Cunard Cruising on the Queen Elizabeth to Hamburg

Let’s embark – I could get used to this!

Queen Elizabeth I have known a few queens in my life, some even come into the pharmacy, but none as elegant as Queen Elizabeth. I’m talking nautical not majesty.

Christened in 2010. White and black interrupted with a funnel as red as a robin and lifeboat covers as orange as jaffa cakes- from Harrods obviously! We are talking luxury here and five stars. A big lady but perfectly formed and hopefully unflappable for a North Sea journey to Hamburg beckons.

Cunard’s newest ship, a sister to Queen Victoria is enormous. Tonnage 90,900, 12 decks, 2,068 passengers when full serviced by a crew of 996.I wonder how many hotels have such a good customer/ staff ratio? Not many.

A brassy girl from Margate with a double- fronted terraced house and over-powering perfume was very critical of the ship. ” It’s boxy and ugly”. To be honest I wasn’t too  impressed by her exterior either. Clearly no mirrors in her seaside abode – nor a hairbrush!

What Queen Elizabeth may have lacked on the outside she  certainly made up for indoors.

Welcome onboard Queen Elizabeth The welcome on board was warm and the carpets sumptuous. No bling bling. Just beautiful craftmanship with highly polished wood everywhere and chandeliers that glisten and ooze indulgence. Step back and immerse yourself in a less hurried, waiter lead world of elegant chic ! A harpist in the atrium complemented the classical timeless style. Having seen the exacting standards of the ship our cabin 5020 was exactly what we had expected. Clean , large and beautifully appointed. A giant bed and double sofa. Ensuite WC and shower room. Posh toiletries. Enough fluffy towels to dry a battalion- if we so wished. A half bottle of Pole Acker Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine , chilled to perfection was a welcoming touch.

Exploring a ship is always exciting and intriguing. What to expect? What to see first? Who will we meet? And this is what a cruise is all about – CHOICE. Do as much or as little as you wish. Eat as much as you like, you have paid for it .It’s there if you need it. Food on the ship is available 24 hours each and every day. Fancy a steak at 3 am no problem!

Our fellow passengers were a wide cross section of human evolution. Blazers, tweeds, Burberry, Gucci, tee-shirt, shorts, jeans, trainers and fleeces. Hand bags , man bags and carry bags.

The Golden Lion Pub - Queen Elizabeth Although Queen Elizabeth is massive, the design of the ship always make it feel intimate.We found our way easily around the ship, exploring nooks and crannies, public rooms and bars. The two storey library has a book to suit all tastes. The Garden Lounge is lovely-conservatory style space set below a roof of glass. The Golden Lion pub is 100% British serving English pub grub and hosting  a nightly karaoke. Cafe Carinthia serves fine coffee and tea and pastries.

There are lots of public spaces with comfy chairs everywhere. Lots of shops too. It’s easy to get carried away in this cashless society. Just flash your cabin card and it’s yours, free , until you get your final bill on the last day.

A useful tip. Cabins on the left of the ship (port side) have a red strip woven in the carpet. Starboard – a blue strip. If the cabin numbers are increasing then you are heading aft- to the rear of the ship. A decreasing cabin number means that the bow-front – is approaching.

Life on board the Queen Elizabeth. Nautical but nice!

We both had a wonderfully comfortable first night’s sleep. The bed, oh so soft, as cosy as my nan’s feather bed.

Queen Elizabeth had sailed through the big storm really well. The juddering and rolling of the ship had lulled us to sleep. The North Sea looked grubby, and vast salty spray had cleansed the storm battered decks. No chance of a seat on the balcony today. A huge sea ,a growling wind , crashing and banging.

This rough and tumble sea was playing games with our air – conditioned floating palace. Outside the wind was biting but inside QE was lovely and warm.

And some other good news. For a January day it was actually not as cold as it should be at this time of year. So no icebergs to contend with today!

Britannia Restaurant - Queen Elizabeth Breakfast was in the Britannia restaurant – a beautiful art-deco two storey room with a sweeping staircase. Service was relaxed, but superb. Some may say slow but we had nothing else to do – we were going with the flow, literally. We both had a Full English. We always do on holiday and it was gorgeous. Especially the corned beef hash and chef’s smoothie of the day.

The couple next to us had a Full German. Pancakes, syrup , and smelly cheese and assorted breads. Who said the Germans’ don’t have a sense of humour? And the couple on our left had a Half French! A croissant, a glass of orange and a cup , half a cup , of black coffee. Both sat motionless, staring at each other, speechless too with arms crossed. Clearly mardy as hell with each other. C’est la vie. Only three more days to go in each other’s company.

