hardly anything is deep-fried which is a refreshing change.
The crew is mainly from the Philippines – very efficient but not as warm as the Indonesian crew on Holland America.
My passengers were so pleased with their gifts. When they arrived in their staterooms the Cunard bathrobes that I ordered for them were sitting on their king-size bed with a card and a box of Godiva chocolates. Some of my passengers are using these fluffy bathrobes during this cruise because they are so much nicer than the thin ones that are in our staterooms but others like me, are leaving them packaged which will make it easier to get into our luggage for our journey home.
We experienced some choppy seas during the first day of sailing and it bothered a couple of my passengers – probably a combination of the movement and being tired but after some rest and gravol they are up and running again. Seas have smoothed out and as we continue to head South the temperature increases.
This sailing is at capacity. Many of the crew considers this the Christmas Cruise as there is much anticipation building. The entertainment cast will present a Christmas Show later in the cruise and there will be carol singing. The Winchester Boys Choir presented two Christmas performances before we sailed on Day 1. I’ve already met 3 of the production cast members and one of the 2 resident piano players on board. They feel honored being on this ship because of its 6 month World Cruises – the piano player has performed on 7 World Cruises!
The ship is tastefully decked out for Christmas – a couple from CALGARY, Alberta did all of the decorating just prior to our boarding. Some of my passengers met them.
The elegant High tea during at-sea-afternoons is a glorious affair which attracts 100’s of people. Held in the Queens Court – a vast ballroom with a humongous dance floor. I watched them get set up for the tea and let me tell you its quite the process – in 20 minutes them time they had white table cloths on the tables, china set, jams, sugar, cream were put out, the pianist who I met earlier today started to play and the white tux jacket with black tie, white glove dressed waiters started serving but not before posing with their trays filled with goodies. Sandwiches arrived first – smoked salmon, egg, cheese, cucumber followed by dainty dessert and freshly baked scones. They kept pouring the tea and the Brits know how to brew their tea.
We have noticed that the Brits enjoy the dining room – unlike North American based cruises you see very few passengers dining in the lido buffet but the dining room is typically packed – the Brits love their breakfasts. On this ship the name of the main dining room is the Britannia – it has been designed extremely well so it doesn’t look or feel like a massive place – tables are situated so there is ample space in between. The dining room is not loud like on many other ships – it is very easy to hear as you speak with others at your table.
There is one official alternative dining room, the Verandah – we are all going to dine in this French themed restaurant next week – $35. Fee which in comparison to other lines is quite reasonable. The Lido Buffet restaurant has many theme food nights where a section is cordoned off for a menu not buffet meal – $20.00 Fee – themes include Indian, BBQ, Oriental.
There are two sittings for dinner 6pm and 830pm. There is no any-time-dining offered unless you book the intimate Britannia Club restaurant – higher stateroom charge.
I have 4 passengers celebrating birthdays on this cruise so when ordering cakes I was surprised there is a cost but after I saw and tasted George’s birthday cake last night I realized they are worth the money – excellent. The cakes that are provided for no-cost on some other lines don’t compare.
There is a wide-variety of age groups on board but mainly seniors. I’ve noticed a few very young families and even a couple baby strollers. The ship is full with 1800 Brits, 35 Americans, 33 Canadians (my group), 22 Germans and 18 Irish. The Brits are so friendly and are always up for a conversation. Some accents are thicker than others and I am often embarrassed when I sometimes have to ask them to repeat themselves but I can typically understand what they are saying on the 2nd go around.
The main theatre is beautiful with elegant side boxes that you can rent – includes champagne. The balcony seating isn’t as good as there are some obstructed seats. The theatre is packed every night so you need to arrive early to get decent seats.
I have a great group of passengers – they enjoy our group luncheons and this morning I arranged a private galley tour with the Executive Chef and everyone showed up for the fun tour.
Many of the passengers from the UK that I have met told me that when deciding what cruise to book it’s the ship that is most important to them and the itinerary comes second. I feel this is the current trend. Many passengers told me they won’t even get off at the ports of call so they can just en this beautiful vessel.
One surprise is the casino is one of the smallest I have ever seen on a ship. Gloria, one of my passengers was a winner yesterday so she is pretty excited. I hear Glen did pretty good too! You hardly see anyone in the Casino – obviously not popular with the Brits.
This afternoons movie in the Grand Theatre was, “Churchill” and of course it drew a huge crowd.
It’s time for our group luncheon (white onion soup and shrimp seafood salad -excellent) so I will close for now but will blog again once we arrive in the Canary Islands!
Being a passenger on the, “Queen Elizabeth” is certainly a glamorous way to travel!