Queen Elizabeth History

The Queen Elizabeth

Alongside in Auckland

Queen Elizabeth is a sister ship to Queen Victoria. Like the QV, her design has been modified from previous Vista-Class cruise ships. Capable of carrying up to 2,092 passengers, she is currently the second largest Cunard ship ever built, after Queen Mary 2, though the title of second largest Cunarder will soon pass to the New Cunard Ship.

Queen Elizabeth’s name was released 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 ship was built at Fincantieri Monfalcone Shipyard, Italy, the shipyard responsible for Queen Victoria’s successful construction.

Modified Vista Class

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

The Cunarders 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 between Southampton and New York, as well as ensure fleet commonality with the companies flagship QM2.

Cunard-specific changes include:

  • 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, and Cunard-style mast.

Decor and Design

Although having an almost identical interior layout to the Queen Victoria, the decor aboard Queen Elizabeth is noticeably different. The ship is a tribute to the previous Queen Elizabeth’s, with Cunard saying the interior “echos the era of the 1930s”. It was during this time that Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth was launched, and that ship was completed with an art deco interior. As such, the current Queen Elizabeth sports an interior decor heavily influenced by Art Deco style.

Queen Elizabeth features a Britannia Club restaurant, which was a feature popular on the Queen Mary 2. This service allows passengers in the best Britannia grade Staterooms to have single-seating dining arrangements in a specialty restaurant, without having to upgrade to the more expensive Grills Class.

On 18 September, 2008 the first steel plates for the Queen Elizabeth were cut. 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 keel laying. Over the next few 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, and On the top deckQueen Elizabeth was floated out in January 2010. The incomplete ship was relocated to a fitting out basin at Fincantieri.

During September 2010 Queen Elizabeth underwent her 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 Monday 11 October 2010, while alongside the new Ocean Terminal. She was originally given the historic callsign of GBTT, previously held by Queen Elizabeth 2 (1967-2008) and Queen Mary (1936 – 1967), but this was later changed when the ship was re-registered in Bermuda.

The ship set sail for her Maiden Voyage on Tuesday 12 October 2010, with a full complement of passengers.

Service Career

In early 2011 the ship set sail on her first World Cruise. This voyage started with Queen Elizabeth completing a tandem transatlantic crossing alongside Queen Victoria. At the end of the crossing, the ships were met by QM2 for a ‘meeting of the Queens’ in New York, 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 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 the historic moment.

For most of 2011 Queen Elizabeth concentrated on a number of European Cruises as well as completing a popular Round Britain voyage in September 2011.

On 24 October 2011 the ship was re-registered in Hamilton, Bermuda. As the first ship in the fleet to be re-registered, she became 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 was originally met with negativity in the local media and among loyalists, but the Bermudan registry has allowed 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, during which time the Commodore’s unique pointed Cunard pennant flew from her forepeak. However when Commodore Rynd moved to Queen Victoria in 2013, Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge – Cunard’s first female Captain – became primary master of Queen Elizabeth.

In 2017, Queen Elizabeth rendezvoused with Queen Mary 2 in Sydney. This was the second time these two vessels had crossed paths in Sydney, yet it drew big crowds and significant media attention including features on Sky News and the ABC.

In September 2017, Queen Elizabeth hosted a special cruise in honour of the QE2’s 50th Anniversary. The “QE2’s 50th Anniversary Voyage” paid tribute to the launch of QE2 and included special guests such as Commodore Warwick, Captain McNaught and Maureen Ryan.

In early 2018 Queen Elizabeth embarked on her annual world cruise. This voyage included an extended Australian season that quickly sold out. The following year, Queen Elizabeth returned to Australian waters for the summer, before sailing north to re-establish Cunard’s Alaskan presence after a 20 year absence!

The ship’s popularity and ability to easily complete long-duration voyages led Cunard to position her in Australia, Japan and Alaska – with the ship arriving in Fremantle, Australia in December 2019. She was not expected to return to Southampton for well over a year.

An Unprecedented Year

2020 commenced with Queen Elizabeth sailing on Australian itineraries. In mid-January the ship sailed to New Zealand, calling at various ports including the national capital, Wellington.

February saw the ship return to Australia, to undertake a variety of cruises from east coast ports. While alongside in Melbourne, the ship underwent maintenance operations where a telecommunications radome replaced. The position of the radome, atop Queen Elizabeth’s open decks, meant a specialised crane was required. High winds had hampered an earlier effort to replace the radome earlier in the year. However despite it being a breezy day, the radome replacement was successfully completed on 19 February.

By late February the world was experiencing the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus spread around the world, Cunard altered Queen Elizabeth’s 2020 itinerary. The ship’s scheduled sailings to Japan were cancelled, and a new collection of Australian voyages were released on 21 February.

These cruises included the ship’s first ever circumnavigation of Australia – planned to take place in March 2020. However these voyages were permanently shelved in mid-March when the global cruise pause came onto effect. At the time the pause was implemented, Queen Elizabeth was berthed in Sydney at the end of a Tasmanian voyage. Here she disembarked all passengers.

After a brief period of layup off the Queensland coast, the ship sailed for the Philippines. This relocation was due largely to the Australian cruise ban, which prohibits foreign flagged cruise ships from entering Australian ports.

The ship remained at layup off Manila Bay until July 2020, in the company of over a dozen other laid up cruise ships. By July stage, it was becoming increasingly clear that the 2020 season would be disrupted long term – so the ship finally sailed back to Southampton, via the Suez Canal.

In the months since, Queen Elizabeth has been laid up at anchorage points off the southern coast of the UK. She is not expected to resume service until 2021.