Cunard's Queen Elizabeth

When it comes to carrying on storied tradition, nobody does it better than Cunard. Could be because of the company’s 171 years of practice, could be because they possess a one-of-a-kind product that is certain to capture the most sophisticated, discerning, and well-traveled clients in your database.

As in, clients with a taste for civilized adventure and grown-up pleasures, with generous dollops of glamour and romance.

The company’s game plan is to keep the golden age of ocean travel alive and thriving, a service it performs with seamless grace and admirable expertise via a classic trio that includes Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and the lovely Queen Elizabeth, fittingly christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in October 2010. After sold-out maiden voyages to the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the new vessel set out from Southampton on its 103-night Maiden World Voyage, and Recommend joined the Curaçao-to-Acapulco segment for a look at life with the latest luminary. A regal sister to Queen Victoria, launched in December 2007, Queen Elizabeth shows off her share of updated luxuries and contemporary comforts—but, by design, remains laser-focused on the Cunard style and legacy.

“There is quite an emphasis on education and enrichment…not climbing walls,” says Robert Howie, the new ship’s hotel manager, stressing the always-key task of matching client to ship. “And while passengers can choose to have dinner in the Lido if they don’t care to dress up, there’s an element of formality on board and the dress code for dining is strictly enforced. In this regard, a lot of heritage comes through, and it’s great to see the ladies and gentlemen dressed up for special occasions.”

Sums up Howie, “As a product, Cunard is both relaxed and elegant. This is something that agents should communicate effectively to their clients, as must we in our materials.”

The fortunate passengers on board for the full World Voyage—some 800 Britons and 400 Americans along with smaller representations of Germans, Australians, and Japanese—appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the mix of “relaxed and elegant,” which on one evening found some of them gyrating to “Twist and Shout” while others trundled off to a classical concert. Among options on other evenings: a murder mystery presented by the resident theater company in the Royal Court Theatre, and “Jazz Under the Stars” in the airy Garden Lounge.

On a typical day, cruisers were treated to just as varied a schedule. Distinguished speakers in the highly regarded Cunard Insights program routinely filled every seat in the theater. Elsewhere, passengers selected from seminars on gem stones and whisky-tasting and organizing digital photos. Then there was the darts competition at the Golden Lion, the gathering of vintage car buffs in the Midships Bar, a crafts class in the Garden Lounge, and bingo in the Queen’s Room. Oh, wait—consultants from the Royal Spa are revealing “Secrets to a Flatter Stomach” in the Yacht Club.

These, of course, are the sea days. In ports such as this segment’s Willemsted, Curaçao; Limon, Costa Rica; and Acapulco, Mexico, cruisers deserted the ship in favor of well-managed shore excursions. A stellar event was the big ship’s tight transit through the locks of the Panama Canal—a first for Queen Elizabeth with excitement enough to fill the decks with passengers and shores with residents, all out to take in the show.

It would be easy enough to fill sea days with simply exploring the decks and sampling the charms of the sparkling vessel, replete with rich appointments. Sister she may be to Queen Victoria, but a twin she is not. Namesake of Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth (the world’s largest liner when launched in 1938), the new ship reflects her predecessor in grandeur and decor—but with enough contemporary tweaks to ensure all the comforts of modern cruising.

As always, the look is different from other current-day denizens, starting with her distinctive black and red livery, a Cunard calling card. Inside, look for dramatic double and triple height public rooms, eye-catching Art Deco accents, and an abundance of rich wood panelling, mosaics, and marbles. Homage to icons abounds. Memorabilia in the Midships Bar tells the tale of the first Queen Elizabeth, while Yacht Club exhibits recall the retired-from-the-sea Queen Elizabeth 2 and Cunard’s enduring links to the Royal Family.

Art is a nonstop show, from the new official portrait of the reigning monarch by young artist Isobel Peachey placed adjacent to Cafe Carinthia, to the soaring Grand Lobby’s stunning marquetry panel depicting the original Queen Elizabeth by royal nephew David Linley. Particularly fun are the vintage black and white photos in Cunarders’ Gallery and around the ship of famous faces from times past, the likes of Clark Gable and a young Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Durante and Abbott & Costello.