On Friday, Cunard Line (www.cunard.com) celebrated the 10th anniversary of its grand flagship, Queen Mary 2 with the arrival of the entire three ship fleet in Southampton, England. It was a rare occasion to see Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria together.
HRH Prince Philip toured the ship’s public spaces, admired a new portrait of HRH Queen Elizabeth, and visited the bridge and certain crew spaces. Agents might check out the ship’s arrival in Southampton and video of Prince Philip’s tour below.
Today, the ship is en route to New York, where another 10th anniversary celebration will occur later in the week. Since Queen Elizabeth christened the ship at Southampton a decade ago, QM2 has sailed 1.5 million nautical miles on over 400 voyages including 213 transatlantic voyages. She has called at 182 ports in 60 countries and carried more than 1.3 million guests.
Travel Agent asked travel agents who’ve sailed in or sold the ship for their thoughts on the grand dame’s decade of cruising. What clients are best? Is the trans-Atlantic still a viable product to sell? What are the top reasons to sail? What differentiates this product from others? Here's are views of two agents, and we'll feature others in subsequent stories.
|His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh meets crew members aboard Queen Mary 2 as Captain Kevin Oprey (right) and David Dingle, CEO for Cunard Line (background center), look on, in Southampton, England, on Friday 9 May 2014, during celebrations for the flagship’s 10th Anniversary. // Photo by James Morgan|
Lynda Dodd, franchise owner, CruiseOne (www.cruiseone.com/ldodd), Woodbridge, VA, says Queen Mary 2 is in class of her own. “Even after 10 years, she continues to have a special place in the hearts of many cruisers,” Dodd tells us. “The ship has a very nostalgic feel with very traditional charm. If I had to describe her in one word, it would be ‘luxurious.’”
Dodd believes that "elegance" differentiates QM2. “Gone are the days of formality on most cruise ships but not on the QM2,” she emphasizes. “If one is looking for a luxury cruise where you can wear your evening gowns and tuxedos, than this could be the ship for you.”
She notes that after 6 p.m. the dress code, at the very least, requires a sport coat for men. “This gives the ship a different feel in the evenings as opposed to many other ships,” Dodd says.
|Queen Mary 2 celebrates her 10th anniversary this year; this painting hangs within Queen Elizabeth's Commodore Club.|
Why would people go on the trans-Atlantic crossing with no ports? “There are many people who have a trans-Atlantic crossing on the QM2 high up on their ‘bucket list,” she believes. “Some look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime cruise.”
She also notes that if travel agents have clients interested in ballroom dancing the ship may be a good choice as "it has one of the largest dance floors at sea and male hosts for the single ladies onboard.”
She also says that the trans-Atlantic voyage makes for a nice trip from New York to Southampton, and then clients can spend time in London or elsewhere before heading back to North America by air. Others will simple combine it with a westbound crossing back home.
Another differentiator? She points to the kennels onboard, so people traveling on the crossings can book a kennel for their dog.
|Two-level library onboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth|
Robert J. Kunikoff of RJK Travel Ltd., part of Tzell Travel Group (www.tzell.com) in New York, just booked made a booking last week for the QM2’s Christmas cruise from Miami. This particular client has sailed on Cunard many times, loves the planetarium and also enjoys the library. She's also happy that Cunard has moved the computers out of the library to a computer room downstairs.
One plus? Kunikoff stresses that the ship's planetarium doubles as a theater for movies and lectures, a plus for enrichment programs: “Having two theaters on one ship for this purpose is a big plus and no other ship has quite the same arrangement,” he says.
He had two other clients who sailed on a QM2 trans-Atlantic voyage and booked Queens Grill category accommodations. “They loved that they could sail with other affluent individuals like themselves and knew that they would always find friends onboard who shared their lifestyle and their interests,” Kunikoff says.
|Suite guests have high-end accommodations and access to the Grills dining experience.|
One thing they didn’t like, however, was the positioning of the Queen's Grill cabins far forward and the placement of the Queen's Grill Restaurant far aft. “I was told after their last voyage that almost every night after they had walked almost to the restaurant, that Judy would turn to Sam and say, ‘Dear, did we close the door to the safe?’” He said it’s good this man in his 80s was fit, for he built up an appetite each night walking the length of the ship three times before dinner and once afterwards.
If agents have clients with mobility issues, Kunikoff advises them to consider Princess Grill category accommodations, as then clients can get a cabin in the aft part of the ship, very close to the designated Grills restaurant.
“QM2 has options for everyone, even those who love to sail but have limited means,” says Kunikoff. “It’s possible to sail around the world for three months, in an inside, very small cabin for the same price that a person with means might spend on a week's vacation to the Caribbean.”
Personally, Kunikoff sailed on a charter QM2 cruise in May 2007. He had taken six friends along to celebrate a birthday. He also planned to catch up on his reading – either on the balcony or in the lounges. He brought along the latest Dan Brown novel as well as 20 unread New Yorker magazines.
“Needless to say, I never opened any of them,” he emphasized. “It was the best vacation I have ever had. I found things to do all day, every day and into the wee hours of the morning.”
|Guests might dine in The Verandah, an alternative restaurant|
Who are the best clients for this ship? “I would say people who love to be at sea,” he said, noting that the QM2 is not for people who want to spend every day at another port. On trans-Atlantic cruises, there aren’t typically ports of call, with either Southampton or New York being the final destination.
Even on cruises elsewhere, “because of her size she cannot dock in many harbors, in fact on a South American voyage she may only call on a handful of ports because of her size and the ports not wanting to be overwhelmed with 3,500 passengers disembarking for the day,” he says.
Kunikoff tells us that clients who sail on this ship typically “know” the Cunard name, have sailed on previous Cunard ships, and love being on a British ship.
He notes that even his clients who've had a rare unpleasant experience – the cabin was directly underneath the fog horn on a particularly foggy voyage through Norwegian Fjords when the horn sounded every two minutes --- still returned to book Cunard. They just picked a voyage to a different destination.
Similarly, “if you are looking for a luxury ship with White Star Service and an elegant atmosphere, look no further,” Dodd tells her clients, noting “the QM2 may be just the one for you.”
From Kurnikoff’s perspective, name recognition is very important in this industry and Cunard still maintains the name in a very favorable manner: “Other cruise lines have built ships that have come close to QM2 in size and some even bigger, but the QM2, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria still sail in a world of their own.”