I was so privileged to be among the invited guests at the Naming Ceremony of Cunard’s latest ship Queen Elizabeth. It was a truly amazing experience from start to finish.
We arrived just after 1.00pm and were among the first to check in at Ocean Terminal where Queen Elizabeth was sat basking in the glorious October sunshine. Of course the red carpet was out! And I chose to dress in the Cunard colours of red and black, ok I admit it was a fluke, but hopefully it looked good too. Hat, or no hat was the hardest decision to make, but as etiquette suggests a hat when in the presence of the Queen, I went with hat!
We were among the first to check in and ushered to the far end of the terminal for a champagne and canapé reception. Al lively 1930’s band played and sang songs from the appropriate era and the party had started. Champagne was very free flowing, and the air full of excitement.
We were guided down to the grand arena at 2.30pm and we took or seats. Celebrity spotting became the pastime as more and more guests arrived. We spotted Sir Jimmy Saville, Liz Dawn, Esther Ranzen, Alan Whicker, Sir Ben Kingsley, Judith Charmers, Shaw Taylor, Alan Titchmarsh, Nicolas Owen, Terry Waite, Carol Vauderman, Jan Leaming, Robert Powell and Simon Weston. Im sure there were many more, but those were the ones that we spotted. We also had great fun spotting Captains of P&O past and present, which I can assure you is quite difficult to put the correct names to faces when they are not in uniform
The Queen was obviously taken with the ship that has her name as she was late disembarking and we could see her on the big screens touring the ship and she made us all jump when she was allowed to blow the ships horn!
The proceedings got under way with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. We had the full marching band of Band and Piper of the Goldstream Guards, Band of the Scots Gaurds and Fanfare of Trumpeters of the Irish Gaurd. The Queen arrived by car into the Grand Arena and took her seat next to Micky Arison. Peter Shanks welcomed all to this historic occasion. Lesley Garret CBE, sang Amazing Grace, just as she had done at the Queen Mary naming ceremony. There was also an amazing young chorister by the name of Alexander Howard-Williams. The Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt, Lord Bishop of Winchester offered the prayer of blessing and then Captain Wells invited Her Majesty the Queen to perform the naming, and she spoke those immortal words ‘I name this ship Queen Elizabeth…’ the bottle broke, the steamers went off and the fireworks soared to the sky. Indescribable, but totally unforgettable from start to finish! I had said a while back that I really hoped the Cunard would name Queen Elizabeth with a full traditional dockside ceremony and they certainly granted my wish. An afternoon full of pomp and circumstance, befitting of such an elegant and traditional ship.
So, now it was our turn to board, but not before being dragged to one side and a TV camera thrust in my face! I doubt it made it to air as I was for once almost lost for words!
Much has been said about the actual interior of the ship, but Queen Victoria she is not. Of course, there are going to be similarities. The ship is of the same layout, with mainly the same rooms etc, but Cunard have gone a few steps further with Queen Elizabeth and the attention to detail was obvious to me. I did manage to get a look at all parts of the ship, apart from the suites. There simply wasnt time before the champagne reception and dinner, and when I went exploring after dinner all show staterooms and suites were closed in preparation for the Maiden Voyage guests. Games Deck is among the most obvious addition to Queen Elizabeth forward of deck 11 with favourites such as paddle tennis, bowls and croquet all under shade from the midday sun. I really liked the look of the new Brittannia Club where guests that book AA grade Brittanin staterooms can enjoy single seating dining in this restaurant. The Verandah Grill restaurants onboard the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were among the most exclusive restaurants of their day. The Verandah on Queen Elizabeth aims to offer exquisite food and impeccable service with menuus created by Chef Zimmermann, who has paid hommage to his homeland and created a menu of fine French cuisine.
We dined in Princess Grill which I was thrilled about. The Chef had prepared a special menu for the evening and it was all lovely. Cunard Graves wine was served and service through out was impeccable.
We had a fantastic evening onboard thanks to two wonderfully entertaining Cunard officers who escorted us from venue to venue and always made sure our glasses were never empty, then they took us dancing until the wee small hours in the Yacht Club. But we outlasted them, mind you they did have a ship to look after so we should let them off. Truly fabulous hosts though, so thanks boys.
I had the briefest encounter with my new Sealey Cunard mattress. Our time together seemed to last only a nano second before it was time to get out again and pack up the belongings that seemed strewn across our stateroom (I blame Lizy)
In short Queen Elizabeth oozes glamour, style and sophistication, and Cunard have captured that art deco glamour amazingly well. Dare I say ….. she is my new favourite!
Photos of the day from start to finish are all available here or by selecting the ‘Photo’ tab at the top of the page