On A Similar Path To Excellence: We Are Cunard, Today

In this second post of a three-part series, we’re taking a deep look at the evolution of three different cruise lines and the people behind what we think is one of the most relevant changes to business-as-usual to come about in recent memory.

In the first installment of On A Similar Path To Excellence, we profiled Holland America Line using some interesting current initiatives aimed at building on their past to propel them into the future. Tagging President Orlando Ashford’s Collective Intelligence focus as the power source that results when everyone in an organization gets involved, Holland America Line is headed in a positive direction. It’s a measured and planned departure from a cruise line that could very well have been stuck in its illustrious past, dating back to 1873.  Also a cruise travel company steeped in history, Cunard Line dates back even further.  In an interesting change of course for Cunard Line, new developments point to a contemporary focus here as well, beginning with a remastering of ships.

In a nearly month-long dry dock, Cunard Line flagship Queen Mary 2 will undergo extensive hardware changes, adding a variety of staterooms and remodeling all public spaces of the nearly 150,000 ton ship.  The first in a forward-thinking plan titled Cunard Ships Remastered, this recent video brings us up to speed.


History protected and embedded into all areas of the ship, Queen Mary 2 the hardware will sail off into the future, a comfortable fit for long time fans.  The extreme attention to detail in this project extends past public areas as well.   To be added: a lamp post and fire hydrant installed on the area of the ship’s deck reserved for dog walking in a nod to Cunard’s British and American canine friends. Perhaps of more interest in this space, an underlying current of energized change is in the wind at Cunard Line and I’ll get to that interesting part of the story in a moment.  First, a quick summing up of Queen Mary 2 remastering hardware highlights:

  • 15 new Single Staterooms
  • 30 new Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms
  • 10 new Kennels
  • Restyling of all suites and staterooms
  • Restyling the Grills Dining Experience
  • Tea and coffee makers in each stateroom and suite
  • Debut: The Verandah dining venue already on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria with regional French cooking
  • Winter Garden remastered into an elegant, airy gathering venue
  • Debut: The Carinthia Lounge, a light fare transition venue
  • Kings Court moves beyond “the buffet” to a chef-manned demo of food journeys, rotated throughout the dining experience

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A New Level Of Luxury

In addition to all of the above, Cunard Line will introduce new menus with a fresh new look that both honor the line’s past, pleasing long time fans and positions it to bring in new luxury cruise travelers in a unique way.  We saw a quick glimpse of that effort during the 2016 Seatrade Global cruise conference in Fort Lauderdale not long ago as Cunard executives clearly defined where the line is right now, what is planned during the Cunard Ships Remastered initiative and what’s next for Cunard.

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Cunard CEO David Noyes ran down all of the above elements of the Cunard Ships Remastered plan, confirming that British tradition was alive and well at the line.  Next up was Cunard North America President Richard Meadows, expanding on those changes as did Angus Struthers, Vice President of Marketing.   Of particular interest to readers here, an unannounced but quite present expansion of the We Are Cunard focus, highlighted at the Cunard Line blog of the same name.

History aside (something that takes a herculean effort), we see a cruise line already positioned to attract new upmarket luxury travelers from other lines if not create their own new pool of cruise travelers.  At that same press conference, we saw the result of that effort with a glimpse of fresh faces and samples of culinary delights presented in an unusual way for Cunard Line.  The takeaway here: this is not your great-grandmother’s Cunard.  We’ll look at renderings of what this effort will resolve as shortly.   First, a look back.   We sailed Queen Mary 2 during her inaugural year in 2006, noting at the time “every night is formal night” for all practical purposes when compared to other big ship cruise lines. This was the look and feel of the ship at the time:

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Fast forward to 2016 and beyond, renderings of remastered spaces on Queen Mary 2 document a significant change in the line’s approach in the Queen Mary 2 Remastered project that stays true to Cunard’s heritage.  Simultaneously positioning the line for the future, new designs, color palates and furnishings highlights an updated direction on a similar path to excellence as Holland America Line.

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On a similar path to excellence as sister line Holland America, further evidence of positive evolution at Cunard Line can be found in announced plans for the future.

