Towards the end of February 2017 I was lucky enough to find myself onboard the Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, sailing across the Tasman Sea from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia. I'm pretty new to cruising, having only tried it once before (and that was many years ago) and I'd never once cruised with Cunard, so the whole thing was a fresh adventure for me. Before I boarded Queen Elizabeth, I wasn't quite sure if I'd enjoy a Cunard cruise. They are renowned for excellent traditional-style cruising and classic luxury, whereas I tend to prefer a more casual, go-with-the-flow approach. However, during the relatively short time I spent with Cunard, many of my preconceptions about the cruise line were completely overturned.
This article is the fourth in a series of blog pieces that explore from a firsthand perspective what it's really like to cruise with Cunard in general and aboard the Queen Elizabeth specifically. The preceding articles cover the Cunard experience, the food and drink onboard and the places you can spend time on Queen Elizabeth. This particular piece shines a light on the things you can get up to during your time onboard a Cunard cruise.
Lying by the pool is all very well but with nothing else to do, it would get a bit boring after a few days at sea. Fortunately there's plenty to keep you engaged over the course of the cruise, even if your voyage includes a good number of sea days.
Let's be honest: no one wants to exert themselves too much on a cruise. So â€œlawnâ€ sports provide the perfect solution that allows you to spend time with friends, get a bit of fresh air and stay moderately active. The Queen Elizabeth has dedicated a fairly generous section of one of the ship's upper decks to well kept facilities for paddle tennis, mat bowls, croquet and the like.
The Queens Room was designed specifically with dancing in mind. The entire space is centred around a ballroom floor, and while it's occasionally commandeered for other purposes (like Cunard's charming Afternoon Tea) most of the time there's plenty of space to try out your dance moves. There are also a number of fare inclusive ballroom dancing classes and line dancing sessions for you to enjoy during your time onboard. If you're more inclined to hit the club than the ballroom, make for the Yacht Club in the evening and dance the night away.
If you're itching to stretch out your legs and raise your heart rate a little, you can always pay a visit to the onboard Fitness Centre. There are exercise classes you can sign up for, or you can just jump on a treadmill or exercycle whenever one is free. If the gym environment isn't really for you, I'd suggest opting to take the stairs instead of elevators if you're only going a few floors up or down. It's a surprisingly easy way to stay active onboard.
Who says you can't learn things while on holiday? Cunard brings onboard all sorts of intriguing personalities to speak on a wide range of topics so no matter where your interests lie, chances are you'll come across a subject that interests you. If you happen to miss out on a talk because you're busy doing something else, it's easy enough to catch it on your in-cabin TV at a later time.
Trivia / Bingo
Get a group of friends together or join some of your fellow cruisers - general knowledge quizzes and bingo's fun atmosphere always makes for a good time. If you find yourself on a particularly canny quiz team or get lucky with the numbers you might even come away with a prize at the end.
You don't have to be running around doing stuff all day to have fun on the Queen Elizabeth though. Sometimes it's as easy just turning up to something that's been all planned for you by the Cunard crew.
This is one of the things that Cunard veterans say they love best about the cruise line: the shows they put on are generally top notch. I went to a few different shows at the Royal Court Theatre during my time onboard and all of them were of a very high standard. There are two show times per evening to accommodate for the two different dinner sittings, so no matter what time you finish eating there should still be time for you to catch a show.
Even if you're not normally the type to indulge in games of chance, cruising is a excuse to try something new. On sea days, Cunard staff will be help you try your luck at classic pastimes like roulette, poker and more. Alternatively, you can just opt for a casual flutter on the pokie machines. The casino will not be running while the ship is in national waters (i.e. on port days).
For most, cruises aren't so much about running around getting things done, as a time to unwind and take it easy. Below are a few things to do onboard the Queen Elizabeth that mostly involve doing not very much at all.
Soaking / Sunbathing
Reclining poolside with a cool drink in hand is one part of the cruising experience that everyone needs to be part of. There are two main swimming pools on the Queen Elizabeth, the Lido and the Pavilion, and they both have a generous selection of pool chairs nearby. There are also a couple of warmer spa pools for those who would rather soak than swim.
One big plus to retail therapy on a cruise ship is the fact that anything you buy will generally be duty free. This does mean that stores are closed on port days, but while you're at sea you can save on all kinds of top-notch merchandise. Clothes, jewelry, alcohol, books and much more are all available at the Royal Arcade. You can also appreciate (and even acquire) all kinds of exquisite art pieces at the Clarendon Gallery.
It doesn't get much more leisurely than receiving luxurious spa treatments while reclining with an expansive seaview. The Royal Spa is there for all those who want to take the time to be truly pampered. Spa treatments are not included in the standard fare, but it's well worth paying a little bit extra to take your cruise experience to the next level.
Bookworms will have no trouble finding their own personal haven aboard the Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth. While bringing a book onboard is straightforward enough (I brought a couple of volumes with me on my trip) you can easily save that luggage space. Queen Elizabeth's two-storey library boasts nearly 8000 books, covering almost every genre imaginable. There is also an onboard bookstore for those who don't want to rush through their stories before disembarking.
Not once during my time cruising with Cunard on the Queen Elizabeth was I casting around for something to do - I was always able to find the ideal activity for my current mood. If you're intrigued by the idea of Cunard cruises, there's some excellent news on the horizon: the Queen Elizabeth will be sailing out of Sydney and Melbourne for an unprecedented two months in 2019. These itineraries go on sale from 30 March 2017 and are likely to sell out fast, so mark your calendar, set a notification and get ready to experience the old fashioned luxury of a Cunard cruise.