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By Lisa Plotnick


September 22, 2011 was a date for the history books as Cunard Line’s MS Queen Elizabeth paid her maiden call on Boston, Massachusetts. was honored to be invited to this significant event, the latest milestone in the 170-year long history of the Cunard Line’s relationship with Boston.

Our two hours onboard Queen Elizabeth included a guided tour of this magnificent vessel, covering most of the four decks on which the majority of public spaces are located. This included the ship’s largest restaurant, several lounges, and two of the most spectacular staircases I have seen onboard a passenger ship. Queen Elizabeth is a beautiful ship that combines elegance, comfort, and a nod to history—a combination that I found most appealing.


Ship Facts

Queen Elizabeth was built at Fincantieri Shipyard near Trieste, Italy and made her maiden voyage in October 2010. At 90,900 gross tons, she is the next-to-largest Cunarder ever built, slightly eclipsing near-sister Queen Victoria. She is 965 feet in length, which is actually 66 feet shy of that of her namesake, RMS Queen Elizabeth, and just two feet longer than Queen Elizabeth 2.


Her passenger capacity is 2,068, providing for a comfortable space-per-passenger ratio of 44.0. This is comparable to that of the other ships of the Vista and modified Vista classes of ship used by Holland America, P&O, and Costa Cruise lines. Even so, Queen Elizabeth is unmistakably a Cunard ship, evoking the art deco interior design of the first Queen Elizabeth and honoring the history of both of her predecessors.




Ship Tour

Our guided tour began amidships on
Deck 2, where I was immediately drawn to two areas that let me know for certain that I was on a Cunarder. To the starboard was the Bookshop, a staple of Cunard ships, that was actually open for passengers while at dock. To port were three glass-enclosed display cases featuring memorabilia from RMS Queen Elizabeth, including photographs, menus, news clippings, and other reminders of the classic liner for which today’s Queen Elizabeth is named. This was a grand entrance that definitely set the stage for what I was about to see in the next hour.


Continuing forward on Deck 2, we passed the Queens Room, where passengers were enjoying afternoon tea, a daily ritual held at 4:00 pm. This is a stunning room and my favorite among those I saw. The large dance floor is flanked by several seating areas, including tables alongside the windows. Décor is magnificent, including murals in the starboard section, massive light fixtures above the dance floor, and stained glass that adorns the upper portion of the walls that extend to Deck 3.  While most other areas of the ship were fairly empty on this port day, the Queens Room was alive with activity during our visit.



We made a quick passage through the Golden Lion Pub which, when the ship is at sea, offers a variety of beer and cider. This lounge is richly decorated in shades of burgundy, and etched glass dividers add to the ambiance. The Casino is located nearby, open to the lower level of the two-deck high Royal Arcade, home to the majority of Queen Elizabeth’s shops.


The focal point of this area is a set of curved staircases that connect Deck 2 with the shops on Deck 3. The large, art deco overhead lamps and the classic clock between the two staircases brings one back to the earlier era the designers intended to evoke.


Forward of the Royal Arcade on Deck 2 is the middle level of the three-deck high Royal Court Theatre. This 832-seat venue offers passengers the option to book private boxes for a fee, which includes luxuries such as a concierge, champagne, canapés, and printed tickets.


From there, we took the forward stairtower (pictured above, right) up one level to Deck 3. Along the way, we admired one of the oil paintings of Cunard liners by renowned artist Robert Lloyd that grace the landings of this stairtower.


Deck 3 consists of multiple public areas with various purposes. Our tour became fast-paced at this point as we walked through the top level of the Royal Arcade, passing numerous shops, an art gallery, and an Internet café. Much of this deck is open to the deck below, reminiscent of a layout I enjoyed on Queen Elizabeth 2. Also nearby is the upper deck of the two-level library, an area we passed by too quickly for me to photograph, yet one in which I know I’d spend many hours if a passenger.


We soon passed by the main focal point of the ship, the magnificent Grand Lobby. This three-level atrium is where you’ll find what is perhaps the most widely photographed artwork on the ship—a two-deck high mural of wood veneer inlay depicting the first Queen Elizabeth. This likeness and its art deco styling set the mood for the current Queen Elizabeth by clearly evoking and paying tribute to her beloved namesake.


I took an instant liking to the Midships Bar, located adjacent to the Grand Lobby on Deck 3. The rich paneling, sepia wall maps, and art deco styling facilitated a step back in time to the heyday of the great ocean liners. The table lamps, in particular, reminded me of those in the Observation Bar on Queen Mary, which I’d had the pleasure of visiting several years earlier in Long Beach.

