Oh, the over-the-top romance. A cruise that calls at exotic ports is exciting and rewarding, to be sure—but when it comes to a storybook adventure at sea with rich historic resonance, you simply can’t upstage a Cunard crossing.
A transatlantic voyage with the company’s splendidly stylish flagship, Queen Mary 2, is a time trip to a golden age of ocean crossings familiar to many if only as a Technicolor fantasy. Who cannot conjure images of the bejeweled traveling elite arriving at New York or Southampton to sweep aboard a magical vessel with opulent wardrobes stashed in steamer trunks, lining the deck rail to shower streamers and confetti on the unlucky landlocked crowd left behind on the pier.
Call it a new golden age. If a classic QM2 sailing of the 21st century lacks certain celluloid touches, it more than makes up for it with updated luxuries that yesteryear travelers would have loved. Luxuries that the seasoned, sophisticated clients in your database are sure to lust after as well.
For starters, consider the bragging rights. Debuted in 2004 as the grandest liner ever built and today the only ship out there offering regularly scheduled crossings between New York and Southampton, the $800 million beauty had writers trotting out all the biggest-tallest-longest-widest adjectives they could assemble.
More importantly, though, is that the sheer size translates into…space. Big-time breathing room. Looking for top of the line? That would be a 9,000-sq.-ft. suite with a private elevator, butler and staff. Bygone tycoons, eat your heart out.
Clients whose tastes lean toward something more modest might drop anchor in one of the duplex apartments or forward suites or jr. suites. Of the staterooms that come in various shapes and sizes, 783 boast balconies.
A Cunard signature is the Grill category of high-end accommodations that include the 81 Queens Grill suites (506 sq. ft.) on decks 8, 9, 10 and 11, and 76 Princess Grill suites on deck 10 (381 sq. ft.). Guests in both the lavish Queens suites and Princess jr. suites have their own restaurant reserved exclusively for their use with mouth-watering menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Doubtless, yesteryear’s discerning travelers would feel right at home with the suites’ civilized comforts and decor, selection of spirits and wines, and impeccable White Star standards of service (think one staff member for every two passengers). But you have to wonder what they would make of the interactive TV and entertainment system, WiFi service, and direct-dial phones. Not to mention the noticeably smooth ride thanks to the latest in technology and engineering.
They should feel similarly at home taking the air via the expansive promenades, socializing over warm scones and tiny sandwiches at tea served by white-gloved waiters, and whirling in their finest beneath the glittery crystal chandeliers of the Queens Room (the, ahem, biggest ballroom at sea).
Possibly the most eye-popping surprise for luxury-seekers past would be the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, with its 20,000 sq. ft. of pampering services and thalassotherapy pool, gym, weight room, saunas and whirlpools. A close second: Illuminations, a planetarium (the, ahem, first at sea), with its schedule of star-studded shows. Forget the 24-hour Internet Centre and round-the-clock self-service computer locations—they wouldn’t believe it.
One thing you never hear from today’s passengers is a complaint of boredom during the six serene days at sea. Along with a golf driving range and putting green comes a jogging track, shuffleboard, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, table tennis and a video arcade.
On the cerebral side, there’s Cunard Insights, a justly renowned program that spotlights notable speakers in areas ranging from history and world affairs, to science and literature. From the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art comes workshops and presentations that not only entertain but share acting skills with travelers.
By day, passengers prowl the Mayfair Shops, a collection of boutiques circling the Grand Lobby and showing off designer temptations from Hermes to Escada. They also kick back amid the riches of the library, more than 8,000 volumes strong (Surprise! It’s the largest at sea!), staffed by full-time librarians and furnished with enticing leather sofas and armchairs. Alongside the library is a serious bookshop, the setting for book signings when authors are aboard and the place to browse for books, posters and postcards.