Start spreading the news: Cunard’s celebrated code for evening attire has changed—a significant happening duly noted by Recommend on a summer sail around the British Isles aboard Queen Elizabeth.
“It took place in spring soon after the World Voyages,” says Janice Collins, social hostess. “We maintain a high standard of dress and still have the same number of formal nights—for instance, on a 10-day cruise you get three formal nights—but now instead of three dress codes there are only two, ‘Formal’ and ‘Informal.’ The previous ‘Semiformal,’ which had designated a dress for ladies, has become ‘Informal,’ allowing for a dressy pants outfit, and though jackets are still required for gentlemen, ties are now optional.”
“Elegant Casual,” formerly in the evening lineup, is now altogether out of the fashion picture. And while well-groomed eyebrows would surely soar if a passenger showed up in casual mode in the festive Queens Room on formal nights, the Lido buffet and restaurants are always available, Collins adds, as a “relaxed alternative” for dining. The Garden Lounge bar also welcomes those who opt out of evening wear on formal nights. “The code change,” Collins says, “is for the convenience of guests, who will now need less luggage.”
If we appear to be making a big deal about dress requirements, well…with Cunard, the dress code is a big deal. A very big deal. Strictly adhered to, with no nonsense. These, after all, are the ships where memory-making nights in white satin (or red silk or black sequins) are a given. The momentous change, which kicked in as flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth set out in April and May on this year’s main cruising season, may represent a loosening of ties, as it were. But, praise be, there’s no loss of the electric sense of occasion that pulses throughout the ship when women glamour up in sparkly gowns and men give 007 a run for his black tie panache. In today’s sailing scene (and, for that matter, most other scenes), where dressing up is sometimes viewed as a quaint custom of times past, it’s a Cunard signature and a bow to the golden age of ocean travel—an integral aspect of a storied legacy carried on with seamless grace and admirable expertise by the 173-year-old cruise line.
Comments Dorothy Reminick, cruise consultant for Travel Resource in Jupiter, FL, “I am sure there are many, especially Grill passengers, who preferred the formal dress requirements that existed in the past. However, with these being more relaxed now, I think a lot of people who prefer less formal dress will be inclined to try Cunard.”
fit for a queen (or king)
The “Grill passengers” cited by Reminick, who for 30 years was employed by Cunard in reservations and guest relations in both London and New York, are those who reside in one of the 127 Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites, each paired with its own Grill Restaurant, situated in restricted-access privacy on Deck 11 along with a private Grills bar, lounge, and concierge. Other stateroom categories are also linked to their own restaurant, including the Britannia Club, and the 2-deck, art deco-flourished Britannia Restaurant.
Overall, the ship sports 1,046 staterooms, 85 percent of them outside and 71 percent with balconies. The Princess Suite, a popular choice, encompasses 367 sq. ft. with two beds, living area, balcony, bath with tub and shower, walk-in closet, two flat-screen TVs, fine bedding, robe and slippers, and refrigerator. The attractive and comfy but less spacious Club Balcony stateroom, which gives access to the Britannia Club Restaurant, has a small bathroom with shower only.
Additional dining options include evening table-service offerings in the Lido ($10) alongside the traditional buffet, with varying themes such as Aztec (Mexican), Asado (South American), and Jasmine (Pan-Asian). Crowning the food chain, there’s The Verandah (a la carte charges apply), with a contemporary French menu and extensive wine list in a chic-but-cozy setting of mirrored columns and white leather chairs. As in the Grills, service in the Verandah is attentive, with tableside cooking and preparation that show off polished skills.
Other options by day include Cafe Carinthia for tasty snacks and the Golden Lion pub, famous for its fish and chips. The round-the-clock Lido serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets.
dressed to the nines
A handsomely-crafted vessel and a sister to Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth is a rich-textured tapestry of elegant double- and triple-height public rooms, captivating art and memorabilia of the line’s icons and enduring links to the Royal Family, and eye-catching art deco accents, with an abundance of rich wood paneling, mosaics, and marbles. Among highlights is a portrait of the reigning monarch by young artist Isobel Peachey, and a stunning marquetry panel depicting the original Queen Elizabeth (the world’s largest liner when launched in 1938) by royal nephew David Linley.
Pricey art and vintage posters are on tap in the respective Clarendon Fine Art Gallery (a proper gallery, not an auction format) and Cunarders’ Gallery, while Royal Arcade shops feature treasures from Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, and Harris Tweed. The Cunard bookshop is the place to stock up on souvenirs commemorating the summer arrival of the newest prince.
