Cruisers are a fiercely loyal bunch. Either they only have (and ever will) travel with one cruise line, or have tried another, hated it (or missed the one they are used to) and come back to the original one.
This is played out most clearly on the Cruise Critic Message Boards, where you’ll rarely see any crossover from line to line – and woe betide anyone who pops up on a board extolling the virtues of a rival line.
One of the strongest loyalties we see is to Cunard. Some avid fans, or “Cunarders” as they are known, are so specific in their tastes that they will only travel on Queen Mary 2, where I am now for a special 10th anniversary sailing.
Take Richard Faber for example, arguable the ultimate Cunarder. This westbound crossing is Mr. Faber’s 49th – he’ll take his 50th in September, spend a couple of nights in Paris and return via Cherbourg on his 51st crossing. He was the very first person to book a crossing on this ship when Cunard opened bookings, and the very first person to step onboard in January 2004.
He first started cruising in 1975 on QE2. He tried several other lines, but found himself drawn back to QE2. He was present on the ship’s final voyage to Dubai, and in total sailed on her 40 times.
I asked him, what is it about QM2 that makes you return again and again (and again)?
“There are several reasons. The first is the crew. The service is exceptional. On other lines you’ll get a yes or no answer to your question, on here it’s never no, it’s: ‘I’ll find out for you sir.’
“The feeling of space. No other ship has that space looking down from the lobby down the corridor to the Britannia Dining Room. It’s the fabulous dining room – even if I am traveling Grills [class] I always choose to eat in the Britannia restaurant.
“And the lectures onboard, they always have some wonderful maritime-themed lectures.
“The ship is the destination for me.”
As you can imagine, anticipation among Cunarders has been running high for this anniversary crossing; Cruise Critic member mrcruiser set up a Meet & Mingle for the event well over a year ago. I took the opportunity to talk to a few other diehard Cunarders to find out why they loved the line.
For Martin Miller (pepperm), his affinity began as a kid, when his father used to take him out on a boat round Southampton Harbour to point out the ships:
“We used to spend summers in Hayling Island [near Portsmouth], and I remember going across to Southampton on a boat in the late 50s and early 60s.
“I remember those ships so vividly, especially the Union Castle Line ships, with their distinctive lavender color….The Elizabeth, the France and the United States. The United States had the largest funnels, but the Elizabeth was the biggest ship.”
He first tried Cunard in 2006: “It was a one-off – a journey of a lifetime… I’ve been eight or nine times since and I’m a Platinum Member.
“I’ve been on QE2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, but this is my absolute favorite. I regard this ship as my home, but occasionally Cunard kick me off!”
So what keeps attracting him back?
“There’s a photo of me on my very first crossing in black tie. I sat over there,” he said, pointing to a seat in the Commodore Club. “And the expression on my face says it all. It’s about being made to feel really special.”
Debbie Johnson (DebJo) remembers being onboard Norwegian Dawn in 2004, watching QM2 arrive in New York City on its inaugural crossing: “We saw the red carpet treatment the passengers got when the ship arrived, and we thought one day we’ll be onboard.”
Fast forward ten years and she made it to the 10th Anniversary crossing: “It’s the realization of a dream. I like the elegance of Cunard, and its attention to, and respect for, history.”
Lesley (pinkfizz) started to cruise a few years ago, after her husband died. And in her words, “I’ve been on a lot of Cunard cruises in a very short space of time”.
She has just returned from a world cruise and like Martin, has reached Platinum Status. For Lesley, it’s how good the line is for solo travelers – “There’s dance hosts and solo meetings, you never feel alone onboard. I’ve been on small ships before, but they don’t cater as well for solo travelers.”
When you get Cunarders talking, the memories keep coming:
Steve and Karen (SeaVoyager6), are on their 17th Cunard trip. Sid (headchef), from Manchester has lost count of the number of crossings he has done. Ken (Lurker1) was just in Lisbon where the three Queens met before heading up to Southampton. And Calliope first started sailing with Cunard in 1980, when QE2 was still a steamer. He’s done almost 30 voyages on Cunard. Terry (KeukaLakeSailor) takes “two or three” crossings a year.
Brigitte (BrigitteTom) used to take the 15-night New York roundtrip Christmas Caribbean sailings on QM2 until Cunard cut them back to 12 nights. She’s also taken a 12-night New England and Canada sailing which she enjoyed.
But it’s the crossings that she loves:
She came to the US from Germany on a steamer as a young girl soon after World War II, and she remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
“Every time I make this crossing, I get up at 5 a.m. on the last morning to stand on deck and watch New York come into view. And for a few moments I’m back there, as a little girl, when we first came to New York.”
*Interested in a transatlantic cruise? Read the Member Reviews.
*Read more about QM2.