I boarded the ship at Auckland's newest cruise terminal, Shed 10 on Queen's Wharf. The check-in process was streamlined and easy. I simply handed my luggage to staff at the terminal who labelled it with my name and cabin number, then handed over my passport and set up my onboard account with my credit card at the check in counter. After receiving my Cruise Card and going through customs, I was away and free to explore the ship. The quick and easy check-in procedure was much appreciated by me and other passengers, as it meant a stress-free start to the holiday. I also found the tender process easy when I got off the ship to wander through the shops and markets in Paihia. After breakfast I got my tender ticket and waited for the staff to call my number. I only had to wait about five minutes before my number was called and the next tender was ready to ferry us across.
The ship! My first impression was one of elegance and beauty, which was due to the lovely artwork, polished wood, plush carpets and the chandeliers. My cabin on deck six had a balcony and plenty of space for me to stretch out when I wasn't out and about, which wasn't often. The cupboards had a lot of hanging space, which is great for the dresses required for formal nights, but there wasn't much in the way of drawer space. I found the bed comfortable and loved being able to sit out on my balcony with a book and get a bit of fresh air. A favourite feature was the moveable partitions between the balconies- so when my friend in the cabin next door and I wanted a few drinks together on the balcony we could combine balconies and had more space to share.
Over the next five days, when I wasn't exploring the gorgeous and sunny Bay of Islands during the port stop, I was exploring the ship and taking advantage of its many facilities. The Queen Elizabeth has two swimming pools on deck nine, the Pavilion and the Lido as well as four whirlpool spas. Deck eleven has a games area and I really enjoyed trying my hand at croquet and bowls- which again felt a little old-fashioned and fitting with the style of a Cunard cruise. There is also a tennis court and a giant chess board, as well as a library for the readers.
I gave the spa a go on day 4, and took advantage of one of the daily specials which are advertised in the daily newsletter. It is very important to read these as they often contain very useful information! My massage was wonderful. I also found the Garden Lounge a great place to go to relax, drink a smoothie or a few cocktails, and read a book. Almost as good as a spa treatment!
Organised activities, shows and events is one area where Cunard really shines, with traditional cruising activities and new ventures. The very popular Cunard High Tea was certainly a highlight, served by white-gloved waiters and complete with cucumber sandwiches and scones. There was a band playing beautiful background music, and it truly felt like an experience of times gone by. Bingo was also a lot of fun. Dancing is an important part of life onboard a Cunard ship, especially ballroom, so I had to try out some ballroom and latin dancing in the Queen's Room. It was a great way to interact with other passengers- and some of them could really dance!
The Royal Court Theatre has an array of shows, with entertainment every night. I caught a movie there one afternoon, and on different evenings during the cruise I saw a broadway-style musical, a local kiwi musician and a Traditional Aboriginal Dance show. All were wonderful and I loved the variety.
The main dining room where I ate a lot of my delicious meals is the lovely Britannia restaurant, but I also tried out the Verandah, a french-inspired restaurant which is just divine! I tried the pan-seared scallops with lime butter and herb printed pasta with truffle emulsion, and loved it all. The surcharge here is charged per dish. My favourite lunch spot was the Golden Lion Pub, which is pretty unique to Cunard. It is included in the cruise fare, and serves up real English pub cuisine. My favourite traditional dish was the fish and chips complete with mushy peas. It was a fantastic atmosphere and they even had a great band playing over lunchtime.
I stayed a night in Sydney, so had the chance to get off the ship and do some shopping!Disembarkation on Sunday was as easy as embarkation, so I was quickly on my way, sad to be leaving but grateful for the experience and the opportunity to have learnt more about Cunard and the Queen Elizabeth.
Have a look here for upcoming Queen Elizabeth cruises!