Cunard cruises 2015 landmark in Sydney
Now cruisesalefinder.com.au would never let an opportunity like this pass us by, so in recognition of these two fantastically unique and historically significant ships, we sent one of our most experienced cruise experts on board the other Cunard ship, the Queen Elizabeth, so she could answer a very special Q&A.
We also want to pay tribute to the Cunard experience, which is something very different from the norm. Incorporating three ships Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2. The Cunard cruise holiday is a tribute to the bygone era of cruising, where the key watch-words are elegance, style and luxury, with exceptional customer service the fully expected standard. From Transatlantic routes to glamorous 113-night world cruises, the Cunard is seen by many as a "once-in-a-lifetime", bucket list cruise. However, many passengers are those returning for more of the same!
A Rendezvous like no other
On March 12, 2015 Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will be within near touching distance of each other on Sydney Harbour. Entitled the 'Royal Rendez-vous', this promises to be a spectacular sight and Cunard Line Managing Director and President, Peter Shanks, says there's always a great response from the general public.
"We are the world cruise experts having started this tradition over 90 years ago. No other ships are welcomed around the world as warmly as the Cunard fleet. Our ships' arrivals into port attract well-wishers in their thousands, on the water and ashore: it's part of the magic of the Cunard experience."
What makes Cunard so special, an insider's guide
Cruise Sale Finder's Consultant Amy McMillan is a veteran of cruising, with more than a decade in the industry. She spent four days on the Queen Elizabeth from Auckland to Sydney, stopping off at the Bay of Islands. So who better to give us a unique insight into Cunard cruising?
CSF: How many times have you been on a Cunard ship?
Amy: This was my first cruise on board a Cunard. I was lucky enough to go on the old Queen Elizabeth for a day visit back when I was teenager to have a look around. Ironically that was the ship that first sparked my interest in cruising.
CSF: What is it that makes Cunard so special?
Amy: It is a very traditional cruise line with an emphasis on the finer things in life. All onboard glass is Waterford and crockery Royal Doulton, so it's quality through and through. The passenger-to-crew ratio is two to one and that's very noticeable. They are also very nostalgic about the past and there's some fascinating memorabilia to enjoy.
CSF: Tell us about the food?
Amy: The dishes were outstanding. Unfortunately I didn't have time to try everything, but what I did was first class. I ate at the Britannia for three of the evenings. This is the two-deck, 800-seat restaurant where the majority of the passengers dine. Our waiter was a real expert with excellent product knowledge and consistently good recommendations - we also had a dedicated sommelier serving drinks. If I had to pick a highlight it would have to be the Baked Alaska. Lunch and breakfast were also well executed.
We had an evening at the Verandah Restaurant. The speciality degustation menu was just US$35 for seven courses, but I instead opted for a couple of simpler dishes which were all beautifully presented and delicious. Another good breakfast choice was Lido Restaurant, with an impressive buffet selection and very tempting waffle and pancake stations.
The Golden Lion Pub had a traditional lunch with six options to choose from and there is no cover charge: a really nice option if you want something quick and casual and a little bit different.
Afternoon Tea is something of an institution on the Cunard ships, beautifully located in the Ballroom. I tried this on both a port day and sea day and can highly recommend it. On Sea Days it pays to show up about 15 mins before it starts, otherwise you could find yourself in a long queue. There was also a pianist which was a nice touch. Throw in a Galley Tour by the Executive Chef and you really do have a comprehensive dining experience.
CSF: Were you impressed by the nightlife and entertainment on Queen Elizabeth?
Amy: There are 12 bars and I particularly enjoyed the Commodore Club for pre-dinner drinks - they also served yummy canapés so it was very popular. The Yacht Club Nightclub was good for dancing, with a Caribbean band performing a couple of sets, otherwise there was a DJ. It wasn't particularly busy, but there was still fun to be had. The welcome aboard party for the 290 passengers who embarked in Auckland was another nice touch. You could get your photo with the captain upon entry to the Queens Room and there was a receiving line offering sparkling wine for passengers.
As you would expect there were plenty of things happening: all of the usual suspects, including bingo, karaoke, pub quizzes, movies, classical concerts and dance classes. Queen Elizabeth also has a really cool sports deck where you can play croquet, lawn bowls and tennis: quite old school and a lot of fun.
CSF: What about the cabins and staterooms, how do they differ?
Amy: Well, overall the ship is absolutely beautiful. I loved the timeless and elegant décor, while the public areas are spacious and you never felt that any area was overloaded with passengers at any given time.
We were allocated a Balcony Twin Share cabin, number 6161. It was midship/aft, positioned next to the elevators. The cabin was very clean and well maintained, although the bathroom was a little smaller than I expected. There was ample cupboard space and drawers for clothes and we were welcomed on board by two bottles of French sparkling wine.
CSF: Do you think Cunard can be successful for another 175 years?
Amy: Yes, without a doubt. They have a high percentage of repeat passengers and an excellent product that people love. Not everyone likes the gimmicks that some other cruise lines offer.
CSF: Is there a specific demographic of people travel on Cunard cruises, or is that changing?
Amy: The main demographic is definitely still from the older generation, primarily because the voyages are longer than your average cruise. Our captain announced the top five nationalities on board and the winner was Australia, which surprised me. This was followed by America, Great Britain, Germany and New Zealand. I only saw two children on board, so it's a good option for people wanting to avoid young ones on their cruise holiday.
Cruise Sale Finder would love to hear from you? Are you planning on taking a trip on Cunard, or perhaps you have already had a taste? Would you like to do it again and what were your favourite aspects of the trip? Send us your comments in the section below.