Author Topic: What If? Alternative Dining  (Read 196 times)

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Offline Michael Gallagher

What If? Alternative Dining
« on: Dec 07, 2017, 09:07 AM »
If QE2 had remained in service post 2008 I think Cunard would have had to have investigated the addition of alternative dining on board in order to satisfy passenger demand and enable her to offer a consistent product with her newer fleetmates. Extra-tariff or alternative restaurants were appearing on Cunard ships in the 1990s with Venezia on Royal Viking Sun and Tivoli on Vistafjord / Caronia. From her introduction in 2004 Queen Mary 2 offered Todd English as an alternative and subsequently extra-tariff restaurant as well as greatly-expanded buffet dining and themed dining.

But how could alternative dining be introduced to QE2?

•   The Caronia Restaurant could have become two-sittings, a move which would have generated a great deal of criticism, but it would have meant both the Princess Grill and Britannia Grill could have been opened for alternative dining. Or just one of these Grills could have been converted to alternative dining if additional seats had been placed in the Caronia Restaurant to accommodate the loss of a Grill and maintain its one-sitting.

Perhaps the Queens Grill could have been expanded into the Boardroom to accommodate displaced Princess / Britannia Grill guests if not enough seating could be found to accommodate them in the Caronia Restaurant.

•   Of the two Grills the Princess Grill would have been the better for alternative dining because of its private bar on One Deck. A most exclusive evening could be given to those willing to pay.

•   The Boardroom could have offered exclusive dining for 16 people with drinks and dinner and musical entertainment provided. Passengers could also have enjoyed the Queens Grill menu so two different experiences could have been offered here. We hosted some very good dinners for VIP shore guests on the 2007 and 2008 Round Britain voyages including a lunch for the Duke of Kent on Liverpool in 2007.

•   The Lido could have been refurbished along the same lines as those on the newer ships and offered a themed evening the same as on the new ships.

•   The Pavilion could have offered exclusive dinners for small numbers of passengers.

Your thoughts, please?



Offline Thomas Hypher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #1 on: Dec 07, 2017, 09:18 AM »
I would be against making the Caronia two sittings and the Grills alternative. The Caronia would have lost part of what made it different to the Mauretania and the incentive to upgrade could've been lost for most people. Surely it would have meant the Cabin grades (and even the penthouse grades) would have needed major rejigging? I still think that a Cunard Classic subsidiary would have been the best option (maybe if the third Caronia hadn't been sold to Saga), in my opinion QE2 was too far from the product Cunard's current ships offer to be brought in line. Having said that a refurbished Lido would've been nice to see (without the extra surcharges of course) whilst retaining the basic design of the room that worked quite well (better than King's Court on QM2 before June last year for sure!).

The Cunard Classic subsidiary would have allowed QE2 to continue in a similar manner, hopefully not in competition (not on the Transatlantic service for sure, as was the case anyway post 2004) however her income would have gone to the same place. Then product consistency wouldn't have been an issue as it seems that was and is obsessed about at the expense of other options.

Anyway just my two pence,

Thomas
« Last Edit: Dec 07, 2017, 09:20 AM by Thomas Hypher »
First travelled on QE2 in August 2003 aged 6 years old. Last stepped foot and travelled on QE2 in July 2008.

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #2 on: Dec 07, 2017, 09:39 AM »
Thanks for your response Thomas and I do agree with your points and general direction but product consistency is something Cunard has striven for for decades. It makes it far easier to sell the product and easier for travel agents to understand. Different Cunard brands were introduced in the 1990s when the company had 15 ships. Simple. Cunard Royal Viking was ultra luxury and Cunard Crown was premium etc. But what the company could not get away with was that people expected the same on whatever brand they went on because of the Cunard name. People went on downmarket Cunard Countess and expected Sea Goddess levels of service because both ships were Cunard.

I think one of the biggest mistakes with QM2 was not including a Caronia one-sitting and a Mauretania two-sitting dining room but that would have meant not having the grand Britannia Restaurant. The subsequent addition of Britannia Club is great but is a bit of mess on QM2 while probably the best dining rooms on QV and QE thanks to their size.

The cabins gradings on QE2 were redone many times over the years and could have easily been redone to accommodate changes in dining.

Providing alternative dining could have been achieved but result in the loss of some other much-loved feature.

As for consistency: One of the (lesser) reasons Caronia was sold to Saga was the fact she did not offer Grills Dining. Plans to place a Queens Grill in the main Franconia Dining Room were drawn up but nothing satisfactory could be achieved. One of the reasons the first QV went to P&O is that there was no Princess Grill in the specification.

