Cunard Line is expert on producing themed-voyages. For example, for several years it has held “Greatest Generation” voyages on Queen Mary 2, which focus upon veterans and their historic contributions in World War II and other conflicts. A much different theme is explored during the ship's “Fashion Week” crossings with their focus on contemporary British design. These themed voyages not only include lectures and demonstrations by experts but also activities relating to the theme (e.g. fashion drawing classes). Some themes are taken up each year while others may only be done once.
The themed-activities are in addition to QM2's regular shipboard activities. Thus, if a passenger is not interested in the theme of that voyage, there is still plenty to do. However, what tends to happen is that everyone gets swept up in the excitement and so people who may not have had much interest in the theme when they boarded the ship are enriched by new experiences.
No other cruise line is as closely associated with the British royal family as Cunard. Indeed, all of Cunard's current ships are named after British royalty. (Holland America Line has royal connections but they are to the Dutch royal family. The “Royal” in Royal Caribbean relates to that line's ties with the Norwegian royal family). Thus, it would only be natural for Cunard to have a theme-voyage on its flagship celebrating the coronation of a new British monarch.
Circumstances conspired to allow Cunard to host such an event. On her way home to England from her world cruise in late April, QM2 developed a technical problem. Although this technical problem was quickly repaired, the repairs could not be completed in time for the westbound crossing from Southampton to New York that was scheduled to follow the world cruise. Inasmuch as the ship was not going to New York, the cancellation of the westbound crossing required the cancellation of the following eastbound crossing from New York that was scheduled to have taken place the first week in May.
The first week in May was to be the week of the coronation of King Charles III. Inasmuch as QM2 would now be in England during that period, it was decided to schedule a cruise celebrating the coronation. Arrangements were made for a five-day cruise from Southampton calling at Liverpool. Tickets went on sale at rates much below those usually charged for a QM2 cruise.
On May 2, approximately 2,500 passengers boarded QM2 in Southampton. On entering their staterooms, they found Union flags (i.e. British flags), which they were encouraged to bring with them onto deck for the sail away. “Pomp and Circumstance” and other music associated with British royalty played over the ship's public address system as the ship left Southampton on a sunny afternoon.
The next day, there were lectures to packed audiences in the Royal Court theater. Dickie Arbiter, a journalist and broadcast commentator who was once a press spokesman for Queen Elizabeth II and Caroline Aston, journalist and Royal expert spoke regarding the coronation and the royal family.
QM2 arrived in Liverpool the next day for a day of celerbations that included a visit from the mayor of Liverpool. The city was also hosting the highly popular Eurovision Song Contest and so passengers were treated to festivities connected with that event as well. QM2 even flew the Eurovision flag from its mast. Crowds lined the Mersey as QM2 departed to a fireworks display.
On May 5, the concourse leading down the centerline of the ship from the Grand Lobbey to the upper level of the Britannia Restaurant (main dining room), became the venue for a street party. It was opened with a royal trumpet fanfare flanked by six crew members wearing the traditional Cunard bell hop uniform. There were ice sculptures and delphiniums, King Charles' favorite flower, decorating the street.
Guests could go from the street party into the Britannia Restaurant where afternoon tea was served to the accompaniment of a string trio.
Afternoon tea is normally served in QM2's giant ballroom. However, on this day, the Queens Room had beeen converted into a British Country Fayre. Coronation flags hung from the ceiling. There were stalls where in exhange for a donnation to the Prince's Trust charity, guests could play games traditionally played at fairs. More than $5,500 were raised. The Little Opera Company – four opera singers – performed a show.
The next day was the Coronation itself. The broadcast of the events was shown in the ship's Royal Court Theater, the Illuminations theater, and in the Golden Lion Pub. Guests could also watch on their stateroom televisions. Officers and crew members formed the King's emblem on deck.
Later, a commemorative dinner menu was served in the dining rooms. Captain Aseem Hashmi gave a traditional royal toast over the public address system. The Little Opera Company performed in the theater and a party was held in the Queens Room. Upon retiring, guests found special chocolates on their beds.
As QM2's Hotel General Manager David Shepard commented, it was “a special day aboard.”
Thus, on very short notice, QM2 produced a theme-voyage that was in keeping with the sense of occasion that guests expect from this ship.
Cruise article - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - A Queen Welcome The New King - Spring 2023