Increasing costs, poor exchange rates, a limited supply of passengers suited to its prestigious style of cruising – even dressing for dinner – have been some of the reasons floated for Cunard’s withdrawal from homeporting the Queen Elizabeth in Australia from 2026 onwards.

While the line has given no official reason for the withdrawal, the ship will now only operate year-round from North America, spending the northern summer in Alaska and the winter in the Caribbean.

While she will complete her scheduled 2023/24 and 2024/25 southern hemisphere seasons, Queen Elizabeth will only visit down under on those world cruise segments from 2026 onwards.

“Whilst this news means that from 2026 there will be no locally based program, Australia and Asia will remain important destinations on our round-the-world voyages and we look forward to welcoming guests from these regions wherever they chose to sail with us,” Matt Gleaves, Commercial Vice President of North America & Australasia, said in a statement.

Does white glove service suit Aussies?

More formal dinner attire with white glove service and limited itineraries were some of the  reasons passengers gave not to cruise Cunard.    

“I don’t want to dress for dinner,” posted one former Cunard cruiser. “Cunard’s proposed withdrawal may be due to the fact that the local customer base is limited and those of us who have ‘done’ the forever same loop Sydney/Melbourne to NZL and the limited stops there and back, are tired of the destination options.”

Another said of Cunard’s dinner attire: “The British gentleman we dined with on QE pre covid still wore his tie when gardening! A bloke from Broken Hill suggested formal dress for him was long socks and clean shorts but was howled down when he enquired whether this was acceptable dining room attire on Cunard.”

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Long socks and shorts are not enough.

From another post: “With higher service levels, they are a more expensive offering. This past year they have been discounting itineraries here, which used to be a rarity. Princess & Royal each have one less ship next season. There are lots more cruises in the bargain bin than ever before. No money, no ship.”

“The only Cunard itinerary (apart from the short themed cruises) which would now entice us is the Australian circumnavigation, or legs of it,” posted another Cunard cruiser. “We have this year enjoyed the NZ and Tas legs, and were actually looking forward to the circumnavigation, but not yet, as we have two cruises in Europe booked for next year. I really like the idea of the repositioning cruises, but if Cunard will no longer be home berthing here, that will be out as well.  We loved the Cunard experience, and the food (admittedly in Queens Grill) was superb. So glad now that we bit the bullet and tried it.”

New Cunard program set to launch in January

Cunard launched its 110 voyage international program in May last year, including Queen Elizabeth’s homeport season in Australia, plus the maiden voyages of the new Queen Anne, its first new ship in 12 years. Other ships in the Cunard fleet include Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. 

Queen Elizabeth starts her Australian summer residency with a 6-night voyage from Fremantle on November 27, before embarking on a series of short breaks and roundtrips from Melbourne and Sydney, with 47 ports of call. Highlights include 10 nights exploring the Queensland coast and Queen Elizabeth’s inaugural 14-night roundtrip calls into the South Pacific, plus Cunard’s after Christmas and New Year voyages to New Zealand.

Queen Elizabeth finishes her 105-day homeport season in Australia when she departs Sydney en-route to Japan on March 10, 2024.

Cunard is set to announce its future international programming in January. 

Pack For a Cruise
Dressing for dinner is required for some Cunard dining experiences.