Scoring top marks with seagoers are the wondrous library where you could happily hide away for hours—6,000 books strong with a spiral staircase linking two levels of packed shelves; the Insights program of guest speakers; and top-notch entertainment in the beautiful Royal Court Theatre, ranging from classical piano concerts to West End-style performances featuring song and dance. Indeed, music resonates throughout, luring passengers into such lively spots as the Midships Bar and the Deck 10 Yacht Club for late-night dancing.
Dance being the operative word. We’re talking major participation that you’re not likely to encounter elsewhere on the high seas. Frequent dance classes draw a crowd of enthusiasts, who then display their newly honed talents in nightly twirls beneath the glittering chandeliers of the grandly elegant, 2-tier Queens Room and, most notably, at the series of themed balls that boast one of the largest orchestras out there.
“Anytime you enter the Queens Room while a dance instruction class is being held, the room is packed to the rafters,” Reminick says. Not so with other lines.” And teatime? “You can be sure that the British, wherever they might be, will make it back on board for tea.”
Afternoon tea, in fact, ranks right up there with dancing in passenger popularity, and it’s a safe bet that American
cruisers relish the daily pleasure just as much as the Brits. How could they not when it means a chance to feast on oven-warm scones with cream and jam, served in the Queens Room by white-gloved waiters to the murmur of soft strings or a mellow piano.
castles, beatles & guinness
On this 10-day cruise, which set out from Southampton after an arrival day in London and an overnight at handily situated Grosvenor Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, passengers soaked up well-organized shore tours in Edinburgh, Inverness, Dublin, Liverpool (a pilgrimage to the Beatles museum is a baby boomer must), and the Channel Islands.
Back on board, along with the aforementioned activities, they sampled spa services, hit the casino, showed up for an art talk or book signing or social bridge or whisky tasting, and headed to the pools or covered Games Deck. There’s a staff of nannies and a playroom for children, plus an activity area for teens. But, truly, this is a ship for grown-ups—who have a taste for civilized adventure with a noticeably romantic vibe.
WHAT TRAVEL AGENTS ARE SAYING…
So, who among your clients would love it? “Mature passengers who are looking for quality and willing to pay a bit more for Cunard,” says Tom Baker, president of Houston, TX’s CruiseCenter and an award-winning specialist with 250 voyages under his belt. “It’s a specialty and a brand I know well since first cruising with Cunard in 1977.” What appeals to American clients, he feels, is “the yesteryear traditional experience in a calm atmosphere devoid of noise and loud music. They are quality seekers looking for something different from other contemporary brands, with British history and other touches that ice the cake. The Grills—Princess and Queens—remain opulent and the class system prevails, although lavish caviar helpings have gone by the wayside.”
Notes Dorothy Reminick, cruise consultant for Travel Resource in Jupiter, FL, “Many of my American clients are repeaters. They like the British atmosphere on board and the international clientele.” (On the British Isles cruise, the passenger list included Brits, Americans, and smaller representations of Germans, Japanese, Canadians, and Australians. Of the 253 Americans on board, 134 had previously sailed with Cunard.)
“I would say that the line appeals to educated, professional people, both active and retired,” Reminick adds. “People who enjoy learning and attending classes and lectures—sophisticated beings who enjoy the culture that Cunard specializes in. Cunard attracts those who like to dress for dinner.”
Passenger capacity: 2,068 Crew: 997 Guest decks: 12 Length: 964.5 Gross tonnage: 90,900 Draft: 26.2
we three queens
The Cunard Line, operator of the luxury trio Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, has been a stalwart symbol of British refinement since the company’s first paddle-wheel steamer, Britannia, crossed the pond in 1840.
Starting in spring 2014 after the three return from their respective World Voyages, the line will launch a series of transatlantic crossings with varied offerings spotlighting the 10th birthday of flagship ocean liner, 2,592-guest Queen Mary 2, which marked a 200th crossing in July 2013. A celebratory “Three Queens” event will be staged in homeport Southampton on May 9. Fares for a 7-day transatlantic crossing begin at $1,199 pp dbl.
Also on tap next season, the 2,068-guest Queen Elizabeth—youngest of the Cunard royals, fittingly christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in October 2010—will zero in on the Mediterranean, including 7-day sails with fares from $999 to $1,249, pp dbl. The 2,000-guest Queen Victoria—debuted in 2007—will cruise the British Isles, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean on 7- to 14-day journeys priced from $1,599 to $3,199 pp dbl.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/ magazine/issue-archive):
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (August 2011)
Cunard Line: (800) 728-6273; cunard.com