Tag Archives: Cunard

What’s Your Favourite Travel Blog?

I stumbled across a lovely story about cruising on Jetcruise.com’s blog this morning (thanks for the shout out!) and it occurred to me that there are probably lots of new blogs about travel (cruise or otherwise) that we haven’t yet discovered. Ours is new — going on two months now — and the blog on Jetcruise.com, which I’d never seen before, made me wonder: What else is out there that we should be reading every day, whether its really good honest critique on cruise ports — or other cruise blogs?

We already do know, and have paid much kudos to cruise line blogs, such as Cunard’s weekly missives and John Heald’s Carnival blog. Check out our story on the best cruise line blogs.

Other favorites include blogs written by fellow journalists, such as Captain Greybeard’s on the Daily Mirror’s website and Jane Archer’s tales on Travel Weekly.




Filed under Advice, Cruise Lines, Opinion

Why Cruise on Cunard?

On a visit to Fincantieri’s shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy (near Trieste) on Friday, I got a chance to visit with Queen Elizabeth (see our coverage, via photos and commentary, here!) . The line’s newest ship, it’s still under construction at the yard (and has a mere 11 weeks to go before its “release date” of September 30).

In the lobby, a-hammer with all kinds of builders pounding nails into concrete, cutting wood on buzz saws, and dabbing paint onto ceiling murals, a painting of the ship caught my eye.  Incongruously elegant, it was an oil of Queen Elizabeth-the-new, clearly done from renderings as the ship appeared fully operational (it was clearly cruising around Southampton).

Now the painting, by Dorset’s Harley Crossley, hasn’t been moldering amidst the dust and debris for long; it was purposely hung for the three-hour visit by a handful of cruise journalists (and promptly taken down and properly stored the minute we left the room). Ultimately of course it will be surrounded by a much more glorious – and of course completed – atrium when it’s mounted again, permanently.

Still, for a few minutes, probably longer than that, I stood in front of it, mesmerized. Among nautical enthusiasts who decry the loss of ships with elegant exteriors in an era in which so many look like 1990s condo blocks (or like NCL’s new Norwegian Epic, with appearances that frankly defy description), the new painting of Queen Elizabeth-the-new took me back in time.

“Let’s put it this way,” said one of the dozen or so Cunard staffers milling around us, “Would you really stop to admire a painting of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas?”

Look, I’m the first to say that as ugly as Norwegian Epic is, once you’re inside who cares what the ship’s exterior looks like? But that’s not the point with Cunard. Even as the line has made some modern compromises (building out the aft section of the ship to make room for more staterooms, for one, plenty of cabins with balconies for another), what’s important is this: Cunard’s very specialness is the fact that a passenger onboard its ships can cruise with a leg in the illustrious past of golden liners – and the other leg most definitely planted firmly in the present.

That’s why I want to cruise again on Cunard, whether it’s a crossing on Queen Mary 2 or a cruise on Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth.

On all three vessels, Cunard’s homage to its history, and to cruising’s golden era, is not lip service.  If that intrigues you as much as it does me, don’t miss spending time in Queen Elizabeth’s reincarnated Mid Ships bar (a QEII and Queen Mary institution). On a day with many highlights, the most memorable for me was the glimpse of the gallery that will be featured there – full of fantastic historic relics. My favorite was the Cunard White Star International Marine Radio Service Radiogram, dated October 9, 1946, from Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage:

Dear Belinda and Chris, grateful if you would check that our cabin, M45, is not more than five minutes walk from the sea. Stop.

“It’s one of the ways we’re bringing the experience of the old liners to life,” said Peter Shanks, Cunard’s president, a few minutes after he’d been spotted whipping out his own camera to snap shots of some of the pieces featured in display cases.

You’d think that the radiogram and other artifacts, such as newspaper clippings featuring Cunard ships, old teapots, and ship models, would all be culled from the line’s own collection. You’d be wrong! One of the best aspects of overseeing Queen Elizabeth’s art collection for Amy Lucena, an art consultant for the cruise line, is hunting for just the right antiques to display.

