QE History

Building Queen Elizabeth

Alongside in Auckland

Queen Elizabeth is a sister ship to Queen Victoria. Her design has been modified from previous Vista-class vessels, meaning that she will be slightly larger than her sister at 92,000 gross tons, largely due to a more vertical stern. Capable of carrying up to 2,092 passengers, she will be the second largest Cunard ship ever built, after Queen Mary 2. The name of the ship was announced by Cunard on 10 October 2007, with the emphasis on the fact that the company would have three Queens, once again after the retirement of the QE2.

The Queen Elizabeth is similar in design to her sister ship Queen Victoria, although because of the steeper stern, her passenger capacity is slightly higher (2092 to Queen Victoria’s 2014). Also because of this difference, the largest suites at the stern of the Queen Elizabeth have smaller balconies than those found aboard Queen Victoria. At the forward end of Deck 11, there is a glass roof covering the games deck, unlike the open sports deck on the Queen Victoria.

Modified Vista Class

Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are modified Vista Class designs. The Vista Class is a design created for Holland America Line (also owned by Carnival Corp) and has since been used by P&O, Costa and Cunard.

The Cunard ships are unique among the Vista Class, having had a number of alterations made specifically at the request of Cunard.

These alterations allow the ships to undertake direct transatlantic crossings, as well as ensure fleet commonality with the companies flagship QM2, and in Queen Victoria’s case, the QE2.

Changes included:

  • Reinforced hull plating on the bow to allow for direct transatlantic crossings,
  • Additional length added to the hull and superstructure to accommodate the Grills Restaurants and Queens Room,
  • Removal of glass lifts (elevators) from the exterior of the vessels for strengthening purposes, and
  • Inclusion of Cunard funnel design based on QE2’s, with scoop and cowling.

Decor and Design

Although having an almost identical interior layout to the Queen Victoria, the decor aboard Queen Elizabeth is very different. The ship is a tribute to the two previous Cunard Elizabeth’s: the original Queen Elizabeth and the QE2. Cunard state the interior “echo the era of the 1930s”, in which Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth was launched, with many art deco interior touches.

The ship also features a Britannia Club section of the main restaurant, a feature popular on the Queen Mary 2, but not available on the Queen Victoria. This service allows passengers in the Britannia staterooms to have single-seating dining arrangements, without having to upgrade to the more expensive Grills classes.

On 18 September, 2008 the first steel plates were cut, while the maiden voyage went on sale in April 2009, and sold out in 29 minutes! On 2 July 2009 a special ceremony was held to mark the laying of the keel and in the ensuing 6 months the ship grew in size until she was ready for float out. On 3 September 2009, Captain Chris Wells was appointed as Queen Elizabeth’s first master.

On the top deckQueen Elizabeth was floated out in January 2010 and was relocated to the fitting out basin at Fincantieri Monfalcone Shipyard, Italy. During September 2010 Queen Elizabeth underwent a series of sea trials which were successfully completed. The ship visited the dry dock for final inspections and mechanical reviews at the completion of her trails.

She was named by HM. The Queen in Southampton while alongside the new Ocean Terminal on Monday 11 October 2010. She was further given the historic callsign of GBTT, previously held by Queen Elizabeth 2 (1967-2008) and Queen Mary (1936 – 1967). The ship set sail for her Maiden Voyage on Tuesday 12 October 2010 which had sold out in 29 minutes after going on sale!

Service Career

In early 2011 the ship set sail on her maiden World Cruise. This voyage saw the ship undertake a tandem transatlantic crossing alongside Queen Victoria. At the end of the crossing, the ships were met by QM2 for a historic ‘meeting of the Queens’ which drew a sizeable crowd. Queen Elizabeth later transited the Panama Canal for the first time before heading south to New Zealand and Australia.

In March 2011 the new Queen Elizabeth briefly shared a berth with her predecessor, QE2, in Dubai. So high was the public interest in this event, that Cunard chartered a special helicopter flight to capture photographs of this historic moment. For most of 2011 Queen Elizabeth concentrated on a number of European Cruises as well as a historic Round Britain voyage in September 2011.

On 24 October 2011 the ship was re-registered in Hamilton, Bermuda. She has the unique title of being the first Cunard Queen to be registered outside of the United Kingdom. At the same time, the ship’s historic British call sign of GBTT was changed to ZCEF2, marking the end of the use of a call sign that has been a Cunard trademark since Queen Mary first used it in 1967. The change allows Cunard to offer wedding packages aboard the Queen Elizabeth with marriage ceremonies being performed by the ship’s Captain.

Queen Elizabeth was commanded by Commodore Christopher Rynd during her 2012 season, allowing the ship to fly the Commodore’s unique Cunard pennant from her forepeak. Since Commodore Rynd returned to Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth’s primary master has been Captain Inger Olsen; Cunard’s first female Captain.

In 2017, Queen Elizabeth rendezvoused with Queen Mary 2 in Sydney. The second time these two vessels had crossed paths in Sydney, it drew big crowds and high media attention. In September 2017, Queen Elizabeth hosted a special cruise. Titled “QE2’s 50th Anniversary Voyage” it was a tribute to the famous QE2 and included special guests such as Commodore Warwick and Captain McNaught.

2018 saw Queen Elizabeth embark on another world cruise while announcements were made that she would enjoy an extended season in Australia in 2019 and 2020.

QE2 50th Anniversary Celebration Video