Offline Thomas Hypher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #3 on: Dec 07, 2017, 09:55 AM »
Thanks for your response Thomas and I do agree with your points and general direction but product consistency is something Cunard has striven for for decades. It makes it far easier to sell the product and easier for travel agents to understand. Different Cunard brands were introduced in the 1990s when the company had 15 ships. Simple. Cunard Royal Viking was ultra luxury and Cunard Crown was premium etc. But what the company could not get away with was that people expected the same on whatever brand they went on because of the Cunard name. People went on downmarket Cunard Countess and expected Sea Goddess levels of service because both ships were Cunard.

I think one of the biggest mistakes with QM2 was not including a Caronia one-sitting and a Mauretania two-sitting dining room but that would have meant not having the grand Britannia Restaurant. The subsequent addition of Britannia Club is great but is a bit of mess on QM2 while probably the best dining rooms on QV and QE thanks to their size.

The cabins gradings on QE2 were redone many times over the years and could have easily been redone to accommodate changes in dining.

Providing alternative dining could have been achieved but result in the loss of some other much-loved feature.

As for consistency: One of the (lesser) reasons Caronia was sold to Saga was the fact she did not offer Grills Dining. Plans to place a Queens Grill in the main Franconia Dining Room were drawn up but nothing satisfactory could be achieved. One of the reasons the first QV went to P&O is that there was no Princess Grill in the specification.

Your knowledge and experience with Cunard and particularly QE2 is second to none. I have just learnt even more from you that will be committed to the sponge that is my brain and will be paraphrased or taken into account in future discussions etc.

Interesting passenger behaviour, however I think Cunard Classic could still have been upmarket too and marketed to a different audience (QE2 fans being among that audience, those likely aware of and preferring her differences to new ships in the fleet - plenty of these people about (including me and my parents for some) even now, a decade on.

I agree, QM2 needs a decent single sitting dining option outside of the grills and extra surcharge options. From relatives the Britannia Club on QM2 is not a great experience and I have poked my nose into that part of the Britannia (it's a downgrade to the rest of the magnificent room to gain a single sitting and a smaller crowd). Maybe Todd English could be sacrificed ;) as that would be an ideal place for a single seat Restaurant (another Caronia perhaps?) dare I say it in a better place than the Grills onboard. The Britannia Club part could then be reintegrated back into the main Restaurant.

In my opinion any loss of much loved features on QE2 (public rooms even?) would have been a travesty amongst loyal passengers (myself included, through my parents) because she was loved the way she was, even at the end. In the end she was a comfortable, but worn shoe/home from home.
First travelled on QE2 in August 2003 aged 6 years old. Last stepped foot and travelled on QE2 in July 2008.

Offline Thomas Hypher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #4 on: Dec 07, 2017, 10:00 AM »
In addition to my above post and a bit off topic. I feel Cunard has lost sight of it's loyal passengers in recent years, caring more about attracting new crowds with sometimes false advertising, and maintaining the bottom line more and more. Cunard is still top dog but has lost a lot of what made it special even on QM2 in 2008. Cunard need to take a long hard look at themselves and where they see themselves in the near and long term future (minus too much input from the bean counters). Having said the above it also seems to be happening within the rest of Carnival UK (with P&O from what friends and their passengers are saying) so this decline is relative but still a massive shame.
First travelled on QE2 in August 2003 aged 6 years old. Last stepped foot and travelled on QE2 in July 2008.

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #5 on: Dec 07, 2017, 10:26 AM »
The Grills on QM2 are in an awful location. I would put the Queens Grill into where the Verandah is now and connect it to the Grills bar below with a replica staircase from Princess Grill on QE2. I would re-position QM2's PG across the width of the ship on Deck 7 so you had a wall of windows looking aft which would still mean people could gawk in but you'd lose the corridor feeling the room currently has.

Cunard is in a mess, quite frankly, when it comes to its passenger profile - or attracting the profile it thinks it should have. Even the media are cottoning on to the downgrade in product as Cunard was No 1 in the Daily Telegraph large cruise lines (its main newspaper demographic) for 11 consecutive years and has now slumped to sixth.

1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Viking Cruises
3. Hurtigruten
4. Oceania Cruises
5. Crystal Cruises
6. Cunard Line
7. Celebrity Cruises
8. Fred Olsen
9. Holland America Line
10. Princess Cruises

I have always supported this Forum's 'Cunard Classic' brand and I do believe there is a market but would caution on there being a solid, consistent and growing market for it. You would have had to have closed cabins (which were simply not up to it) which would have reduced capacity and therefore put up ticket prices which would have had to rise each year to accommodate additional old age costs of running QE2, and any other ships in the fleet, which could not have been avoided. Even die-hard fans have to take prices into account! And the crew areas would have to have been rebuilt as I think you would have struggled to get people to live and work on QE2 if she had remained in service and not changed when its another world for crew on today's Queens.

