I Put Cunard’s New First Class “Ship-Within-Ship” To The Test

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

I Put Cunard’s New First Class “Ship-Within-Ship” To The Test

While there’s been many reviews about cruising on Cunard’s new Queen Anne, there’s not been much about what it’s like to travel in their costly first-class Grills “ship-within-a-ship”. I spent 14 nights recently testing that out. Having also been in it on every ship in their fleet, I think I’m well positioned to report back on what they’ve changed, got right and frankly not got right at all.

Queen Anne

Firstly, before diving into the premium Ship-within-a-Ship experience, a quick overview about Queen Anne. It’s the newest and largest ship in the Cunard fleet, carrying 3,000 passengers.

It has a new modern look and décor inside, making it unlike any other Cunard ship, although it has all the regular Cunard venues.

However, most relevant to this review, you need to know that like all other ships, Queen Anne has a class-based system on board, with what they call “The Grills” being the most exclusive.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Cunard Class-Based System

There are four classes, and the cabin grade you book determines which restaurant you eat in and the name of the class. So, there’s Britannia, which is inside, oceanview and most balcony cabins, Britannia Club, the more elevated balcony cabins, Princess Grill, which are mini suites and Queen’s Grill, which are the suites.

Think of it a bit like going on an airplane where Britannia is economy, Britannia Club is premium economy, Princess is business or club, and Queens Grill is their ultimate first class.

“The Grills” refers to Princess Grill and Queen’s Grill guests, and they have exclusive access to several areas and perks on Queen Anne. Like on many modern cruise lines, they are located together to create an exclusive “ship within a ship” area open only to them.

MSC Cruises has the Yacht Club, Norwegian Cruise Line has The Haven, Celebrity has The Retreat, and so on.

While these Grills-only spaces exist on the rest of the Cunard fleet, there are some key changes on Queen Anne.

Firstly, like the rest of Queen Anne, the decor and design of these areas and the cabins are totally different to the other Cunard ships. It’s more modern and contemporary and doesn’t rely on the darker Art Deco look and feel.

Secondly, Cunard have dramatically increased the number of Princess Grill cabins compared to the other ships. Queen Anne Princess Grill has 254 passengers, so roughly twice the amount while Queens Grill with 130 is roughly the same as Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. So, The Grills overall has more passengers, and larger exclusive spaces available to them.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Cunard Grills Exclusive Areas & Perks

Before I talk about what the Queens Grill people get that Princess Grill do not, let me explain what they both get, starting with the Grills Only deck areas.

Grills Decks

On Deck 10 and 11 reached via the “B” midship elevators are two decks of exclusive spaces. On exiting the lifts on Deck 10, you enter The Grills lounge, with a dedicated bar and seating area. While I could order speciality coffees and teas here for no charge, any other drinks I had to pay for.

Unlike many lines, Cunard do not include drinks, gratuities nor Wi-Fi within the premium Grills fares. The Grills lounge is open for drinks from about 11am and is very popular before dinner.

While it is a nice enough looking area, it proved less appealing overall as unlike the rest of the fleet it is effectively an indoor lounge with no views of the ocean or port, and no direct access out onto the decks.

Also, there was a feeling that there’s been a bit of nickel and diming. Instead of canapés with drinks in the evening, which I was used to on the other ships, we were only served crisps and nuts.

The Grills Concierge has a small desk in this lounge. They answer any queries and make speciality or excursion bookings. It basically meant I could avoid having to go to the busy Guest Services, or Purser’s desk, as Cunard call it.

Although in Queens Grill, as I’ll discuss later, I also had a butler, who in theory could have done much of this for me too.

Off the Grills Lounge were the Princess and Queens Grill restaurants, which I will come back to, as there are some key differences between them to mention.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Grills Deck

But first, I want to talk about the Grills deck on Deck 11 above the lounge. This is way more impressive than on any other Cunard ship.

First it is far bigger with lots of areas and spaces to sit in, both under cover and in the shade on loungers and chairs. It also has two sort of infinity-style hot tub pools. They don’t have a bar up there, but did have some bar service during the day.

It does have some negatives, though. Like on deck 10 for the Grills lounge and restaurants, access to the deck was not controlled in any way. So, guests walking around deck 11 would use this as a thoroughfare. The Grills deck effectively blocks the way to walk from the front to the rear of the ship. There is some discussion that may change, and Cunard are going to make the entrances cruise card controlled, but when I was on it was not.

Also, the deck is under the funnel, and it is quite noisy. It’s not a particularly peaceful area.

Grills Afternoon Tea

Princess Grill and Queens Grill guests have their own afternoon tea service every day. At 3pm when the famous Cunard Afternoon Tea is taking place in the Queens Room, an exclusive one is laid on in the Princess Grill Restaurant.

I loved it as it was calm and sophisticated. The waiters took our orders from a selection of sandwiches and cakes of the day and brought those with incredible scones, on a beautiful silver tiered stand.

They took a tea trolley around the Grills deck at the same time for those who wanted to stay outside sunbathing.

So, let me now talk now about some of the major differences between the Queens Grill that I was in and the Princess Grill, starting with dining.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Princess Vs. Queen Grill Restaurants

As I mentioned, each have their own restaurants.

With 254 passengers, Princess Grill restaurant can hold roughly twice the number that Queens Grill can. It is spacious feeling restaurant, with a range of table sizes.

The Queens Grill dining room felt a bit more cramped and less open, as it is a long narrow room with wider spaces tucked out of sight at each end. Due to its shape, there are sections of bench seating which some disliked, though we quite enjoyed. The most sought-after tables were those for two running along the windows.

