Cruise Lifestyle

5 common misconceptions about Cunard Line

Following our ship visit to Queen Mary 2 in Dubai’s Port Rashid, we found out some of the common myths about the cruise line that keep new cruisers away and decided to dispel them.

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Cunard Line is a company with an inevitable reputation. It’s a brand that has become associated with romance, glamour and all the other adjectives that define the Golden Age of ocean travel. The name is legendary, so much so that even non-cruise enthusiasts have heard of it, or if not Cunard itself, then they’ll definitely know of QE2 or her replacement, Queen Mary 2.

But, it was during a ship visit aboard Queen Mary 2 in Dubai, during her port call ahead of her Dubai to Asia voyage, that we discovered that there are many misconception about Cunard Line that keep a lot of first time cruisers away. New blood is important to any company, and cruise line’s are no exception, so while Cunard Line enjoys a large community of avid fans, there are many more who have the wrong idea about what the name Cunard really means.

Yes, the line is synonymous with the iconic trans-Atlantic cruise service, and therefore all the glitz and glamour that defined ocean travel during the age of the ocean liner, and it is the owner and operator of the world’s largest ocean liner ever built (Queen Mary 2), but this reputation has also led to 5 key misconceptions.

It’s for old people

Passengers in Queen Mary 2’s G32 nightclub.

Cunard Line doesn’t refer to its ships as operating ‘cruises’, instead it calls them ‘voyages’ and there’s a reason for this – most of them are longer than your average 5 to 7-night cruise. In fact the average length of a Cunard Line voyage is 25 nights. On longer cruises, passengers tend to be from an older demographic, because retirees are the ones with the money and free time to spend on a three, four or five week grand voyage.

However, there are three ships in the Cunard fleet. Queen Mary 2 does the trans-Atlantic in summer and longer voyages around the world in winter, while Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are both cruise ships by design and operation, and offer a selection of long and short cruises annually. In 2020, for example, Queen Victoria will offer 2-night cruises between Southampton and Hamburg, and 5-night cruises between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Later in the year, she’ll also cruise 4, 7, 12 and 14-night itinerary from Southampton.

“On these shorter voyages the age of passengers drop considerably, into the global average of 30 to 40 years old,” says Ashok Kumar, general manager of Cruise Master Middle East, which represents Cunard in the region. “There are families, young couples, and multi-generational groups of passengers, and the entertainment is switched-up to appeal to their tastes as well.”

It’s formal and stuffy

This is Cunard’s version of a ‘casual buffet’ – while the surroundings are still upmarket, passengers can dress as they like.

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Because Cunard Line’s brand is famous for the trans-Atlantic service and the grandeur of the ocean liner, it maintains that standard across the fleet. A suit and evening gown is required on formal night, and there are more formal nights on a week-long cruise than any other cruise line – three. However, in 2013 Cunard scaled back its dress codes considerably.

Now, instead of a formal, semi-formal and informal dress code, there is only formal and informal. And the dress code on any given evening is only applicable to passengers wanting to dine in their assigned main dining room (Brittannia, Princess of Queen’s Grill) or those wanting to have a drink in the cocktail bars on-board.

“If passengers opt out of evening wear on formal nights, they will be restricted to the ships’ main buffet restaurants and the adjoining Winter Garden or Garden Lounge bars, out of respect for their fellow guests,” according to Cunard. In these buffets and lounges, the same dress code as any other cruise line will apply – you can wear jeans and a t-shirt for example, and no eyebrows will be raised.

“New-to-Cunard passengers are consistently surprised by the amount of freedom there is on-board to do as you like, when you like,” said our tour guide during the visit to Queen Mary 2 in Dubai.

It’s only for the rich

Cunard s famous for its themed balls – and everyone can take part.

This really depends on the itinerary. The week-long trans-Atlantic cruises aboard Queen Mary 2, for example, average out at around 40% more than your standard 7-night Caribbean cruise with Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean, (with an inside stateroom) but sometimes they’re cheaper. As you get into the better stateroom categories aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, or Queen Elizabeth, it does get expensive, but only because it offers a breadth of premium cabin categories that mainstream cruise lines don’t.

You don’t have to be rich to cruise with Cunard, if you want to do so for under a week, and stay in an inside or standard ocean view stateroom, you can do so at a price point not unreasonably more than a mass-market line. It’s only for the Princess and Queen’s Grill experiences that you’d need to shill out.

It’s not for families

The Play Zone aboard Queen Victoria.

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All three of Cunard’s ships have extensive children’s facilities, while only Queen Elizabeth lacks teens hang-out areas. “Children at least 6 months of age are welcome on most Cunard Line voyages,” according to the line’s policies. “On Transatlantic Crossings, Transpacific voyages (including voyages to Hawaii) and World Voyages (including Segment Voyages), the minimum age is one year.”

Queen Elizabeth has a Play Zone for children, while Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria have a Play Zone children’s club, and a Zone teen’s club. The Play Zone is filled with toys, games and activities including a soft play area and ball pool, supervised by fully-trained nursery staff. There are daily activities, including sports, arts and crafts and a disco, as well as themed days such as Pirate Day. In the teen’s ‘Zone, there are gaming consoles, Apple computers and a tailored program of activities, such as art attack (a chance to create self-portraits), treasure hunts, a fashion show, trivia and movie sessions.

There’s nothing to do

Royal Court Theatre aboard Cunard Line.

Many people incorrectly assume that a Cunard cruise is all about Afternoon Tea, card games and books. While these are popular pursuits (Cunard’s Afternoon Tea is legendary) and Queen Mary 2 has the largest library on any cruise ship (more than 2,000 books!), the daily program is also packed full of activities from 7.30am to late at night.

There’s fencing classes and dance classes in the Queen’s Room, Olympic Games on the pool deck, bridge classes, themed quizzes in the Golden Lion Pub, talent shows, and games and tournaments in the casino. Cunard also hosts renowned Cunard Insights talks, which sees speakers offer informative daily lectures about a variety of topics. Talks usually take place twice daily.

No cruise is complete without live music and there are a range of options during the day and night, from live jazz in the Carinthia Lounge, a pianist in the Golden Lion Pub and “Chart Room Melodies” in the Chart Room, to daily changing production shows in the theatre such as “Broadway Rocks” and “Rhythm of the Night,” performed by the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers. All three ships also have a nightclub, and they’re more rowdy than you’d expect until the early hours of the morning – especially on a shorter itinerary.

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