Cunard puts Alaska back on the itinerary
Luxury cruise line Cunard has a soft spot for Canada – its founder Sir Samuel Cunard, after all, was a Canadian shipping magnate born in Halifax – and will this year and next spend more time in Canadian waters than ever before.
Josh Leibowitz, senior vice-president, Cunard, North America, recently spoke with Canadian Travel Press and said he believes that Canada is a real growth market for the cruise industry and one that Cunard has big plans for.
The big news is that after a 20-year hiatus, Cunard is making a grand return to Alaska in May, and will spend a full season there in 2020 from June through September, home-based in Vancouver aboard the newly refit Queen Elizabeth.
Between 2017 and 2020, Leibowitz says Cunard will triple its number of calls in Canada, with the 2019-2020 seasons alone seeing 44 sailings that touch the shores of Canada. This includes Vancouver, Halifax, Quebec City, Saguenay, Que., Corner Brook, Nfld., and Sydney, Nova Scotia.
“There’s demand, we see it as a big untapped market [and] no one serves Canada like Cunard,” said Leibowitz. “We think of Queen Elizabeth as Canada’s ship.”
He added that the popularity of cruising continues to grow around the world, offering travellers good value and extraordinary onboard experiences, all while connecting some of the world’s great cities by sea.
Leibowitz said that event programs or themed cruising also continues to grow in popularity with Cunard offering such special themes as Big Band Ball 2019; Transatlantic Fashion Week 2020; Journey of Genealogy, in association with Ancestry; Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra; World Space Week 2020; and London Theater at Sea in association with the Olivier Awards.
He noted that the role of the travel agent in all of this is to get their client on the right ship with the right itinerary.
“They will then have the right experience, and there’s an excellent chance to get them back,” he said.
The expanded Alaska program will offer 10 round-trip voyages out of Vancouver ranging from nine to 12 nights and one getaway cruise to San Francisco for an overnight stay on US Independence Day.
“We are so excited to offer an extended season in Alaska on Queen Elizabeth in 2020,” said Leibowitz. “Due to strong demand and passenger feedback, Cunard has more than doubled its voyages in Alaska, visiting the most incredible cities with longer time in port to enjoy this inspiring destination.”
Each Alaska voyage will feature destinations along the Pacific Northwest coast of Alaska and British Columbia, including Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and more. In addition, the voyages offer scenic cruising in the narrow waterways of the Inside Passage, the Hubbard Glacier and Sawyer Glacier’s twin fjords, Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm.
Travellers will also have the opportunity to combine voyages together, including the Alaska round trips, Independence Day cruise and the North Pacific crossings from Yokohama or to Tokyo.
Queen Elizabeth, the youngest ship in the Cunard fleet, came out of refit in November, introducing a new spa concept on board – Mareel Wellness & Beauty, developed in partnership with industry innovator Canyon Ranch.
The new brand will offer a holistic approach with a focus on the healing energy of the sea. The spa offers an extensive new treatment menu with mineral-rich seawater and marine-based experiences as well as a redesign of the entire spa facility.
In addition, many public spaces, bars and lounges have been updated, and all Grill Suites and Britannia Staterooms have new carpets and soft furnishings. The Royal Court Theatre had a complete technical overhaul; the Royal Arcade has been enhanced to offer an elevated shopping experience; and the outdoor decks have new furniture with a new layout on the Sun Deck.
Cunard also continues its partnership with Rocky Mountaineer, offering guests pre- and post-cruise tours. Tours include either three to five nights accommodation, plus two full days aboard the train. The expedition travels through an array of scenery with glacier and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies, through winding river canyons, mountain passes and tunnels. Highlights include the Continental Divide, Kicking Horse Canyon, Spiral Tunnels and the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon.
Guests can also take advantage of a three-night pre-cruise tour, Vancouver and Whistler Highlights, taking in the best of Vancouver and a full day in Whistler and Shannon Falls via the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.