Cunard’s distinction lies not only with its fleet but also with its deployment. In 2017, the Cunard fleet will travel over 207,000 nautical miles, visit 93 destinations in 32 different countries, and will include four maiden calls for the current fleet. These maiden calls will include: Souda Bay, Greece; Sibenik, Croatia; Brindisi, Italy; and Praia da Vitoria, Portugal.

Highlights include:

  • Overnight calls in 8 cities including St. Petersburg, Venice and Barcelona
  • 18 evenings in port including Dublin, Monte Carlo and Boston
  • 14 roundtrip New York sailings
  • 2 World Voyages – one on Queen Mary 2 and one on Queen Elizabeth
  • South America exploration with 22 ports around the continent on Queen Victoria

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Continuing as the only cruise company to offer regularly scheduled Transatlantic Crossings, Cunard will expertly bridge the gap between the old and new worlds in the most luxurious of ways as Queen Mary 2 enters 2017 with remastering as noted above complete. In addition to crossing the Atlantic 24 times, from May to December, the ship will continue to offer a flexible Mediterranean cruise season on Queen Victoria set to receive a stroke of the remastering brush next, offering Britannia Club dining and accommodations for the first time.

Enabling guests the opportunity to embark from one of four ports on voyages lasting from seven to 21 nights.

  • Embarking in Rome, Venice, Athens and Barcelona, Queen Victoria will visit 29 different ports in the Mediterranean from July to November.
  • Popular overnight stays bring a nod to the value of cruise travel as opposed to visiting the same places on land an will include Venice, Istanbul and Barcelona, with late evening departures in Cephalonia, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Monte Carlo.
  • Queen Victoria will also offer select voyages from Southampton both to European destinations and to the Caribbean.

Queen Elizabeth will operate regular roundtrip Southampton voyages that visit locations such as The Baltic, Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, British Isles, Canary Islands and Iberia. New this year for Queen Elizabeth are 4 roundtrip voyages sailing from Rotterdam, to the Baltic, Norwegian Fjords, Iceland and the British Isles.

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2017 Special Event Cruises
To see another wonderful example of old working well with new, Cunard announced a series of new theme cruises that will feature landmark celebrations and cultural experiences around the world, continuing  the line’s award-winning Insights programme that brings together renowned thought leaders from a wide variety of industries to curate in-depth discussions on topics ranging from fashion to astronomy.

Highlights of the 2017 include:

  • Queen Mary 2’s World Space Week (M737), a Transatlantic Crossing to celebrate the United Nations International World Space Week, featuring top space experts: Astronaut, Scientist and former Shuttle Pilot, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman; Charles Barclay, of the Royal Astronomical Society; Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic; and Ken Taggart, NASA historian.
  • Queen Elizabeth’s Arts and Literary Tour of the British Isles (Q723), an exploration of the artistic side to the British Isles in the company of actor Robert Powell, and Louise West, Trustee of the Charles Dickens Museum and Former Senior Curator of the Jane Austen House.
  • Queen Elizabeth celebrating QE2’s 50th Anniversary (Q729), a special cruise honouring the 50th anniversary of Cunard’s best-loved ship, the iconic QE, which will feature a commemorative dinner and Insight speakers QE2 expert and historian, Chris Frame, former Captain of QE2.
  • Queen Victoria’s Festival of Flowers (V714), an itinerary that includes an overnight stay in the floral paradise of Madeira, excursions to many beautiful gardens and flower markets of the Canary Islands, and an evening dinner at Madeira’s botanical garden hotel, Quinta Jardins do Lago.

Cunard will also be hosting the spectacular “Big Band Ball” on board Queen Elizabeth (Q727) and Queen Victoria (V726), a magnificent 13 piece Big Band Orchestra, for guests who like to dance and sing to the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra.

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2018 World & Exotic Voyages Highlights
Ever since inaugurating the first world cruise in 1922, Cunard has undertaken more world voyages and taken more passengers around the globe than any other cruise line and is the undisputable world voyage expert. In 2018, Cunard will continue this grand tradition, albeit via remastered ships, visiting 93 unique ports in 46 countries, have 17 ship maiden calls and visit nine new ports for the current fleet.

