If you've been waiting for a good reason, this may be the year to take a luxury liner to Europe.
Cunard Line has announced discounted transatlantic fares, offering two-for-one deals and low-cost standby rates, some good throughout 1991.
For business travelers, a sea crossing eliminates jet lag, allows time for work in the ship's computer center or executive board room, and for working out en route in the Golden Door spa. And for people who've been working hard to get ready for a vacation, the five-day transatlantic crossing offers a rest period that enables them to arrive in Europe refreshed.
On Cunard's Vistafjord and Queen Elizabeth 2, standby fares for passengers able to travel on three weeks' notice have been reduced substantially.
The best buy for standbys is aboard the Vistafjord's April 14 transatlantic sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Lisbon, a 10-day music-festival crossing that costs from $1,995 per person, double occupancy, for a guaranteed outside cabin--a savings of $1,265 off the brochure fare for the lowest-priced outside cabin. The price includes air fare.
The QE2 offers standby fares from $1,149 to $1,349 per person, double occupancy, that include economy-class air transportation on British Airways between London and 15 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. These prices, from $206 to $331 lower than Cunard's cheapest brochure rates, are good on all 27 crossings between April 4 and Dec. 16. A sea-only fare is offered for $999 each way.
Standby space will be confirmed three weeks before departure; full payment is due on confirmation. Cabin assignments will be made after payment is received. Standby passengers will be assigned inside cabins with upper and lower berths, according to Cunard spokeswoman Barbara Brooks.
In another move to woo the business traveler, Cunard has announced that spouses can travel free on the QE2's transatlantic crossings. While it's a great buy for Europe-bound business people--as low as $1,300 per person, double occupancy, for a five-day cruise and transportation to or from Europe--nobody at Cunard is going to ask whether you're really going on business or just on a holiday. Also, this is an especially good deal for passengers who want outside cabins.
The fare includes economy-class British Airways tickets between London and any of 11 U.S. cities--New York, Boston, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The requirement is that the business traveler pay the price of an outside single cabin--which is from $2,600 to $3,935, depending on season and cabin location--for which that person gets an outside double cabin, and two one-way transatlantic air tickets. The cheapest rates, from $2,600, are for sailings in April and November.
The offer is restricted to certain cabin categories, and is not available in conjunction with Cunard's standby fare promotion. The lower fares, from $1,300 to $1,495 per person, double occupancy, are for outside double cabins in transatlantic class (formerly called tourist or second-class), with meals at first or second seating in the Mauretania restaurant. Slightly higher prices, from $1,383 to $1,967 per person, double occupancy, buy an outside double cabin in first-class with meals in the single-seating Columbia restaurant.
Cruise passengers unaccustomed to class divisions on ships should not worry about being treated differently in transatlantic class in any public areas except the restaurants. The only real class distinctions come in the restaurant, which are based on the price of the cabins occupied.
Even the menus ostensibly are the same in all the ship restaurants, although the service and preparation can vary considerably from one to another.
The top-of-the-line Queens Grill and Princess Grills (a second one has been added) are limited to those first-class passengers in "luxury" and "ultra-deluxe" suites and cabins. Their elegant little bars are also restricted by signs to passengers assigned to the grills.
Passengers in ordinary "deluxe" accommodations in first-class have to settle for the larger Columbia Restaurant, where the food and service is indistinguishable from any other cruise ship, so far as we could tell when we lunched there recently while the ship was in port.
In the grills, by contrast, service is more attentive, more dishes are cooked to order, and there is greater eagerness to offer special dishes not on the menu.
The new Princess Grill II, with mauve and pink decor and tables for two or four, is opposite the Princess Grill I.
Also part of the newest renovations is the QE2 casino, which has been enlarged and redecorated with a stylish blackjack area in wood and pastel leather. Two new tables for Caribbean stud poker have been added. In the shopping arcade, the ship's popular branch of London's Harrods department store has had a face lift.