Having had several days to digest our experience we thought it time to share the impressions we formed on our recent New York to Los Angeles voyage on the Queen Victoria. In order to provide some insight into our perspective I'll share our background. I'm 45 and my wife is 39. Prior to this trip we have done six TA's on the QM2 (four in Britannia and two in Queen's Grill) as well as the Dubai to Southampton world cruise segment on the QM2 last year (in Queen's Grill).
Both my wife and I are Cunard World Club Platinums and have never sailed with any line other than Cunard.
All previous QG cabins had been Q5, and our Britannia cabins were A1-A3. On this trip we booked a Q5 and were assigned cabin 5189, located on the fifth deck on the extreme starboard stern corner of the ship. As there have been many questions about how the QV "compares" I've provided my highly subjective comparison to the QM2 when appropriate.
First Impressions Upon arriving to board the QV we were able to compare it to its much older "sister" the QE2 which was moored one terminal away. I have to admit to being an admirer of the classic "liner" lines of the QE2, and with respect to hits hull planform, the QM2. As such I found myself thoroughly unimpressed with the lines of the QV. The most disconcerting characteristic of the QV, to me at least, is what I'll refer to as her "pug" nose. Although aware of Ms. Marlowe's contention that the QV has a lengthened and strengthened bow I couldn't see it. In fact, to me, the QV looked, quite simply, like a Vista Class cruise ship dressed up in Cunard livery
Embarkation We boarded the QV at Pier 92 in Manhattan. Weather was overcast and cool. Boarding was fairly well done and we were in our cabin within 45 minutes of our arrival. The terminal on Pier 92 was much cleaner and "user friendly" than Pier 88 and a bit more personable than the terminal located in Brooklyn. It was really nice to be boarding back in Manhattan - I continue to hope that, one day, the QM2 will return to this magical departure point.
Sail Away We had the opportunity to sail on the QM2 when she did her tandem eastbound crossing with the QE2 in 2004. Prior to departing New York harbor on that cruise we sipped "sparkling wine" on our balcony and were treated to a wonderful fireworks display by the statue of liberty. We both thought of this wonderful experience as a once in a lifetime event. Now, in 2008, we were thrilled to be standing on our wrap around deck, this time sipping Champagne, watching an even more impressive fireworks display in trail of the QM2 and in front of the QE2. Despite the drizzle, which had begun to fall, it really was a tremendous send off.
Cabins (Q5 - Cabin 5189) Having spent quite a bit of time in Q5 cabins on the QM2 we were expecting "bigger and better" on the QV. We were both disappointed in terms of "useable" size. Our cabin, although well appointed, was poorly laid out, lacked storage space (there was no walk in closet, instead we had a five door closet and a total of 7 drawers - five of which we so shallow as to be filled with two folded trousers). The poor use of space and relatively cramped cabin was, however, mated to a wrap around balcony that allowed us a virtually unobstructed 270-degree view.
Unfortunately, unlike the QM2 all deck furniture was cheap plastic, which, I might add, also covered the decks of the entire ship. The wonderful teak decks of the QM2 are nowhere to be found having been replaced with linoleum like material with painted lines meant to simulate planks. As 14 of our 17 days were spent in balmy, sunny, weather this huge deck was wonderful and more than made up for the shortcomings of the cabin. On the other hand, had we been in colder waters or spent more of our time inside I'm afraid that I would have been annoyed with the premium we paid for such a cabin.
Those booking in either QG or PG aboard the QV must be aware that there is significant variance between cabins of the same grade and, more expensive grades are not always worth the premium. As an example - the QV has Q5 cabins located both mid-ship and at the stern. Those that are mid-ship have a walk-in closet but a very small balcony while those at the stern lack the walk-in closet but have amazing wrap around decks.
Friends who opted for Q4 (referred to as a "Penthouse") on the QV were quite annoyed that our deck was immense compared to theirs and the size difference between their Cabin and Q5's was negligible.
We also had occasion to share cocktails with friends traveling P2 in cabin 5001. Their cabin, while costing thousands of dollars less, was, functionally, almost double the size of our cabin with a walk in closet! Given the general confusion about value for money proffered by more than one guest I would hope that, in the future, Cunard might actually amend cabin categories on this ship.
