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CRUISE VIEWS

QE2: All Dolled Up With Places to Go

February 25, 2001|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

The Queen Elizabeth 2, looking spiffy despite more than three decades in service, showed off some new cosmetic surgery during its most recent call in Los Angeles, outbound on a world cruise. Although it's hard to think of the classic ocean liner as a fun ship, Cunard's acquisition by cruise giant Carnival Corp. has put new life in the old vessel without changing its British style.

The only seagoing branch of London's Harrods department store is back but has moved from One Deck to a new location with the other shops on the Royal Promenade. And the Golden Lion Pub, with its beer and skittles (a British pub game), is still in place. Our favorite seagoing library with a full-time librarian has not changed. The graceful Chart Room lounge, added in a renovation about five years ago, remains an ideal spot for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Three elegant suites have been added, each decorated in a 1930s style. The Aquatania and Carinthia are off the midship lobby on Two Deck; the secluded Caledonia Suite, tucked away in the former radio room on Boat Deck, is being marketed as a honeymoon hideaway.

Pegged just below the top-priced double-deck Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth Grand Suites, the new accommodations are assigned exclusive access to the top-of-the-line Queen's Grill restaurant with its own cocktail lounge. (Cabins aboard the QE2 are divided into four restaurant categories by price: the Queen's Grill, the slightly less expensive accommodations for the intimate Princess and Britannia Grills, the single-seating Caronia dining room and the two-seatings Mauretania dining room.)

The living room of each suite has a sofa, chairs, dining table for four and a large desk; there's a separate bedroom with king-size bed, a large marble bathroom with tub and a second bath with stall shower. We mentally compared this to the space on a transatlantic flight to London and saw a new reason to consider a crossing by sea instead of by air.

The QE2 will make 18 transatlantic crossings in 2001: nine eastbound, New York to Southampton, on April 20, May 9, June 12 and 24, July 18, Aug. 11, Sept. 4 and 16 and Oct. 4; and nine westbound, Southampton to New York, on May 3, June 6 and 18, July 12 and 24, Aug. 29, Sept. 10 and 22 and Dec. 11.

Because there are five days at sea on a six-day transatlantic crossing, considerable time can be spent on themed entertainment and activities. Families with children should consider the July 18 eastbound or the July 24 westbound sailings, which carry family shows and daily activities for children.

Music buffs might want to book the July 19 annual Floating Jazz Festival, the July 12 Piano in Concert sailing, the Aug. 29 Classical Music Festival with its dazzling "Last Night at the Proms" show, the Sept. 4 Great Songwriters of the World, the Sept. 16 opera cruise, the Oct. 4 annual Big Bands at Sea or the Dec. 11 annual Blues Cruise.

On May 19, QE2 goes to the movies with a film festival of classics introduced and discussed by leading film critics. Foodies should consider the Chef's Palate sailing on June 24, book buffs the Great Authors Literary Festival on June 18, and dance fans the Dance, Dance, Dance crossing on Aug. 29.

The QE2 Fine Arts Festival is scheduled for the June 6 westbound crossing; comedians take over during the Make 'Em Laugh sailing eastbound Aug. 11 and also perform for Life Is a Cabaret Sept. 22 on the westbound crossing.

But you'll have music whenever you go aboard the QE2 because the ship has a new entertainment team of 11 singers and dancers called Broadway Bound. Produced by the New York Theater Company, shows in the repertoire include "Enter the Guardsman," "The Wonderful World of Sammy Cahn" and a unique production of "South Pacific" that includes the and volunteers from the passengers who take on-board acting classes.

A Book-Early Savings Tariff knocks off as much as 30% from the brochure prices for a crossing, making the lowest rate for a transatlantic sailing $1,597 per person, double occupancy. That fare includes a return economy-class flight between London and 117 North American gateways. Passengers who have sailed previously aboard Cunard or Seabourn get an additional 10% discount. Another discount is available when you add a European cruise on Cunard's Caronia, the former Vistafjord, that connects with a QE2 crossing. Itineraries include the Norwegian fiords; Scandinavia and Russia; Scandinavia, Iceland and Canada; Iberia; Bermuda and the Colonial South; or New England and Canada. For details, ask a travel agent, or call Cunard for a free color brochure at (800) 7-CUNARD (728-6273), Internet http://www.cunardline.com.

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