As February 2017 was coming to an end, I was preparing for an exciting new kind of journey. It had been years since I'd taken a cruise, and I'd never before sailed with Cunard, so the prospect of stepping aboard the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth was intriguing to say the least. In all honesty, I was wondering whether a Cunard Line cruise was my type of holiday. Don't get me wrong, Cunard are top of the line at what they do, laying on traditionally luxurious cruises with impeccable service and old fashioned attention to detail. I just wasn't sure if that's the kind of holiday I'd be into. However, over the course of my five night journey from Auckland to Sydney I had my preconceptions about what it means to cruise with Cunard broken down and redefined in unexpected ways.
This is the fifth and final article in a series looking into what cruising onboard the Queen Elizabeth (and Cunard Line in general) is really like. Other articles in the series include pieces exploring the Cunard experience, eating and drinking onboard, places you can go and things you can do. This last blog piece covers a handful of tips, tricks and lifehacks to make your time on Cunard cruises as seamlessly wonderful as possible.
10 top tips for Cunard cruisers
1. You don't have to bring a book
Reading is a fantastic way to pass the time on holiday but there's no need to add extra weight to your suitcase. The library aboard the Queen Elizabeth holds nearly 8000 books covering a vast range of genres, and the book shop is open on sea days if you want to take a volume home with you.
2. Don't get stuck on the buffet
Buffets are stock standard options on most cruise ships, so it's easy to fall into the habit of just heading to the Lido buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This would be a mistake though, as there are all kinds of excellent onboard eateries. I found the Lido Grill and Golden Lion Pub had great lunch options, while the Britannia Restaurant's three course meals were my go-to dinner choice.
3. You can hire a tuxedo onboard, but you don't have to
There's a selection of men's formalwear available for hire onboard if you need something snazzy in a pinch (not so much for the ladies, sorry) but you don't have to go full black tie for formal night. As long as you're wearing a dark suit and a tie, guys should be fine.
4. If you have non-UK electronics, bring a converter
You may be lucky enough to find a US power socket, but the UK standard is the rule. All you need to do if you've got an Aussie or Kiwi device charger is buy a cheap little power plug converter and you'll be sorted. One slight annoyance that I had on the power front was the fact that they just had a â€œshavers onlyâ€ power socket in the bathroom, which didn't allow for my more modern electric shaver.
5. All prices are in US dollars
This is a bit of an odd one. Despite Cunard's strong British roots, everything that you pay for onboard is priced in US dollars. Down Under cruisers shouldn't run into too many troubles with currency, as everything is paid for with your Cunard cruise card. The balance will be transferred over to your nominated credit card every few days, so don't forget to sort out your credit after your cruise wraps up.
6. Early birds should request a 6:00pm dinner sitting
Britannia Restaurant, the main dining venue on all three Cunard ships, has two sittings: one at 6:00pm and the other at 8:00pm. If you're keen to turn in early, I'd highly recommend opting for the earlier sitting. These two dinner times line up with two evening show times in the Royal Court Theatre: 8:30pm and 10:30pm. As a staunch night owl, I was happy eating dinner at 8:00pm but it did mean that it was near midnight by the time my evening's entertainment had wrapped up.
7. Arrive early to tender ashore
Sometimes your ship isn't able to dock at port, which means that smaller vessels need to tender passengers across from the cruise ship to shore. If this is the case (the captain and crew will let you know well ahead of time) try to turn up to the specified muster point as soon as possible. The Queens Room is commonly used for this purpose, but you'll be informed of appropriate location at least the day before. Depending on many different factors it can sometimes take a while to ferry everyone ashore, and the earlier you get to muster, the sooner you'll find yourself landside.
8. Room service meals are free 24/7 - and they're actually good
All the food on the room service menu is included in your cruise fare and in a pleasant contrast to some lines, the meals are really nice. I tried room service several different times over the course of my voyage (often to fill that gap between lunch and a late dinner) and it was always tasty and arrived within fifteen minutes. You can also order drinks to your room, but they do cost extra.
9. Smoking is permitted but restricted
Determining smoking areas is always a tricky balancing act between providing a space for smokers to relax and allowing non-smoking passengers to steer clear. Smoking aboard the Queen Elizabeth (which includes electronic alternatives) is only allowed on designated starboard areas of Deck 3 and Deck 10. This means no smoking on stateroom balconies or in any indoor spaces. The exception to this rule is the Churchill Lounge on Deck 10, dedicated to cigar and pipe smoking.
10. You can keep it casual before 6:00pm
This was something I was confused about before I went on my cruise. During the day before 6:00pm, there's no real dress code to speak of. If you want to bum around in your comfy clothes all day, you're more than welcome to. It's after 6 that a dress code starts to apply, either Informal or Formal. Informal will see men donning collared shirts and jackets, while women can opt for a nice dress or a tidy pant/blouse combo. Formal night requires men to wear a dark suit and tie at minimum while ladies have the chance to break out cocktail dresses and evening dresses. If you feel like ignoring the dress code altogether, you're still welcome to dine at the Lido Restaurant buffet and relax in the Garden Lounge.
Overall, I loved my time aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to unwind in style. Fortunately for Down Under cruise lovers, Cunard has just announced a 2019 cruise season which includes the Queen Elizabeth homeporting in Australia for an unheard of two months. The season is now on sale, so check out what Cunard has in store and you might find yourself exploring the world like a royal sooner than you think.