It should be noted that as the QG cabins are spread throughout the ship (as opposed to the QM2 on which they are almost completely concentrated on a single deck) the Butler staff is stretched very, very thin. Our Butler, Constantine, was assigned five cabins on the stern of deck five and four mid-ship cabins on another deck. As such, our impression was that the poor guy was always out of breath - running from one end of the ship to the other. Despite this, he did all in his power to address our needs.
Staff I must say that Cunard staffed the QV well! Our voyage was commanded by Captain Wright. The Hotel Director on board was Robert Howie and the Queens Grill was overseen by Benjamino. In fact, upon sitting down for our first lunch in the Grills we knew every person assigned to our section from the QM2. This continuity of personnel had much to do with the very, very positive impression of service that we came away with and is one that we heard repeated by guests throughout the trip regardless of cabin grade. Ironically, and with very few exceptions, those staff that had transferred from the QM2 and with whom we spoke, all wanted to go back to the QM2. In addition to missing the unusually well appointed crew accommodations on the QM2, several of them really missed the "grandeur" of the "Mary". One of our favorite QM2 QG junior waiters, recently promoted to senior waiter in Britannia on the QV, made the following observation: "No mater where we went on the Mary there was always some celebration, on this ship - we're just another cruise ship". This type of pride (in this case for the QM2), something intangible, is something that we simply didn't see exhibited by the crew on the QV.
Public Spaces Several years ago my wife and I had dinner with the hotel director onboard the QM2. Having no other experience than that ship I asked him to tell me what I would miss if I tried another ship. With little hesitation he said "space". At the time, we were sitting in the Chart Room on the QM2 and he pointed to the ceiling. It was not until I boarded the QV that I understood what he meant. Although beautifully appointed I always felt cramped on the QV. Although I never felt jostled or crowded in any public space the lack of "volume" simply made ever room feel more closed in. The two-story library, is so close upstairs that I ever felt the desire to dawdle as I always did in the QM2 library. The casino, being inboard and without any outside light, felt small and claustrophobic. The Golden Lion pub with its low ceilings would have been miserable were they to allow smoking in the space.
Despite these misgivings there are two spaces aboard the ship that I found superior to the QM2 - they were the theater and the Commodore Club. The theater is set up just like a Broadway or West End theater. The sight lines are superb and both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the private box option for certain shows. The Commodore Club is huge when compared to that on the QM2 and, personally, I found the dEcor to be superior as well.
We were privileged to share Captain Wright's table one evening so spent a bit of time in the Britannia - again - the grandeur of the QM2 Britannia, both in space and dEcor, was simply not available in this room.
The Grills Without a doubt the most memorable part of the ship, as far as we were concerned, is that relatively small portion that is reserved for Grills guests. Two of the elevators adjacent to the B stairway are, once a keycard is entered, capable of whisking PG and QG guests to their little oasis. Located mid-ships on deck 11 the PG and QG dining rooms, as well as the QG Lounge are wonderfully set up. Unlike the QM2 where grill guests are often peered at by those enjoyed their walk about the promenade on deck 7, these rooms allow diners unobstructed views to the horizon. Each room was wonderfully appointed and, despite the ever-present lower ceilings, seemed quite airy as a result of their views. A small courtyard is located between the two dining rooms and allows alfresco dining for those so inclined. We found this to be a wonderful spot for lunch. Deck 12 is an outside area that sits atop the Grills restaurants that allows guests to enjoy a great place for sunning when weather permits.
Conclusions Obviously, all I share here is subjective and neither right or wrong. Overall both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The Panama Canal was stunning, the weather was perfect, the service - superb. Would we book the QV again? Perhaps, but we would do so with a very careful eye towards cabin selection and itinerary. We recognize that, for us, there is simply no comparing a cruise to a crossing. Having now done two world cruise segments, we've come to realize that we are crossing people.
I hope that readers will find the info that I share helpful. I'd be more than happy to answer any specific questions that are posted.