And we have discussed the potential difficulties of operating older ships - look at the trouble Saga had with Saga Ruby over the years. A fleet of classics would be great but as the now-gone Premier Cruises and Regency Cruises discovered that operating in such a niche market gave you a marketing advantage but a whole host of trouble when it came to maintenance and there is always a chance one of your assets could suddenly be out of service for a lengthy period and there goes your profit projections and reputation.

Back to QE2 - restaurants came and went over the years. My favourite was Britannia Grill which only appeared in 1990. If alternative dining was forced on the ship this would have been the place to do it. You would reduce the number of Grill cabins and could squeeze 100 back into one-sitting Columbia / Caronia. The introduction of the new Princess Grill II in 1990 necessitated the introduction of a new grade of stateroom (D2). 48 F graded rooms (Caolumbia / Caronia dining) on Three Deck were upgraded to a new D2 grade standard with a décor of mauves and pale blues, similar to that found on the new Grill itself. New furniture was placed, new bathroom décor provided and all soft furnishings (carpets, curtains, bedspreads) were replaced. New installations included headboards for the beds, video recorders and electronic digital safes. The existing D grade (Princess Grill dining) became D1 grade with four E graded rooms on Two Deck being upgraded to D1 standard. This brought the total of D1 graded cabins to 56. Passengers in D1 and D2 grades were thus allowed to choose which Grill they wished to dine in.
« Last Edit: Dec 07, 2017, 11:16 AM by Michael Gallagher »

Offline Pete Hamill

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #6 on: Dec 07, 2017, 12:20 PM »
Michael, Perhaps one of the things I really quite liked about QE2 was the fact that she didn't have alternative pay-as-you-go venues.

Maybe she was just fine without that and if she had remained in service she would have continued to attract customers who appreciated more than just the gimmicks that other ships offered and actually took a great part of the cruise to be the ship herself and the great service that was experienced there.

We have friends who sailed on QE2 with their family. They were attracted by another cruise line and gave it a try the following year.
They came back to QE2 as the atmosphere and approach of the other ship - with additional payment venues - just wasn't what they thought it would be. They liked the more relaxed ambience of QE2 and the fact that they didn't need to worry about paying a load of extra money to take the family to an alternative dining venue.

Just a thought from the other side of the coin.

P.S. I have travelled on the other three current Cunard ships and have experienced the alternative dining on all three. Personally - and this, of course is entirely my opinion - I don't see what all the fuss is about!
They do such a good job with the food and service in the main restaurants that I just don't feel the need to pay extra to go elsewhere.

Offline Pete Hamill

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #7 on: Dec 07, 2017, 12:28 PM »
Michael, I meant to add a response to your last post regarding QM2's layout.
I think it makes use of available space rather than makes space work.

I agree with your comments about the positioning of the Grills.

Have you ever tried to find the main entrance to the Britannia Club restaurant? Almost everyone comes through the Britannia restaurant to get to it.
We found the main entrance by working it out after leaving to see where we ended up and re-tracing our steps along-up-along-down and back!
How about the first time getting to the Queen's room?

Like everything else, once you know where you are going it's easy, but some of the routes just don't seem logical.

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #8 on: Dec 07, 2017, 12:35 PM »
I appreciated the fact that she didn't have pay-for venues too but it's been almost ten years since her retirement and bean counters run Cunard who have an instruction to squeeze greater profit from assets hence the additional cabins on the current fleet. Additional cabins could have been built on QE2 (four in the Boardroom) which was the original 1972 plan and pay-for dining would have been introduced to potentially raise revenue.

And therein lies a problem at Cunard alternative dining - the basic dining is good enough so why pay extra to eat something you have to be into (the very French food of the Verandah) when Britannia is perfectly adequate. And why should the Grills diners pay to downgrade for the night. And why should Grills passengers pay for any food?

Offline Pete Hamill

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #9 on: Dec 07, 2017, 12:42 PM »
I appreciate the commercial aspects are often at odds with the passengers views - especially the rose-tinted ones!
The company has to make money to keep things going, but there comes a time when you really need to ask if they are trying to make too much profit at the cost of the people they need in order to make any profit at all.

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #10 on: Dec 07, 2017, 12:46 PM »
Well the typical Cunard answer to raising revenues is raise the bar prices as that'll make the passengers spend! Yeah, right.

I'm not an accountant and would probably have bankrupted Cunard if I was the boss but costs need to be covered and those costs would have increased every extra year she was in service.

Offline Rod

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #11 on: Dec 07, 2017, 07:01 PM »
Well the typical Cunard answer to raising revenues is raise the bar prices as that'll make the passengers spend! Yeah, right.

