The Cunard Voyage Experience: Stepping back in time to rediscover the lost art of letter writing

posted on: Wednesday, 27 June 2018

{Written in collaboration with Cunard}

When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? That isn't code for "e-mail". I mean when was the last time you put pen to paper to write to someone important in your life to simply say hello, let them know you are thinking of them or to tell them a tale of a great adventure? Here are some pretty scary facts for you. Did you know that half of the UK has sent less than five handwritten letters in the past decade and two thirds of the population have never before received a handwritten letter at all? These statistics make my heart hurt. Growing up as a child of the 80s, before the dawn of the internet or the digital note, the only way I could communicate with friends and family when away from home was through the mail. I would run to the mailbox every day excited for the arrival of a handwritten note from a friend or relative. These days, my mailbox is full of only one thing... bills! So, when Cunard approached me and asked if I'd like to take part in a campaign to bring back the lost art of letter writing I couldn't get back to them fast enough to say, "how can I be of service?" Imagine my surprise when what they asked was for me to board one of their prestigious ships to tap into my own lost art of letter writing. The rest, as they say, is history. This is the tale of my three day adventure with Cunard aboard the Queen Victoria and the path I took to once again put pen to paper with the idea of reconnecting with family and friends across the big blue sea. 


Let's start with a very brief history lesson to give this whole story the appropriate context. Now, Cunard has a very rich history with the Royal Mail, having been awarded the first transatlantic mail service, back in 1839 and in 1840 the very first Cunard ship, Britannia, was built to deliver mail to and from the UK and America.  Just imagine what letters would have passed through the ship at that time. While most of the letters are of course of a private nature, Cunard does have an archive teeming with notes from important historical figures that have used the Royal Mail service aboard the ships. I mean how many people can claim to possess a letter from Charles Dickens while written aboard the ship? Cunard can and that's merely scratching the surface. While aboard Queen Victoria, I was overwhelmed by the  black and white images proudly displayed around the ship of celebrities from a golden era travelling across the Atlantic with Cunard. Clark Gable, Rita Haworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Ginger Rogers and many more have travelled aboard these vessels and have, no doubt, sent countless letters while in transit. Today, guests aboard the Queen Mary 2 can actually post their letters in a working Royal Mail iconic red box onboard. Sadly you won't have Clark Gable standing next to you as your deposit your post, but a little imagination goes a long way. 

So, how did I find my own inspiration to put pen to paper while on board? Well, the simple answer is I let myself get carried away. Only I wasn't quite sure what to expect upon boarding Queen Victoria for a weekend. There is certainly very little that could have prepared me for what I would find. This was truly like taking a step back in time. The grandeur of the ship in port is one thing, stepping aboard is quite another. Ultimately I found inspiration in both the grand and the intimate settings within the eleven decks on board. The moments that took my breath away were indeed both overwhelming and heartwarming, and ultimately drove me to put pen to paper! Of course I wasn't simply writing about it all, I was also photographing every nook and cranny to share with you here. 

Let's start with the grand spaces. These were the features on the ship that made it hard to believe you were on a ship at all. They were the areas that could easily make you feel as if you were a celebrity in a Hollywood movie. These were the spaces that allowed you to feel the glitz and glamour of the ship. 

First, a staircase worthy of a selfie, if I ever saw one...
Then there was the theatre of dreams. This looks like it belongs in the West End of London, not aboard a ship! Nightly entertainment took place here with guests dressing to the nines to take in a musical production or dramatic show. 

Then there were the spaces for dining. There were almost too many to share, but this is where we ate breakfast every morning, with a view of the sea passing below us with floor to ceiling windows. 


For anyone missing the shopping on dry land, never fear as The Royal Arcade is open for perusing.

And should you be a pro on the dance floor, there's a ballroom dance with your name on it in this elegant outlet. Again, can you believe this is on a ship?!

For the moments that required a taste of home, there was a traditional English pub, that also doubled as a Karaoke bar of dreams (cannot even begin to tell you the fun that was had).

And of course there are endless square feet of deck space for absorbing Vitamin D and tucking into a good book. All with the goal of inspiring, remember. If one isn't inspired at this point, there's no hope. But wait, I'm on a roll...

While the grandeur of the larger rooms left me with my jaw on the floor, it was actually the plethora of intimate spaces that gave me my real motivation to let the pen do the talking. Queen Victoria is overflowing with beautiful corners ready to be discovered by those truly looking to relax. Of course you can't mention relaxation without considering the spa. But, have you ever seen a spa with this view? 

I can hands down said this was the best massage I've had in my life and certainly the most unique view I've ever had while on a massage table. 

 While I was spa-ing, I imagined my future husband puffing on a cigar in the Churchill Cigar bar...

And I spent way too many hours daydreaming of letter writing while lounging on the decks in a rather regal looking chair. In reality, the letter writing did not take place here. I simply sat back and watched the world pass by and took inspiration from the experience itself. 

Not that I would ever get board of simply starring out into the big blue sea, but let's say it might be a possibility after a day or two. Well, that's where the intimate entertainment comes in, starting with a library on board. This wood panelled two storey room is overflowing with books for every taste and it truly made me realise I was missing out on one of the greatest pleasures in life- a regular good read. Must add that to the list of things to bring back, after we have this whole letter writing situation resurrected! 

I also found myself drawn to the games room, the many smaller restaurants on board, the tennis offering atop the ship and the odd well crafted cocktail! All things I was detailing in my letters to friends as to why they needed to come aboard on my next journey with Cunard. 
  
While the grand spaces, the endless entertainment and the opportunity for copious amounts of Vitamin D are all well and good, I think we all know by now that when people talk about cruising, they all too often feel the need to talk about the food on board. For me, I put pen to paper to two near and dear foodies to tell them about my experience in the Verandah restaurant. It looked a little something like this. Just try and find the words. They will escape you... this is fine dining on another level. 

In the end, I left the ship with a total of four letters in hand. One was for my parents, in which I tried as accurately as I could to describe my absolute and total appreciation for many things that had led me to where I was sitting in that moment. There were two letters to my aforementioned foodie friends. And finally there was one letter to myself. In fact this is where I have to admit that I have all along been quite in touch with the importance of writing letters. Every trip I take I write one to myself to help me remember the importance of the journey taken. I've been doing this for years in a rather selfish way. Cunard helped me rediscover the joy brought to someone else by letter writing. It was a reminder of the happiness given to another by sending a nice surprise by post, across the sea and far away. Never ever underestimate the power of the written word or the inspiration behind it. 

My feet may now be on dry land, but I'm taking this all on board as a life lesson. I'm also currently trying to source a wardrobe to reboard the ship and live it all again like a character in a Clark Gable movie. "Here's looking at you, Cunard." Ok, totally not a Clark Gable movie but around the same time.... 

For more information on cruising with Cunard, click here