8 Things You’d Didn’t Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

8 Things You’d Didn’t Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

Here’s one of the most puzzling things about Cunard. American dollars. They’re the onboard currency on Cunard. A line that makes much of its roots and heritage in Britain. Names it ships after British queens. Serves up British fare. British entertainment, and even has traditional British pubs on board.

You’re about to find out why and discover 7 other things you didn’t know you needed to know about Cunard.


#1 Not as British as you think

Although Cunard originated in Britain, it’s lost a lot in many ways.

It has been owned by the US Carnival Corporation since the late 1990s, so that means it sits alongside other their cruise lines including Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, and others.

Onboard, I am always struck how few of the crew are from the UK. While some of the senior officers may be British, it’s not across the board. Plus, most other crew members are from countries such as India, Indonesia, South America, and the Philippines, just like most cruise lines.

I found that the US dollar is used onboard, because, of course, it’s a Carnival Corporation owned cruise line, the passenger nationality onboard is very mixed and the sail very international itineraries. More on that later.

The overall program, though, I find to be very British. And even the spelling in the daily program is UK English. The guest entertainers are British, and there’s usually a variety of other things, such as afternoon tea, that are uniquely British.

Unlike other lines which are British based, Cunard, I find, is way easier for international travellers to book. If you look at some other UK based lines, such as Saga, P&O Cruises, and Fred Olsen, it’s almost impossible as a non-British citizen to book their cruises. Cunard on the other hand has international sales offices around the world and actively promotes itself to travellers from countries like the USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia and so on.

8 Things You'd Didn't Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

#2 Different itineraries to others

Building on that, something I really like about Cunard is that they offer a slightly different approach on itineraries compared to most other cruise lines. And they have two key unique features.

Firstly, Cunard is the only cruise line in the world that has a scheduled transatlantic service, which runs roughly from April to October, aboard the Queen Mary 2 between Southampton and New York.

They also offer a variety of longer world voyage sailings, including a total world circumnavigation. Cunard’s first-ever world cruise was aboard Laconia in 1922 and that sailing was instrumental in how the line thinks exotic and global to this day.

For example, I have just got off Queen Elizabeth and it was heading down to also offer cruises around Australia, Japan, and on to Alaska. Aside from world cruises, these are a key part of Cunard.

Cruise Lines Don’t Like Talking About These Topics

#3 Not as class based as its reputation

 Another thing I find most people get confused by and don’t understand, is the class system. I believe Cunard is not nearly as class driven as people think it is. Let me explain.

On Cunard, there’s four grades of cabins. Britannia, which includes inside, ocean view and balcony cabins. Britannia Club, which is a premium or elevated level of cabin. Then there’s Princess Grill, which are mini-suites, and then Queens Grill, which is a more premium suite experience.

The grade determines the restaurant you eat in. The Grills is very fancy. You can order al a carte; you can order exotic things like Dover sole and Chateaubriand. You can order off menu, and you can have caviar.

However, there are very few venues beyond the restaurants that Grills passengers have as a perk that other passengers can’t also use. There’s a small lounge, a deck (not a particularly big one), a concierge and priority embarkation. That is it.

It’s very different to the likes of Celebrity, MSC, and Norwegian, which have huge ships-within-ships for their suite guests. This is not the case on Cunard.  I’d say pretty much 95% of the ship is open to everybody.

By the way, if you want to know why it’s called Princess Grill and Queens Grill, you could watch this video. It’s a member’s only bonus video, so by becoming a member you can watch this.

8 Things You'd Didn't Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

#4 Cunard has one-of-a-kind ships

Another thing I think you should probably know about Cunard is that the perception, largely driven by the original QE2 and now the Queen Mary 2, is that Cunard have one-of-a-kind ships is just not true. Unfortunately!

The Queen Mary 2 is unique. She is a one-off. The only true ocean liner sailing. However, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are Vista-class ships, and this class of ship pops up in many other cruise lines, including Carnival, P&O Cruises, and Holland America. Cunard’s new ship, Queen Anne, is a Pinnacle-class ship based on Holland America’s Koningsdam.

There is one aspect of Cunard that makes it one-of-a-kind though, and that is that all the line’s ships have been named by the Royal Family, including the late Queen Elizabeth and the now, Queen Consort Camilla.

