Lauded for its prestigious service and high-end luxury, did the six-star cruise line live up to the hype? Josephine tells all in her candid Cunard review.
1. The cabin
When we arrived, there was a bottle of Champagne on ice and the steward in charge of our cabin came by to introduce themselves and ask if there was anything that we needed. Our bags arrived quickly. I liked the cabin, it was lovely and cosy, and the bathroom was stocked with a lovely range of toiletries.
2. The staff
This cruise was quite an amazing experience and quite different from any of the other cruises I have done before. The passenger/crew ratio is 1:2 which makes a big difference in the speed and efficiency that any requests are dealt with. All the staff were friendly, helpful and had the highest standard of customer service.
2. The food
No matter what time of the day or night it is, there is no excuse to be hungry. 24 hours a day, there is food being served, even if it is by complimentary room service to your cabin. The pub meals at the Red Lion were a highlight for me as well as the specialty dinner at the Veranda Restaurant on our final night.
3. The dress code
The dress code in the evenings adds greatly to the atmosphere that makes Cunard what it is. During the day passengers were wearing tidy jeans, shorts, t-shirts and other casual clothing. However, after 6pm there is a strict dress code which applies to the main restaurants and the public areas. People who don’t want to dress up are still able to eat at the Lido Buffet restaurant or order room service.
4. Informal and formal nights
I consider myself a jeans and t-shirt type of person but I found that I actually enjoyed dressing for dinner. On the informal nights, female passengers wore cocktail dresses, and tidy separates to dinner and the men wore suits, but no tie required. Formal night was something quite different. The men were all in dark suits and ties, and the women – well let's just say that it is probably not possible to overdress on formal night. As someone who doesn’t dress up very often, formal night was a lot of fun for me. I loved seeing what other people were wearing and the atmosphere was amazing. This is the “old world” atmosphere that Cunard is so famous for, and I really enjoyed being a part of it.
5. The other guests
A lot of passengers on board were travelling on longer itineraries, boarding in Southampton or San Francisco. Most of the passengers I spoke to were British or American with a few Aussies who were cruising home. They were all very friendly, especially when they found out that I was an New Zealander. I was impressed by how the ship never seemed crowded, even with all cabins full. It was unusual to see the same passenger twice which surprised me with over 2000 guests on board.
Every evening we would come back to our cabin to find a “Daily Programme” with all the activities and events for the following day. The activities included movies, musicians, bowls and ballroom dancing. I did join in with a group in the pub quiz in the Red Lion and I went to some interesting on-board lectures. The performances in the Royal Court Theatre ranged from comedians to singers to a big song and dance performance by the on-board entertainment group.
In the evenings I would sit and watch the ballroom dancing. There were some very talented dancers among the passengers on board. The dance hosts were also there, (five men and and women). These members of the staff were there to ensure that nobody was left sitting and watching through a lack of a partner. Although I was more than happy to just watch, it was wonderful to see these gifted staff members lead the passengers through dances. It was easy to imagine that I had been transported back 100 years.
8. Shore visit – Bay of Islands
The shore visit was very well organised. Those passengers booked on tours were taken off first by tender and then other passengers were given numbers to wait for the next available tender. I only had a 10 minute wait from being given a number to that number being called.
The tenders dropped us off on shore about a five minute walk from the Waitangi meeting house. There were also free shuttles into Paihia. The shuttle drivers were very chatty and offered suggestions on what we could do in Paihia as well as directions to the water taxi to Russell.
After a day of sightseeing, getting back to the ship was very easy. The shuttles were driving back and forth between the dock and Paihia and I only had a two minute wait for the next one to arrive. Then it was immediately onto a tender and back to the ship.
The afternoon tea service at 3:30pm every day. This involved around 30 waiters in white gloves marching out to the tune of a string quartet with an amazing array of scones, pastries, sandwiches and plenty of tea of course.
My perception of Cunard has completely changed from spending time on the ship. I imagined that it would be very exclusive, but the passengers were all very friendly and during the day there was no dress code which made the ship feel very relaxed and casual. If you are after a high level of service and a bit of glamour, I'd highly recommend Cunard.