It has taken 100 years for Cunard to finally name one of their ships Queen Victoria. The first attempt was in 1906 with a ship that was eventually named the Mauretania, the largest and fastest vessel in the world at the time.

Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard, is delighted that the company finally has its Queen Victoria. She is the second female president of Cunard Line, a position she is proud to hold. But it is a role that comes with challenges.

“In order to gain economics of scale, the bigger vessels create great value-for-money fares.”

“I am delighted to contribute to the industry,” Marlow says. “It’s important to keep in touch with our customers, to understand their needs and desires and to evolve the product as the market evolves and to continue to reach out – to grow our customer base as we grow our brand. We want to continue to offer our distinctive product as well as we possibly can and communicate it to the market.”

While the new ocean liner is as luxurious as sister vessel Queen Mary 2, it’s not as big, which strikes an odd note in an industry that sees building increasingly larger ships as the way forward. In order to gain economics of scale, the bigger vessels create great value-for-money fares, according to Marlow.

“However, in the case of Queen Victoria we felt that a smaller ship would complement our fleet better than building one even larger than Queen Mary 2,” she says. “Queen Victoria still has the space to offer a world of choice to passengers and its fares are excellent value for money.”

Traditional Cunard features on Queen Victoria include the spectacular grand lobby, a double-height Queens Room, which is adorned with crystal chandeliers and home to elegant afternoon teas and grand balls, the Golden Lion and the Commodore Club, the Line’s nautical-style observation lounge where cocktails and canapés are served to a background of live music.

Like any good queen, the vessel also has distinct features of its own, such as the first ever onboard museum where guests can learn about Cunard’s 168-year history. Theatregoers can also enjoy the luxury of being escorted to their own private box at the Royal Court Theatre, which aside from showcasing West-End style shows, is used for lectures conducted by various social luminaries. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

In such a lavish environment travellers can enjoy a lecture on the space industry, a formal dinner and a traditional ball all on the same day, demonstrating the type of all-round luxury experience consumers are looking for.

HERITAGE TODAY

People are spending more on unique lifestyle leisure experiences, which is why Cunard went ahead with the Queen Victoria, according to Marlow. “The market is growing and we provide everything you would expect of a modern ship in the 21st century, while combining it with a British history and heritage that nobody else can match,” she says.

“It’s important to keep in touch with our customers, to understand their needs and desires.”

Marlow points out that research is showing that in the UK, as well as in the Americas and Australia, more people are looking for authenticity – memories they can go home with and pass on to their children. This ‘individuality’, she points out, means Cunard has no direct competitors. “It is luxury goods and services that are competing for our customers’ money, which comes from cruise lines such as Crystal or luxury hotel breaks,” she says.

But where do Cunard’s US owners, Carnival Corporation, stand when it comes to upholding Cunard Line’s distinctively British identity? “We have what we call our brand pillars, which everything revolves around,” Marlow answers.

“One of those is the British signature that we offer. Our guests, who come from all over the world, are coming for a British-style experience, and we have a number of different signatures onboard to show our Britishness. Our parent company is keen to give our guests a Cunard experience and that comes shining through. The fact that Carnival is Miami-based makes no difference at all.”

ATTRACTING ALL AGES

Predictably, taking a cruise is most popular with people who have a higher disposable income, and these tend to be in the older age bracket. However, Cunard is keen to attract a younger demographic while retaining its older clientele.

“Older clients have the time and the inclination for cruises and they hanker for a little tradition, heritage and authenticity,” says Marlow.

“Having said that, younger people are growing into it, particularly on our transatlantic route. They usually get their first cruise experience when coming on board with parents or grandparents, and then in later years they decide to come again.”

Cunard’s transatlantic route began in 1840. The six-night voyage, between Southampton and New York, is Queen Mary 2’s main route, and one Queen Victoria will occasionally offer. For its maiden trip, however, Queen Victoria offered something different to appeal to both old and new clients. On 11 December 2007, the liner left the company’s homeport, Southampton, for a ten-night ‘Christmas Market’ voyage, taking in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Hamburg and Bruges. “These are places that take the Christmas markets and pre- Christmas periods very seriously,” says Marlow. “In terms of their grandeur it made a fabulous trip.”

ROYAL EVENT

Cunard is in a landmark period with, for the first time in its history, three queens operating at the same time. This occasion was marked with all three ships convening in New York on 13 January 2008. Queen Victoria started off to New York from Southampton in tandem with Queen Elizabeth 2 while Queen Mary 2 headed in from the Caribbean.

Prior to its departure Queen Victoria was docked in Southampton for four days, during which time over 7,000 guests from around the world visited the ship.

“Cunard, like any other line, must confront the huge challenges facing the entire industry.”

The vessel was built by one of the most technically advanced shipbuilders in the world, Fincantieri, which is based in Marghera, near Venice, Italy. It is the first time Cunard have used an Italian company.

At 90,000t, Queen Victoria will carry 2,000 passengers, compared with Queen Mary 2’s 150,000t and 2,600 passengers. It has a wrap-around deck with over 10,000ft² for guests to enjoy, 990 staterooms, two-thirds of which have private balconies, a retractable glass magrodome over two swimming pools – all this, combined with its long and sleek exterior, strengthened hull and bow, and double- and triple-height spaces, Queen Victoria certainly lives up to its ocean liner status.

HARD FACTS

While the recent glory of the Queen Victoria launch marked an auspicious moment in the company’s history, Cunard, like any other line, must confront the huge challenges facing the entire industry, such as port congestion, encouraging new ports to open up, and offering a variety of facilities and destinations to guests.

“New ships will continue to be built, so we need to make sure we are acting as sensibly as we can regarding deployments,” says Marlow. “We want to continue to offer our guests a great experience. As cruising has a very small penetration in the holiday market, there is room for the industry to grow. Cunard will still be offering voyages on the most famous ocean liners in the world, but they will have continued to evolve: to offer the best state-of-the-art conveniences, as well as retaining the atmosphere of a traditional liner.”