Cunard Line

Cunard Line - Cruise Reviews - Queen Mary 2 - Queen Elizabeth - Queen Victoria

Along with Holland America Line, Cunard is the most history-rich cruise line afloat. Its origins go back to 1840 when Sir Samuel Cunard ran the first regular steamship service between Europe and North America.

Fast forward 170-plus years and Cunard is a successful cruise ship company, and one owned by the Carnival Corporation since 1998. That seemingly weird partnership has worked well, fueling a building spree that led to three new vessels for Cunard since 2004.

Onboard Cunard
Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are feats of modern technology while at the same time, their décor and vibe are infused with plenty of old-worldliness, from art and antiques to deco ball rooms and old-fashioned multi-class cabin accommodations. Passengers are assigned to one of the three reserved-seating restaurants according to the cabin category they’ve booked: Suite-and-above passengers dine in the Queens or Princess Grills, while everyone else eats in the grand and sweeping Brittania Restaurant, the only one of the three with an early and a late seating.

All serve tasty continental fare, from fowl and steaks to seafood, pasta and lighter spa fare, with the Grills restaurants also offering the option of diners making whatever special meal requests they desire. Other diner venues include the intimate Todd English restaurant aboard the QM2 and Queen Victoria, offering delicious and rich meals, while there’s also a sprawling casual buffet restaurant aboard all three offering everything from carved meats to pizza and Asian dishes. There are also burgers and hot dogs up on deck and of course a traditional afternoon tea is served daily and accompanied by a string quartet.

Activities aboard Cunard
The Cunard trio is big enough to offer plenty of entertainment options, from plays featuring graduates of Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (on QM2) to standard song-and-dance revues, various kinds of live music and ballroom dancing as well. By day, besides cruise ship standards ala wine tastings, bingo and bridge, the Cunard Insights extensive lecture and workshop offerings are on par with what Crystal Cruises offers. Professors, authors, celebrities and other learned people speak about all kinds of things from ocean-liner history to music, architecture, science tops and so much more.

The ships’ large and super-stocked libraries are the best at sea, especially QM2’s, and each ship’s collection of museum-quality Cunard and ship memorabilia is impressive and truly fascinating. Each has a posh spa (operated by Canyon Ranch on QM2) and a fitness center with all the latest equipment and classes. The trio has several swimming pools, plus shuffleboard, quoits and paddle tennis on deck.

Cunard & Kids
Surprisingly to many, Cunard’s three ships offer quite impressive kids facilities, particularly QM2. While the typical crowd is a well-traveled international mix of 50-somethings on up (heavy on the British and American clientele), summer and holiday cruises and crossings see lots of families too. The bright, cheery and well-stocked playroom and its supervised drop-off programming cater to kids from age one (*minimum age will move up to age 2 starting in 2012) through age 12, with teens offered plenty of activities around the ships too. A mix of certified British nannies as well as other qualified activity counselors run the fun and games, and better yet, the whole thing is complimentary right up until midnight. The ships also have an outdoor play area just outside the playroom, along with a wading pool and a regular pool.

The Grand Tradition of Cruising

Queen Mary 2 cruising past the original Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.Yearning to turn back the clock to the Golden Age of Cruising? Turn it back on a transatlantic cruise.

It is a misty morning in May. Passengers cluster on the outside decks of the Queen Mary 2. Some sip cups of coffee; some stand clutching cameras; some just stand in awe. It is a memorable moment: They are coming to America by ship.

Six days earlier they left Southampton, a bustling harbor in southern England. Today, they will float past some of America’s greatest icons – the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan’s towering skyline. Within an hour, they will disembark a few blocks from Times Square, having completed a classic cruise – crossing the Atlantic.

Experience a tradition. Cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York.New York has nearly always been the final destination for European liners that began traversing the Atlantic in 1840. The city has seen ships bring waves of immigrants and scores of millionaires and movie stars.

Cunard Line passengers dining in the Britannia dining room on the Queen Mary 2As a boy growing up opposite the busy Manhattan piers in the 1950s, Bill Miller witnessed the almost daily parade of great ocean liners coming from, and going to, Europe. He plotted his weekends by consulting shipping schedules published in the New York Times and other local newspapers. “On Saturdays, five or six of these grand ships would come down the Hudson River in succession,” he recalls. “It was fabulous, not only the sight of these beautiful floating palaces but the fact that they were going to these romantic, faraway places.”

It was the notion of grand ships sailing to distant lands that caused Miller to embark on a lifelong vocation as a cruise historian. He fell in love with ships and shipping. Today, he is a noted authority, lecturing at sea and on television. He has written a series of books and has interviewed countless crew and passengers who sailed the great ocean liners of the past.

One of his favorite stories involves three ladies by the names of Smith, Jones and McBeth. During the 1940s and 50s, they cruised for extended periods of time on Cunard Line’s Caronia. Smith and Jones cruised for two or three years at a time, which you may consider remarkable, until you consider McBeth’s extended cruise.

