We approached this holiday with a certain amount of trepidation as it was our first cruise and the reaction of friends who had experience of cruising was certainly split into 'absolutely love it' and 'hated every minute, won't be doing that again'.
After considerable research we booked a 14 day Cunard Mediterranean Cruise through ROL (Readers Offers Ltd) which provided us with a Cabin upgrade and a free Car Parking Service at Southampton. We were also certainly influenced by Cunards reputation and tradition.
The Cruise Ship was The Queen Victoria.
The cruise was a very pleasant experience, but not without its faults, and the Jury is still out as to whether or not we would do it again. It is very easy to be super critical of an obviously extremely complicated operation (over 2000 guests to accommodate) but because its costs a considerable amount you do expect perfection. Maybe that was expecting too much.
Rather than give chapter and verse on all the good things and all the bad things I have summarised below our personal opinion of the cruise and ship we went on.
Excellent Check in system (The Airports could maybe learn from this) 25 minutes from handing car over to sitting on Cabin balcony -- amazing!
Comfortable Cabin and Balcony, well equipped and with very comfy huge bed.
Superb Food and all tastes catered for. Available 24/7
Attentive and very friendly Staff/Crew
Spotlessly clean (Cleaners wearing 'Back Pack' vacuum cleaners, that was a first)
Confidence in Safety and Emergency procedures
A big ship so never felt overcrowded, (except on sundecks and around pools see following)
Comfortable bars and lounges
Excellent and efficient cabin service, 10 out of 10
Interesting and varied Ports of Call
Atmosphere can be a bit snooty and snobbish
Dining arrangements (why oh why do they insist on huge tables for 8, 10, 12) tip is to book early and reserve a table for your party (2's and 4's rare)
Smoking Policy -- Guests are allowed to smoke on their cabin balcony which means if you are unfortunate enough to be downwind of smokers (we were)then your neighbours smoke blows onto your balcony , not good . There is a smoking room and this should be the only area where smoking is allowed.
Lack of sufficient Sun loungers and seats around the pools and decks (Squashed in like sardines around the main pool area, very uncomfortable)
Over the top, in your face, entertainment. The Operators needs to do some research into what guests actually want and not provide what the Entertainments Department think they want.
Price of drinks in Bars and lounges extortionate
'Compulsory' gratuity system .( a standard fee is added automatically to your bill , can be a minimum of Â£250, it isn't until you speak with experienced Cruisers that you learn you can have this charge removed from your account by contacting the Purser's Office, this information is not readily available)
Bathrooms are quite small, large persons would struggle with size of shower
Shops to 'exclusive' and ridiculously expensive. A non shopping experience
Question the need for 'sail away' parties at every port, ok if you are departing for a round the world cruise and will be away for months but not when you are in a different port every night!
Plus you have to buy your own drinks !!!!! See above about cost.
General Decor of Ship tacky and plasticky , It will drive you insane if you are an expert on or appreciate Art Deco Interiors !