Queen Anne, the new pride of Britain in her contemporary elegance, sailed into Liverpool last week, an emotional stop on a circular cruise that took in England, Scotland and both ends of Ireland. Several weeks into her illustrious life, the banks of the Mersey alongside the historic Cunard headquarters came alive with crowds as visitors joined several thousand ship guests for a modern take on a traditional naming.

It was a party stop on a cruise that celebrated passenger sailing history from Belfast to Edinburgh to Cobh on Ireland’s southern tip, and also celebrated Cunard’s lighter, more modern take on cruise travel, modern art and vibrant colours working alongside flashes of Art Deco stylish that echoed the past.

The cruise

Queen Anne in Liverpool with the Everybody Razzle Dazzle Mersey ferry by Sgt Pepper artist Peter Blake

The round-trip from Southampton paid tribute to Cunard’s past, including Titanic. The ill-fated ship was built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff, whose giant cranes still dominate the dockside, just along from the modernistic Titanic Museum. We then spent a sunny Sunday afternoon wandering around the city, popping in for a drink at the Crown Bar, the ornate gaslit pub run by the National Trust, which started serving in 1826, almost 90 years before Titanic took to the seas.

The view over Cobh, Cork

In Cobh, the port in the vast natural harbour of Cork in southern Ireland, there were more memories. This was Titanic’s departure point for her Atlantic run. There are still the remains of the wooden pier from which passengers boarded the tenders taking them to the ship, there’s the Cunard sign on an abandoned building that was once the company’s base in town, and the Titanic Experience in the White Star Line building from where Titanic’s last passengers departed..

The town has seen its share of tragedy and there is also a memorial to the passengers and crew of the Lusitania who died when she was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 – survivors were brought here.

Liverpool is the original home of Cunard, the Cunard building being one of the Three Graces, the trio of epic buildings on the Mersey waterfront. Watchers were already starting to line the banks as Queen Anne arrived in the post-dawn haze, and this was where the moving yet theatrical naming ceremony took place…

The ceremony

From left, Cunard president Katie McAlister with Ngunan Adamu, Katarina Johnson-Thomson, Mel C, Jayne Casey and Natalie Haywood

It’s a tradition that ships have a godparent, yet Cunard pushed the boundaries by announcing to the crowds that the godparent would be – the City of Liverpool.

Representing the city were five Liverpudlians – Spice Girl Mel C, Olympic heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thomson, musical director (and one-time member of post-punk band Big In Japan) Jayne Casey, restaurant entrepreneur Natalie Haywood and community leader and broadcaster Ngunan Adamu.

Hosts Emma and Matt Willis, the Big Brother presenter and Busted member husband-and-wife team, joked and steered, and youngsters from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts danced before the five godparent representatives pulled a lever and a jeroboam of champagne crashed against Queen Anne’s hull, relayed to the throng on a massive screen.

The event rounded off with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli backed by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Queen Anne later sailed away as a barrage of fireworks filled the night sky and actor/comedian Craig Charles turned his talents to the DJ desk.

The night sky is lit up as Queen Anne leaves Liverpool

The ship

Queen Anne’s pool with the Pavilion roof opened

Queen Anne can carry almost 3,000 guests, more even than flagship Queen Mary 2, and yet there’s a feeling of light and space. It’s a thoroughly modern affair yet with a constant flicker of the early days of cruising in the Art Deco patterns that swirl through the carpets, the colours of the circular Commodore Club bar where deep shades reflect in the chrome, and the Royal Court Theatre, where the near room-wide stage is draped in rich, red velvet curtains. And the two-deck high bronzed image dominating the atrium has three faces – ship, shore and more – what you see depends on where you’re standing.

The vibrant geometric design of the library belies the peacefulness and afternoon tea is served to a packed house in the Queen’s Room, which becomes a lively dance floor with life music by night and hosts choir practise, line dancing and many other activities each morning.

The library is a quiet retreat with contemporary style

Heart of the ship is the Pavilion, the pool area that’s covered by a retractable glass roof when needs be but is a place to be in any weather, with live early evening music, movies in tandem with the British Film Institute, plus posh ice-creams, the Pavilion Grill burger bar and the nutty but very nice Wellness Café – try the five-grain date and tamarind porridge with hemp seed, fig leaf and nut butter (no charge).

Food elsewhere, five courses, comes in the two-floor Britannia restaurant, or in the Queens and Princess Grills for suite passengers. Open most of the time from 6am to 12.30am is the Artisans’ Foodhall, a mega buffet, from morning fry-ups to curries and much more for dinner. The Golden Lion pub serves lunchtime pub grub and the Carinthia Lounge has smorgasbord-style open sandwiches. Sir Samuel’s is a rather splendid steakhouse, albeit with a $65 plus 15 per cent service charge (around £60). Also chargeable are Aranya (Indian), Aji wa (Japanese) and Tramonto (Italian).

There are bars wherever you walk, indoors and outdoors, sophisticated and casual, decent beers to exotic cocktails.

The entertainment

Pride & Prejudice (sort of) with creator Isobel McArthur, right, in a surprise starring role

Nowhere is Cunard’s bringing together of extremes more evident than here. This one cruise featured disparate star names – from actress Celia Imrie filling the 800-seat theatre with impish, often risqué reminiscences along with behind the scenes chat about her new wartime novel, Meet Me At Rainbow Corner, to singer Midge Ure entertaining the evening crowd with his band and hits. Then… excellent tribute act the Beatles Experience twisting and shouting, old school club comic John Martin (a writer for Ken Dodd and Jimmy Tarbuck) making us wince and guffaw, a trimmed version of outrageously funny West End hit Pride & Prejudice (sort of), with its Olivier-winning author Isobel McArthur in a last-minute starring role due to a cast sickie, and the fast-moving burlesque/cabaret/comedy/play performance Fizz. And that’s apart from string trio, Elektra violin duo, Irish duo and somewhat more regular bands.

Fizz, a frenetic show that leaves the stage for the audience

The lifestyle

A warm and welcoming Princess Grill suite

Cunard is everywhere, whether the delicate china in the suites or the Cunard gin – now one for each of the four ships, with the tangy citrus of Queen Anne a new addition. Rooms and suites have modern art with a historic touch. Our Princess Grill suite featured an arty photo of Cunard relics – glass, globe, etc – and a curious Japanese print along with the two TVs, red velvet cushions with gold woven insignia, ship-like artefacts on the dresser above the coffee machine and brassy porthole-like wall lights. Cunard might have changed but you still know it’s Cunard…

Memories of Cunard in Cobh…

How to do it

Queen Anne divides her time between the Med and northern waters, with sailings from Southampton, for her maiden season then departs Hamburg on January 7 for a 111-night world voyage. https://www.cunard.com

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Source : https://www.thetravelmagazine.net/cruise-ship-review-sailing-and-celebrating-with-queen-anne/

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