The Bureau - Purser's Office

For anyone sailing QE2 in the mid 1970's to 1982 they would have experienced a very different ship from the QE2 of the 1990's or 2000's. Below is a deck by deck description of what one would find as they toured the liner.

Signal Deck

This is the top deck. It is the one on which the penthouse suites are built and is on the same level as the bridge. Unfortunately, for security reasons, the bridge cannot be visited.

The signal deck, as its name implies, is the home of the radar scanners, aerials and navigational lights, which are supported on their own masthead.

On the bridge, in addition to navigation, steering and stabiliser control equipment, is one of the most sophisticated of modern navigational aids: the satellite navigator. QE2 was, in fact, the first British merchant naval vessel to be fitted with this equipment. The system, which gives instant and accurate positioning in all weathers, obtains its information from American satellites 600 miles up that give a cage—like coverage of the world. Up to 32 signals can be picked up every day, the most economical speeds for estimated times of arrival can be worked out and fuel can often be saved. The ship’s radar has a range of 48 miles.

The design of the ship allows for spacious decks which can be enjoyed by passengers on the longest cruises. On Signal deck at the base of the funnel are the kennels with airing and exercise areas. The kennels have portable floors to be lifted out for cleaning, and there is a meal preparation area, space for birds in cages and even a mini lamp post so pets feel at home.

Sports Deck

The next deck down is the sports deck which, as its name suggests, has large areas of open deck for sunning, strolling and deck games. The deck carries the lower levels of the duplex penthouses and has a forward—looking observation area.

The Sports Deck also has the children’s areas. This was an area not allotted to leading name designers of the day but to students of the Royal College of Art who were selected by Sir Hugh Casson.

Elizabeth Beloe and Tony Heaton created the children’s room with a sand coloured floor inset with bright orange and yellow hopscotch. There are storage cupboards with sliding doors covered in blackboard or brightly striped Formica; chequer board tables with removable plastic tops over fibreglass trays for plasticine and paint play. Stools in primary colour plastic cubes double as building blocks and the room is divided by curvy screens of fibre glass in white and orange. Only four feet high, the child has its privacy but the nannies in charge can watch all their children at play. A ramp leads to the children’s cinema next door.

Boat Deck

Underlying decks are staggered to provide covered accommodation and facilities with sports and sunning areas at the after end. Boat deck, not surprisingly, is where the life boats hang. The boats are policed and checked regularly, tested and lowered over the ship's side to make sure all the gear is in working order. QE2 does not have a neat line of identical boats; different styles of boats have been designed for different usage. Some are elaborately fitted passenger launches which are used when QE2 anchors off some ports, some are lifeboats and their capacity well exceeds passenger numbers. Aft of the bridge are two small boats painted bright red and are emergency boats fitted with long range radios and are water jet propelled. These two boats can act in a kind of ‘policing’ capacity.

Under the boats is a clear line of deck. This is the place to go for a walk circling the deck up and over the forward part under the bridge, an exhilarating breezy excursion when the ship is at cruising speed. Three times round this deck is a distance of a mile. This is where the jogging track runs and the enthusiastic will meet early in the day to run, exercise and keep fit.

Inside on the Boat Deck forward is the Queen’s Grill, the restaurant used by those in top cabin grades. The room has a carved royal coat of arms on the wall, crimson and white décor for its verandah and a sunken dining area. There is an exclusive Grill Bar on the starboard side leading to the restaurant. It is for first class passengers only. A sign states so.

On the port side of the ship, the same area is a Reading or Quiet room for those who seek a more peaceful corner to read or write letters. The room has been decorated with historic items showing old Cunarders. At one end is a room width scale model of the Cunarder Russia of 1867. Around the walls are paintings and photo

blow ups depicting ships from the Britannia, the first of the fleet and other early mixed sail and steam ships progressing to the multi funnelled Berengaria, Aquitania and Mauretania and then the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth with an historic picture of the two ships passing each other off Sydney heads.

A small plaque alongside the 1924 painting of RMS Berengaria reads ‘presented to the officers and crew of the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 in appreciation for their efforts in establishing the first ship board satellite communications experiment. This was donated in March 1972 by Comsat Laboratories. At one end, over a writing desk is the trio of Queens with histories of the two early ones. The room also contains a colour photograph of QE2 signed by her master on the maiden voyage ten years ago. A bust of Samuel Cunard presides over another writing desk.

The theatre balcony lies between this and the starboard side Queens Grill Bar. Eight thousand two hundred series cabins lead aft to shops’ galleries and photographers’ display boards.