I'm not an accountant and would probably have bankrupted Cunard if I was the boss

I love it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Could not have said it better!
Some of the waste of money,  the theft and graft that went on when I was at sea was amazing!

Offline Kevin Hicks

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Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #12 on: Dec 07, 2017, 07:23 PM »
Now I really don't know what to say if they were to change the restaurants, because as we all know, I haven't sailed with Cunard yet.   :'(

All I guess I can say is that they would modify her enough to offer good 21st Century service alongside the rest of the fleet, like Michael said earlier (was that you, 'cause I already forgot ::)).

Offline Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #13 on: Dec 07, 2017, 07:56 PM »
As for consistency: One of the (lesser) reasons Caronia was sold to Saga was the fact she did not offer Grills Dining.

We actually liked the fact that on Caronia everybody ate together (we had a friend in a different cabin category) and from the dining room had views out both sides of the ship.

For a special night out, we booked the extra-pay restaurant with its own wonderful view and were not disappointed by either the view or the food.

Not sure though whether I would have liked an extra-pay restaurant on QE2, where there were already so many dining options included in the price paid.

Thank you for starting this thread! Wonderful information and reflections here.

Offline Kevin Hicks

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Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #14 on: Dec 07, 2017, 08:49 PM »
Just to briefly go a bit off topic, this reminds me of when I took my first ever cruise. I was with the Enchantment of the Seas for Royal Caribbean. The restaurant service, and the restaurant as a whole, was exquisite.  ??? Still have souvenirs and remember the trip exactly as it happened: as a surprise from my grandmother (Thanks Ma!).

Offline Rob Lightbody

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Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #15 on: Dec 10, 2017, 11:41 AM »
Fascinating topic.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the "Grill Room" on QE2 WAS originally for alternative dining, wasn't it?  I like the idea of this most special of spaces being made available so that not just the 120 people fortunate enough to be in exactly the right grade of cabin could enjoy it. 
Passionate about QE2 for 35 years.

Offline Rob Lightbody

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Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #16 on: Dec 10, 2017, 11:56 AM »

I have always supported this Forum's 'Cunard Classic' brand and I do believe there is a market but would caution on there being a solid, consistent and growing market for it. You would have had to have closed cabins (which were simply not up to it) which would have reduced capacity and therefore put up ticket prices which would have had to rise each year to accommodate additional old age costs of running QE2, and any other ships in the fleet, which could not have been avoided. Even die-hard fans have to take prices into account! And the crew areas would have to have been rebuilt as I think you would have struggled to get people to live and work on QE2 if she had remained in service and not changed when its another world for crew on today's Queens.


The concept for Cunard Classic QE2 was for a wholesale rebuild too - drastically rebuilding the tiny cabins, knocking 2,3 or even 4 of them together.  She'd have needed a massive mechanical overhaul, but with reduced passenger numbers, comes reduced crew.  Prices go up.  She is more exclusive.  And she starts to actually meet the expectations that new people have of her.  She'd definitely not have fitted Carnival's normal money-making formula though, that's for sure.   What I see in the UK just now is that Rich people are getting richer, poor people are getting poorer, and the struggling middle who used to travel on Cunard, can't now.  So you'd cater for those rich people properly...
Passionate about QE2 for 35 years.

Offline Thomas Hypher

Re: What If? Alternative Dining
« Reply #17 on: Dec 10, 2017, 04:27 PM »
The concept for Cunard Classic QE2 was for a wholesale rebuild too - drastically rebuilding the tiny cabins, knocking 2,3 or even 4 of them together.  She'd have needed a massive mechanical overhaul, but with reduced passenger numbers, comes reduced crew.  Prices go up.  She is more exclusive.  And she starts to actually meet the expectations that new people have of her.  She'd definitely not have fitted Carnival's normal money-making formula though, that's for sure.   What I see in the UK just now is that Rich people are getting richer, poor people are getting poorer, and the struggling middle who used to travel on Cunard, can't now.  So you'd cater for those rich people properly...

I would argue that QE2 was much more expensive to travel on particularly for my Parent's on our first trip in 2003 (irrespective of inflation). My Dad's mind boggles now at how they both afforded it (through sheer hard graft, particularly through my Dad's freelance work) compared to QM2 these days even though Cunard seems to be putting prices up gradually again (but the quality of service doesn't match, however that's another can of worms). My Dad was earning much less (through unfortunate circumstances already mentioned on this forum) on my last trip in 2014 yet we went on a much longer voyage for around the same price or less also across the Atlantic, to put it in perspective. 15 nights in 2014 vs 6 nights in 2003. Some possible explanations being QE2 carried fewer passengers, and was an older ship costing a lot more to maintain.
First travelled on QE2 in August 2003 aged 6 years old. Last stepped foot and travelled on QE2 in July 2008.