Cruise

Cruises 101

by Sherri Eisenberg

Cunard Line

Number of ships: 2
Ship capacity: 1,791 to 2,592 passengers
Price range: Expensive

The audience: The line's specialty—now as ever—is the transatlantic crossing, so the demographics skew older. Expect plenty of retirees and other genteel types looking forward to the peace and quiet of six days at sea with no ports and no distractions other than accomplished speakers and the many books they've packed. Probably a handful of Titanic fans, too.

Strengths: The Queen Mary 2, the world's largest ocean liner, has taken over the torch from the venerable Queen Elizabeth 2, which retires in fall of 2008. The Queen Victoria will set sail in December 2007. The new vessels still, however, adhere to the class (or should we call it caste?) system of each cabin category getting its own dining room—four in all, with the dining experience becoming more intimate as you move up the ranks. Regardless, the food is excellent throughout. The guest lecture series is another standout: It draws actors such as John Cleese and Carrie Fisher, and literary lions like New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik. Lastly, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub is gorgeous and staffed by therapists who have been trained at the original outpost in Tucson. It's arguably the best spa on the seas.

Weaknesses: The line is now owned by the parent company of Carnival, so don't be surprised that the old days of "stump the chef" ordering at the Queen's Grill (the top-level dining room) have been reined in. That said, the new ships have some pretty nifty amenities, including restaurants helmed by Todd English (try the braised short ribs over polenta), a planetarium, and a fully stocked library.

Insider tip: After all those days at sea, there's often a big rush to get off at disembarkation. If you can handle your own luggage, obtain "self-help" baggage tags before arriving. The stalwart folks who carry their own bags are also the first group allowed off.

Itineraries: Besides the six-day transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton (from $1,399 per person), the QM2 sails to Northern Europe, the Caribbean, and makes a fall foliage trip along America's northeast coast. The Queen Victoria will have its maiden voyage in Northern Europe and then embark on a world cruise in 2008.

Cunard Line
Tel: 800 728 6273

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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