The heart of the daytime walkabout could well be the shopping gallery which runs around the top of the Double Room, the largest afloat with its multi-purpose activities and scarlet colour theme. The Double Room has a stainless steel semi-circular staircase leading down to the main dance and cabaret area.

The shopping gallery has a drug store, souvenir shop with items displaying a QE2 symbol, gift shop with crystal glass, Wedgwood and Royal Worcester among the displays, and the Man’s Shop of fashion, sports wear and toiletries for amen. At one end opposite the Centre store for high quality bijoux is the duty free liquor and tobacco. There is a perfumery boutique which also sells handbags, a clothing shop for women’s fashions and jewellery Time for jewellery and watches.

The shopping gallery is lined with those puce pink Plunkett sausage roll chairs with metal feet where one can rest and watch activities in progress below. The two exits to the deck are canopied with silver tubes in a circular cluster. They resemble cables that have been cut at various angles. These canopies are in similar pattern to a long canopy that hung over the bar that once stood at the forward upper end of the Double Room, just forward of the stage area.

The two exits let out into a sheltered deck chair area, serviced by a pantry on the starboard side, serving tea to those in deck chairs along with rugs to keep warm with on the North Atlantic route. Moving down the stern terraces, the upper deck aft offers a miniature nine hole crazy golf course. For those who want to swing at the ball as if the fairways were wide and open, there are two netted driving ranges with bulls eye targets. Though small, the crazy golf course is tricky. It consists of nine raised patches of astro turf edged with red wood each containing a hazard; these include a twist of metal to get the ball swirling up and through, a red white and blue blind fringing, a gateway on an L shaped section, a bridge set with small balls to deflect the shot and one with three deflective wood pads set in it. Beside these trials, is a separate undulating area with nine holes in it. On either side of the golf area are shuffle board courts marked out on the deck.

Upper Deck

Marked ’U’ on the lift call buttons, the upper deck, together with the Quarter Deck — the next one down — are those probably most associated with dining, dancing and entertainment.

Leading down from the blue ’A’ lift area is the 'Tables of the World' Restaurant which has large panoramic windows under a cedar ceiling set with spot lights to illuminate each table. A six foot figurehead of Britannia in Quebec yellow pine dominates the entrance.

Working aft, there are the 500—seat main theatre stalls with seating in plum and mauve striped wool and black leather arms designed by Gaby Schreiber. Midships on the port side is the casino with its own adjacent bar and a·cross a lobby area is the theatre bar on the starboard side. This is the late night dancing and drinking spot with its own band and dance floor. Flanking the lift and ’E' staircase is a library. The rest of this deck, apart from the aft sunning deck, is taken up with the main area of the Double Room (as it is known at this deck level). This room has an area of 20,000 square feet and seats 800 people. It was designed in vibrant shades of red from scarlet to plum by Jon Bannenberg. In the corners are snuggeries lined with plum—coloured suede and the room is backed with polished aluminium walls specially created for QE2.

Quarter Deck

The forward part of this deck forms the Columbia Restaurant which seats 600. The spacious and airy kitchens are situated forward of the restaurant, and they are fitted out with stainless steel equipment on grooved blue and yellow tiling. Executive chef, John Bainbridge, welcomes passengers to look round in the mornings. They can see how preparation and cooking areas for different foods are linked together in contrast to the old fashioned system with its central banks of ovens. Cold storage is provided for each section; there is a separate kosher kitchen and a special oven in which 200 individual soufflés can be prepared.

One corner of the kitchen is devoted to the preparation of food for the 100 seater Princess Grill. Some of the features of this attractive grill room include big windows on one side and walls and banquettes covered with Bordeaux red leather and velvet.

The Columbia restaurant was designed by Sir Dennis Lennon who used bronze-tinted glass screens to divide up the large, light room. The ceiling is of gilded aluminium and diners sit on cream leather chairs round tables which are dressed with linen coloured according to the time of day. At night individual table lamps, set in blocks of transparent plastic on stainless steel bases, cast a flattering light.

In the large lobby entrance, which is carpeted in deep purplish—blue, hangs a tapestry depicting Queen Elizabeth II with Cunard directors in the background at the launching of the ship in 1967.

The Midships Bar, one of the favourite meeting places for passengers, was designed by Sir Dennis Lennon as an ante room to the Columbia Restaurant. The main themes here are green leather and velvet, bronze-tinted glass tables, gold leaf on the walls and low key lighting. Outside are enclosed promenade areas decorated in light sunny shades.

