Cunard’s new Queen Anne arrived this week in Southampton to much fanfare. She’s the 249th ship in Cunard’s 184-year history. And it’s quite a departure from the traditional style of her three sisters.

If you’re a die-hard Cunard fan, buckle up for the ride. While there’s plenty that’s familiar in the new ship – a four-tiered class system with corresponding restaurants, a Golden Lion pub, ballroom dancing in the Queens Room, dainty afternoon tea – there’s a whole lot that’s new.

For example, you’ll find a vast, airy yoga space above the main pool. And you’ll find as well, a a café doing poke bowls and fresh pressed juices. There’s a paddle tennis and pickleball court, a sushi bar, and a deluxe vintage fashion outlet. These are all features with Gen X and millennial appeal, some distance from Cunard’s traditionally more mature market.

Two influencers with champagne new Queen Anne
Cunard is looking to attract a younger market to the new Queen Anne.

The design of Cunard’s Queen Anne

The ship’s design team paid multiple visits to the Liverpool-based Cunard Archives. It’s a treasure trove of photography and artefacts from the shipping line’s long history. They’ve taken inspiration from the art deco style, with both subtle and bold statement design touches everywhere.

The Grand Lobby has etched brass pillars, a domed ceiling and a sweeping staircase on which to make an entrance. My Queens Grill cabin, done out in cool greys and blues with pops of gold, had some covetable objets d’art including an art deco ship model in glass (glued down) and a bold geometric design in the black and white marble bathroom. Everybody is talking about the double-height Britannia restaurant, with soaring gold columns and floor-to-ceiling windows. The Chart Room lounge, looking down into the Grand Lobby is fabulously over the top, with a red marble bar surrounded by glittering shards of glass.

The Grand Lobby Restuarant on the Queen Anne with the staircase and atrium
The Grand Lobby on Queen Anne.

What’s new and cool?

The layout of the ship isn’t like other Cunarders; I didn’t feel the flow between the public spaces was particularly intuitive. For example, to get to the Britannia Restaurant, you have to pass through the long, skinny Clarendon Fine Art gallery. A limited edition Banksy in here might catch your eye – yours for a cool £125,000.

The Pavilion pool is a big change. It’s covered by a large retractable roof designed by architect Martin Francis, who engineered the iconic Louvre Pyramid in Paris. The pool itself is pretty small, given that the ship carries 3,000 passengers. I preferred the smaller still Panorama Pool on the aft deck, with wake views.

The Pavilion on Queen Anne with deck chairs big TV screen and pool
The Pavilion on Cunard’s Queen Anne has been revamped.

The Royal Court Theatre is different, too, spanning the height of two decks. Plays will be staged in here as well as more traditional song-and-dance shows. There’s a new venue, the Bright Lights Society, a more intimate show lounge and nightclub that was hopping when I left at midnight.

The dining

Queen Anne rings the changes with dining, too. The Britannia Club restaurant on Deck 2 is much bigger than on other ships; it’s a great option if you don’t want to be at a shared table at a fixed time, although the décor, while stylish, lacks the wow factor of the main dining room. There are four new specialty restaurants. Tramonto has a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme with dishes like buffalo mozzarella, confit-spiced aubergine and chermoula hake with hummus – worth the US$20 cover charge. In the Indian, Aranya, the menu has been created by Surjan Singh, aka celebrity Chef Jolly, for a very reasonable $35 cover charge.

At the back of the ship, on Deck 10, with views over the aft deck and pool, there’s a sushi restaurant, Aji Wa, and a new itineration of Sir Samuel’s (named after Cunard’s founder). Queen Mary 2 fans will know Sir Samuel’s as a coffee shop but on Queen Anne, it’s a steakhouse with a $65 cover charge.

Aijiwa Japanese restaurant on Cunard's Queen Anne
Aijiwa Japanese restaurant on Cunard’s Queen Anne

One venue that did miss the mark was the Artisans’ Foodhall. It’s supposed to have food preparation à la minute but it’s essentially a buffet where you point at what you want and it’s served for you. It didn’t feel very artisanal and the food, unlike the dishes I tried in other venues, was pretty mediocre.

The voyages

Queen Anne departs on her maiden voyage today and will spend the summer sailing northern Europe, the British Isles and the Mediterranean, before embarking on a world voyage in January. It’s going to be tight, getting everything ready – boxes of crew uniforms were still being loaded when I disembarked and venues like the yoga studio are not finished. But once the ship settles down, it should be a breath of fresh air for anyone who likes the formality and tradition of such an illustrious line but wants the sense of something contemporary at the same time.

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