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Cunard Line

Cunard Line aims for big-ship luxury with a "Golden Era" feel. Cunard currently comprises three ships -- the 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2, the flagship of the fleet; the 1,988-passenger Queen Victoria; and the 2,068-passenger Queen Elizabeth -- with a fourth ship set to debut in 2022.

Cunard Cruise Highlights

Why Go?

Aims for big-ship luxury; still has "Golden Era" feel

Classic transatlantic crossings as well as other itineraries

Afternoon tea is a white-glove affair

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Queen Mary 2 was built to carry on Cunard's tradition of offering liner voyages year-round between Southampton and New York. It has thick steel plating, a strengthened and lengthened bow, and powerful engines. It has 1,360 cabins, most of which are outside, and most of them have balconies. There are eye-popping suites that top out at 2,250 square feet.

QM2 maintains the custom of assigning restaurants based on cabin accommodations. Passengers booked in the largest suites dine in the Queens Grill. Passengers booked in junior suites dine in the Princess Grill. Both grills offer single-seating service with table-side preparation. All other passengers dine in the three-story Britannia Restaurant, which offers two sittings for dinner and open sitting for breakfast and lunch, or the Britannia Club restaurant, which offers open dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, there are seven other dining venues, including the new Verandah restaurant, which replaced Todd English restaurant, open to all passengers by reservation for lunch and dinner. The recently transformed Kings Court Buffet restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks. It also offers an intimate alternative dining option in the evening -- Kings Court Specialty A La Carte -- serving delicious pan-Asian, Indian, Mexican, Italian and American fare, plus the galley section for made-to-order pizza.

QM2 has the first planetarium at sea, carries Oxford dons for classroom learning and offers workshops with students from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).

This ship offers something for everyone. Tea is served by white-gloved stewards in several venues. There is a British pub, a champagne bar, stylish (and expensive) shops and a heritage trail that relates Cunard's history. The stunning two-story spa is run by Canyon Ranch. The ship is wired for Wi-Fi, and there is a computer learning center. Perhaps most unique of all, however, is the ship's kennels, making QM2 the only ship at sea to carry cats and dogs.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth capitalize heavily on the rich heritage of Cunard -- but as newer cruise ships, they also offer all the modern amenities expected. Both have lavish suites of some 2,000 square feet overlooking the stern -- and even standard accommodations are spacious and pleasantly furnished (in contrast to the more basic cabins found on ocean liners of old).

Continuing a well-established Cunard tradition, the passengers in the best cabins dine in the single sitting Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants. They also share a lounge and an outer deck area, where the meals can be taken al fresco in good weather.

For those in standard accommodations, the two-deck-high Britannia restaurant can serve up to 800 diners at once. Here you have the choice of first or second seating for dinner, but lunch and breakfast are open seating. A separate British pub serves grub like cottage pie and bangers and mash at lunchtime.

Other dining options include the Lido buffet, which serves breakfast and lunch, and The Verandah, an additional for-fee venues for lunch and dinner.

On the sister ships, afternoon tea is a white-glove affair served in the lovely two-deck-high Queens Room. The ceremony is a throwback to an altogether grander age of travel and represents Cunard's commitment to its heritage.

As of November 2011, all three Cunard ships were re-flagged from Southampton, U.K., to Hamilton, Bermuda, allowing the line to conduct onboard weddings at sea. The wedding program began in 2012 after the world cruise season.

Fellow Passengers

Queen Mary 2's Atlantic crossings attract American and British passengers in equal proportions with a significant number of continental Europeans and smaller numbers of other nationalities. Passengers on crossings represent all age groups.

American cruises attract mostly Americans, while on European cruises, QM2, QV and QE sail with mostly British passengers with a healthy dose of Continental Europeans and Americans onboard. Announcements are made in English, German, French, and, on occasion, Spanish. Passengers on cruises tend to be older than those on crossings, but there's enough buzz about Cunard as to attract significant numbers of young passengers and families. (The children's facilities are top drawer.) The dress code rotates among casual, informal and formal in about equal proportion.

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