Queen Elizabeth will operate a full 122 night world circumnavigation calling on 39 ports in 25 countries and featuring overnight stays in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong and Cape Town. Her voyage will offer guests the chance to experience the classic world voyage, a westbound circumnavigation of the globe featuring a transit of the iconic Panama Canal. Queen Elizabeth will have six maiden calls: Hamilton, Bermuda; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Mo’orea, French Polynesia; Kochi, Japan; and Malacca, Malaysia.

  • 112-night round trip Southampton, fares from $19,999
  • 72-night New York to Hong Kong, fares from $11,799
  • 22-night San Francisco to Sydney, fares from $3,799
  • 16-night Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, fares from $2,399

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Queen Mary 2’s 120-night East-West voyage will call on 46 ports in 24 countries and will feature two maiden calls in New Zealand, as well as overnight stays in Cape Town, Hong Kong and Dubai. Her 2018 World Voyage will allow for full immersion in destinations in Australia and New Zealand, with experiences featuring the Margaret River, Kangaroo Island and New Zealand’s South Island. On departure from Australia Queen Mary 2 will visit Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand, providing access to a wide array of exotic Asian cultures. On her return leg, Queen Mary 2 will call on Aqaba for the ancient site of Petra before transiting the Suez Canal and calling at the classic Mediterranean destinations of Rome and Barcelona.

  • 134-night round trip New York, fares from $22,399
  • 120-night round trip Southampton, fares from $19,999
  • 13-night round trip Sydney, fares from $2,299

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For the first time ever, Cunard will offer a 2-3 month exotic mid-duration voyage on Queen Victoria for guests seeking a winter escape round trip experience that offers an in depth exploration of South America. This voyage will offer more immersive destinations and scenic cruising in the Magellan Straits, Chilean Fjords and Cape Horn. Her voyage will also feature nine maiden calls, ports in the Caribbean, a transit of the Panama Canal, and overnight stays in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

  • 50-night round trip Fort Lauderdale, fares from $7,999
  • 34-night Fort Lauderdale to Valparaiso, fares from $5,499
  • 15-night Fort Lauderdale to Rio de Janeiro, fares from $2,299

“With the remastering of our flagship Queen Mary 2 this year, and Queen Victoria’s planned refit in 2017 – which includes the significant addition of Britannia Club accommodations – Cunard’s iconic vessels will be more luxurious than ever offering new and richer experiences for our guests.” – Richard Meadows, president, Cunard North America.

Of significant importance here, as in our profile of Holland America Line, is how the vision of Cunard Line leaders is playing out in real life.  Once the single solo bastion for all things luxury, Cunard joins Holland America with a renewed focus on putting their very best foot forward, perhaps in response to other cruise lines closing in on the luxury market as never before.

MSC Cruises, an on again, off again Italian cruise line seems on a good track now to take a bite out of that luxurious apple with their top end Yacht Club ship within a ship experience, selling out far in advance while they practically give away other accommodations.  Royal Caribbean International launches new Royal Suite Class the first of May, packed with more amenities and perks for top level cruise travelers than ever.  The heat is on, providing the impetus for Cunard Line to move past an operation heavily weighted to its historical past into a world defined by more contemporary traveler desires.  Steadfast Cunard Line is in the position to rule that world as well for a number of reasons illustrated here plus one we have not talked about as much, that serves as a good segue to the next part of this series.


Richard Meadows, president of Cunard North America, shares a similar clear focus on the future as Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.  In distinctly different style, both leaders have summed up their respective organizations’ strong points and positioned them for future growth.  Good news for investors in Carnival Corporation stock but an item of little interest to cruise travelers considering a different line to try.   Bringing this topic home to usable information for those who frequent this space, Meadows is also in charge of ultra luxury line Seabourn, one we have covered here like a blanket.  It’s Seabourn we turn to next to complete our trilogy of cruise lines on a similar path to excellence.

In an exclusive interview with Meadows during the 2016 Seatrade Global Conference came a look at the heart and soul of a cruise line totally focused on customer service to the extent of which we have not seen before in any organization. That’s next in our series On A Similar Path To Excellence.

Just joining us?  See Part One of this series, profiling Holland America Line