Queen Elizabeth gets a Makeover
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Queen Elizabeth

The world renowned Cunard Queen Elizabeth departed from the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg earlier this month. It was docked in the shipyard for the first renovations since the ship was launched in 2010. In addition to standard safety and maintenance checks, the 2100-passenger ship has had a vast amount of work performed on it in order to improve its quality in both accommodation and dining.

She certainly has been spruced up in preparation for her 175th Anniversary celebration of Cunard’s operation and is scheduled to meet up with her sisters, the Queen Mary II and Queen Victoria in Liverpool on the 24th of May 2015.

Something new and more enhancements

The exciting news in the multi-million pound retrofit was that the renovations were in response to passenger’s demand and the changing demographics of cruisers. Angus Struthers, Cunard’s Marketing Director, said: “Whilst there has been investment across the ship, we are particularly delighted to announce that following this refit, there will be staterooms for single travellers on board a Cunard ship for the first time since QE2.”

Single passengers now have the option to book a ‘cabin for one’ for the first time. A total of nine modern and single passenger mid-ship staterooms were created on Deck 2. The casino was reconfigured and eight cabins are designated as Ocean View single staterooms, whilst the ninth will be an inside cabin.

Cunard have  also added a considerably larger amount of amenities in the staterooms and have enhanced the overall stateroom experience. All of the cabins onboard the ship have had new carpet installed as well as oversized flat screen televisions installed of mostly 32” or above.

Casual dining enhancements

In the informal Lido restaurant, several enhancements were made to those who favour a more casual dining experience. One of these changes includes having the waiting staff serve coffee and tea at the tables. The area is not only improved aesthetically but the self service area has been redesigned to eliminate long queues and flow better whilst obtaining a meal or snack.

More shade

Another change is the instalment of sun awnings in the open area adjacent to the Lido Pool as well as both sides near the top of the ship at the Grills Upper Terrace. The welcome shade will be appreciated by passengers when cruising in hotter climates.

Smile please

In terms of entertainment, the photography section of the ship was vastly overhauled. The recently updated studio there will allow the professional photographers onboard to offer high quality portraits. The new touch screens in the photo gallery will allow visitors to find their pictures in no time.

More shopping

The shopping complex was also slightly changed with the layout and lighting being redesigned as well as the addition of fine jewellery and watch shops.

Going greener

In a boost to Cunard’s environmental image, scrubbers were also added to reduce the air pollution from the ship. This involved a new filtration system installed for the exhaust gas from the ship’s engines.

Favourites remain

The balance of the ship will remain as elegant as before including the Canyon Ranch Spa®, entertainment and its enrichment programmes.

Queen Elizabeth left dry dock on the 1st of June and headed  to Southampton in preparation for her planned sailings. She then went on her way to the Mediterranean to begin her Fly-Cruise programme for the duration of 2014.

She will begin her yearly 112 Day World voyage on the 10th of January 2015 out of Southampton. Segments of the World Cruise can be booked for example the 8 day transatlantic crossing to New York City and the 21 days from there to the Caribbean and Bahamas.

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Celebrate with the Three Queens in Liverpool
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Queen Elizabeth LiverpoolIn 1840, Sir Samuel Cunard founded the trans-Atlantic steamship service by sailing aboard Britannia. This was the start of the legacy of the Cunard Line now hitting its 174 birthday. The Britannia and her sister ships, the Persia and the Andes offered a regular Atlantic steamship service and were the true pioneers of cruising as it is known today.

Since the first scheduled services began running across the Atlantic at a speed of 9 knots, transatlantic crossings have remained an almost exclusive Cunard specialty. Of course, the speed has risen considerably to 30 knots per hour as has the size of the ships.

As a wooden paddle steamer, Britannia’s hull had a length of 207 feet and accommodated 115 passengers. Compared to the Cunard fleet of the 21st century, the entire Britannia could be fit into any of the main restaurants. The Queen Victoria has a passenger capacity of 2,014, the Queen Mary II holds 2620 and the Queen Elizabeth accommodates 2092.

The three Queens are due to make their appearance together for a full blown festivity marking the 175th Anniversary of Cunard’s operation. Cunard has always had a strong and special connection to Liverpool, since the company was based out of this city for 50 years from the years 1917 to 1967. It has always served as a source of pride for the community and the ships will be docked near the Cunard building in Liverpool.

The tentative date for the meet up is on May 24th, 2015, with the first ship to arrive being the Queen Mary II, which is considered to be the flagship of the company. The two sisters, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, will follow the next day and for the first time ever; the three will be together in Liverpool on the Mersey.

Queen Victoria

Only two other times have the three ladies have previously been seen together. They met in the New York Harbour in January 2011 and again in Southampton in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen Mary II plans on recreating the legacy behind this classic voyage on the 15th of July from Liverpool to New York City with stopovers in areas such as Boston and Halifax. This is exactly 175 years to the day that Samuel Cunard launched his famous shipping line with Cunard’s first trans-Atlantic crossing.