On the port side from the Midships Bar is the card room in green suede and baize, with six baize—covered rosewood tables. Next to it is the quarter deck library, designed by Michael Inchbald, in marine timbers and brass. A relaxed atmosphere is provided by brown tweed chesterfields, green leather deck chairs and brass bound chests as side tables. This is the spot to linger over choosing a book — there is even a ’large’ print section — in addition to buying stamps and writing letters.

Below the Double Room is the other ’social' centre of QE2, the gracious Queens Room. Also designed by Michael Inchbald, it has a sunny atmosphere by day with its white gold and coral décor. The almost square shape of the room is subtly elongated by mirrors on the end walls. Beyond the red ’G’ lift area is the Q4 Room. This was the designation used by the shipyard to refer to QE2 during construction since she was the fourth Queen liner to be planned, though number three was never, in fact, built. This dual purpose room was designed by David Hicks to be a night club in the evening, and a poolside bar by day. The carpet is a Hicks design of black, grey, white and red check. Semi—transparent screens of clear plastic rods sandwiched in polarised glass produce varying soft hues according to the time of day. At night special screens cover the pool windows. The Q4 Room opens out to the lido and pool, which is decorated in five shades of blue tiling.

One Deck

Each side of this deck is flanked by cabins, and public amenities are arranged in the centre block. These include a launderette, the lobby of the Princess Grill with its indoor mini garden and circular staircase to the restaurant above and the Club Atlantic, a most romantic and intimate bar with a Continental atmosphere. Filament lamps that shift lazily as the ship moves lend a secluded feeling to this bar. In the after section of one deck are the open plan hairdressing and beauty salons and barber’s shop. The after end has another lido with open air pool and bar.

Two Deck

Again cabins flank amenities, and at midships level is the lobby, usually the first and last glimpse the passenger has of the interior of the ship. When under way this is a good place for a quiet rest or a gossip during walkabouts. In a way the lobby sets the ship's scene of luxury and glamour with its sunken centre, green leather curved sofas, silvered ceiling and white central column like a stylised palm tree. Carpeting is in navy blue and walls are covered in navy blue hide. Sir Dennis Lennon was the designer.

Farther aft is the bureau, the information hub of this floating city. Make a beeline for the bureau if there is a problem that needs sorting out. Nearby is a branch of Barclays Bank where all the normal banking facilities are available. Aft of ’G’ lift is the doctor’s office on the port side.

Three Deck

Looking down the length of the accommodation corridors on three deck, one can appreciate the miles stewards have to walk every day even with pantry areas set at strategic intervals and manned night and day. The main telephone switchboard is located on this deck.

The synagogue is located at the forward end by 'A’ lift. This was designed by Professor Misha Black using ash panelling with plain blue carpet, deep blue ceiling and blue upholstered seats. The ark recess is lined with white silk.

Four & Five Decks

These two decks consist entirely of passenger accommodation, the lowest of the five main accommodation decks. Much thought went into the design of the cabins, nowadays called ’rooms', compared with ’this utterly impracticable, thoroughly hopeless and profoundly preposterous box' in which Charles Dickens was housed aboard his Cunarder, Britannia, in 1842.

By arranging the rooms so that their bath and dressing areas are located towards the ship's centre, it was possible to give 75 per cent of them ocean views. All cabins have air conditioning, private bath or shower room, wall to wall carpeting, telephone with worldwide links from each room, six-channel radio, and a dial yourself facility for weather and time details in four languages. Some cabins were specially made for wheelchair users. All accommodation corridors are fully carpeted to reduce noise.

Six Deck

On six deck and reached by lift 'F' is the pool flanked by Turkish baths. The pool is finished in a warm stone colour and sepia—toned glass screens around it give an illusion of sun and tanning. There are red fibreglass changing booths; their designer declared that people perform circular motions when changing, and he used minimal tiling to eliminate any cold clinical feeling.

A print shop which produces the ship’s newspaper and prints daily menus and invitation cards is located on this deck, and also the hospital which, complete with six wards and trained staff, can cope with almost any malady. In the same complex is an operating theatre, a dental surgery, X—ray room, and a physiotherapy unit.

Seven Deck

Reached by ’C’ lift, which also services the hospital, is the seven deck swimming pool designed by Sir Dennis Lennon with yellow laminate wall panelling and yellow and white floor tiles. Alongside are sauna baths and a gymnasium with the very latest in self-torture equipment for the keen keep-fitter!

A laundry that handles 23,000 pieces of washing every day is situated on seven deck.

Eight Deck

Not seen by the public, this is a vital operational area housing the engine rooms, power generators, control and computer rooms. These are just some of the many ’behind-the-scenes’ activities that help keep the city at sea running smoothly and happily.