The Queens Room, deck 2, was our favourite part of the ship, close to the Royal Arcade of shops. This lavish ballroom has a wonderful dance floor. At  night ” gentleman hosts” scour the room for single ladies then whisk them effortlessly around the wooden floor . The music provided by a live band (the imaginatively named Queens Room Orchestra) and the vocalist Paul Ritchie creating a perfect mood.

During the day we sat and read and observed. Some oversized, overstuffed passengers just lay motionless in their chairs waking only to eat and drink.

I read “Naked” by David Sedaris. He is a wonderful humorist and his observations are wickedly funny. His piece on being in a nudist colony had me laughing out loud. Check out this American if you can.

Queen Elizabeth - Cunard We sat and watched the popular cha cha cha dance class. At  12.15 the room filled. I counted at least 100 people on the dance floor , all enjoying the tuition by Olga and Sergey- complete with an accent straight from the “meerkat advert”.

At 3.30pm every table was full and a queue began to form outside the room too. It was time for Cunard’s famous white star service afternoon tea. Efficiently served by smiling, friendly white gloved waiters. Crustless sandwiches, as many as you wanted, scones and cream and jam ,and  a great cake selection. Washed down with freshly brewed tea. Cups, saucers, and plates all edged with a single strand of Cunard gold. Wedgewood of course! Accompanied on the piano by Dmitry. Truly English, Truly decadent And wonderful!

Food glorious food. The ship was awash with food. QE served up amazing cuisine. This is culinary Torvill and Dean. Meals as good as in any posh restaurant on the mainland. Highly anticipated, the choice and presentation never failed to tantalize and challenge our taste buds.

At every evening meal there was so much choice. At least five appetizers and soups , two salads, six mains and six desserts were on offer. My favourite was a Vanilla Lemon Souffle with Limoncello sauce. Outstanding. Nautical but nice! Steaks are always cooked to perfection. And the Grilled Sirloin Steak with String Beans, Pont Neuf Potatoes with Mushroom and Pepper Sauce was a popular choice.

Queens Room- Queen Elizabeth, Cunard Cunard has a strict dress code though I did see a few flouting the rules. After 6 pm a jacket is required for men, tie optional. Cocktail dress , stylish separates or equivalent to be worn by the ladies. This is a major difference to our P&O cruise but it was really nice to dress up and feel part of this very special ship. Five star of course.

We had the pleasure of seeing The Beatles Experience in the sumptuous Royal Court Theatre. Designed in opera style, spanning three decks and having 20  “royal private boxes”. And this tribute group were superb and sounded so much like the real thing.

So much other musical choices were on offer on the cruise. An ABBA night, live music with Nexus, karaoke , pianists , a harpist, DJ Chris in the Yacht Club, the orchestra in the ballroom

Time to disembark – briefly – and explore Hamburg

Hamburg Hamburg is a perfect short break destination. Germany’s second city and “gateway to the world” Situated on the North bank of The Elbe river,it lies 62 miles inland from the North Sea.

Industrial yes but this city shaped by water has a Venetian charm with lakes , canals and over 2000 bridges. Very pretty too. Hamburg’s historic Speicherstadt is the world’s largest warehouse complex. This area of industrial units, surrounded by cobbled streets and canals is atmospheric and beautiful.

Even without the missing “e” the Miniatur Wunderland is amazing. An extraordinary world of trains , boats and planes-which even take off and land! Find this inside one of these brick warehouses. The drab exterior doesn’t prepare you for what’s inside. We spent hours here.

Hamburg is edgy, seedy too. The notorious Reeperbahn is the red light district and a popular attraction. It is the centre of the city’s nightlife. It  was here where The Beatles cut their teeth. No wonder John Lennon said ” I was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg”-probably very quickly !

Miniatur Wunderland - Hamburg Our day in Germany was over very quickly and we returned to QE feeling very tired. We made our usual afternoon bee line to the Lido restaurant. This very good self service restaurant has a good selection of food. Pizza is made to order. Puddings, hot and cold , and cakes are very tempting. A useful place to keep hunger at bay until our evening meal.

It rained all the way back from Germany , as it had for most of the cruise. The winds and sea were such that no one was allowed out on deck for health and safety reasons. But it didn’t matter. We were all warm and relaxed on our floating Queen. And there was still so much to do.

The cruise had been a complete success and a wonderful post Christmas /New Year treat. Providing excellent value for money and wonderful service and food in exquisite surroundings. This had been our best cruise so far.

In 2015 Cunard celebrated 175 years of being in business. No wonder this company has survived for so long. Cunard create memorable moments, excitement and anticipation.

Here’s to the next 175 years.

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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