There’s an invisible challenge facing Cunard in North
America: a number of agents simply are
not interested in promoting the brand in proportion to its size and their
ability to do so.
Cruise Week found that out when preparing for an interview
with Rick Meadows, President of Cunard Line North America. Prior to the
interview with Meadows we asked several retailers about their views
on Cunard vs. other upper-end lines.
“You can make a lot of money selling Cunard and it has a broader appeal than
most agents realize,” said one veteran.
On the other hand, some agents simply pass. They will book Cunard when asked to
do so, which is occasionally. “People come into our office wanting Viking,
saying they saw the ads on TV, but they aren’t asking for Cunard,” explained
Perhaps a few years back Cunard missed an opportunity to maximize its appeal to
the North American market in terms of creating consumer interest. Viking’s
corporate sponsorship of TV shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock,
whose audience would seem to be a good match for Cunard’s target market,
has resulted in people calling in and requesting Viking.
But there are other ways to grow in consumer and trade awareness. Now in the
role as President North America for the past 9 months, Meadows is
confident Cunard can grow here, and the roots of his strategy are becoming
clearer as the brand makes significant changes.
First is the upcoming renovation of the Queen
Mary 2 through a 25 day dry-dock this spring. “It’s an
extensive refit that will touch quite a number of guest-facing areas from
entertainment to culinary,” Meadows says. “You’ll be getting a lot more
information on what’s planned over the next 4-5 months.”
One component of the refit that has already been announced is the Britannia-club staterooms.
“These have been very popular because with those staterooms comes
a dedicated dining venue that allows guests to have an open seating dining
arrangement,” says Meadows. “A table reserved for any time they would like
for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
In essence, more Britannia-club staterooms means having more balconies and
private dining available at a more affordable level than before. “It’s
similar to the Grills, but at a different level,” sums up Meadows. “As you
would expect, the Grills are an even more elevated dining experience. But
[Britannia-club] gives that chance to really come and go as you please at
your dedicated table.”
Another key addition is a number of new single staterooms, a concept that has
proven popular on Queen
Victoria and Queen
Elizabeth. “There are individual solo travellers who want to
have a stateroom designed for them, where there’s not a single supplement
or any sort of a different pricing strategy,” says Meadows.
In terms of the big picture, Cunard is making changes
such as a partnership with jazz label Blue Note, that indicates they are
making the onboard scene more contemporary (jeans and casual dress are
allowed) in such a way that doesn’t turn off Cunard’s traditional appeal.
There is also a new partnership with New
York Times approved speakers, including Pulitzer Prize winning
journalists appearing on eastbound QM2 New York-Southampton
crossings in 2016.
“Overall, there are a number of things we’re doing to increase awareness of Cunard,"
says Meadows. As one example he points to well-publicized 175th anniversary
celebrations for Cunard held in Halifax, Boston and New York earlier this
The travel trade is another important component. "We’re looking at a
number of techniques to make sure that our relationships with travel sellers
are really enhanced and focused,” he says. “We’re also thinking through ways
that we can help develop programs that make us unique as a brand in the
Meadows says to stay tuned, as more specifics both on QM2's renovation
and other Cunard initiatives will be revealed in the months ahead.