Sailing gracefully across woven waves of deep blue, edged with sun-shot white lace, it’s hard to believe we are crossing the notorious North Sea, renowned for stormy passages and leaden skies; yet such is the scene as I gaze out of the large window in front of me. I’m in The Library aboard the latest addition to the historic Cunard fleet of ocean-going ships, the Queen Elizabeth – and what a stunner. From the outside she may not be the most graceful of vessels (one passenger describing her as a ‘floating multi-storey hotel’) but step onto the polished decks and her true beauty is revealed. We are on her Maiden Season voyage heading for Norway’s spectacular fjords and waterfalls.
Art Deco-themed, there is beauty and grace at every turn. One of the most stunning pieces of work is a large marquetry panel by David Linley, depicting the original Queen Elizabeth liner, which stands at the head of the curving staircase in the Queen’s Room. Paintings, sculptures, carpets, hangings, deck furniture – everywhere you look there are reminders of a bygone age of elegance and luxury. I’d arrived at Southampton brand new Ocean Terminal via a coach trip from Leeds. Kind Katie from Cruise Connect had managed to book me on one of their regular connecting services from both the east and west of the UK. The check in here set the tone for the trip. Having been booked into the very swish Princess Grill Suite I had Priority Embarkation, so my bags (all 3 of them – no luggage allowance meant I packed ‘heavy’) were whisked away when I got off the coach, no long queue at check in, and then through security and … on board.
First impressions of this ship were very much in mode of Janice from ‘Friends’ – “Oh… My… God…” Greeted at the entrance like visiting Royalty, the depth and quality of the carpet is enough to tell you that this is no ordinary cruise ship. Wandering through spacious public areas larger than most big hotels you begin to get an idea of just how grand this ship is. And yet … it’s not overwhelming or intimidating. I had been a bit worried that it would be very much “Would Modom care to …” but no, just smiling, friendly people everywhere, eager to answer questions, direct you when lost or simply say hi and pass by.
Before we sailed Lisa, the New Media Executive from Cunard, gave me a deck by deck tour. Far too much to take in all but a few images … heated sun loungers overlooking the sea in the luxurious Spa, croquet ‘lawn’ and Bowling Green on the Games Deck, shards of lighted crystal hanging from ornate ceilings, bubbling Jacuzzi overlooking open-air swimming pool, a stunning glass wave-like sculpture, colourful stained glass skylights, a delicious looking champagne tea… and people already lying out on sun loungers looking totally relaxed – and we hadn’t even sailed yet.
My Suite is a so very special – enormous, VERY comfortable bed, bedecked with squishy pillows, seating area with welcoming champagne and dainty chocs, a single orchid backlit against the balcony light … and that view out to sea that will change from day to day as we travel further north along the Norwegian coast.
Assembling by the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery, overlooking the Queen’s Room, for a rather surreal Safety Drill, I started to get an idea of just how many people were on board (almost 2000) as we struggled to rip the hefty Velcro apart and don our bright orange life savers. Friendly Freda, our entertainment Officer, kept us amused until Captain Chris Wells tannoyed voice took us through some important safety info before inviting us to go on deck for the Sail Away.
This traditional departure is guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened traveller. As we gazed up at the Queen Elizabeth’s iconic black and red funnel, silhouetted against a clear blue sky, she let out a deep, booming blast. She was letting all and sundry know that, once again in her 170 year old history, one of Cunard’s great liners was setting sail for foreign seas and another fascinating voyage of adventure…
Many thanks to Cunard for enabling this Quirky Traveller to have such the marvellous ‘Norwegian Fjords & Waterfalls’ cruise. Discover more about the ship here and join me as we visit the historic port of Stavanger and Lysjefjord.