We arrived at the brand new Cunard Queen Elizabeth last night, after flying over from the United States. This is the same ship I had a chance to visit in the shipyard in Montfalcone, Italy just over one month ago, when she was still merely steel struts and miles of untamed bolts of wire and pipe. Today, she is a real ship, a finished product - except for one very important step.
True, we are already referring to the this vessel by the name Queen Elizabeth, but she has not yet received her name according to the shipbuilding traditional as old as mankind can remember. The honor of naming this ship will be bestowed upon her at 4:00 Greenwich time when the godmother breaks the ceremonial bottle of champagne over her bow. In this case the godmother is particularly special, the Queen of England herself Her Majesty Elizabeth II.
As I write this I hear a philharmonic rehearsing the most majestic music imaginable -- along with huge choruses of men's and women's voices.
About 15 other American cruise press reporters and I are staying aboard the ship these last two days, waiting for the moment when Her Majesty will say the famous words, "God Bless this ship and all who sail upon her." At that moment, the ceremonial bottle of champagne will be broken on the bow of the ship and it will officially be named "Queen Elizabeth." I will bring you more details of that event tomorrow after I have witnessed it.
To remind you, Cunard not to name it Queen Elizabeth 3 because they want this ship to be more reminiscent of the original Queen Elizabeth that entered service in 1938, rather than the QE 2, which replaced her in 1968.
Today we had a full day to look over the rest of the ship - now fully finished since my shipyard visit in August. As expected, she is a classic beauty; highly reminiscent of the older ships but also fully in keeping with the both modern Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. The staterooms have more storage space than the Queen Victoria, but not quite as much as the Queen Mary. The ship's superstructure is almost identical to the Queen Victoria, and while the décor is similar on this ship it is far more devoted to the original Art Deco décor of the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary built in 1938.
The Royal Palace Theater is now fininshed and in full productionmode, with rehearsals and blocking for the massive amount of entertainment already underway.
The Royal Palace TheaterThe shops, the library and the Internet cafe are all ready for visitors to come and enjoy...
Both the current generation Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth are smaller versions of the mother ship, Queen Mary 2, which is about 40% larger. But the onboard feel will be very much the same regardless of which ship you sail upon, especially at night.
All three modern Cunarders have a beautiful ballroom called the Queen's Room. This room is a grand two stories tall with a full bandstand big enough for a 10-piece orchestra and a dance floor long enough for 100s of dancers to all move freely at once. It is here that they will hold the Ascot and Black and White Balls.
Similarly to the Queen Victoria, Elizabeth also has a beautiful Grand Lobby with a Dent clock, flanked by a two story library with a winding staircase and a new iLounge called "Connexxions" which features all Apple Computer products such as iMacs and iPhones.
One other difference between Queen Victoria and Elizabeth is that the alternative restaurant Todd English on Victoria has been replaced by "The Verandah," one of the original surcharge restaurants ever built on a cruise ship, back on the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships built in 1938. Then it was actually known as "The Verandah Grill" and my ship historian friend, Peter Knego, tells me that it carried just a slight cover charge, just enough to keep it very exclusive. It was known as the place where the celebrities and nobles would go not to be bothered by the hoi polloi.
The Verandah Restaurant
On today's Queen Elizabeth, it is called just "The Verandah," and we dined there yesterday for lunch. It was absolutely delicious. From my fois gras opener to my rare duck followed by a chocolate tort, accompanied with several shots of café latte, every moment of our three hour lunch was an utter joy.
We have already told you about the other subtle differences of this ship, and we will be telling your more after the ceremony tomorrow. This is a just an update keep you primed as we continue our Queen Elizabeth maming adventure.
The naming ceremony will commence at 4:00 pm, Monday, October 11, Greenwich time, U.K. Picture taking is not allowed during the ceremony but we will have access to pool photos and of course, our own vivid memories to bring the event to life for you. See you tomorrow.