While we liked it, there are more “less good” tables than on the other ships. When we were shown to our allocated table on embarkation day, we refused it as it was in one of the tucked away sections and against a wall with no views, so we were given another one.

Important Tips

A very important tip if going in Queens Grill on Queen Anne. Make sure on embarkation day to go to lunch, and ideally as soon as it opens. So you can make sure that you sort out a good table.

Of course, like all the fleet, you will get a table for 2,4 or 6 as you wish, and both restaurants are open seating dining and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

You have the same table for all those meals with the same waiting staff, which I absolutely love because I could get to know them, and they got to know me. There were three waiters working on each table, we had Denver as our head waiter, and Alvin and Suepaksorn assisting him.

Princess Grill and Queens Grill share a kitchen, which is also on deck 10, and the menus are basically the same. So, the breakfast, lunch and core dinner menus are the same. They’re big menus, with the dinner menu having three parts – items that change every day, an a la carte menu which stays the same, and then items for pre-order.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

More Choice

Those need to be ordered at lunchtime and Queens Grill has a bigger choice. Both Princess and Queens Grill can order things like Dover Sole, Chateaubriand, Roast Chicken, and Duck a l’Orange, but Queens Grill can also order Beef Wellington, Lobster and Caviar.

If you want to have Caviar in Princess Grill, you must pay and it’s $60 a serving. But, in Queens Grill, you can have it as often as you want. I must admit I did have it three or four times on the cruise.

What I also like is many of the items ordered are prepared table side, like the Duck l’Orange, Dover Sole, Crepes Suzette and so on. Adding a bit of drama, as well as a sense of elevated dining

In Queens Grill you can also order things that aren’t listed at all. You’re encouraged to order off menu and the Maître d’ came round every lunchtime asking if we wanted to order anything.

The food in The Grills restaurant was fantastic and, in my experience, it was some of the best food on any cruise line at sea I have ever had. We had a slightly rocky start, as I went on as the ship just a week into service, but they quickly got into their stride.

So, let’s talk about some of the other differences between Queens and Princess Grill beyond dining.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Cunard Queens Grill Perks

In the Queens Grill, all suites have a butler. Though our experience with the butler was mixed. He was brand new not only to Cunard but also to cruising. So, he was a little bit so-so in terms of his ability as a butler. I ended up leaving him lots of notes and asking for him to do lots of things, which he then did.

What was a first for me on Cunard was on the rear of the card with the butler and cabin steward’s names was an explanation and list of what a Cunard butler could do. That was fantastic, as it is always a bit of a mystery about what their roles are.

What Can The Butler Do?

It explained he could do things such as unpacking and packing, source pillow types, sort out laundry and press garments, help tie bowties, bring ice and other amenities, set up and do in-suite dining, bring daily canapés, make spa, dining and shore excursion bookings, set up and host in-suite cocktail parties, and set up and restock the minibar.

Talking of minibar, I mentioned that drinks outside the cabin are not included. But, in our Queens Grill suite we could choose two bottles of liquor or wine from a long list, and non-alcoholic beer, sodas and bottled waters were all included.

Every day we had daily canapés delivered, which were very good.

And in Queens Grill we could also order personalised stationery with our name and cabin number on.

Let me now talk about the cabin differences between Princess and Queens Grill.

But before I get onto that. If you are enjoying my tips and advice, consider becoming a YouTube channel member or Patreon Patron. For just a few dollars a month, you get ad-free early access every week to new videos, exclusive bonus on-cruise and channel behind-the-scenes videos, group cruise priority booking, eBooks to download, and bonus cruising tips. Click “join” on YouTube below any of my videos or visit patreon.com/tipsfortravellers to find out more.

Now back to the cabin differences.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Cunard Grills Cabin Differences

There is just one class and style of cabin in Princess Grill. This is like mini-suites on Cunard cruise line competitors like Holland America and Princess. A good-sized cabin with modern décor, bed and seating area, and a nice bathroom with shower and glass doors.

There is more choice and range in the Queens Grill, from a Queens Q6 Suite up to a Grand Q1 Suite.

We had booked a Penthouse suite, which is the main type of suite in the Queens Grill, and kind of mid-range. It was a great and comfortable cabin, though it felt smaller to me than a Pinnacle suite on the Holland America Pinnacle class ships, which is probably a similar grade.

It has a good seating area with sofa bed, minibar, and coffee machine with divider and television either side between it and the bedroom area. The décor is way more modern than other Cunard ships and has lots of plug sockets with both USB-C and USB sockets. The bathroom looked good with bath and shower, though only one basin which felt less luxury. I expect two in this grade, and then a separate toilet.

The suite was comfortable, had very quiet air conditioning, and pretty good soundproofing. I could hear a little bit of noise from next door, but not a lot. It had a fantastic sized balcony. Storage was fine, with lots of hanging space, although drawer storage was in the bedroom rather than with the cupboards.

 I Put Cunard's New First Class "Ship-Within-Ship" To The Test

Additional Grades

I also got to see some of the other Queens Grill grades, with the Q3 cabins at the rear of the ship probably being the most appealing and sought after. This was a one-bedroom suite, with a large lounge, a massive balcony that curved around the side – very similar bathroom to ours – and a large walk-in cupboard.

My experience of travelling in Queen Anne’s new Grills “first-class” ship was very positive. I was a bit unsure at first, with some aspects like the radical design change, the layout of the restaurant and so on. But, as I got used to the differences, I found the service, food and things like the cabin and deck won me over.

While it is better than on any of their other ships, overall Cunard Grills still does not match many other lines when it comes to premium suite experiences in many areas. Those lines extend perks to things like priority seating in the theatre, priority access to dining and shore excursions and more inclusions.


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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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1 Response

  1. Gary bembridge says:

    Thanks for the information

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