With a noble history that began in 1840, Cunard Cruise Line epitomizes the elegance and luxury of cruise travel. Perfect for seasoned travelers interested in a classic yet modern experience, Cunard Cruise Line delivers excellence in every way.
The Cunard Cruise Line Fleet
Though the fleet has less than a half-dozen ships, what those vessels lack in numbers they make up for in sheer size, luxury, and prominence. Cunard Cruise Line was purchased by the Carnival Corporation in 1998, though it has maintained a distinctively different personality than its sister Carnival ships. From venerated vessels such as Mauretania and Lusitania, Cunard is now known for its royal behemoths: the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the newer Queen Mary 2. The smaller Caronia is also still in service, and the line is expanding to other vessels including the forthcoming Queen Victoria.
While the diminutive Caronia only serves 660 passengers, the QM2 was the largest cruise ship in the world when she launched, accommodating more than 2,600 guests. Designed for ocean crossings rather than sheltered pleasure cruises, the QM2 is larger in nearly every respect than other mainstream cruise ships: her engines are more powerful, her hull more streamlined, her facilities more elaborate. With dozens of amenities, the QM2 was also the most expensive cruise ship ever built.
With just a few ships in service, Cunard Cruise Line departure ports are limited. Southampton, England is a home port for all the ships, while the QM2 is the only Cunard liner to regularly visit United States ports, offering voyages from New York and Fort Lauderdale on a regular basis.
Much of Cunard's décor pays homage to the elegance of cruising, with a minimalist blend of classic and contemporary features that lacks the eclectic clash of other high-profile vessels. Simple elegance is portrayed in numerous rich touches, such as glass ceilings, candlelit dining rooms, antique chart replicas, and displays highlighting the line's lengthy history. The QM2 has a particularly spectacular feature: a tremendous tapestry (the largest at sea, in fact) in the Brittania Restaurant depicting the liner against New York's skyline.
The Cunard line offers few short itineraries, though there are limited four-day cruises to France and short southern Caribbean options infrequently offered. The line caters to luxurious seagoing that can only be truly experienced with lengthy voyages, and different itineraries span 7-18 days across Europe, with ports of call in Spain, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Italy, Croatia, Ireland and more. Caribbean itineraries are restricted to eastern and southern options that offer more exotic ports of call than the popular Western Caribbean Cruises. Transatlantic cruises typically take six days.
Unlike other lines that focus heavily on games, contests, and other rowdy diversions, Cunard Cruise Line promotes a distinguished, sophisticated air on all its vessels, though it is not lacking in activity options.
Though Cunard's dining rooms are segregated with remnants of a class system, the cuisine is extraordinary and each dining room offers exquisite menus complete with vegetarian and light selections. As is standard with modern cruise ships, an aft buffet is available as a casual option, and on the QM2 that buffet is converted to three casual restaurants during dinner hours. Another unique dining option on the QM2 is the Chef's Galley on Deck 7, where a limited number of guests can watch meal preparations through open viewing and large monitors. In keeping with the line's attention to service, guests may routinely order items not listed on printed menus, and room service is always available.
The focus of most Cunard entertainment is on learning: lectures are staples of each voyage, with seminars ranging from history and literature to cooking and languages. Each ship is outfitted with an extensive library for passengers who prefer their own intellectual pursuits, and guided tours highlighting onboard artwork and memorabilia are available. Evening entertainment includes cabaret acts, revue shows, plays, and assorted musicians. The QM2 has an extensive planetarium facility, the first ever at sea.
Spas and Fitness
With a relaxing minimalist motif, Cunard's spas offer an astonishing range of treatments, including massages, herbal saunas, thalassotherapy pools, and reflexology. The gymnasium facilities, on the other hand, are surprisingly small for such luxurious ships, though they are well-equipped with modern equipment and free weights. For passengers who prefer exercising in the open air, the Promenade decks offer adequate jogging and walking space - three laps around the QM2's Promenade equals one mile.
In keeping with their reputation, the casinos on Cunard ships present more of a Monte Carlo-style atmosphere than a Las Vegas venue. Though not as large or elaborate as on other lines, the casinos still feature table games, slot machines, and other games of chance.
Cunard Cruise Line offers children's programming for passengers as young as one year old, an age group only matched by Disney Cruise Line. Though the Caronia offers no children's activities, both the QE2 and the QM2 have extensive activities including pizza parties, crafts, ship tours, movies, and board games. Private in-cabin babysitting is available for an additional fee.
The best extra amenities for Cunard passengers are available in the elite suite cabins. Features include concierge service, personalized stationary, Xbox gaming systems, and private hot tubs. The line also offers gentlemen hosts for dancing and conversation with unaccompanied female passengers, and airfare is usually included with the cost of a transatlantic booking.
Cons About Cunard Cruise Line
Despite Cunard's commitment to luxury and elegance, the line does falter. While the suites offer fabulous amenities, the prices are so exorbitant as to be practically inaccessible for most passengers. With only a few ships, the itinerary choices are limited, particularly for cruisers departing from the United States. The ships are designed for life at sea, making ports of call a secondary consideration and somewhat disappointing for travelers interested in experiencing different cultures.
Cunard Cruise Line offers passengers a glimpse into the golden age of cruising with elegant ships committed to the best of the cruising lifestyle. With spectacular ships and a gradually expanding fleet, Cunard is sure to dominate the waves for many decades to come.