Ocean rituals.

From timeless traditions to stunning seascapes, an experienced captain shares how cruising delivers a sense of adventure that you simply can’t get from land travel.

In light of the Covid-19 situation, the recommendations and activities mentioned in this article are for the purpose of possible future cruise holidays. Please always refer to local government health advisories for travel.

“There is a magic about sailing into Sydney that can’t be matched,” says Inger Klein Thorhauge, captain of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth cruise ship. “The ship brings our guests straight to the heart of the city, berthing between two Australian icons: the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.”

Waking up in a different port each or every other day is a highlight of any cruise, and perhaps especially so on Cunard, where tradition and theatre lie at the heart of the cruise experience. Even within Australia and New Zealand, there is always something new to discover.

Extraordinary journeys.

Over her 30-year career, including 12 years as captain of Queen Elizabeth, Thorhauge has sailed all of the world’s oceans. Although she has nothing left to tick off her maritime bucket list, she still loves rediscovering Australia and New Zealand, and is looking forward to the 28-night Australian Circumnavigation. “Each place in Australia is fantastic, particularly as they are all very different,” she says. “From small to large cities, and such a variety: there’s something to explore in every place.”
Most ports Cunard docks at are centrally located, meaning travellers can enjoy breakfast on their balconies with a view of Sydney Opera House or step straight off the ship into the heart of downtown Auckland.

Late departures and overnight stays let travellers enjoy cities at their leisure, without feeling overly rushed, and a marine arrival means a sense of anticipation can really build, such as the striking approach to Melbourne with its sweeping beach views.

But cruising also enables travellers to access hard-to-reach destinations. “One of my favourite gems is Kangaroo Island. Its remoteness, the white beaches and the spectacular wildlife are a winning combination,” Thorhauge says. Curated shore excursions, including bespoke experiences with a private driver, let travellers make the most of every stop.

On a cruise, voyagers can experience some of the most dramatic vistas Australia and New Zealand have to offer, whether from their balcony, in the gym, or over dinner and drinks. Perched in the bow of the ship, the Commodore Club offers commanding views of the open ocean, rugged coastlines, city skylines or low-lying islands.

With its towering cliffs, plunging waterfalls and glacier-sculpted fiords, New Zealand’s Milford Sound is a highlight for many cruisers. “Milford Sound is the jewel,” Thorhauge says. “Sailing through the majestic fiords is something out of this world. It cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world.”

From classic traditions to contemporary style.

Cunard traces its history back to 1840, when Samuel Cunard’s Britannia ship made its first transatlantic crossing, and that sense of heritage very much endures. The drama builds with a signature welcome where guests enter the ship’s soaring Grand Lobby to the strains of live classical music and enjoy a glass of bubbles. Most voyages begin with a sail-away party on leaving port, which gives passengers a chance to drink, dance, meet new friends, and watch a familiar city slide away and new horizons open up. “As we leave port, guests really feel that this is where their holiday starts,” Thorhauge says.

From crossing the equator to Easter and Christmas, occasions are marked with style and ceremony. “Christmas is a very special time on board and — despite being away from our families — we still make it a family celebration,” Thorhauge says. “On Christmas Eve, all the officers sing for our guests in the Grand Lobby, and the captain reads ’Twas the Night Before Christmas for all the children on board.”

The Queens Room, an expansive art deco ballroom, is central to onboard celebrations, from dancing to afternoon tea to gala evenings. Special events may echo the landscapes around them: on Alaskan cruises, Glacier Bay National Park inspires a decadent Ice White Ball, while fine dining celebrates the state’s rich seafood bounty.

On sea days — days that pass without visiting a port — the atmosphere changes as guests take the time to explore the ship and its facilities in depth, whether that’s taking a class, catching a lecture, enjoying the spa or playing retro games such as croquet or deck quoits. They also provide a chance for Thorhauge to relax. “Sea days give me the opportunity to walk about the ship, take in the atmosphere and talk to guests,” she says.

It’s not only Thorhauge but also her crew who enjoy sailing Down Under. On Australian journeys, the bellhops even wear Akubra hats and R.M. Williams boots. “It creates a special vibe, in that, for most of our crew, Australia is very far away from their homes,” she says. “With the landscape, the weather and the special animals that are only found in Australia. It’s exotic, and they do take every opportunity to explore in each port.”

Whether it’s for the nostalgia of embarking on an iconic voyage, or for the rare pleasure of sailing through some of Australia and New Zealand’s most stunning seascapes, there’s a reason adventure-seekers are drawn to the rituals of sea travel.

This article was produced for Cunard by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.

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