First Look at Queen Elizabeth Liner

A cruise on Cunard is about tradition. The 170-year-old ship line is smart enough to know that, so for its newest ship, Queen Elizabeth, it's gone for a retro flashback. AOL Travel News was among the first to see the ship, even before its official launch by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

Décor on the 92,000-ton ship is Art Deco-influenced in homage to the original 1938 Queen Elizabeth.

The new ship also brings back a lot of the elegance that made the subsequent 1969 Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) – which retired two years ago – the most famous ocean liner in the world.

Don't call the new 2,068-passenger ship QE3 – they didn't quite take it that far. Still, there is a lot for history fans to embrace.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

The ship's main Britannia dining room has the kind of grand center staircase you want an ocean liner to have, because that's what you've seen in the movies. The ship's ballroom is as extravagant as they come with its two-deck-high ceiling and giant chandeliers. The blue and gold Royal Court Theatre is so West End classic, it even has royal boxes.

The ship's Grand Lobby does indeed have grand staircases leading to an impressive inlaid-wood Art Deco depiction of the original QE.

The Queen Elizabeth also keeps intact Cunard's class system that has you assigned to a dining room based on the category of cabin you book – commoners in Britannia, the highest-end cabins and suites in the more intimate Princess or Queens Grill.

The ship displays Cunard memorabilia all over including black and white photos of movie stars on the earlier QEs – a young Elizabeth Taylor looking elegant in black dress and pearls, carrying a poodle, for instance.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

In the Midships Bar is a homage to the original Queen Elizabeth complete with a large white phone from a first-class cabin. The Verandah, a for-a-fee alternative restaurant serving new French cuisine, gets its name and artwork from the first QE. Outside the restaurant is a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth, looking surprisingly sullen.

Americans will find the ship British, even though the line is now owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp. Brits may find some aspects very American, like the fact everything is charged in dollars.

The same was said of sister ship Queen Victoria, which debuted three years ago, and the larger, six-year-old Queen Mary 2.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

Cunard President Peter Shanks couldn't help poking fun at this aspect when discussing the Queen Elizabeth's introduction of a Games Deck, a lovely new park-like area (though with fake grass and bushes) on top of the ship, with greens for croquet and British lawn bowling, as well as paddle tennis courts and wooden benches for watching.

"We are looking forward to our American colleagues playing English garden bowls," Shanks laughed as he told a group of American journalists, explaining the game uses balls weighted on one side and is not easy. "It will become a talking point."

Another impressive addition on Queen Elizabeth is also on a top deck, the Garden Lounge, an area inspired by the glass houses of London's Kew Gardens and a space on the original Queen Elizabeth, with a domed glass ceiling and wicker furnishings – designed as a spot for afternoon tea. Trivia fact: guests are expected to use 954,681 tea bags per year on the Queen Elizabeth.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

Cunard Queen Elizabeth

British travel agents touring the ship pre-launch made the Golden Lion Pub the hot spot, although the ship has a large variety of plush bars in various locations.

The ship's spa, with its large hydrotherapy pool, got oohs and ahs including from Cunard repeat passengers, also on for a pre-launch tour.

But one older British woman opined the ship's top selling point is its nostalgia. "QE2 was my girl," she said. "And now I feel (with the Queen Elizabeth) like she's back."

Get an inside look at the ship here:

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