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Cunard Line

Cunard Line Review

Cunard Line Review

Cunard Line, Queen Mary 2, Kennel Service A pet steward on the QM2 Cunard Line

Cunard started doing regular trans-Atlantic crossings way back in 1840. Although it only has three ships today, far fewer than in the glory days of sea travel, it remains the right choice for anyone looking for that traditional experience. The line's flagship, Queen Mary 2, is the largest ocean liner ever built to ply the Atlantic, and she still sails regular crossings between New York (out of Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal) and either Southampton, England (a couple hours outside of London) or Hamburg, Germany.

So what makes this an ocean liner rather than a regular cruise ship? The extra strengthening and sleek hull design allow the vessel to handle rough seas more nimbly than any other ship at sea right now, which is not a small thing — especially during those cold winter months.

What We Love

Truly Formal Nights: Cunard has the most formal evening dress code (two or three nights of the sailing) on the high seas, a delight for those who like to dress up for an evening of dancing to a big band. Sure, it isn't white tie or black tie; it's black tie optional, which means (at minimum) dark suits and cocktail-length dresses. But, unlike on other lines, about 90 percent of the passengers comply, creating an unusually elegant atmosphere.

Golden Lion Pub: You’ll quickly see why this traditional English pub is a crowd favorite. Order the fish and chips and wash it down with a pint. Plus, with soccer matches roaring on screen and daily trivia games, it’s a great spot to meet other passengers.

Recent Refurbishments: Queen Mary 2 emerged from a major makeover in 2016 looking fresh: the new Carinthia Lounge was an instant hit for live music in the evening and small bites during the day; the new French specialty restaurant, the Verandah, is well worth the $35 fee; and there are new single cabins for solo travelers.

The Best Libraries: Home to 8,000 books, Queen Mary 2 has the largest book collection at sea. There are professional librarians in attendance, and the space offers wonderful views of the ocean from comfy reading chairs. In addition, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria both have two-level libraries.

Best Known For

Crossing the Atlantic: Cunard has preserved the option of bridging continents by sea. Long-held traditions include sipping broth on the deck with a good book and a wool blanket.

Afternoon Tea: A memorable daily ritual takes place in the Queens Room on all three ships, with a choice of teas plus crustless sandwiches, fresh pastries, and scones with clotted cream served in multiple courses.

Class system: While it’s not actually called a class system, you are strictly assigned to either the Britannia, Princess Grill, or Queens Grill restaurants based on your accommodation. Princess and Queens guests also have perks like the largest suites, exclusive access to the Grills Lounge, and at the Queens Grill level, a personal butler.

Who It's Best For

Those Who Like Crossings — and Free Time: For some, this is a bucket list experience, but Cunard also has many regular passengers who cross every year. And, with seven nights onboard, there’s ample time to relax, read a book, take a dip in the pool, or catch a show at the planetarium.

Pet Owners: Queen Mary 2 is the only ship at sea that allows dogs (and cats) on board in its 24 kennels, making it an easy choice for animal lovers who need to transport fido and don’t want to fly. A kennel master caters to their every need, walking them daily on the upper deck.

Traditionalists: Even on sailings that aren’t crossings, the refined atmosphere remains. (Don't look for crazy water slides or poolside competitions here!)

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Dress Code Is Adhered To: Some may cringe at the formality onboard, but the repeat guests take it seriously. if you don’t like to follow rules, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Crossings Can Be Rough: Even though QM2 is built for crossings, the Atlantic is notoriously storm-prone and there can be noticeable waves during particularly rough seas. Come prepared with seasickness remedies if you have a sensitive stomach, or choose a different itinerary.

Theodore W. Scull

Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.

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