She found the telegram from an antique shop in Dania Beach, Florida. Teapots came from the gift shop onboard Queen Mary, which is now a hotel ship in Long Beach, California. And via eBay she unearthed a treasure trove of 25 manila envelopes filled with newspapers with Queen Elizabeth stories.

In its own way, Cunard’s the closest thing we have to connecting cruising’s past with its present. As I never had the chance to cruise on a ship during the golden era, I’m glad that there’s still an opportunity to experience this glamour – without having to compromise on any of contemporary travel’s modern necessities.



Filed under Cruise Lines, New Ships, Opinion, Transatlantic Cruises

A Slice of Saturday Night on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth: the lowdown

Cunard has announced an eclectic-sounding line-up of shows for the new Queen Elizabeth, which launches in October. We’re particularly intrigued by ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’, a big production that uses all 29 actors, singers, dancers and musicians in the newly-formed Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company. It’s one of those shows you’ve sort of heard of, but not quite a headline-grabber like ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Chicago’ have been for Royal Caribbean’s two newest ships.

Coming soon on Queen Elizabeth!

Coming soon on Queen Elizabeth!

So we’ve done a bit of digging and present you with ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ – The Facts:

  • The show was written in 1989 by the Heather Brothers, four London-born brothers who were songwriters before they turned to musicals. They’ve adapted the production specially for Cunard.
  • After Saturday Night, they wrote ‘Lust’, which played at London’s Haymarket Theatre, and ‘Blood Money’, which enjoyed a run in Philadelphia as well as the UK.
  • The plot of ‘Saturday Night’ is essentially a group of seven love-struck teens (‘birds’ and ‘blokes’) flirting and fighting in a provincial disco, Club A Go-Go, in the 1960s, egged on by the club’s owner, Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ De Vere – perfect fodder for Cunard’s baby-boomer demographic.
  • The show was first performed in a pub in Brighton in 1989 but made its West End debut shortly afterwards in a sell-out run at London’s Arts Theatre.  It hit the big time with a 12-week spell at London’s Strand Theatre in 1993, with pop star Sonia as Sue, the main female lead, and Dennis Waterman as Eric, the lead ‘bloke’.
  • Time Out gave it a glowing review: The Heather Brothers’ musical spoof on the Saturday night rituals of pubescent 17-year-old delinquents in the 60s is full of such clever, self-mocking charm that it’s difficult to come away feeling anything but thoroughly entertained … the real pleasure comes from the Brothers’ shameless poaching of an eclectic cross-section of famous 60s numbers — Cliff and the Shads to Bob Dylan via the Beatles — superb comic pastiche and sharp, cuff-link humour.
  •  The show has been translated into nine languages and there have been more than 300 productions since, as well as four national tours of Britain, two European tours and intriguingly, two of Japan.
  • ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ also had a run off-Broadway, billed as ‘Café A Go-Go’, receiving critical acclaim.
  • The cast started rehearsing in London and Northampton in mid-June and will move onto the ship for the launch in October.

Hats off to Cunard for trying something so ambitious; even if we’ve heard plenty of sixties material on cruise ships before, I like the fact that this is a full production with a plot and most importantly, proper musicians, not taped music.  SJB

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Filed under New Ships

A whine about wine

Visit the home page of Cruise Critic today and you’ll see a section called Things To Know Before You Go, packed with information on all those cruising mysteries – tipping, dress code, staying in touch… and one of the most contentious subjects of all: bringing your own alcohol on board.

Cruise lines’ attitudes to BYO alcohol range from perfectly reasonable to nannying to apparently illogical. I’m not campaigning for the idea of bringing truckloads of your own booze on board and depriving the cruise line of bar revenue. Just a couple of innocent bottles of wine.

