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Cunard Alaska Cruise: A Luxurious Adventure In The Last Frontier

Taking a Cunard Alaska cruise offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of breathtaking glacier views, wildlife, and naturally beautiful landscapes. Cunard, owned by Carnival Cruise Corporation, sends one vessel to Alaska, the Queen Elizabeth.

While Cunard may be relatively unknown to cruise guests in North America, a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth provides a coveted itinerary to Glacier Bay National Park.

Hubbard Glacier from the Promenade deck on the Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth was constructed as an ocean liner, but her interior exudes an art deco opulence. Guests receive a red-carpet welcome on embarkation day, and service onboard is often white-gloved, reminiscent of bygone years.

Cunard offers departures from May to September, although their seasonal opener repositions from Japan and the last one moves to California and beyond.

Cunard’s Alaska Cruise Overview

Most of Cunard’s Alaska itineraries are longer than 7 days, with the average cruising for ten days. For 2024, they offer roundtrip itineraries from Vancouver, British Columbia, but they move to Seattle, Washington, in 2025.

Consider the Queen Elizabeth for one of the best Alaska cruises for adults, offering luxury on a smaller vessel with fewer children.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth anchored in Juneau
Cunard Queen Elizabeth anchored in Juneau

We took a ten-day cruise to Alaska with Cunard, and while we anticipated a very formal experience, we were pleasantly surprised.

Destinations And Itineraries

From the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay National Park, you will have the opportunity to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. A longer itinerary allows for more port days and could include the unique towns of Haines and Wrangell.

The eleven-day cruises are preferred, and some include two days of glacier sightings and a fjord. So, if you’ve wanted to see Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, and Misty Fjords National Monument, you’re getting a 3-in-1 on a 10- or 11-day itinerary.

None of the other cruise lines (Norwegian, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, or Carnival) visit Misty Fjords. Usually, when stopping in Ketchikan, cruise guests must purchase a separate shore excursion to go there.

Watching Hubbard Glacier from the Promenade deck
Watching Hubbard Glacier from the Promenade deck

Some of the highlights of the itinerary include:

  • Juneau, the capital of Alaska and home to the Mendenhall Glacier.
  • Skagway, a historic gold rush town, which offers a train ride to the Yukon.
  • Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.”
  • Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Onboard Naturalist

One of the unique features of Cunard’s Alaska Cruise is the onboard naturalist who provides expert commentary and insights into the wildlife and environment of Alaska.

Guests can learn about the whales, bears, eagles, and other wildlife that call Alaska home, as well as the glaciers, fjords, and forests that make up this incredible landscape.

We attended a few talks at the Royal Court Theatre and found them very informative. Throughout the cruise, a whiteboard in the Garden Lounge documented marine wildlife sightings daily.

Wildlife sightings from the bridge count
Wildlife sightings from the bridge count

At the end of our cruise, I was shocked to see the bridge count over 400 dolphins, 102 humpback whales, 20 orcas, and 96 sea otters. Pack a pair of compact binoculars to increase your odds of wildlife sightings.

Onboard Experience And Afternoon Tea

Cunard is known for its luxurious onboard experience, and the Alaska cruise is no exception. From the elegant dining rooms to the stylish lounges, you will be surrounded by the finest amenities and attentive service.

One of the highlights of our cruise is the famous Cunard Afternoon Tea, which takes place in the Queen’s Room. With white tablecloths and bone China, we enjoyed the afternoon meal in a beautiful setting, more than once.

This complimentary casual event includes the expected finger sandwiches, delicate pastries, and fresh scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Additionally, we could order afternoon tea in our stateroom at no charge!

Cunard, being a British line also has a pub, with traditional pub favorites like steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and a ploughman’s lunch. Finish the meal with sticky pudding!

How Cunard Differs From The Competition

Cunard’s cruises stand out from the competition in several ways. First and foremost, Cunard is a luxury cruise line, meaning guests can expect the highest levels of comfort, service, and amenities.

Additionally, guests can enjoy enriching onboard experiences such as watercolor painting classes or learning ballroom dancing.

Queen Elizabeth cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park
Queen Elizabeth cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park

Finally, Queen Elizabeth includes Glacier Bay National Park in her itineraries. Most cruise guests know that Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Holland America go there, but they don’t know that Cunard can sail there, too.

Here are some of the key differences that set Cunard apart:

More Formal

Cunard is known for its formal atmosphere, which sets it apart from many other cruise lines. While some travelers may prefer a more casual experience, those who enjoy dressing up for dinner and attending formal events will appreciate Cunard’s traditional approach.

Before taking our cruise, we knew of the more formal experience, which meant my husband had to purchase a tuxedo before embarkation day. By cruising with Cunard, we had to adjust our Alaska clothing list to include dressier items.