The Queen's Room ballroom on the Queen Mary 2She was “the all-time champ,” Miller says. She boarded the Caronia one day and sailed for 14 years before getting off for good. In today’s dollars, she would have spent roughly $4 million in cruise fares. “And she had the dubious distinction,” Miller adds, “of being the only passenger where the captain actually came down once a week to see her, as opposed to her being called up to his place for drinks.”

The place to meet during the day on the Queen Mary 2: The Golden Lion PubIt was a grand era indeed, when folks like the Windsors, the Churchills, movie actors and actresses – almost all of high society – cruised back and forth between Europe and America. It was easy to imagine the era would never end.

But from the banks of the Hudson, Miller witnessed the end. The advent of transatlantic jet service in the late 1950s put the oceangoing liners out of business. Though cruise ships still sail into New York’s harbor, Queen Mary 2 is the only one regularly cruising between Europe and America. And grand ships like the Caronia are long gone.

For avid cruisers, however, boarding any ship evokes a sense of nostalgia. “It’s all a connection back to the days of the sailing ships, to the early liners, the immigrants, the millionaires, the movie stars, the whole history of cruising,” Miller says. “It’s a tremendous sense of history, a rich, rich heritage.”

Cunard Line Cruise Ship Reviews

Transatlantic Crossing

Choose Your Cruise: Transatlantic Cruises

by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.

A Cunard cruise is a grand experience

New York has nearly always been the final destination for European liners that began Transatlantic cruises in 1840. The city has seen ships bring waves of immigrants and scores of millionaires and movie stars. The Big Apple has welcomed the world’s greatest sailing ships, stately icons that symbolized a time of great glamour, elegance and tradition.But the advent of transatlantic jet service in the late 1950s put the oceangoing liners out of business, and transatlantic cruises slowed to a trickle. Though cruise ships still sail into New York’s harbor, Queen Mary 2 is the only one regularly cruising between Europe and America.

The Todd English restaurant is popular for lunch and dinnerThe journey between Southampton, a bustling harbor in southern England, and New York takes only six days. Leaving Southampton, quite near where the Mayflower departed in the 1600s for the land that would become America, today’s cruise passengers sail past some of America’s greatest icons when entering New York’s storied harbor — the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan’s towering skyline. Within an hour, they will disembark a few blocks from Times Square, having completed a classic cruise — crossing the Atlantic.

A Princess Grill stateroom on the Queen Mary 2For nostalgia buffs or anyone that longs for the elegance of a bygone era, a transatlantic cruise is an absolute must.

No-Jetlag Journey: On transtlantic cruises, you lose an hour a night cruising eastbound from New York and gain an hour a night cruising westbound from Southampton, which makes for a smooth transition for such a long trip.

Trans-Atlantic Tip: Meet The Duke
Got an hour to spare before boarding Queen Mary 2 in Southampton, England? Walk several blocks from the cruise ship terminal to the Duke of Wellington pub.

We did, and what we found in the 15th-century pub located at 36 Bugle Street was a convivial maritime setting, stone fireplaces with logs blazing and a row of cask ales to accompany the menu of traditional English fare: Fish and Chips, Ploughman’s Lunch, and Bangers and Mash.

Sailors and “cruise” passengers from earlier times may well have stopped here for fortification. In 1620, more than a century after the pub opened, another ship set sail from the foot of Bugle Street. Its name: the Mayflower.

Queen Victoria

by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.

The Britannia Restaurant on the Queen Victoria

To truly get the feeling of what it is like to be aboard Cunard Line’s new Queen Victoria, it helps if you think of hats. Hats crowned nearly every woman’s head during Queen Victoria’s naming ceremony in Southampton, England this past December.

Wide-brimmed, narrow-brimmed, floral and feathery, hats of all types adorned heads turned toward the stage, where Cunard Line President Carol Marlow, in her stylish hat, acknowledged The Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla, as she is more commonly known, dispatched a bottle of bubbly against the hull of the new vessel and launched Queen Victoria into service. Of course she did so wearing what else? A hat.

Hats even prevailed in the days following the ceremony. On Queen Victoria’s maiden voyage, women put themselves in fanciful headdress for the Royal Ascot Ball’s ‘hat parade.’ Queen Victoria herself would have approved. Britain’s longest-ruling monarch was particularly fond of hats and even ‘set the fashion’ for the styles of headdress that Englishwomen favored, according to a 1901 article in The London Mail.

If the emphasis on hats seems somewhat antiquated, then you’ve gotten my point. Queen Victoria (the ship, that is) presents the perfect backdrop for those who long to return to the golden age of ocean liner travel, when ships were steeped in elegant grandeur and when hats were in vogue.

Not A Cruise Ship At All
Indeed, as I strolled the decks of Queen Victoria, dressed in a tuxedo, a glass of champagne in hand, I felt as though I were witnessing a harmonious marriage between theatrical stage and ocean-going vessel. It was as if Disney had met Titanic — and given it a happy ending. None of it felt fake or contrived.

In fact, Marlow says that the 2,014-passenger Queen Victoria evokes grandeur without grandiosity, glamour without glitz. It is not a cruise ship, but an ocean liner. She speaks of voyages, not cruises, and in her mind, all of these distinctions are important ones. You might say that Queen Victoria provides an experiential escape rather than a contemporary get-away.

