Since my wife and I (both 65 and in good health) enjoyed our 2 TA's on the QM2 some years ago very much, we had great expectations of our 17-day trip to the Adriatic Sea on the Queen Victoria. During the preparation for the trip I discovered through "Dancers' opinions of Cunard" the CruiseCritics forum, where I found a lot of both useful as funny information, for which I like to thank each participant in the forum.
One of the major reasons for booking again on a Cunard ship was, besides the atmosphere of the luxury of the past, the vast opportunity for dancing on board. And we were not at all disappointed. The great majority of the passengers were British, we were the only Dutch couple on board. It is impossible to put all impressions of 17 days in one report together, but I will try to mention the most relevant.
The direct connection from Schiphol Airport with Flybe was very practical especially since I had the option chosen for both 40 kg of luggage to carry, for the many fancy-dress and black-tie parties. We arrived too early and after about an hour queuing, we were on our original boarding time in the stateroom.
The stateroom was very similar to those on the QM2, and we were very happy with it. The balcony seemed a little bigger and the bathroom was small but very practical. The space to store all our luggage was more than enough, even before we discovered the two big drawers under the bed. In contrast to the information on the Cunard website, there was a 2 pin European 220 volts socket. Our cabin steward Alona not only kept everything perfectly clean and fresh, but was cheerful every day and interested in our activities.
We dined every night at the Britannia restaurant, second session, where we have large selection of exquisite dishes served by our waiters Nicolas and Edyta. We were so pleased with the atmosphere and the diversity and quality of the food that we did not feel the need to dine elsewhere, the Todd English restaurant moreover seemed mostly empty and bleak. For breakfast and lunch we often went for practical reasons (getting up late and dance lessons between 12.00 and 13.15) to the Lido, which offered a good choice. Our Chilean sommelier Christian in the Brittania gave us good advice and listened, despite his jokes, attentively to our needs.
We drank in the morning usually a cappuccino in Cafe Carinthia (very nice), and a drink before dinner at the Commodore Club (more beautiful than on the QM2) or the Champagne bar. But the most we were in the Queens Room on the beautiful dance floor. In the morning for dance classes of Nadiya and Volodomyr. My wife and I dance the Argentine tango for years, but for this special trip we had taken some private lessons in ballroom dancing. This was a good base to the great lessons of dance teachers on board. In the evening and sometimes at Afternoon Tea dances we danced in the Queens Room or in the Hemispheres. The Queens Room Orchestra played very well varied and danceable music. Paul Ritchie was an excellent singer (I liked Paul much better than Michiel Cartier on the QM2). Paul did much to create an atmosphere of active participation, which was highly appreciated by the ladies alone.
Library and Art
The library was a stylish oasis of tranquility, ideal for quiet reading and writing, and a very nice librarian from South Africa. Furthermore, I noticed that the display of cheap trinkets and jewels on the QV happened a lot more restrained then on the QM2, here only in the Royal Arcade and not pushy in the main corridors. The Art Gallery was presented more restrained, no auctions where hardly were buyers, but a number of, not overwhelming commercially, lectures.
Entertainement and Spirituality
On our previous voyages we had attended many lectures on QM2, not now because of the topics that we found either not interesting ("How do I get an invitation to a tea party at the Royal Family") or even evoked a little disgust ("My long conversations with a serial killer").
The Royal Court Theatre is beautifully designed. There is space for a large number of spectators, yet it has retained an intimate theater atmosphere.
We have several times been to an early show (because we went after our second dinner sitting dancing), we saw a Welcome Aboard show on the first night, the stunning master magician Brett Sherwood, twice an excellent show with singer Bruce Morrison with the Cunard singers and dancers. And although it may be profane to range it under entertainement, I want to mention the church service in the Royal Court Theatre. Deputy Captain Andrew Willard led the service very professional, culminating with vocalist Paul Ritchie singing the moving Via Dolorosa. We attented one of the matinee concerts with Ferry Bedi, who showed that he was not only barpianist, but also classically well schooled, and the harpist Marta Kaszap also.
Many of the Cruise Critics do not seem to have much interest in the Themed Balls, for us were the highlights. Preparing all the costumes was one of the reasons for the 2 x 40 kg of luggage! We were really surprised that a large number of people participated in the theme. So I counted at least 6 more parrots during the pirate-disco, and many pirate hats and eye patches. At the Venetian ball the whole dance floor was packed with masked guests. Even at the Ascot ball were not only many ladies with fancy hats, but also a number of gray top hats and morning coats. Even the social hostess Gun Sukwanna, who enthusiastically participated in all the festivities, was surprised by this number. A new phenomenon for us was the emergence of the sequence dancing, which sometimes took a (too big) part of the dance floor in property. Gun did a good job to channel this through a separate hour for this activity before dinner and by organizing short demonstrations during the intervals of the live music.
Spa and Fitness
I used the gym once, but almost every day I had a nice 20 minutes swim in the Lido pool.
We had no guided tours, but visited the ports on your own exploring, after intensive (Internet) preparation at home. The complimentary shuttle service, always arranged by Cunard, was very appreciated. In La Corua, we rented bikes and did a tour around the city. Cephalonia was relaxed with walking and a typical meal in a family restaurant. We had been to Venice before and to visit more of Venice than St Marc's square, I had previously ordered a 2-day ticket for the vaporetto on the Internet. So we visted The Fortuny tissue museum and the famous Ca' Rezzonico palazzo and museum with the Tiepolo ceilings at the Canal Grande. To celebrate the evening in Venice I had booked tickets for an opera in Palazzo Barbarigo Minotti on the Grand Canal (www.musicapalazzo.com). What an experience, with about 50 spectators the four singers and musicians performed the three acts of The Barber of Seville each in a different, beautiful room of the palace.
Oporto was a revelation, especially the National Museum Soares dos Reis (sculpture and decorative arts), located just 10 minutes walk from the shuttle assembly point, but hardly visited by other cruise tourists.
Let me conclude by saying that I admired the number of really elderly and those disabled in their mobility, which had the courage to undertake such a journey. We hope that in the future we will do the same.