I embarked on a “one world cruise – three ships” adventure with Cunard in New York on January 13th. I started out on the QE2 and transferred to the Victoria in Sydney, then took the QM2 back to New York from Southampton (107 days). Since I live within driving distance of New York, I booked no hotels, flights or cars through Cunard. Here, I am only going to review the Victoria, which has been the subject of much bad publicity and reviews. I was on the Victoria from Sydney to Southampton, - 59 days.
I occupied an A3 cabin with balcony, midships, portside. My first impression was – it looks exactly like the cabins on the QM2 – and it did. Virtually the same décor and colors – very attractive. I did not think it small, especially when one takes the balcony into consideration. I admit that I was alone and so did not want for closet space, despite the fact that I brought 6 suitcases!!! But a couple traveling with 6 suitcases would have had plenty of room. When my steward arrived, I said: “So the rumors are true – there are no drawers!” We had a laugh. Well, there were two shallow night table drawers and two in the desk – containing information and a hair dryer. So, yes, it was true – nowhere to stash the lingerie!!! Shelves? Yes, one for the two life jackets, which I stashed under the bed; one over the large closet; one with the safe; and one other. My steward offered me a set of plastic drawers on wheels, which I squeezed into the lower hanging space in one of the closets. If you have read previous reviews, you will know that all these drawers, plastic or cardboard, were those purchased by the world cruisers in New York and Ft. Lauderdale in January whilst ashore. All of these drawers stay on board and are stored when passengers disembark…so you have to ask for them. We were told that the closets would gradually be retrofitted with drawers. When we asked who made such an outrageous mistake, the answers were too confusing to go into. I saw other cabins, inside and outside, with and without balconies – nothing to criticize, in my view.
Bathroom was disappointing – shower is about half the size of the QM2 and woe betide anyone who drops the soap. The shower curtain is not going to stop your fall backwards. Storage consisted of two small shelves and one long open shelf under the counter. Very odd that. No cupboards as on QE2 and QM2. Sink is tiny and there is no soap holder. Again, what were the designers thinking? Some people went up to the spa to take showers. After my initial shock, it didn’t bother me.
Public Rooms –
Beautiful, even if the wood isn’t always real…. or the marble, or the decks. Hey it’s the 21st century! The pub is the best I’ve seen. It’s like a real pub building rather than an open space. The Queen’s Room is very nice, but does not compare to the QM2 or even theQE2. The traffic flow is not good at all - a problem especially on port days when everyone meets there for excursions. This is also the main venue for concerts and the space is terrible for that. The Theatre is spectacular…like a West End theatre. Boxes look inviting and, for special events, one can book them for the night, complete with champagne and truffles. However, the glass is curved and one does not get a clear view. Britannia two-level dining room is very nice – a sort of scaled-down version of that on the QM2. The Lido is very long and narrow, more like the King’s Court on the QM2 (which I still find very confusing), and not as welcoming as the Lido on the QE2. The bars are all good, but the best is the Commodore Club which occupies the entire forward section of deck 10. Great place, with great bartenders, day or night. To my mind, the Chart Room, which has always been a favorite venue on the other Queens, is badly located. It is right outside the Britannia and people start lining up almost 30 minutes before the doors open. (You’d think they hadn’t eaten for 24 hrs!) Not a good place for a quiet drink before dinner. Library is beautiful, but how many people want to go up and down a spiral staircase – think of the average age – and the upstairs checkout desk is rarely, if ever, manned. Hemispheres, the disco, is absolutely gorgeous, but underused. It is not easy to find and opens late. Probably does better on shorter cruises when average age is lower. The overall décor is splendid, especially the carpets – beautiful. And the red rug for port, blue for starboard in corridors is most helpful.
The food is virtually the same as on the other Queens, but no truffles unless you really insist! (It was tough making the transition from the Caronia dining room on the QE2!). Todd English is superb – same menu as QM2. Alternative dining in Lido for dinner – I tried Carvery, Fondue, Indian and Italian. Indian was outstanding, as good as anything I had in India and the décor was wonderful. Carvery was excellent. Fondue was, too, and it was fun! Italian was, to my mind, barely Italian at all. Lido pool grill has the best hamburgers and onion rings I’ve had in years. Café Carinthia is great for elevenses and snacks. Room Service has a good, but limited menu – the Queen Victoria club sandwich is wonderful and comes with salad and fries. Oh yes, the fries are great ion this ship!
No comparison to other Queens, but adequate. Lots of space for those “cruise specials” outside the shops. Way too much space allocated to jewelry and fancy gifts. Missed the great selection of casual clothes and the $10 shop on the other Queens.
Two large pools with Jacuzzis and bars. Great. Spa pool very disappointing. – gave half of my package to a friend. Did not do any treatments. Area with saunas, steam rooms, aromatherapy etc. very nice, especially the warm tiled chaises lounges grouped in a semi-circle in front of picture windows. They were wonderful as long as quiet reigned! Beauty Salon, no better no worse than others. A treat, though, to have a pedicure in front of a picture window! Gym takes up entire forward section of Deck 9 – divided into two areas – one for machines, mainly treadmills and the other for exercise classes. Also, an array of bicycles for spinning. Some classes had an extra charge attached, but Zumba didn’t and it was great – but not enough room. Disappointed in lack of variety of machines. Great view over the bow from the treadmills
Excellent all around. I saw many of the same shows and entertainers as on the QE2, but that was fine. Some of the shows date back to 1999, but that’s OK – they are still gorgeous. The Caribbean band – Lido pool at lunch, Hemispheres at night and theme nights in the Queen’s Room – really terrific. Good concerts, despite the venue. String quartet and Harpist – the usual Cunard suspects, and very good. Great bands in pub and Queens Room.
All the usual choices. Any Cunarder would recognize the list. One could take lessons in just about anything all day long. The lectures were top-notch, as usual. Can’t imagine better: an astronaut; a Great Barrier Reef pilot; the current Afghani ambassador to the US; biologists, authors, linguists…. and more! Great first-run movies plus the Academy Awards live and the first-ever satellite broadcast to cruise ships from the Met in New York – Zeffirelli’s “La Boheme”.
Friendly and smiling, as always, except for the Purser’s Office where the customer is usually wrong on Cunard ships. Not enough Lido or Britannia staff.
Excellent staff. Terrific selection of shore excursions. Only one caveat – we went to so many container ports which involved hours of driving before reaching a “real destination”. So, for example, a 4-hour tour of Bangkok involved a 12- hour day!!!! As for overlands, Cunard does them in style. I did two and one was a 6-day trip to Bhutan and India. We were accompanied by a member of the Tours office, a full-time Indian guide and we had local guides in every city. 5-star hotels were gorgeous; food was excellent; service was of the highest order. We never once touched our luggage or even got our own boarding passes – we were very spoiled. They are expensive, but, if you are traveling alone, they are ideal. Plus, the ship will wait for you if there are delays!!!
Overall impression –
I love the ship and have booked for a segment in 2010. While one inevitably makes comparisons, especially to the other Queens – can’t be helped. But Cunard isn’t Cunard any more (though some vestiges remain!) and the Vic is not the QE2. Nor should she be. She’s young, she’s flash, she’s got some warts, but she is a keeper.
Any specific questions? Just ask.