The Britannia Dining Room is the main dining room for the approximately 85% of Cunard passengers booked into Britannia category cabins, the major category aboard the ship. Dining is organized into two seatings at 6:00 PM and 8:30 PM as I recall. Here are my overall impressions after 17+ voyages.
The Britannia Dining Room
All three Cunard Queens feature a Britannia dining room. It’s located at the stern of the ship. On the Queen Mary 2 it is located on Decks 2 and 3. The upper level is accessed by a sweeping staircase or via elevator banks A and B. The main entrance is on Deck 2 adjacent to elevator bank B.
The design is meant to impress. Everyone has an image of the Golden Age of the ocean liner in their minds. The ceiling features a huge stained glass (simulated) skylight. Your eye is drawn to a center wall with a huge mural of the world highlighted by where the ship sails. The Captain’s table is located at the base of the mural.
Seating is assigned. You choose your preference of first or second seating and size of table. When you arrive, there is an assignment card in your stateroom. There is a dress code, included on the top line of the daily program. People dress up. Formal nights are usually black tie for men. Other nights men wear suits, blazers or sports jackets. Women usually take the dress code a step higher. My understanding Cunard has a rule shorts or jeans are not to be worn in public areas of the ship after 6:00 PM. For passengers choosing to dine casually, the Kings Court buffet on Deck 7 is more low key. FYI: One of the major reasons people choose to travel on Cunard is the dressing up experience.
Tables are set with Wedgwood China, soft white cotton napkins and tablecloths. The wine glasses have thin rims. When you are seated, the waitstaff unfolds your napkin and places it on your lap. When you return home, you get a rude awakening when you realize this will not be happening in your everyday life!
Dining in Britannia
Service is a symphony. Everything is done smoothly, keeping the meal on schedule. It’s extremely rare to feel you are waiting for a course to arrive. In its most basic form, dinner comes in three courses: appetizer, entrée and dessert. In practice, the menu is organized with appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and dessert. If you wanted five courses, that’s fine too.
There are about six offerings on average in the three key courses. The soup and salad categories usually are two courses. Formal nights feature some grander entrees like Beef Wellington or Lobster. The menu cycles every 24 days. This is important if you are on the World Cruise! You want some variety! The offerings include vegetarian and gluten free options. These are highlighted with a discrete symbol. Years ago, there was a Canyon Ranch healthy option. This no longer appears, but the symbols give you enough information.
The food is excellent. World Cruise veterans who recently sailed on the Queen Elizabeth feel the quality of the food has even improved after the pandemic lockdown. I have always been pleased with the food.
Portions are small. This comes with pros and cons. When I got home, I found I didn’t gain weight. That’s a pro. When I wanted more roast beef, our server brought another portion promptly. Ditto on the soufflés at dessert, another pro. The con is obvious. The portions are small.
We had an excellent wine steward. On Cunard, you don’t pour your own wine. Someone does it for you, although you can pour if the bottle is sitting on your table (red wine). The wine list is enormous and features wines by the bottle and wines by the glass. The glasses come in two sizes. You hand over your stateroom keycard for the wine to be charged to your account. A service charge of 15% is automatically added. In the Covid environment you no longer sign a receipt, so you don’t see that additional gratuity line and feel guilty. You can ask for a receipt if you choose. I think there is an exception on receipts for very expensive bottles. You can see the charges you incurred on the MyVoyage app on your phone or by getting a statement printout at the Purser’s Office.
There are a lot of reasonably priced bottles on the wine list. Our “go to” white wine was a Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France priced at $33.00/bottle. I’ve ordered other bottles priced at or below their cost in a store on land. At the other end of the price spectrum, the list has the Great Growths or Bordeaux and Burgundy, priced accordingly. The Port Bar on Deck 7 has bottles of vintage port dating back to 1840! That was the year Cunard was founded.
Cunard does some very interesting things that fly below the radar. Broadly speaking, they know the nationalities of people seated at the table. If you are American, they offer coffee alongside the dessert course. If the diners are British, coffee is offered as a separate course after dessert.
The dessert offerings include a cheese plate. When dessert plates have been cleared away, your server returns with a tray of candied ginger, chocolate covered mints and chocolates. As I understand it, you cannot order “off the menu.” That’s a privilege for Grill passengers only.
Breakfast and Lunch
Both breakfast and lunch are open seating. The maître d’ asks your table size preference and cabin number. It’s part of Covid contact tracing. There is one seating lasting a couple of hours.
Breakfast offers plenty of choice. They start with juice, move into your first course and then your entrée. They have smoothies, fresh fruit, stewed fruit, cereals and oatmeal. The entrée selection is excellent. You should see Eggs Benedict, salmon and eggs, smoked salmon was bagel and cream cheese and egg fishes like omelets. Because of the British influence you will see kippers and haddock along with the Full English breakfast. The breakfast menu doesn’t change.
Lunch is a downscaled version of dinner. There are a few less choices. Since there is one seating, you can dine at your leisure.
Pros and Cons
There are always pros and cons:
- There are no upcharges on the menu. Everything is included.
- Everyone has dressed for the occasion.
- The wine list has many good bottles at reasonable prices.
- Wine that hasn’t been consumed is tagged and brought to your table the next day.
- You choose first or second seating. There’s no dining at your leisure.
- Portions are small. (Waiters will gladly bring seconds.)
- You aren’t having a cocktail at the table before dinner.
- You can’t order “off menu” items.
As you can tell, we are fans of the Britannia dining room on the Cunard Queens ships!
Cover photo courtesy Bryce Sanders: Cunard Queen Mary 2 Britannia restaurant entrance
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