It’s summer in the Mediterranean. Wine-tasting excursions abound. Ships are calling at ports where the shops are stocked with delicious, cheap French rosés from small Provencal growers, while passengers are enjoying tastings in exquisite Tuscan country estates. What’s wrong with loving a new wine so much that you buy a bottle to enjoy with dinner that night?

Yes, of course we’ll pay a corkage fee, just like we would in a restaurant at home. Yet some cruise lines are completely relaxed with this, while others forbid it completely.

Take P&O, for example: a blanket ban on BYO. Also, Fred. Olsen, MSC and Royal Caribbean. Any booze you buy on your travels is confiscated and handed back to you at the end of the cruise. Costa allows you to bring a bottle, in theory, but the procedure is so complicated (you have to write a letter two weeks in advance for approval and produce both the letter and the wine on embarkation for inspection) that it’s hardly worth bothering.

Cunard, though, along with Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line will allow you to consume your own wine for a corkage fee of around $20. And hats off to foodie-friendly Oceania Cruises, which assumes that you may have enjoyed one of its shore excursions so much that you’d quite like to buy some regional wine ashore and crack it open at dinner to remind you of the day.

Less so Azamara, which insists you can only bring your own wine at the beginning of the cruise, thus removing all spontaneity.

I know there are plenty of logical arguments against letting guests supply their own wine: loss of revenue, diluting the cruise line’s own effort, storing everybody’s wine, chilling it, reuniting each bottle with the right owner.

But why do some cruise lines treat us like adults and others like irresponsible kids?


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Filed under Dining

It’s the “it” ship, trust us…

Norwegian Epic, the newest (and largest) cruise ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, also known as the “freestyle”  icon (no rules, no regimentation), was delivered today by STX Europe’s shipyard in France’s St. Nazaire.

At Cruise Critic we call it the “it” ship because it’s the rare vessel in 2010 that’s completely and utterly unique. There are a lot of nice new ships launching this year, such as P&O’s Azura, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Celebrity’s Eclipse, but they’re pretty much copies of an earlier original. Norwegian Epic IS an original.

By and large, the ship seems at first to be geared to a huge, sprawling, mostly U.S.-centric audience. In its own way, though, the line is trying to court UK and European cruisers too (with the former, it’s bringing the ship, pre-inaugural era anyway, to Southampton for some festivities and with the latter, it’s planning to deploy Epic to the Mediterranean during summertime starting next year).

Frankly I don’t think the ship is either American or European. It’s a mishmash of styles that have more to do with age demos than cultural ones. If you regularly read the celebrity-oriented tabloids, you’ll fit in just fine (which if we’re all going to be brutally honest, includes most of us!). Clearly, this is a ship that’s courting the hip and trendy young set (if in cruising we classify the “young set” as the under 50s, well, bear that in mind).

So there’s the solo studios for single travelers, the Spice H20 beach club for South Beach wannabes, and the Blue Man Group, essentially a mime act, that started in the U.S. but is now spreading worldwide.

We’re not the first to express the opinion that the ship’s exterior is the ugliest we’ve ever seen (and I’ll tell you that a few NCL folks have admitted as much to us) though if you’re already onboard, I’ll say it probably doesn’t matter what the outside looks like. I’ll confess that when writing a poll this week that asked “what one aspect of Epic intrigues you?” [Poll is here, please feel free to weigh in: http://bit.ly/aFTUuh], I did slip in a reference to the ship’s unwieldy outward design (somewhat surprisingly, a mere 5 percent so far have voted for this option).

Shockingly, even less enthusiasm was accorded to such choices as Shanghai’s Noodle Bar (an industry first), which so far has engendered just 1.5 percent-worth-of-excitement, the Spice H20/Posh Beach Club (which weighs in at a measly 2 percent) and, sadly, the Argentinean steak house restaurant, which clearly is not ringing bells but does deserve a bit of credit for a daring effort (it gets less than 1 percent).



Filed under New Ships