The Royal Court Theater on Queen VictoriaOn board Queen Victoria, I could easily imagine myself on a grand ocean voyage. How could I not? The nostalgia of yesteryear surrounded me. Walking into the two-deck Britannia Restaurant, for example, I stopped to admire the magnificent centerpiece: a stylized Art Deco, revolving globe, 10 feet tall. It was wonderfully evocative of Cunard’s rich history of plying the world’s oceans.

Featuring original artwork, wall sconces, polished wood, bronze, mirror and gold leaf ceiling, Britannia was inspired by the dining car on the Golden Arrow, the glamorous train that linked London and Paris.

While there is no ‘steerage’ class on Queen Victoria, there is something that evokes the ‘class structure’ on ocean liners of the past. On Deck 12, the smaller Queen’s and Princess Grill dining venues are reserved for guests in Queen’s and Princess’ suites (there are 127 suites ranging from 335 to 2,131 square feet). These traditional dining venues are accessed by private elevator, keyed by a stateroom card.

Perhaps the most nostalgically evocative space is the Royal Court Theatre. Designed to resemble a grand West End theatre, it features a first at sea: 16 private viewing boxes that overlook the stage. Seating two to eight guests each and spanning three decks, the private boxes are furnished with elegant armchairs and cocktail tables.

The $50 per couple charge for the private boxes includes many extras: a pre-show cocktail in a private bar as well as complimentary individual-sized bottles of Veuve Cliquot champagne and truffles. Should anything else be required during the show, a velvet pull cord summons the bell boy. You rang sir?

A Slice of Britain
A quintessential Cunard vessel, Queen Victoria has not only the hallmark features associated with her sisters, but also private viewing boxes in the Royal Court Theater, alfresco dining for Grill guests, a floating museum display of Cunard memorabilia (Cunardia), and a two-story library with nearly 6,000 books – and much more.

Just outside the Royal Court Theatre are the Royal Arcade shops, an elegant shopping area designed to capture the feel of London’s Burlington Arcade. The Royal Arcade is anchored by a free-standing clock built by the same company that built Big Ben. It issues Westminster chimes on the hour.

Queen Victoria - The Grills' CourtyardFlanking the clock on either side is a dramatic staircase with intricate wrought-iron detailing. With such attention to detail, Queen Victoria appears to be as much setting as it does ship. I imagined myself walking through London as I crossed the Royal Arcade to The Golden Lion, a British Isles style pub, where bartenders dispensed draft bitters and stouts and a chalk board listed such English comfort food as bangers and mash, fish and chips, and ploughman’s lunch — all at no additional charge. The pub has an authentic feel with its red carpet and dark woods.

Anglophiles will find Queen Victoria to be their cup of tea, and of course, white-gloved service high tea is served daily in the formal ballroom known as the Queen’s Room. Cunard bills the afternoon tea as one of the its most ‘civilized customs.’

Proceeding even deeper into Anglophilia, I made my way to Churchill’s Cigar Lounge, an intimate area that features a selection of cigars and after-dinner drinks as well as photos of Winston Churchill himself. I also visited the Art Deco-inspired Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar that overlooks the Grand Lobby and features several rich canvases depicting the launch of the original Queen Mary. Cunard’s history is depicted, in fact, throughout the ship and particularly in the well-executed Cunardia, featuring exhibits of Cunard memorabilia.

The Grand Lobby, with its triple-height ceiling, sweeping staircases and sculpted balconies, evokes the ambience found on Cunard liners of the past. An attractive bronzed-effect representation of Queen Victoria emerging from a sun and earth motif graces the staircase landing.

Accessible from the Grand Lobby, The Library offers a selection of more than 6,000 books and spans two decks — with the upper and lower levels connected by a spiral staircase.

Double and triple-height public rooms, dark woods, deep rich reds, shades of yellow and gold characterize Queen Victoria’s interior. But for me, Queen Victoria will forever be cast in sepia. That’s because she evokes the image of the bygone days of cruising, a grand and rich era when ocean liners carried the names of queens and when special occasions brought out ladies wearing their magnificent hats.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess Of Cornwall Names Cunard's New Queen Victoria

by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.

HRHThe Duchess of Cornwall officially named Cunard Line's newest ocean liner, Queen Victoria

Southampton, England - December 10, 2007 - Continuing a grand royal tradition, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall officially named Cunard Line's newest ocean liner, Queen Victoria, this afternoon during a colorful and regal ceremony in front of a VIP audience of more than 2,000 guests, celebrities and dignitaries.

A milestone in Cunard and British maritime history, this historic occasion marks the continuation of a long tradition of senior Royals naming Cunard liners. "Every one of our Cunard Queens has been named by a member of the Royal Family and we are delighted that Queen Victoria follows in this regal tradition," said Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line.

Queen Victoria is not only a classic Cunard ocean liner, offering the very best of Cunard heritage and traditions, but is also the second largest Cunarder the company has ever built. She departed on her Maiden Voyage on Tuesday December 11, 2007.