Queen Mary New York - Courtesy Flickr user Ben Grey

Excitement has been filled through the city ever since the event has been announced, with the mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson claiming that “To have the three Cunard Queens back in their spiritual home on our beautiful waterfront will be nothing short of majestic. It is particularly fitting given our plans to bring the Cunard Building back into use as a Cruise Liner Terminal, so I am absolutely delighted by this news. Liverpool is once again making its mark as a great maritime destination”.

Although this is a brilliant event, this isn’t the first time that a Cunard ship has returned to the roost of their original home port. The Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit in 1990 and attracted an enormous crowd and fanfare. The Cunard Queens have made 15 visits to Liverpool and always with an affectionate and wholehearted welcome by the locals.

Cunard Building Liverpool Pier Head

However, this event in Liverpool is one to mark on your calenders. The celebration is bound to live long in the memories of all who witness it.

More details on this are expected to be released in the upcoming months, and this is something that every cruise fan and history buff should begin planning real soon.

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What makes Cunard different from other lines?
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Eight out of ten cruises I have taken in the last 10 years have been with Cunard. For me it is the cruise line that is so different and unique to all the others that I find that I struggle to pull myself away from stepping aboard their ships. In this article I shares 5 reasons I find Cunard so different and compelling a choice to cruise with:

Cunard is the only cruise line with an Ocean Liner. After jet liners destroyed the business of crossing from Europe to North America by ship, Ocean Liners were replaced with ships designed and more suited to passengers wanting to cruise around the calmer and more forgiving Caribbean and Mediterranean seas.

There was no need for specially designed Ocean Liners with bows to slice through the Atlantic waves, reinforced hulls to withstand the battering and acres of public rooms and spaces to pass away days at sea. Only Cunard has a true Ocean Liner – the Queen Mary 2. This unique ship is the one that everyone turns to look at, even when crammed into busy ports like St. Maarten or St. Thomas with 7 other Cruise Ships.

The other two ships in the Cunard Fleet, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, are regular cruise ship designs dressed up in the traditional Cunard colours.

Queen Mary 2

Cunard is the only cruise line with a scheduled transatlantic service harking back to the glory days of crossings. Most cruise lines can take you across the Atlantic twice a year when they re-position their ships to and from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and vice versa.

Only Cunard retains a scheduled transatlantic service using the Queen Mary 2. Cunard originally pioneered the Transatlantic service from the UK, and today they try to bring the romance, history and experience from when crossing by sea was the only way to cross from Europe to North America.

Daily Afternoon Tea served by waiters in white gloves, Black Tie and Gowns most nights and Ballroom Dancing in the Queens Room Ballroom with a live orchestra. The tradition and feel of the glory days of ocean liner travel permeates through all the fleet, with even the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth following the Ocean Liner retro Art deco style inside, and follow many of these same routines on their cruise schedules.

Afternoon Tea

Cunard is the only cruise line with a British Royal Family Connection. All the Cunard ships in service, and their previous flagship ships in recent history, have been named by a member of the British Royal Family.

Most of them by Queen Elizabeth II herself. The Royal Family often pay visits to one of the ships at high profile events related to an anniversary or celebration of significant Cunard milestones.

Queen Mary Naming Ceremony

Cunard is still the cruise line that is the choice of the rich and famous. In the 1930s through to the demise of crossings due to jet liners, Cunard was the choice for the rich and famous to travel between New York and the UK.

Today Cunard ships are full of black and white images of these famous people aboard ships like the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. This is still true today. Although primarily linked to the flagship Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic or World Cruise, Cunard still attracts the rich and famous.

Crossings will often have famous names ranging from Rod Stewart, John Cleese, Una Thurman through to high profile trips by politicians like President George Bush, Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

John Cleese

Cunard retains some of the heritage of “class style” travel and differentiation through the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia Grill. Unlike most cruise lines, Cunard still has retained some of the class approach in their service. While some may see this as outdated or snobbery, it is not unlike airlines that have First, Business and Economy options. Cunard provides a different service based on very wide range of pricing options.

On Cunard there is Queens Grill (“First”), Princess Grill (“Business”) and Britannia Grill (“Economy”).  In practice the key difference is in the size of Stateroom and where you eat. The staterooms are not on exclusive decks and different “grades” are spread across most decks.

The Stateroom Grade determines which restaurant you eat in, and while the core menu is the same across all grades, in the “Grills” at dinner there is added choice and ability to order off menu. The Grills do have exclusive use of a deck area and a lounge with concierge.

Queens Grill

The Britishness and Heritage of Cunard is what makes it so different to all the other lines. Even the other major British cruise lines P&O, which is actually older than Cunard, does not embrace the past and heritage in the same way.

There is a feeling of the glory days of crossing and romance that appeals to me more than the brightness, newness and modernity of other cruise lines.

About Gary Bembridge

Gary Bembridge blogs and podcasts about luxury travel on land and at sea. Follow him on and at http://www.tipsfortravellers.com