There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of sailing the world on an unforgettable cruise, and nobody knows that better than expert Travel Advisor Deirdre Irlam. She specializes in premium cruises with Cunard Line and has just returned from their 2019 World Voyage, which took place aboard the Queen Victoria.
Despite sailing with Cunard a total of 49 times, Deirdre was alight with enthusiasm to share her thoughts on what they had to offer, evident in her warm and vibrant tone throughout our conversation. “One of the things that makes Cunard stand out to me the most is that they’re international. With many other cruise lines, a significant majority of the passengers are American. However, on the Victoria, about a little less than half of the passengers were American, and the other passengers were mostly from European countries. There were more Europeans than Americans on this last cruise. The announcements were made in English and in German, which added to the multicultural environment when we were at sea.
There are a wide range of things to do throughout the day aboard the ship. The Queen Victoria has an extensive library that holds around 6,000 to 7,000 volumes beneath a stained-glass sunroof. Its two stories are connected by an elaborate spiral staircase and make for the perfect night in. The ship’s art gallery is rife with masterpieces as well. In the past, Deirdre said, lectures aboard the ships have ranged from a famous British reporter who talked about her work covering terrorism and military conflicts, to previous ambassadors who spoke of their responsibilities abroad and at the U.N. Classes are available for an assortment of hobbies, including painting, jewelry-making, flower-arranging and more.
There are plenty of games to enjoy, too. It’s common to see passengers focused on their hand of poker, bridge or whist. Shuffleboard and table tennis are popular pastimes, too. For passengers who would rather unwind, the Royal Spa and the Mareel Spa offer a variety of treatments to promote deep relaxation. In addition, the yoga and tai chi classes provide mindful rest.
Many of her clients adored the variety of entertainment choices. Deirdre said, “One of my clients asked me, “Where else can you get so much live music?” Because the Victoria has a huge ballroom, they regularly hold dance classes throughout the day, and the formal orchestra plays there at night. In the Commodore Club, there’s always a pianist playing to serenade passengers as they mingle with pre-dinner drinks and the dining room has a three- or four-string orchestra for a lovely dinnertime ambiance. The nightclub, Hemispheres, has a DJ for those who want a faster pace to their music and evening. I’ve found that those on a segment cruise get more use out of the nightclub.”
A segment during a world cruise voyage is when a passenger boards for the first time at a port-of-call in one location but then disembarks before the voyage has ended. “It’s very convenient for passengers who can’t devote their time to the entire world cruise,” said Deirdre. “And there are segment cruise parties, which every passenger can go to, a sort of welcome aboard celebration, plus world cruise parties for passengers who are with the Victoria for the entire journey.”
“I love to get dressed up to go to dinner and to attend the Gala Balls. Men are expected to wear a jacket and long pants—ties are only on formal nights—and women wear dresses and jewelry. In my experience, the men don’t seem to enjoy that aspect as much but will do so happily because their wives adore the special occasion of the formal attire for a memorable date night.”
“Plus,” she added in a mischievous-sounding whisper, “It’s acceptable for the men to take their jackets off and put them on the chair. My clients relax a little when I tell them that.”
When asked about her favorite things to do in the evenings on the ship, Deirdre paused to think and replied, “I love going to the performances. The Royal Court Theatre is gorgeous! They even have box seats that you can rent on the formal nights. I believe the cost to rent one of the box seats is around $60, which includes cocktails before the show, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and box of Godiva chocolates to savor throughout performances such as operas or Broadway-style productions.”
“To me, it’s the little things that set Cunard apart from competitors. For instance, it’s the only cruise line that has fresh flowers aboard the ship throughout the voyage, especially during Easter celebrations and Passover. Additionally, there are a lot of vegetarian foods on the Lido buffet and the Britannia restaurant (the two main dining rooms), which makes it easy for passengers who have different dietary restrictions.”
“My absolutely favorite port on the world cruise is Sydney,” Deirdre offered with a reminiscent sigh. “Especially when the stop in port is an overnight because there’s so much to do. You can go into the hills and go to the vineyards to sample and purchase some souvenirs. Or you can go to the beach and enjoy the sun or head to the water to take a boat ride. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for fun in the city.”
Deirdre said she also looked forward to visiting the Greek isles, and that they hold a special place in her heart. “The best part about the Greek isles,” she explained, “is that they’re all so different! People assume that they have similar personalities because they’re all Greek, which isn’t the case. Mykonos is a very fun, bustling island with plenty to do, whereas Santorini is beautiful and well worth a visit for a more relaxed atmosphere.”
When we asked Deirdre what she loves the most about taking cruises year after year, she was happy to explain. “It’s like a second home. I get to meet the same friends (or almost the same friends) every year. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces when I get aboard the ship. It’s lovely to meet my friends, catch up and check in with staff. If you’ve been on a cruise once or twice, the staff will remember you, which makes it very special. The cabin stewards will get to know you as well. Even if the staff isn’t the same, their service level is still unsurpassed.”
As far as advice for others who are ready to book with Cunard, Deirdre recommended, “Make sure to have your agent arrange the tours and shore excursions before you board the ship, preferably when you book the cruise itself because the tours sell out fast. If you wait to arrange your shore excursions until you’re settled in your stateroom or suite, there’s a good chance that the excursions are already sold out.”
Don’t miss out on your chance to experience a Cunard world cruise. Take a look at their upcoming sailings before calling Cruise Specialists to begin planning your next adventure.