However, onboard, daytime wear is pretty similar to the competition. Sweats, jeans, T-shirts, and shorts are acceptable around the ship.

Although, to eat in the dining room for dinner, men require dress pants and shirts, and some even wear dinner jackets and ties. Tuxedos with dickie bows or dark suits are needed for formal nights.

Women follow the same dress code: ball gowns on formal nights and dresses or business wear on non-formal evenings.

Everyone on our cruise followed the dress code, and I was surprised at the number of tuxedos and ball gowns on gala nights. Cunard rents them out onboard for guests who prefer to avoid purchasing one.

Dressed for White Ice Gala evening
Dressed for White Ice Gala evening

Also, the cruise line features themed gala nights, and guests are notified ahead of time. During our cruise, we enjoyed White Ice, which symbolizes the colors of Alaska ice, and the Roaring 20s. Masquerade, Gold and Red, or Black and White are other options that could be chosen.

Complimentary Full Breakfast

One of the standout features of Cunard is its complimentary full breakfast, which is included in the price of the cruise. Unlike many other cruise lines, which charge extra for room service or specialty breakfast items, we enjoyed a full morning meal at no additional cost.

Breakfast always arrived on time and was piping hot. We were surprised at the selection; eggs our way, two kinds of bacon, three sausages, baked beans, and a British classic, blood sausage.

After completion of breakfast, we could order room service any time of day without being billed an additional fee.

Stateroom Extras

Cunard offers several extras in its staterooms that set it apart from other cruise lines. For example, all staterooms on Cunard ships come with bathrobes, slippers, rain ponchos, use of an umbrella, and high-quality toiletries.

Our stateroom with robes and slippers
Our stateroom with robes and slippers

The Penhaligon products were so incredible that I tried to purchase them after my cruise.

One of the small extras we really appreciated was the in-cabin tea and coffee station that our room steward replenished daily with tea, coffee, cookies, or Scottish shortbread.

Additionally, each stateroom receives a small complimentary bottle of champagne, a nice touch to start an Alaska adventure.

Enrichment And Arts

Cunard is known for its enrichment and arts programs, which set it apart from many other cruise lines. On board, you can attend lectures and workshops on a variety of topics, from history to science to art. Guests also receive a daily newspaper with world news.

The cruise offers fencing classes on other vessels, which we were eager to try. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide them on Queen Elizabeth. However, on the upper deck, there is an area to play croquet and bocce ball.

Croquet and bocce ball area
Croquet and bocce ball area

Additionally, Cunard often brings on guest speakers and performers to entertain and educate guests. During our cruise, there were talks on the Canadian Royal Mounted Police and another on a Mount Everest Expedition.

They Cater Well To Food Allergies

While most cruise lines cater to food allergies, Cunard was a step above the rest. At the buffet, I could get almond, soy, lactose-free, and rice milk, along with regular milk.

The gluten-free section was extensive and included the use of a dedicated toaster. I could get wheat-free bread, buns, bagels, waffles, crackers, muffins, and tarts.

The biggest bonus for me was being able to request a dessert in the dining room. On all other cruise lines, I could only get a “pastry chef’s choice” since I need something lactose- and gluten-free.

On my first evening, I asked for cheesecake and received the most delicious chocolate cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.

Complimentary Laundry

Another perk of cruising with Cunard is the complimentary self-serve laundry service, which is available to guests in all staterooms. Laundry rooms are open 24 hours a day, and soap and fabric softener are provided.

This can greatly benefit travelers who want to pack light but still have clean clothes throughout their trip.

Accommodation

When it comes to accommodation, Cunard offers a range of staterooms and suites to suit every taste and budget.

Studio Cabins

Solo travelers can select from two studio stateroom choices, allowing them to forego a single supplement. The Britannia inside single and oceanview single are both spacious at around 160 sq. feet.

These staterooms feature a double bed, a private bathroom, and all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay.

Princess And Queens Grill

Queen's Grill suite
Queen’s Grill suite

For those who want a more luxurious experience, Cunard offers Princess and Queens Grill suites. These suites are spacious and elegant, with separate sleeping and living areas and a private balcony with stunning views of the Alaskan scenery.

Guests in these suites also have a private butler and access to exclusive dining venues, including the Princess Grill and Queens Grill restaurants, which offer gourmet cuisine and impeccable white-glove service.

Final Thoughts

While I have taken numerous Alaska cruises, the one on Cunard stood out the most. Our 10-day itinerary stopped at five different ports and included two glacier viewing days at Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park.

Purchasing shore excursions through Cunard costs the same as buying them directly from the tour operator. Often, cruise lines inflate the prices to increase their profit margins.

While I have taken several more Alaska cruises since the one on Cunard, our beautifully appointed stateroom, impeccable service, and incredible food have made it a cruise that’s hard to beat.

Approaching Hubbard Glacier on a Cunard Alaska cruise