In February I departed Auckland, New Zealand on a journey across the Tasman Sea. I was sailing aboard the Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth cruise ship to Sydney. I am not an experienced cruiser by any stretch and I had never stepped aboard a Cunard ship before, so all this was brand new territory. In all honesty, I was a little bit apprehensive about cruising with Cunard; I thought that my casual style wouldn't mesh well with a line which has a reputation for traditional cruising and old-fashioned luxury. However, I soon realised that I'd have to leave my preconceptions on shore: Cunard had more than a few surprises in store for me.
This is the first in a series of articles that look at what cruising aboard a Cunard vessel (the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship in particular) is really like. To start with, I'm going to take a little bit of an overview of what life and leisure looks like when you opt for a Cunard cruise.
The Cunard culture
Cunard is a cruise line with a proud British heritage and they're not afraid to let it show. The first place you'll notice this cultural influence is of course the cruise ship names - each one is christened after a British monarch; the Cunard fleet currently includes the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth. Cunard's britannic sensibilities go far past vessel names though. For a start, onboard the Queen Elizabeth, one of the first things you'll notice are the artworks featuring Her Majesty and other royals in public areas.
Beyond these surface touches lies an Old World ethos of refined service and impeccable quality throughout the cruising experience. If you're looking for a cruise with flashy entertainment options like skydive machines and bumper cars, or a voyage that's essentially a giant party at sea, Cunard is not the ideal choice for you. On the other hand, if you're keen to relax in an environment that gives you every opportunity to peacefully unwind on your own terms while plying you with some of the finer things in life, a Cunard vessel might just be your new home away from home. Cunard offers traditional luxury cruises - but this doesn't mean that it's dull or uptight. In fact, I was delighted with how low key and casual everything was each day. In the evening things get a little more classy, but if you don't want to go overboard you certainly don't have to.
In short, Cunard is all about offering cruisers the chance to treat themselves to a higher quality of life and making you feel like royalty at the same time.
So what does your average Cunard cruiser look like? Obviously there's a bit of a range and it will vary from voyage to voyage but generally it's a more mature crowd, especially on their famous round the world itineraries. On Cunard's world cruise sailings, families with kids are rarely seen - in fact, I didn't see a single child for the entire duration of my trans-Tasman cruise. However on shorter itineraries, you'll see a few more families. Cunard's ships do have excellent facilities for kids, teens and even toddlers, but the rest of the ship is very adult oriented.
Cunard cruisers tend to have a bit of life experience under their belt, they know what they want and they know they deserve to be spoiled every now and again. The good thing is, even if you're not a typical Cunard cruiser (as I wasn't) this is a cruise line that will win you over with its gently old fashioned charm.
Cunard Line strengths and weaknesses
Every cruise line has things that it does better than any other, and aspects which it's not quite so strong in - Cunard is no exception. Arguably this particular line has more pros than cons, being a luxury cruise company, but it's still worth taking a look at what defines Cunard.
- Spacious ships
- Exceptional service
- Gourmet cuisine choices
- Yearly world cruise opportunities
- Classically tasteful aesthetic
- High quality shows
- 24/7 complimentary room service
- Inflexible internet plans
- Not much for kids to do onboard outside of children's areas
- World cruise activities (bingo, ballroom dancing etc) geared to a single age range
Signature Cunard touches
On every great cruise (and make no mistake: Cunard does great cruises) there are elements that stand out as highlights - things that really define what it means to sail away with that particular cruise line. Cunard has several of these special touches, but I'd argue that one of the most iconic is their Afternoon Tea. This is where Cunard's English roots really shine through in the best way possible. White glove service is the standard, with staff bringing around exquisitely presented sandwiches, scones and other treats. All this is accompanied of course by Twinings Afternoon Tea blend and even a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne if you wish.
Another signature Cunard aspect is their formal nights. Now formal nights are pretty standard across most cruise lines, but on Cunard you have the opportunity to really go all out. I'm not at all the â€œget dressed up and go outâ€ type, but it took me all of 10 minutes to get ready and I actually really enjoyed the experience of the evening (there was just the one on my 5 night cruise, which is about normal). One more famed Cunard experience is the personalised White Star Service (complete with butler and suite steward) enjoyed by Queens and Princess Grill passengers - this is the absolute height of cruising luxury.
All in all, cruising with Cunard means that you'll be allowed to relax and indulge at your own pace, treated to the finer things in life, and generally made to feel like royalty. Who wouldn't want a holiday like that?
If a Cunard cruise sounds like your kind of thing, you're in luck - the Queen Elizabeth will be spending two months in Australian waters, and you can book cruises for this period from March 2017 onwards. If you don't want to wait, there are plenty of other Cunard cruises visiting all kinds of amazing destinations across the globe. Where could Cunard take you?