Who are you going to meet?
- American and British passengers in equal proportions on Atlantic crossings, plus plenty of continental Europeans.
- American cruises attract mostly Americans, while on European cruises its mostly British passengers.
- Passengers on crossings represent all age groups, while cruises tend to be older though still with a fair number of young passengers and families.
- The line has seven ships – four larger, newer ships catering to the family market; and three smaller, and older which are adults-only, the most recent being Aurora which will transform from a family to adult ship in April 2019.
- Catering exclusively to the British market -- and the largest line in this sector -- passengers are almost entirely from the UK.
- In 2020 P&O Cruises is set to attract even more British cruisers with the launch of Iona -- the biggest vessel ever built for the UK market.
Where are they based, and where do they go?
- Itineraries are many and varied, with ships travelling all over the globe, including to the Baltic, Canary Islands, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Central and South America and the Panama Canal and Australia -- plus the classic transatlantic crossing on QM2, the only true ocean liner.
- Also based in Southampton, ships sail from April to November to destinations around the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Canary Islands and beyond, including world cruises.
- There is also a full programme of fly-cruises from different destinations -- with Dubai added in 2019 -- and transatlantic crossings.
- In winter months Ventura is based in Barbados and Britannia -- the line's largest ship -- is based in St Lucia.
What's the accommodation like?
- • The line offers a range of accommodations from relatively modest double inside cabins (157 square feet) to extravagant duplex suites -- all decorated in a traditionally elegant style -- and on the QM2 there's even a kennel and exercise area for dogs.
- Sister ships QM2 and Queen Victoria also have lavish suites of some 2,000 square feet overlooking the stern, while standard cabins are spacious.
- In the most recent refits single cabins were added to all three ships.
- A choice of interconnecting and family cabins onboard the family ships (Britannia, Ventura, Azura and Oceana).
- Britannia offers the line's first solo cabins with balconies.
- At 184 square feet, double cabin sizes are on par with most other mainstream cruise lines.
What are the dining options?
- A well-established Cunard tradition, the passengers in the best cabins dine in the single sitting Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants.
- Those in standard accommodations eat at the two-deck-high, 800-seat Britannia restaurant. Here you have the choice of first or second seating for dinner, but lunch and breakfast are open seating.
- Other dining options include a traditional-style pub serving British favourites, the Lido buffet (for breakfast and lunch), and The Verandah restaurant, the Cunard signature experience of afternoon tea, plus additional for-fee venues for lunch and dinner.
- P&O Cruises has just one celebrity chef partnership, with Marco Pierre White, who oversees the gala dinners in the main dining rooms. However, it does have a roster of "Food Heroes", which includes cheese expert Alex James, mater patissier Eric Lanlard and wine guru Olly Smith.
- The Epicurean is the line's first foray into 'molecular gastronomy' and is available on Britannia, Azura and Ventura.
- Passengers have the opportunity to cook with James Martin and Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard (who also provides the Afternoon Tea in the Epicurean), in the first Cookery Club at sea on Britannia.
- Passengers cruising on Britannia, Azura, Ventura, Arcadia and Oceana can choose Club Dining (traditional set seating) or Freedom Dining (flexible dining times and seating).
What's each line's idea of fun?
- Activities lean more towards the high-brow than high-energy with top-notch enrichment programmes, though there's more than a smattering of glamorous pizzazz on offer.
- In partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society, QM2 has the first planetarium at sea, carries Oxford academics for classroom learning and offers acting workshops with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
- While dancing is an ever-popular activity on all three ships, Queen Elizabeth is all about the dance with dancing every day, morning, noon and night.
- Also leans away from adrenaline-fuelled activities towards traditional sports such as short-tennis, mini-golf, basketball and cricket, often in a dedicated sports area (on the family ships); on the adults-only ships you'll find shuffleboard and quoits.
- On the family-friendly ships, expect pool-based water games like volleyball and deck fun that is less cheesy and more organised, including dancing with the exuberant entertainment team.
What's the nighttime entertainment like?
- QM2 features the the first-ever Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar at sea, while an unobtrusive two-level disco (which gets surprisingly busy) and the largest dance floor afloat hosting cocktail parties and evening ballroom dancing.
- Theatrical facilities across the line are lavish and impressive, putting on everything from variety shows and tribute acts to West End productions and high-profile performers.
- Some of the ship's traditional pubs put on simple evening entertainment, while bars and lounges often feature various forms of live music.
- Features the in-house entertainment team Headliners, who perform a series of mostly polished revues and shows.
- Dancers and judges from the "Strictly Come Dancing" show appear across the fleet on selected sailings.
- Plenty of bars, including the Crow's Nest (with 20 different British gins); Brodie's, which features more than 70 different types of beers and the Glass House, with wines hand-picked by wine guru Olly Smith, and expect the likes of karaoke, quizzes and (largely sedate) discos.
How well are families catered for?
- While having a more formal and 'grown up' reputation than most, the line still caters for kids of all ages.
- QM2 and Queen Victoria offer complimentary evening nurseries for parents to enjoy a meal or a show alone (though no in-cabin baby-sitting).
- All ships have three areas for different ages from babies to both have The Zone, aimed at teenagers, with video games consoles, team games and evening discos.
- Queen Victoria offers the best family-oriented facilities, with a permanently supervised area for ages of two to seven years old.
- Parents are encouraged to dress children smartly in some formal eateries, while too much horsing around might be frowned upon by some passengers.
- On the family-friendly ships, the range and quality of the children's facilities are excellent, with enthusiastic staff, outdoor space and a top-notch kids' programme.
- Each family ship offers dedicated clubs for all ages, a night nursery and evening activities.
- All the family ships have kids' pools and splash areas for the tots.
- Family ships provide dedicated areas for family-friendly dining and host children's afternoon teas.
- Also on the family ships, child-friendly films are shown throughout the day.
How does pricing compare?
- Cunard charges a minimum $11.50 per person, per day, ($13.50 per day in the Grills) while a 15 percent tip is automatically added for purchases in the bars and lounges.
- Drinks prices are comparable to those found in London restaurants and bars.
- Costs of internet packages are pretty high, especially considering the slow and often patchy service.
- In May 2019 P&O will scrap gratuities and introduce a no-tipping policy, until then it's £7 per person per day.
- Bar prices are about the same as you'd pay on land -- in some cases cheaper -- plus drinks packages are available.