The drive to Southampton docks was well signposted, as was the route to the correct departure terminal once inside the docks. We had pre-booked with the parking service CPS, and were guided by their staff to a parking spot right outside the terminal. We were handed a receipt for the car, porters took our bags from the boot and we just walked away from the car into the terminal. Quick, efficient and easy.
In the terminal, there was no queue for our priority check-in lane and registration was handled quickly by a friendly female agent, however there was then around a fifteen minute wait to pass through security. This was not particularly a problem, but it did seem a little odd that whilst Cunard had provided a separate priority check-in lane for their Grills or Platinum passengers, they had not provided a separate priority security lane.
This was our first time in a Princess Grill cabin on the Queen Victoria, and our cabin steward, Joseph, soon arrived to introduce himself and to deliver the gift I had pre-ordered for my wife's birthday. Joseph was a pleasant young man who proved to be an extremely efficient cabin steward. Although we rarely saw him, the room was always made up by the time we returned from breakfast and always turned down when we returned from dinner.
Our cabin, 8081, was a typical P1 grade cabin or stateroom as Cunard like to call them.
A small but functional bathroom, with a bathtub cum shower, a very good ventilation system - which meant the bathroom did not steam up - and a UK razor point.
The king size bed (two twins pushed together) was very comfortable, as were all the pillows, and the duvet and bed linen were first class. There was a lot of hanging space in this cabin, as well as shelf space, and with two drawers under the bed, we felt there was adequate storage space, even for a long cruise.
Lighting and air-conditioning all functioned well, and the rest of the cabin was a separate seating area with a small but comfortable sofa and a second TV. The view from the balcony was unobstructed, and provided an excellent place to watch the sailaways from.
However, there was one major problem. We were on deck 8, and above us, on deck 9, was the entrance to the Lido and Winter Garden as well as a crew service door. The noise during the early hours, as the crew pushed large metal trolleys around, clearing up, cleaning up or laying out, was highly intrusive. The Purser did put some alleviating procedures in place, which worked some of the time, but whilst the cabin was fine, we will not be staying in this area of deck 8 again. Deck 7 or lower for us next time!
Whilst we have always liked the Britannia restaurant, we did find eating in the Princess Grill restaurant to be a marvellous experience and a real step forward! The privacy, location and view from the restaurant are all excellent, and the private lounge and outdoor dining area (although not used on this cruise) are real benefits as well.
The menu in the Grills is broadly similar to that in the Britannia, and we always found plenty of choice on the set menu, however, the ability in the Grills to order from the "a-la-carte" menu is a bonus. Our table waiters, Edwin and Allison, were consistently excellent, and the Head Waiter in our section was superb, dealing with my wife's food allergy discretely and efficiently, as well as organising a special menu for her birthday, he was a real star.
The theatre is a proper theatre, and we found the shows to be to a very good standard, with one of the dance shows being outstanding. The comedian was good, although he did have to work hard with a somewhat unresponsive audience. Like all good comedians, his unscripted remarks were as funny as his routine!
We did not find the port or enrichment lectures to be particularly interesting or well delivered, however others we spoke to disagreed, so it's horses for courses!
We did not sign up for any excursions, as they seemed rather expensive and not good value for money, a view we did hear expressed by others. We disembarked and made our own arrangements quite satisfactorily.
On disembarkation, Grills passengers are asked to wait in the Grills lounge on deck 11 for the disembarkation announcement. The only problem with this is that there are only two lifts on the ship which serve this deck and these always arrive full of people who had got on the lift on a lower floor and who were "going up in order to come down"!. Very sensible from their point of view, but a little frustrating from ours!
We waited about fifteen minutes and then gave up and walked down ten decks to disembark. I feel sorry for those who had restricted mobility and could not do this, as I shudder to think how long they must have waited.
The answer would appear simple, program one or both of these two lifts to serve only decks 1 and 11 on disembarkation days, until all Grills passengers (the first to disembark anyway) have got off.
A short walk to the CPS car park, collect our car keys and we were on our way, again, all very efficiently managed by CPS.
It was pleasing to see that Cunard took the Novo virus threat seriously and put several procedures in place to minimise risk, along with a request from the Captain about the need to follow these precautions. They seemed to work, as I believe it was a trouble free cruise.
The surprise highlight for us was, after being previously very disappointed with the Queens Grill on the QM2, how much we enjoyed the Princess Grill restaurant on the QV.
Our cabin noise problem notwithstanding, overall this was an enjoyable cruise and excellent value for money, one that we will happily repeat - just not in cabin 8081 on deck 8!