Virginia and I stayed the night before the cruise at the Holiday Inn Express Southampton M27, eating out at a nearby Pizza Hut. Tabitha and Amelia had been parked in Hardwick at the the Angelite Cats Hotel. On the Friday morning we spent the time by seeing Manor Park Farm which has a long access lane with plenty of enthusiastic speed bumps. There's a quaint small old Church near a romantic pond, an old style house with an old style school room (back in the days where you learnt multiplication tables). Animals can be milked among other attractions for the young. After lunch there it was time to board our first Cunard ship, the Queen Elizabeth.
The first difference to our previous cruises with P&O and Fred Olsen was how fast we boarded. When we arrived at the Ocean Cruise Terminal we were immediately directed to lane 2 for unloading our luggage - and then immediately directed to check in on entering the cruise terminal - and then immediately through security onto the ship! Happenstance? I don't know. One of Virginia's cases lost its luggage labels and didn't turn up for a while, but our pleasant hard-working cabin stewardess Virna tracked it down for us. The staff work very hard and long hours - I noted one vacuuming with the vacuum cleaner on her back.
There was more of a mix of nationalities on board - we had an Arab captain and plenty of American and German and other passengers. The Americans did complain about the ethnocentric bias of the quizzes which we enjoyed doing, particularly enjoying those led by a Lancashire lass Laura who was fun. Passenger density seemed less than other ships, the theatre always seemed to have space, good banking in the stalls which was just as well as upstairs the protective plastic distorted the view. They showed films in the theatre which worked well, but not the Shakespeare plays we were half expecting. The entertainment was similar to P&O and Fred Olsen. A talented pianist Maria Marchant did several performances in the multiple use Queens Room. The ship felt to me of an older style, decor-wise, the luxury feel of suited attendants welcoming you with a harpist playing.
Cunard checked the room cards (both ours stopped working during the cruise a common occurrence) at the muster drill. They also use dollars on board which makes the final accounts more frightening. Perhaps spending dollars may encourage more spending if you remember when it was 3 dollars to the pound?
Cunard didn't have casual wear in the evenings unlike other cruise lines. We were on the early evening sitting in the Britannia restaurant and had a very good table, really friendly table companions. Table 600 had good views but for me the sun was a problem there, and also people were walking past on the promenade deck (some even running). The waiters were adroit with the lemons, squeezing them into a spoon and then pouring lemon juice from the spoon. There was no arguing if you complained about a dish, you would be offered a replacement. We went to the Verandah twice for great elaborate meals, I particularly recommend the vanilla souffle. No crispy fried bread in the morning which I missed. There were a number of places one could eat, we had fish and chips in the 'pub' on the last day.
Our cabin was fine though during port days there was a lot of noise from them testing lifeboats etc. We didn't do a lot of shopping on board, had to get a sewing kit for Virginia to temporarily repair my glasses which lost a screw - and we also got some napkin rings from the Russian bazaar cum scrum.