Well worth regular visits are the knockout library, 6,000 volumes strong; the shops of the Royal Arcade, whose upscale offerings include treasures from Fortnum & Mason and Harris Tweed; the well-stocked bookstore; the Games Deck with its bowls, croquet, and paddle tennis; the Internet Centre for staying in touch; and, if feeling lucky, the Casino. Few passengers fail to show up for the daily signature tea event beneath the glittering chandeliers of the two-deck Queen’s Room. Where else can you feast on warm scones with cream and jam, served by white-gloved waiters to the sounds of a classical quartet?
Not surprisingly, Cunard similarly stamps its own brand on accommodations, a total of 1,046 staterooms, 85 percent of them outside and 71 percent with balconies. The nine different types of suites include 127 Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites, each paired with its own Grill Restaurant situated in restricted-access privacy on Deck 11 (single seating, choice of time) along with the Courtyard for al fresco dining, and the Grills Lounge with resident concierge. Steps away is the Grills Terrace for secluded sunbathing. Other suite categories are also linked to their own restaurant, such as the new Britannia Club (single seating, choice of time), and two-tier, Art Deco-flourished Britannia Restaurant (traditional seating, fixed times).
The popular Princess Suite, for example, encompasses 367 sq. ft. with two beds, living area, balcony, bath with tub/shower, walk-in closet, two flat-screen TVs, fine bedding, robe/slippers, and refrigerator, plus one complimentary sparkling wine and one water.
Open around the clock, the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9 (much improved by a re-design featuring stations that sidestep congestion) offers a buffet by day and table service focused on three regional cuisines come evening ($10 pp). Tasty snacks await in Cafe Carinthia and the Golden Lion Pub.
Not to be missed is the most impressive new dining adventure aboard: The Verandah. While Queen Victoria unveiled the stylish Todd English Restaurant, Queen Elizabeth chose to spotlight her own stars of fine cuisine. “We have considerable talents of our own and our chefs are celebrities in their own right,” Howie says, pointing out that the alternative restaurant’s of-the-moment French menus were created by noted chef Jean-Marie Zimmermann, who leads Cunard’s multi-layered culinary program. “What’s rare in the industry is that guests have the option of ordering either the full degustation dinner ($35 pp), or individual items from the menu, each priced per plate. Sometimes a guest might wish to order, say, an appetizer and dessert.”
Positioned on Deck 2 with ocean views, Verandah boasts a chic-but-cozy setting in beige-tan tones with mirrored columns, white leather chairs and whimsical murals. The experience: exquisite wining and dining, with service to match.
In 2012, Cunard will celebrate its 90th year of World Voyages with a repeat performance by Queen Elizabeth (overnights in Sydney and Hong Kong), this time joined by flagship Queen Mary 2 (overnights in Cape Town, Hong Kong and Dubai). American passengers will have the option of embarking on Queen Elizabeth’s 107-day journey from New York, Fort Lauderdale or San Francisco after the Panama Canal transit.
Fares for the full World Voyage start at $20,996 pp. Segments of 12 to 24 days are available with fares starting at $2,775 pp.