Cunard Cruise

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  • Aims for big-ship luxury; still has "Golden Era" feel
  • Classic trans-Atlantic crossings as well as other itineraries
  • Afternoon tea is a white-glove affair

Queen Mary 2 was built to carry on Cunard's tradition of offering liner voyages year-round between Southampton and New York. She has thick steel plating, a strengthened and lengthened bow, and powerful engines. She has 1,300 cabins, most of which are outside, and most of them have balconies. There are eye-popping suites that top out at 2,250 square feet.

QM2 maintains the custom of assigning restaurants based on cabin accommodations. Passengers booked in the largest suites dine in the Queens Grill. Passengers booked in junior suites dine in the Princess Grill. Both grills offer single-seating service with table-side preparation. All other passengers dine in the three-story Britannia Restaurant, which offers two sittings for dinner and open sitting for breakfast and lunch. In addition there are seven other venues for meals, including the signature Todd English restaurant, open to all passengers by reservation for lunch and dinner. The large Lido Restaurant that serves buffet-style breakfasts and lunches becomes four intimate venues for dinner serving Italian, Asian and English fare, as well as a restaurant with a demonstration galley.

QM2 has the first planetarium at sea, carries Oxford dons for classroom learning and offers acting workshops with students from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A new addition to its top-notch enrichment programs is Science at Sea, a speaker series featuring prominent science writers.

This ship offers something for everyone. Tea is served by white-gloved stewards in several venues. There is a British pub, a champagne bar, stylish (and expensive) shops and a heritage trail that relates Cunard's history. The stunning two-story spa is run by Canyon Ranch. The ship is wired for Wi-Fi, and there is a computer learning center.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth capitalise heavily on the rich heritage of Cunard -- but as newer cruise ships, they also offer all the modern amenities expected. Both have lavish suites of some 2,000 square feet overlooking the stern -- and even standard accommodations are spacious and pleasantly furnished (in contrast to the more basic cabins found on ocean liners of old).

Continuing a well-established Cunard tradition, the passengers in the best cabins dine in the single sitting Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants. They also share a lounge and an outer deck area, where the meals can be taken al fresco in good weather.

For those in standard accommodations, the two-deck-high Britannia restaurant can serve up to 800 diners at once. Here you have the choice of first or second seating for dinner, but lunch and breakfast are open seating. A separate British pub serves grub like cottage pie and bangers and mash at lunchtime.

Other dining options include the Lido buffet, which serves breakfast and lunch, and Todd English (Queen Victoria) and The Verandah (Queen Elizabeth), additional for-fee venues for lunch and dinner.

On the sister ships, afternoon tea is a white-glove affair served in the lovely two-deck-high Queens Room. The ceremony is a throwback to an altogether grander age of travel and represents Cunard's commitment to its heritage.

As of November 2011, all three Cunard ships were re-flagged from Southampton, U.K., to Hamilton, Bermuda, allowing the line to conduct onboard weddings at sea. The wedding program began in 2012 after the world cruise season. 

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