Our whirlwind tour of Deck 3 concluded in the Britannia Restaurant, where most passengers take their evening meals. The two-deck high venue was magnificent and strikingly elegant, with a grand staircase, multiple faux wood columns, art deco style lighting, and an impressive glass mural. Passengers in the Grill categories dine in more private settings, which we did not see on our tour, yet I would be more than pleased to dine in the beautiful surroundings of the Britannia Restaurant.


From there, we took the elevator to Deck 9, bypassing the decks (5 through 8, inclusive) that consisted solely of passenger cabins. While waiting for the rest of our party, I admired the railing detail on the aft stairtower.

The aft portion of this deck is outdoors, and we were given time to explore the blue-tiled Lido Pool and to take in the 270-degree view. (Today’s view included the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, which was berthed just behind us.)

The tour continued with a walk through the Lido Restaurants, located just forward of the pool. One of two main areas was serving, and a handful of passengers were enjoying tea and snacks. I was impressed with the French doors that opened into this area, as well as the multiple seating areas—some by the windows, and some flanked by beautiful artwork.

The next stop—at which we lingered for a little while—was also one I enjoyed. Located between the Lido Restaurants and the mid-ships pool is the beautiful Garden Lounge. This room was inspired by a similar space on the original Queen Elizabeth, featuring a comfortable seating area within glass walls and ceiling to provide shelter from inclement weather while giving the feeling of being outdoors.



After a quick glimpse of the mid-ships pool, properly called the Pavilion Pool, we took the forward stairwell to Deck 10. (We did not see the spa, which is located forward on Deck 9.) Our tour of Deck 10 included just the forward part of the deck, yet a lot of history and charm was packed into this relatively small area.


After ascending the stairwell (there are elevators nearby), we were guided to the Commodore Club, which overlooked the bow of the ship. If my dream of creating a nautical room in my home should become a reality, the Commodore Club would serve as a worthy inspiration. While the venue included walls of windows and a lovely bar area, my eyes were more drawn to the various ship models and artwork that filled the room. Comfortable and ample seating in many styles added to the ambiance.

Fittingly, the corridors leading to the Commodore Club—both port and starboard—are also a tribute to Cunard history—in this case, that of MS Queen Elizabeth herself. Inaugural plaques are arranged neatly on the walls. I was impressed by the number of places she had visited in just her first eleven months in service. Also of interest was the bell from her predecessor, Queen Elizabeth 2.

Our final stop was the Yacht Club, located just aft of this area and overlooking the Pavilion Pool. As this was the room in which the inaugural visit festivities were to be held, I had time to record my thoughts in my notebook. “This is a beautiful room. One small bar, a small bandstand, and comfortable seating with tables surround a circular dance floor. A dripping chandelier is the room’s focal point. Windows span 180 degrees at floor level, and 360 degrees above a band of artwork depicting nautical flags and below a beautiful painted sky.” This is a perfect setting for an intimate gathering, as I was about to experience first-hand.


Inaugural Visit Ceremony


As mentioned in the opening of this article, the main activity taking place onboard today was a ceremony to honor MS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden call on Boston, Massachusetts. The Cunard Line and the City of Boston have a long relationship, dating back to 1840 when Cunard’s first passenger ship, Britannia, called on Boston during her own maiden voyage.


This historic relationship was the central theme of the official inaugural visit ceremonies. During the plaque exchanges, all presenters—including highly personable Captain Christopher Wells, and representatives of the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the British Consulate of Boston, and the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port of Boston—related  stories of Cunard and Boston’s shared past. This included the retelling of the rescue of Britannia from the iced-over Boston Harbor in 1844 by “horse-drawn ice plows.” A highlight—other than the presentation of the inaugural visit plaque to Captain Wells by Massport—was the gift of a stunning Boston Harbor Bowl from Boston jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low. This was another nod to history, as this same jeweler had presented Cunard Line with a gift upon the line’s first visit to Boston in 1840. (The nineteenth-century Boston Cup now resides on Queen Mary 2.)

This was a most remarkable ceremony that I was honored to attend. Captain Wells was a most gracious host, and mentioned that he was “very appreciative” that so many of us came out to welcome them.


Closing Thoughts

Even if you are not a history buff, Queen Elizabeth is filled with treasures. Her interiors are grand—combining wood veneer with marble, and muted tones with the occasional pop of color. She is elegant while unpretentious. And, for the maritime history aficionado, she is a floating museum (albeit from more recent periods). Two hours onboard MS Queen Elizabeth was clearly not enough time to take in all the beauty of this ship, yet was a magnificent way to get a feel for this newest Cunarder, one that is destined to become a classic in her own right.


(Above: The Nautical Notebook attends inaugural visit ceremonies.)

Two Hours Onboard... Queen Elizabeth

September 2011