Cunard’s Queen Anne: The vision and the final product


I’ve had the good fortune to see a few British queens in my life. I’ve met the Queen Mary 2 several times — and I even glimpsed Queen Elizabeth herself from my balcony on the QM2. I saw the Queen Elizabeth 2. And now I’ve toured the Queen Anne twice.

My first trip to the Anne, Cunard’s first new Queen in more than a dozen years, was last summer, when I saw it under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard outside of Venice.

Seeing a ship in a yard is always fascinating, because I get a sense of the intense amount of planning and skilled work it takes to bring a giant cruise ship to life — all the technical prowess hidden behind carefully chosen carpeting and veneered walls.

So when I had the opportunity to spend roughly 18 hours onboard the finished Anne in Southampton, England, in May, my primary objective was to see as much as I could and compare it to the vision Cunard had for it in the yard. Here were the standouts for me, and maybe for your clients.

The Grills

I dropped my overnight bag in cabin 8092, a minisuite that qualifies for entry to the Princess Grill and hustled out to my self-guided tour.

The first public space I hit was on the top deck, the exclusive outdoor zone for Princess and Queens Grill passengers. This is where the suite passengers on the Anne will relax and sunbathe; one deck below is the lounge and restaurants.

When I saw the sun deck in October, there was a giant circle cut into the floor and a steel box that would eventually hold an infinity-edge hot tub.

On the completed Anne, sturdy wicker furniture with turquoise and red cushions and hedges in Cunard-red planters fill the space. The box looks just like a hot tub should, and the circle has been topped with a glass dome.

Underneath the dome is a golden maple tree that is the centerpiece of the Grills lounge area.

Designers and executives talked throughout the event about marrying Cunard’s signature look with new, modern takes on luxury. I thought the Grills were a good example: The décor seemed fresh and new, even though the Grills concept is a time-honored Cunard tradition.

Speaking of the maple tree, if clients can afford the splurge, I recommend a Grill-level cabin for the lounge alone. It’s a light, bright area with plenty of comfortable seating, a bar and dedicated concierge, and the maple tree is just gorgeous. It’s a good spot for lounging during the day and a no-brainer as a predinner gathering spot.

The Commodore Club

To see what’s in store for the rest of the ship’s passengers, or Grill guests who want a room with a forward view, I hurried to the Commodore Club. This is another signature spot on Cunard ships and the place where we started our yard tour last fall. Back then, we had to use our imaginations as guide Francis Fred pointed out a raised footprint and space that would eventually be a circular bar.

The bar is now installed, but the real surprise in the Commodore Club is how big and roomy it feels — maybe even bigger than when it was just bare space. Jamie Paiko, Cunard’s vice president of sales, talked with me ahead of the tour about how Cunard is aiming for “playful luxury.”

The Commodore Club has an excellent example: The bar menu includes a half-dozen pages of sketches of Cunard captains (called masters or commodores). The sketches accompany brief, fun bios plus a cocktail recommendation that mirrors each man’s style. The bars also carry Cunard-branded gin in four iterations: Elizabeth, Mary, Victoria, Anne.

Public-private spaces

On our tour last summer, Fred talked up new and expanded areas on the Anne that could be reserved by guests for a midsize private gathering. An outdoor terrace just off the Commodore Club was exactly as he described it then, a perfect size for a reception of about 20 or 30 people, with light-gray seating and an Instagrammable love seat that is tailor-made for newly married couples.

I was keen to see the wellness area above the Pavilion pool deck, but scaffolding was still set up under its sunshades, so I could only peek in to confirm: It exists.

Fred had taken us down to the Chart Room on Deck 3 and described this concept extensively: It was to be a series of three or four interconnecting rooms in handsome dark paneling and rich jewel tones, and each room gets progressively more lively until you hit the circular bar and the atrium.

On my night on the completed Anne, the concept was working exactly as Fred described. In the first set of rooms, people were sitting and engaging in intimate chat, but by the time I arrived at the bar, it was two- and three-deep, with bartenders hustling to keep up and servers in constant orbit to the adjacent tables.

It’s possible these rooms could be a good place for a midday spot with a book and coffee (the coffee bar in the atrium was also buzzing with people). But I saw another use: A midsize group could easily commandeer one of these rooms for their own get-together, impromptu or arranged, and not inconvenience other people swinging in for a drink.

Public areas: Socializing or relaxing

Fred had said that Cunard was hoping to facilitate “connection” among guests. On the finished Anne, I spotted several places where passengers could engage with each other: the Chart Room, the room on Deck 2 devoted to board games, the tables around the Pavilion pool deck and a canopied, shady area on the Anne’s forward top deck that I predict will be a staging ground for the adjacent pickleball court.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention a place for passengers to unwind without chatter. The Anne has a very luxurious library, with plenty of books and places to sit and enjoy them.

Of course, there’s the Golden Lion pub, another Cunard fan favorite. This is a large room with many areas to congregate at tables, though I wish Cunard had installed a round bar here, too. A few well-placed screens will no doubt carry the big football, er, soccer matches. It also features a pub menu overseen by celebrity chef Michel Roux, and though British president Katie McAlister praised its cheese toasties to the skies, I’m still nostalgic for the curry served on a QM2 menu circa 2016.

Dining on the Queen Anne

The ship has 15 dining establishments, so I wasn’t able to try them all. I dined at Aji Wa, the Japanese restaurant and one of four specialty dinner establishments. Both McAlister and Matt Gleaves, Cunard North America’s vice president of commercial, told me they were most excited for this restaurant. I sat at the sushi counter, and the fish was fresh, fresh, fresh. There’s also an extensive sake menu. Pricing is a la carte.

If I had more time, I would have beaten a path to Aranya, the Indian restaurant, because I loved its décor and because of a phenomenal Indian dinner on the QM2 a few years back.

The Britannia dining room that serves the majority of the ship’s passengers is as majestic as ever.

I also ate a good fish and chips from the lido buffet. And I indulged in a very well-prepared eggs Benedict in the Princess Grill before I headed off the ship, in the rainy Southampton morning, for my transfer to Heathrow.

Courtesy of Travel Weekly

Cunard Queen Anne Deck