Most big cruise lines know how to deliver luxury at a price point. As a veteran cruiser, you have your favorites. My wife and I are big fans of Cunard, having completed our 15th voyage and getting up to Diamond status in their World Club. Over time, we have discovered six things (you don’t think about) that Cunard does very well.
- Expedited boarding. Although the ship rarely feels crowded when you are at sea, there’s always the issue of getting onboard, as part of the 2,600+ people looking to start their vacations. Cunard’s World Club program has four tiers. After seven voyages you cross into Platinum, the second highest level. One of the most valuable perks is expedited boarding. You board alongside the Grill Level passengers, bypassing the long general line. Of course, if you booked Princess or Queens Grill, you bypass the general line anyway.
- Crossing the Atlantic Smoothly. The Queen Mary 2 wins over everyone else in this category. It’s built as an ocean liner, meaning they designed a hull and put a hotel inside, instead of vice versa. It has pod population technology and other features to make travel as smooth as possible. The Beaufort scale measures wind and sea conditions. It goes from 1-12. We’ve found on the QM2, you tend not to really notice movement up to level 8. Beyond 8, no technology can make the voyage smoother. The QM2 can make forward progress, even in rough seas.
- Learning your name. How many people does a Cunard waiter see in a year? Lots. Just guessing, if they were responsible for 40 people at each sitting, that’s 80 people on a seven night voyage. If they worked 50 weeks, (which they don’t) that would be 4,000 people! We have found when we are seated in Britannia on the first evening, everyone who approaches us in the dining room addresses us by name. This includes the waiter, assistant waiter, wine steward and table captain. They don’t look at notes. As I recall, they do the same with every other passenger seated at our large table.
- Changing tables. Ever get to your dining room table on the first night, meet your fellow passengers and think “This can’t be happening!” As an extreme example that shouldn’t offend any readers, you speak one language and everyone else another. We have only changed tables once, on our 14th After leaving the table, we spoke with the maitre’d. No problem. They clicked a few keys and gave us a new table assignment card. It’s like witness protection of diners.
- Ship to airport transfers. For years, we’ve always done it solo. We walk down the gangway, luggage in hand. We find a taxi, get to the bus station and ride National Express from Southampton to Heathrow. In the spring of 2018 we tried the ship’s service. You are off the ship bright and early. Luggage is identified and collected. Busses are lined up, loaded and dispatched quickly. It’s a nonstop ride to Heathrow. We were amazed it was the same price or cheaper than doing it ourselves, without the worry of getting a taxi or struggling with our luggage.
- Repairing damaged luggage. You can’t blame Cunard, because different people handle your bags as baggage handlers take them, security people scan them and others load them onto the ship. On a roundtrip transatlantic crossing, one of our bags arrived in the cabin with a huge, L shaped tear. The Purser’s Office asked me to bring it to them. They have a workshop on board! A couple of days later, they returned my bag, neatly sewn together. (Why they used red thread on a brown bag is a mystery.) We had bought “Cunard Care” before sailing. It covers damage to luggage. The Purser’s Office gave me a form, I turned it back and got a stamped, typed version back. Once home, I sent it to the Cunard Care people with photos. They sent a check, no problem.
There are many cruise lines. Anyone can pour champagne or grill a steak the way you like it. These are some of the behind the scenes details, that can really make a difference.
Story courtesy of Bryce Sanders
Photo courtesy of Cunard