Often, when people think about ultra-premium, luxury cruises, the first name that springs to mind is Cunard. With a history dating back to 1840, Cunard cruises have optimised the industry since. To this day, they own some of the biggest and most lavish cruise ships in the industry.
Over the years, Cunard have produced the fastest and most luxurious ships ever built, the most famous being the QE2. In 2004, Cunard went for another world first, when they built the behemoth that is the Queen Mary 2 – the longest, highest, largest and most expensive ship ever built.
Today, Cunard operate three ships – the Queen Mary 2, the 90,000 tonne Queen Victoria and the 92,400 tonne Queen Elizabeth, the company having sold the QE2 to be turned into a floating hotel in 2008. Their cruises and Atlantic crossings still attract high numbers of passengers, but as the generations move on and with an unstable economy at our feet, we need ask – does Cunard still rule the waves?
Why they might not
With so many other, smaller companies offering luxury cruises around the world, Cunard finds itself in a highly competitive marketplace. As the most expensive cruise company in the world, they have found themselves increasingly under pressure to go above and beyond what other companies can offer in order to justify their high price point.
Something to bear in mind when considering Cunard’s service and reputation is that the company was moved under the Princess / P&O Cruises umbrella in late 2004. This meant an entire change of staff, both on and off board, with the majority coming from the umbrella company’s pool of personnel. That’s not to say that the service is lacking; just that the heritage and core staff that would have seen the company through the ‘Golden Era’ are no longer on board.
What the passengers say
In the 2013 Cruise Critic UK Cruisers’ Choice awards, Cunard didn’t fare so well. Missing out on the top spot in the majority of the categories demonstrates that maybe the world is moving away from old-time luxury and towards more fun, budget friendly offerings. Here are some of the results:
- Best overall: Top three places went to ships from the Celebrity Line – the Eclipse, the Solstice and the Silhouette. The Queen Victoria came fourth.
- Best for cabins: No appearance by Cunard, with Celebrity taking three of the top five awards, and Carnival and Royal Caribbean the other two.
- Best for dining: Celebrity held the top two slots, with the Queen Victoria popping into fourth place.
- Best for service: One of Cunard’s ‘USPs’ was that they were disappointingly beaten into fourth place again by the three Celebrity ships.
- Best for value: With a respectable second place in this category, Cunard have proven that the smallest ship in their fleet, the Queen Victoria, is actually what people are looking for.
So, do Cunard still rule the waves? They certainly still have one of the biggest, fastest ships in the world. While a trip on the Queen Mary 2 might be a once in a lifetime experience, for many of us it will remain forever out of reach. With smaller, less formal and just as exciting cruise companies offering excellent value for money alternatives, Cunard is going to have to work hard to retain its share of the holiday market.