T+L traveled to Barcelona to see what it's like to spend a day on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.

By Sherri Eisenberg
January 12, 2011
Cunard Line, Queen Elizabeth, cruise, formal night, staircase
Credit: Courtesy Cunard Line

5:30 a.m.: Captain Christopher Wells, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, heads to the bridge to dock the 90,900-ton ship in Barcelona’s port, steering with a wheel smaller than a car’s.

7 a.m.: Five of the nine dining rooms open for breakfast so that the 2,068 passengers can start their day with smoked finnan haddie, rashers (a.k.a. English bacon), 14 types of sausage, and more.

8 a.m.: Guests disembark for shore excursions such as a behind-the-scenes peek at a private apartment designed by Antoni Gaudí or tapas-making lessons at a local cooking school.

8:30 a.m.: Housekeeping begins the five-hour process of cleaning the 1,034 Art Deco–influenced cabins and 541 staff quarters.

Noon: Croquet, anyone? Passengers who remain on board can choose from activities including fencing, poolside yoga, or an acupuncture facial in the spa.

3 p.m.: Afternoon tea is served in the Garden Lounge. The dough is made the night before, but the 600 scones (accompanied by 26 pounds of Devonshire clotted cream) don’t go into the oven until just before teatime.

5 p.m.: All aboard for the sail-away party. Wells joins everyone on deck to blow noisemakers as the ship departs for Monte Carlo, Monaco. Then he’s off to cocktail parties, followed by dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. How to snag a seat at the captain’s table? You may have a shot if you “write in and ask,” Wells says.

5:15 p.m.: Passengers don gowns and tuxedos for formal night. In the 66 Queens Grill suites, butlers are on hand to assist with the proper tying of bow ties.

6 p.m.: Parents who wish to dine alone drop their children off at the nursery, which is helmed by certified British nannies (think Mary Poppins).

6:15 p.m.: The first of two dinner seatings has begun in the Britannia, which spans two deck levels. The formal-night menu—lobster thermidor; beef Wellington—harks back to the golden era of cruising.

6:30 p.m.: Once the ship sets sail, the shopping arcade reopens. In addition to the first floating Fortnum & Mason (with rare teas for sale), there are boutiques that sell Anya Hindmarch and Harris Tweed.

9 p.m.: Guests can dance to an eight-piece band in the ballroom, try a hand of blackjack in the casino, catch a play from the first resident theater company at sea, or head to the Grills terrace, on deck 12, to stargaze through a pair of telescopes as the ship crosses the Mediterranean.