Cunard's New 3,000-passenger Ship Just Set Sail for Its Maiden Voyage — and We Were Among the First on Board

"Queen Anne" just embarked on its maiden voyage. I was among the first to see it — take a look inside.

<p>Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard</p>

Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard

Some people say don’t mess with classic style. But if there’s one thing that historic British cruise line Cunard does spectacularly well, its that it provides a classic ocean experience. With the new 3,000-passenger Queen Anne, the venerable cruise line, with roots dating back to 1840, has accomplished something else: reimagining classic for the future. And the results are gorgeous.

<p>Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard</p>

Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard

On board on a cloudy day in Southampton, United Kingdom, I joined other guests for a sneak peek of the new ship — Cunard’s first in 14 years — before its maiden cruise on May 3.

The early crowd oohed and ahhed new interpretations of classic spaces such as the two-deck Britannia restaurant, now resplendent with lighted gold columns, and the Grand Lobby, now featuring a carpeted glass staircase and metal sculpture that changes color. The decor is black and red, reflecting Cunard’s funnel colors.

<p>Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard</p>

Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard

People who don’t like change may find tsk tsks. I found Queen Anne elegant, bright, and airy, interpreting ocean liner Art Deco decor in new ways. I say the wows are deserved.

Like its peers — the transatlantic-going Queen Mary 2 oceanliner, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth — the new Queen Anne still operates with an old-fashioned class system: your cabin status determines where you dine. (If you stay in a residence-like Grand Suite, for instance, then you dine like a queen with other royalty in the Queens Grill.)

<p>Fran Golden/Travel + Leisure</p>

Fran Golden/Travel + Leisure

Like other Cunard ships, Queen Anne hosts afternoon tea and themed balls. My guess is that some men will insist on wearing a jacket at all meals (you don’t have to) and some women will pack ballgowns to feel like royalty on a line that has hosted royalty. (If that’s your line of thought, why not go all the way?)

Queen Anne is an open invitation to a cruising crowd who want more — in food, entertainment, wellness, and places to imbibe, among other attractions — all presented on a silver platter and, in some cases, by white-gloved waiters.

Cunard has added new restaurants — steakhouse, Japanese, Indian, and Mediterranean venues — and entertainment with an intimate cabaret, where shows combine song, dance, acting, comedy, and burlesque.

Also new are seats on plush velvet in the expansive Royal Theatre and real West End drama — the inaugural show is the play “Brief Encounter.”

<p>Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard</p>

Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard

There's no shortage of things to do on board. Try some of the 50 rums at the rum bar. Learn new skills at the archery center. The Golden Lion pub benefits from windows and a new gastropub menu by famed British chef Michel Roux.

For art lovers, Cunard says the vessel has the "largest curated art collection at sea" — 4,300 works by more than 3,000 artists — featuring the work of both up-and-coming and established artists. The textile works in particular caught my eye.

Katie McAlister, Cunard’s president, told guests gathered in The Pavilion, the ship’s jaw-dropping glass-topped all-weather pool area, that the designers were going for "innovative modernity" with Queen Anne. (The design team was headed by Adam D. Tihany, who has also designed ships for ultra-luxury line Seabourn and Holland America Line, among others.)

<p>Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard</p>

Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard

In The Pavilion, with stunning blue and white checkerboard decor, attractions — in addition to a roof that slides open in fair weather — include an LED screen for entertainment, an upper deck wellness studio under tented shades, and a wellness café, examples of a new, you got it, wellness focus on the ship. Never mind the café is somewhat cruelly near the hamburger grill and gelateria. If you want a smoked tofu bowl and kombucha, you can get it on Queen Anne.

You can also now book three-day spa packages created with Harper’s Bazaar, such as a detox journey with a cyro-body detox and body sculpting treatments, and focus on clean living habits.

<p>Andrew Matthew/PA Images/Getty Images</p>

Andrew Matthew/PA Images/Getty Images

While touring the new interpretation of Queens Room ballroom, in this case, a rounded atrium space with modern chandeliers replacing dripping crystal, and an LED screen to serve as backdrop for the themed balls, I stopped to talk with Zoe Myers, the ship’s entertainment assistant director.

She explained how the new ship will still have ballroom dancing to a Big Band, a Cunard staple, but the ballroom will also be used for more contemporary acts most nights after 8:30 p.m. How will the old-fan crowd react, I wondered?

“We aren’t changing the classic ships, and those who want classic still have three ships to choose from,” Myers said. “With this ship, we want to open the audience to people who may not have experienced Cunard before. This is not just a fourth Queen. It’s different.”

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