8 Things You'd Didn't Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

#5 Iconic and unique features

Another thing I think you need to know about Cunard pertains to the ships’ iconic features. So, this includes the majestic Grand Lobby across all the fleet. The Queens Room, which is the ships ballroom. This large space is on every ship and is home to key onboard events, including dancing and afternoon tea.

You’ll always find a 2-level Britannia restaurant, the Main Dining Room, where about 80% to 85% of passengers eat. It’s grand, it’s Art Deco inspired, it has big murals. It really has a wow factor – I love it.

The library is also an important feature of Cunard ships. The one on Queen Mary 2 has over 10,000 books and the others have around 6,000 books. Hugely impressive, I love these.

The Royal Court Theatre is another key venue, which on Elizabeth and Victoria feature traditional theatre boxes.

I also love a couple of other iconic venues like the Golden Lion Pub, the Carinthia Cafe / Lounge, the Verandah Grills restaurant, the only specialty dining restaurant.

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#6 Events that make Cunard

Cunard also has a few iconic events that are fundamental to the line. These are reasons I always have a great time on board.

Firstly, it’s all about dancing and you’ll find dancing classes during the day. In the evening, you’ll find a live orchestra performing in the Queens Room for ballroom dancing. There are gentleman hosts for people who want to do ballroom dancing and during a cruise, you can expect a black and white ball, and a roaring 20s’ ball.

By the way, there’s also a Royal Court Theatre band to support the theatrical performances.

The second big thing is afternoon tea every day. Hundreds of people will go to the Queens Room in the afternoon for this event and it is quite spectacular! I am always blown away by it.

The third thing they have is insight lectures. On every cruise, they normally have three speakers. For example, on my recent cruise they had a past Press Secretary to the Late Queen Elizabeth, a former Concorde pilot and English historian. I have also been on trips with famous actresses and authors, and even a Police Detective who caught a renowned British serial killer. 

#7 Dress code is not what people expect

The other thing that people think they know about Cunard, but they don’t, is the dress code. I find the dress code is not as stuffy as it was, but they do still have some elements of a dress code. Most nights are smart attire. Men can wear trousers. It can even be smart jeans and a collared shirt, which could even be short sleeved. Ladies can wear blouses, skirts, stylish trousers, or dresses.

Gala Evening, which used to be called formal night, encourages us to dress to impress. Men, dinner jackets, tuxedo, dark suit, and tie or bow tie. Ladies, evening or cocktail dresses, formal separates, as they’re called.

However, unlike other cruise lines, to get into your main dining room, you do have to follow that dress code, especially on gala night. On those nights, the whole ship turns into this magnificent event, it really is special. But, if you want to sail on Cunard and not dress up on those evenings, you can still do that.

As I am asked this often, if you do want to dress very casually, including shorts, you can go to the Lido Buffet Restaurant, Golden Lion Pub, Casino, Cafe Carinthia, and the Yacht Club, which is the nightclub.

#8 Not who you expect on board

The other thing you may not know about Cunard is they are incredibly good at dealing with three very specific traveller groups. I’m often asked about these three groups and if they’re suitable for Cunard, so let me talk about them.

For decades. Cunard has been a great choice for solo travellers. They have solo traveller meetups onboard because so many solo guests cruise with them, me included, sometimes. They have some solo cabins, which means avoiding a large surcharge, and this has opened Cunard to a slightly younger audience.

The second thing is there’s a perception that Cunard is very conservative and that they are not welcoming of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender travellers. This is not at all true. Cunard attracts a large amount of LGBT travellers. In fact, the LGBT meetup, which is held every day, has more people attending than on any other cruise line I have ever seen. It is a big event.

The third area is around kids and families. Cunard ships do have kids’ clubs, but they’re not particularly expansive and they tend to focus and be most active within holiday periods. As an example, I’ve been on Queen Mary 2 to the Caribbean at Christmas and there has been maybe 300 kids on board. But because they have ramped up the kids’ areas, you don’t really notice it.

In my opinion, Cunard is not the best choice of line for kids. It is so focused on enrichment, afternoon tea and so on. It’s not the best kid environment.

8 Things You'd Didn't Know You Needed To Know About Cunard!

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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