Cunard's three distinctive queens are recognised wherever they go, even by non-cruisers – sightseers throng to the waterfront to witness "royal rendezvous", whether they take place in Sydney, New York, Liverpool or Southampton. Crowds of more than one million people gathered in Liverpool, Cunard's "spiritual home", to celebrate the company's 175th anniversary in 2015.
In 2022, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 will have another fleetmate attracting attention – the line recently announced that it is building its first new ship since Queen Elizabeth was launched (by HM the Queen) in 2010. It will be the first time since 1998 that Cunard will have four ships in simultaneous service and it will be the 249th ship to fly the Cunard flag.
The as-yet-unnamed 3000-passenger ship will be the largest, by number of passengers, in the fleet. QM2 is now the biggest and oldest sister – at 151,400 gross tons it carries 2695 passengers and launched in 2004; Queen Victoria (launched in 2007) and Queen Elizabeth are a similar tonnage (about 90,000 gross tons) and accommodate just over 2000 passengers each.
Simon Palethorpe, Cunard's senior vice president, said, "We have only recently marked the 50th anniversary of one of Cunard's much loved ocean liners, the legendary QE2. What better way to celebrate her important role in Cunard's past than by announcing our commitment to Cunard's future with the commissioning of a new ship?"
Carnival Corporation, Cunard's parent company, is certainly investing millions of dollars in the most British of cruise lines. QM2 had a massive £90 million "remastering" bow-to-stern refit last year, while Queen Victoria emerged from dry dock in June this year revealing a significant facelift. Both ships now have stylish new restaurants, bars and suites, including more cabins for solo cruisers. Queen Elizabeth, which will spend two months based in Australia in 2019, will undergo a similarly extensive – and expensive – refurbishment before it arrives.
Sending Queen Elizabeth Down Under for an extended time is a big move for Cunard and is a reflection of the popularity of the line among Australian cruisers. The ship will begin its season in Melbourne with a seven-night cruise to Tasmania and South Australia, leaving Melbourne on February 10, 2019, and calling at Kangaroo Island, Port Adelaide and Hobart. Among several short itineraries is a three-night one-way trip from Melbourne to Sydney, departing on February 17; it will also sail two 12-night cruises to New Zealand.
It's not long until QM2 and Queen Elizabeth are back in Australia for the upcoming summer season, as part of their world voyages; QM2 is operating more short cruises, again in response to local demand. See cunard.com
THE PORT Naples, Italy
WHO GOES THERE Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Oceania, NCL, Princess, P&O UK, HAL, MSC Cruises, Seabourn, Ponant, Viking Ocean, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea.
WHY WE LOVE IT Overlooked by the mighty Mount Vesuvius, Naples is venerable and lived-in but many visitors overlook this atmospheric city in the rush to get to Capri and the Amalfi Coast.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships usually dock at Molo Beverello, close to the 13th Castel Nuovo, which itself is definitely worth exploring. It's a short walk from the cruise terminal to the UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre, which is easy to explore on foot. Highlights include the elegant Piazza Plebiscito, the glass-roofed arcade of the Galleria Umberto and Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest functioning opera house in Europe. Organised, guided tours to the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are readily available, from your ship or independent operators. High-speed ferries depart regularly from Molo Beverello to the island of Capri and take about 50 minutes each way. Attractions in Capri include fabulous views from the chairlift ride to the top of Mount Solaro and boat trips to see the Blue Grotto.
MUST SEE Museo Archeologico Nazionale contains a vast collection of Roman sculpture, frescos and mosaics, along with thousands of artefacts taken from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
MUST EAT Genuine Neapolitan margherita pizza (Di Matteo is one famous pizza restaurant); street food such as pizza al forno ("wallet pizza"), panino napoletano (soft bread filled with cheese, salami and hard-boiled eggs) and arancini (stuffed rice balls). Traditional Napoli foods include buffalo mozzarella and seafood (especially mussels); for a sweet treat try sfogliatella or scrumptious dessert delizie al limone.
NEED TO KNOW Shops usually close in the afternoons from 1pm to about 3.30pm and are open until 7.30pm, and many are closed on Sundays and holidays.
MYTH: River cruises are sedentary.
REALITY: There's plenty of scope for daily bike rides, challenging hikes and on some lines, kayaking and white-water rafting.
Sailing away from overtourism
Peregrine Adventures is tripling the number of its small-ship Adventure Cruising departures in Europe in 2018 in response to growing demand for more sustainable travel. Cruises are on small ships carrying a maximum of 50 passengers; they visit small ports and there's a strong focus on contributing to local communities. James Thornton, chief executive of the Intrepid Group that owns Peregrine, says: "Travellers are increasingly aware of the impact they can have on holiday. We've heard from local leaders that cruise ship travellers are now being called 'ice cream tourists' because that's all they're buying when they visit an increasingly overcrowded city like Dubrovnik." Highlights of the 2018 season include cruises of less-visited areas in the Greek islands, Croatian coast, Portugal, Spain and Morocco. See peregrineadventures.com/en-au/adventure-cruising
New ship for Azamara
Boutique cruise line Azamara Club Cruises is buying a sister ship to Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest – Azamara Pursuit will join the fleet in March next year. The ship is another R-class vessel, currently sailing as Adonia for P&O UK; until earlier this year, it sailed for Carnival Corporation's short-lived Fathom line. Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive of Azamara Club Cruises, says: "Our loyal guests and travel partners have asked for this expansion for a long time; we are very pleased to deliver this to them." The ship's decor will be updated to bring it up to the standards of the recently refurbished Journey and Quest and will support the line's commitment to "destination immersion" with longer stays in port and an extensive land program. Azamara Pursuit's itineraries will be available this month. See azamara.com/pursuit