My wife and I decided on three segments of the inaugural Queen Victoria world cruise, namely Los Angeles to Sydney, Sydney to Singapore and Singapore to Dubai, as an early retirement present to ourselves being aged 61 and 59. We have lived in both the U.K. and Cape Town, are well travelled and are not new to cruising and modern day ships.
We flew into Los Angeles airport in January this year and apart from a distasteful comment from the U.S. immigration official regarding "You Brits…" we arrived at the old Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach without incident. We spent a pleasant night on board this old Cunarder pending our embarkation the next day on the new Queen Victoria. It was interesting to compare the width of the corridors on the old Queen compared to today's more compact construction.
Embarkation was smooth and efficient, having completed all our personal information on the internet prior to arrival, and we were soon comfortably settled in our (soon to be changed )stateroom no 8062 on deck 8. The room was more than adequate for size, however there was a noticeable lack of drawer space, a comment echoed by most of our fellow guests. Also the shower cubicle was small and if you are taller than 1.75 metres you will have to duck under the showerhead to wash your hair.
For a virtually brand new ship, one expects a few faults, however I am amazed that Cunard took delivery of such a poorly finished vessel. The initial look around no doubt creates a good impression with a very effective layout of public rooms and connecting passageways. It is very tastefully finished, but on closer inspection most finishes are poor with joins in the paneling and laminated finishes not meeting correctly, glue having oozed out of these joins and ceiling panels not fitting flush. In some areas such as the Lido restaurant, the spotlights in the ceiling are not even aligned properly. The maintenance staff are continually working on problems. We saw them re-glueing chrome handrail finishes onto the woodwork, repairing light fittings in the library, a single fire sprinkler that just activated itself,non-flushing toilets,automatic door closers,deck chairs,problems with the swimming pool machinery to name just a few. The plastic coating on the tables in the Lido is already cracking and peeling off and with it no doubt harboring germs.
We were forced to request an alternative cabin after about 3 nights as we discovered that the pool filtration system and steam heating valves and pipes are situated on the same deck as we were assigned and were in close proximity to our cabin. This meant that we were treated to the sound of these valves opening and closing all through the night and we were deprived of sleep. In fact it was so bad that the technical crew concerned then had to turn off the heating system at night until an alternative stateroom no 1016 became available in Sydney. This, however, was not before the outer door on our bar fridge fell off when the screws came completely away from the chipboard to which it was attached. The automatic door closer on the stateroom door also parted company with the wall when the screws sheered off due to poor fitment. Upon moving we had a problem with the door closer on the new stateroom.
For a new ship, it has a lot of vibrations and noises and an excessive roll in high seas which I have not encountered before on Princess, Carnival or Royal Caribbean in similar sea conditions. The decks are not finished in wood but are covered with a plastic coating with simulated deck stripes which gets terribly hot and on which some person suffered serious burns to the soles of their feet.
My overall impression is that whilst the layout is good the ship has been poorly finished with cheap materials which are already starting to fray around the edges. This also appeared to be the opinion of the technical staff I questioned about all the faults. According to some of the crew, the electricity supply has not been completed to all of their cabins and I was informed by an internet café supervisor that the satellite for the internet was placed so close to the funnel that the signal is lost when steering in a South-westerly direction.
The Britannia dining room experience was acceptable if not of a particularly high standard one would expect of a "Queen". The portions were well presented but were small in comparison to say Princess Cruises and were not always hot. The menu seemed to repeat itself after about 4 weeks. Staff were attentive and polite and the service provided was excellent but having said that a couple of men at our table were "hit-on" by a certain male waiter, not very pleasant and reported to the Maitre D. I understand that the best staff were "cherry picked" from other vessels to create a good impression on this new ship.
Bearing in mind the age group, the activities on board would appear to cater for most, however it was interesting to see passengers opting to play cards on the ship's computers instead of enjoying the decks and pools. There is a children's club but again due to the age group and nature of the cruise, it was not utilized when I visited the facility.
Live entertainment was limited to say the least. One had the option of listening to a pianist or another pianist or a classical pianist in the public rooms or a lady playing a harp or a classical string quartet. Apart from the odd comedian and dance routine the theatre at night time again featured the same classical overtones and "Singing stars" ( read has - beens )that no one had ever even heard about.
The piped music that was played during meal times and in the onboard cafes was depressing to say the least and reminded me of BBC Radio 4, whilst the TV repeated the films ad nauseam. One would have thought a new supply could have been obtained in port.
Quite frankly when the more modern music was played in the Queen's Room such as a 1970's night, the dance floor was well populated.
Shore excursions were, in the main, most enjoyable and catered for all tastes however in my opinion were rather expensive at an average of USD79 for around a 3-4 hour coach trip especially in the cheaper ports in Vietnam, Thailand and India where coaches were not quite up to first class standards.
Disembarkation was not a problem and went very smoothly.
An enjoyable cruise, spoilt by a lack of variety in live entertainment and styles of music and too many formal nights ( 3 each week ). Probably best suited to those in their late 70's or 80's as one has to contend with many "senior moments" during the course of the day. The ship is nice but poorly finished and has a "plasticky" feel.
Cunard is obviously trying to re-create the grand old days but I'm afraid the guests on board are not up to this standard. Many men do not appear to know about the use of deodorants, whilst others do not understand the dress code or perhaps ignore it, as it is too restrictive when you are on holiday. According to Cunard, a man must wear a jacket every night in the public rooms.
One final tip. Do not obtain a stateroom near the self-service launderettes situated on the 4th, 5th, 6th ,7th and 8th decks. They are filled with noisy and aggressive people.