As you would expect, Cunard ships have a more distinguished variety of activities than most other big liners, especially its Fun Ship cousins at Carnival. Rather than "woo-hoo" good times, Cunard concentrates on learning experiences and the arts, with a healthy dollop of pampering to keep things light.
Central to the onboard experience is Cunard Insights, the line's lecture program: Instructors, celebrities, and other learned authors and super-accomplished authorities present talks on literature, political history, marine science, ocean-liner history, music and pop culture, modern art, Shakespeare on film, architectural history, cooking, computer applications, languages, and many other topics. On crossings, there are so many worthwhile lectures that you may find yourself sitting in the theater all morning long. Cunard has even managed to attract a handful of stars, with Uma Thurman, Rod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cleese, and others having sailed, and some lectured, in the last few years. On our last crossing, we had no problem filling up the 5 days at sea with "highbrow" things to do.
QM2 passengers who prefer book learning can take advantage of the largest and by far the most impressive library at sea: a huge, beautifully designed space that actually looks like a library, unlike the typical rooms-with-a-few-bookshelves on most megaships. Next door on QM2, a bookshop sells volumes on passenger-ship history, as well as Cunard memorabilia. The library on QV is smaller, but still carries an impressive 6,000 books and is staffed by two librarians. Other shops aboard the ships sell everything from high-end Herm?s to low-end souvenirs and jewelry, some of it sold in a rather undignified way from long tables set up in the public corridors. Continuing the marine history topic, both ships offer museum-quality memorabilia from Cunard's 170-year-history. It's called Maritime Quest on the QM2 and it's a history trail with a timeline set up in various places throughout the ship; on QV, it's called Cunardia, and it's more like a mini-museum exhibiting Cunard artifacts and vintage souvenirs.
A visit to QM2's attractive Canyon Ranch SpaClub is another popular activity. The pleasant decor combines nautical undertones with a modern minimalist motif to create a most relaxing space that includes a thermal suite, a beauty salon with wonderful ocean views, and more than 20 treatment rooms clustered around a coed thalassotherapy pool and hot tub reserved for spagoers. The spa is a refreshing break from the Steiner-run spas on most ships; it offers some truly different therapies -- for example, the Ashiatus massage incorporates the therapist's feet -- and far less of Steiner's pushiness to sell skin-care products. The QM2's gym, which wraps around the bow on Deck 7, is surprisingly small and uninspired for a ship this large and well conceived, but it does what it needs to do and has treadmills and stationary bikes with flatscreen TV monitors. Classes include Pilates and yoga. On QV, the Cunard Royal Health Club has all of the usual spa, salon, and gym facilities, but perhaps the most enjoyable and unusual is the Turkish Rasul chamber for a traditional hammam steam/mud bath.
Aside from all these interesting options, you'll find a number of less cerebral pursuits as well, from wine tastings to art auctions to scarf-tying seminars.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.