Why People Repeat Cunard’s Transatlantic Crossing

I saw the original Star Wars movie seven times. This was not over a 40-year period, this was in the first couple of years following its 1977 release. It was a great movie. You saw additional details on each subsequent viewing. My future wife and I were dating at the time. She never understood my fascination with seeing the same movie over and over. Cunard has a similar success with the transatlantic crossing.

The seven-night sailing from New York to Southampton is Cunard’s signature voyage. With the launch of the Queen Anne, they will have four ships in service, but the only ship making the crossing on a regular schedule is the Queen Mary 2.

It wasn’t always that way. In the mid 1800s to the 1950s, anyone who wanted to travel from the US to Europe made the trip by sea. You were crossing the Atlantic, so the voyage became known (and still is known) as a crossing. It wasn’t a holiday route. If you were a businessperson, diplomat, actor, royalty or anyone else, this is how you got from point A to point B.

My wife and I have sailed with Cunard about 20 times. Most voyages have been transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary 2. We are not alone. Plenty of people have made the crossing multiple times.

How does Cunard create an environment where people keep coming back?

  1. The ship is the destination. There are no port stops. You embark in New York and debark in Southampton or vice versa. You are spending seven nights in a floating resort. There are more activities than you can count. You can dance, fence, learn to cook, paint, read, attend a service club meeting and play bridge, to name a few.
  2. There are no surprises. Many people have a “been there, done that” mindset. You encounter a few on Caribbean cruises. They don’t get off the ship because they have been to that port before. Another set of people want an experience that is predictable, as good or better than the last time they sailed. That is what the transatlantic crossing delivers. You know there will be formal nights. You know there will be galas. You know there will be lectures. When you step back onboard, you feel you are on familiar ground.
  3. Life slows down. Back home, your cellphone acts like a leash. Because of the post pandemic “work from home” culture, you often feel you are on call 24/7. It is difficult to disconnect from everyday life. I recall a story told by a friend who enjoys horseback riding. She went on a riding expedition to Eastern Turkey. It was delightful because you were disconnected. She made the same trip a few years later. Everyone was glued to their smartphones! At sea, internet and cell service is spotty, although the ship does the best it can. There are no cell towers in the ocean! You disconnect from the internet and your cellphone when crossing the Atlantic.
  4. People like dressing up. Different cruise lines have different personalities. Cunard attracts people who appreciate a degree of formality. There are two formal nights on a transatlantic crossing. (Pre-pandemic, there were three.) There is the Black and White Ball. Guess how you are supposed to dress! They recently added the Red and Gold Ball in place of the Ascot Ball. You are discouraged from wearing shorts or jeans in public areas after 6:00 PM. People choose the crossing because they like the formality.
  5. You arrive relaxed. You have flown from the US to Europe. You arrive feeling like a million bucks – all green and wrinkled. You go thought the first day in a jet lagged daze. When you cross the Atlantic westbound, you have five 25-hour days because they gradually accommodate the time change. Even if you cross eastbound and lose an hour on five days, you still avoid jet lag and arrive refreshed.
  6. The lecture series is a big draw. Cunard is known for its Enrichment Programs. The centerpiece is a series of speakers. There are usually two lectures each day. The speakers we have heard included the former Governor of the Bank of England, a retired Head of Customs talking about smuggling at airports and a former UK intelligence operative discussing spies and codebreaking. You can interact 1:1 with the speakers afterwards.
  7. The food is varied. As I recall, the menu in the main dining room is on a 21- or 28-day cycle. This means dishes do not repeat for three or four weeks. There are exceptions, like the showstopper dishes like lobster or Beef Wellington on formal nights. You know you will not be seeing the same choices constantly.
  8. They have themed cruises. We sailed on the Fashion Week Crossing. It was fabulous. They have Crossings featuring the theater or literature. Many years ago, I heard there was an Antiques Roadshow themed cruise. Some might be food or wine themed crossings. If you have a specialist interested, there might be a themed crossing for you.
  9. The mix of passengers. When you sail seven nights to the Caribbean, roundtrip from New York, you are going to have a lot of New Yorkers onboard. It makes sense. It’s a homeport. There are no flights involved. When you sail from the US to the UK or vice versa, there will be plenty of Americans. There will also be plenty of Brits and Canadians. Germans are big Cunard fans too. Some transatlantic crossings start in Hamburg, stop in Southampton and then sail to New York. On most transatlantic crossings, 20+ nationalities are represented.
  10. You aspire to the Grills. 87% of the ship is Britannia Class. These are the inside, ocean view and balcony cabins. The remaining 13% are suites in the Princess Grill and Queens Grill categories. They have their own cocktail lounge and exclusive deck space. Each Grill category has its own exclusive dining room. Grill passengers have the run of the ship. Britannia passengers can go everywhere except the Grills only spaces. Several other cruise lines are starting to adopt the “ship within a ship” concept, but Cunard is the only line that never stopped. Another reason passengers return is to “trade up” and enjoy the Grills experience.

You might know many people with a “been there, done that” attitude towards vacations. Cunard has found a way to cultivate repeat business for the voyage synonymous with its name.

 


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Cover photo: QUEEN ANNE AT SEA, CREDIT CUNARD

 

 

 

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