The Cunard Line remains one of the most venerable shipping companies in the world. Founded in 1840 by Canadian entrepreneur Sir Samuel Cunard, the Cunard shipped passengers and the British mail (RMS means “Royal Mail Ship”) across the Atlantic. One of Cunard’s rivals for the transatlantic route was the British company White Star Line, owner of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. (Fun fact: It was Cunard’s RMS Carpathia that rescued an estimated 705 survivors of the Titanic.)
When financial difficulties plagued both companies in the early 1930s, the two merged to form Cunard-White Star, Ltd. In 1949, Cunard bought out White Star’s shares and dropped the latter’s name. Today, the British-American cruise line conglomerate Carnival Corporation owns and operates Cunard Line, having acquired it in 1999.
At its peak, Cunard was operating 12 ocean liners, with its grandest ships doing the premier Southampton to New York route. Given Cunard’s illustrious history, it’s no surprise that its name evokes the romance and glamour of the golden age of ocean travel, and fans of cruises hold Cunard liners in high regard. Today, Cunard’s flagship is the RMS Queen Mary 2, the largest and only remaining ocean liner in the world today after the Queen Elizabeth 2 retired in 2008. A trip on board the QM2 is an irresistible mix of Old World elegance and new-age convenience.
Although the number of cruise ship passengers is steadily rising every year, a number of first-time cruisers are wary of booking a trip on the QM2. This is mostly due to several misconceptions about the QM2 and about the Cunard brand in general. It’s time we dispel such fallacies.
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#1 QM2 and other Cunard liners only cater to old folks
Cunard calls them “voyages,” not “cruises” because most last longer than the usual five to seven days offered by cruise operators. The average Cunard voyage is 25 nights. Long voyages draw mostly an older crowd because they have enough money and free time to spend for an extended vacation.
But the QM2’s transatlantic crossing takes only seven days one-way. It’s slightly longer than a short cruise of 2–5 days, but a week is the typical cruise length.
And Cunard also has Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria in its fleet. Both are cruise ships by design and operation, and they offer different cruises each year, some as short as 2–4 nights and others as long as 12–14 nights. For the shorter voyages, the average age drops to around 30 to 40 years old, with a happy mix of families, young couples, and other multi-generational groups.
#2 The QM2 is too formal and stiff
Throughout the years, the Cunard Line became synonymous with grand, luxurious transatlantic ocean liners. Passengers, especially those in first-class (think Rose and her fiancé Cal in James Cameron’s Titanic), enjoyed their fine amenities. Cunard has kept the high luxury standards of their ocean liners even up to today.
On the QM2, there are formal nights when passengers are required to wear a suit or an evening gown for dinner. But since 2013, QM2 has relaxed its dressing code. The formal dress code applies only to passengers dining at the three main dining areas: Britannia, Princess Grill, and Queen’s Grill. For passengers who opt out of formal wear, they can dine at the ship’s main buffet restaurants. There, wearing a t-shirt and jeans will not be out of place. Some of the QM2’s bars and lounges still require more formal wear, while others allow for a more casual dress code.
Many first-timers on the QM2 have expressed their delight at the range of options they have. But many do bring formal wear; after all, why take the QM2 if you’re not going to experience going formal even once?
#3 Only the rich can afford a Cunard experience
It depends on one’s itinerary and choice of accommodation on the QM2, Queen Victoria, or Queen Elizabeth. The higher the stateroom category, the more expensive it is, and Cunard offers more premium cabin categories compared to other mainstream cruise lines. But you don’t need to break the bank to go on a Cunard voyage, if you do so under a week and stay at an inside or standard stateroom.
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On the QM2, the height of luxury is the premium cabins in the Princess and Queen’s Grill. Otherwise, depending on the time of the year, a seven-day voyage on the QM2 can actually be cheaper than other week-long cruises offered by other companies.
#4 Cunard ships are not family-friendly
All three ships are kid- and family-friendly, with extensive children’s facilities onboard. Children at least six months old are welcome on most Cunard voyages. But with transatlantic, transpacific, and world voyages, the minimum age is one year old.
#5 There’s nothing fun to do on the QM2
Because Cunard offers Afternoon Tea in all their ships, most people wrongly assume that a voyage on the QM2 means tea, card games, and reading books. Yes, there is lots of tea, and the QM2 has the largest library afloat. But there is a myriad of other daily activities to keep you busy in mind and body.
There are fencing, dance, and bridge classes, pool games, talent shows, and casino tournaments. You can listen to various experts talk on a variety of subjects in Cunard’s award-winning Insights Enrichment Programme. The QM2 is the only ocean liner with a planetarium. You can attend acting workshops and yoga classes. There are nightclubs with ‘70s and ’80s theme parties. And you can enjoy a food trip every day with the QM2’s numerous dining choices.
Sailing on the Queen Mary 2 is not just a voyage, but an exciting adventure with like-minded travellers. You’ll have plenty of time to stop and enjoy the whole experience; no need to rush here and there. If you are looking for similar journeys with people who share your sense of adventure and camaraderie, then sign up and join our growing community. We’d love to have you onboard.