While getting to know the latest addition to the Cunard fleet, we were hoping that this cruise would give us the insight needed to choose locations for future non-cruise vacations. We found out that we don't like the French Riviera, that Italy was better than we expected and that we'll never go back to the Mediterranean during the summer. We've decided that the Queen Victoria is a great ship. And while it just really isn't fair to compare her with the Queen Mary 2, as they are really different types of ships, we just couldn't stop ourselves. We liked the QV, but much prefer QM2.
We were on the August 1st, 2008 Med cruise sailing from Southampton with the Queen Victoria. We had an A5 balcony cabin on deck 5. Pictures and videos - as well as a daily log - can be found on our website .
Probably the biggest thing we missed on QV versus QM2 was the ability to walk completely around the ship on the outside promenade deck. It may sound silly, but for us that is a substantial design flaw and one of the many reasons we will not cruise on the QV again.
The exterior of the QV is nowhere near as „sexy" as the QM2, but inside they have improved on many details. QV doesn't have the big open spaces that QM2 has, but on the other hand, her spaces are much more a testimony to the attention to details. We don't do the pool scene, but heard from many people that they were very crowded on the sea days: Another plus for QM2. The stateroom was comparable and the limited drawer space didn't bother us. The balcony, while on the smallish size, was great. Our room steward kept the balcony's balustrade spotless (unlike some other cruise lines we were on) so that we always had a great view when seated.
We like Cunard's formal evenings and „dressing up" for the occasions. However, on a longish cruise like this, a couple less formal evenings and a few more informal evenings would have been appreciated by us. This has also helped us to decide to eliminate Cunard from future non-transatlantic cruises.
Our evenings always started with a cocktail in the Commodore lounge, deck 10 forward. A great martini menu, spectacular views and an accomplished piano player were the ingredients that made our evenings start off well. From there it was off to the Britannia restaurant. The QV's Britannia doesn't have the same "wow" effect, due to the smaller dimensions, as the QM2's Britannia.
We found the quality of the meals in the dining room to be excellent, but neither of us were impressed with the buffet. We found the difference in food quality substantial. While the quality of the buffet food was fine, it just wasn't up to the standards we have experienced on other cruise lines. We had the same food quality experience on the QM2, where I found the whole layout better, with my wife preferring the QV layout. I didn't enjoy the bizarre, feel-good-new-age music that they played in the morning at the buffet. Found it annoying actually. That said, it's an obvious conclusion that we ate more in the dining room than at the buffet.
We had requested, but did not receive, a table for two. We were glad it worked out that way. We had a table for six, with two other couples who became friends during the course of the cruise. Our table was way at the back, on the lower level, right in front of floor to ceiling windows that offered exceptional views on many nights. We couldn't have asked for a better table, or dining companions. It turns out that the other couples at our table had also requested tables for two. Maybe that's why we hit it off so well. We truly enjoyed our evenings in the dining room - the time just flew by.
When we booked the cruise, our travel agent strongly urged us to take the second seating. We heeded his advice and, phew, glad we did. We felt bad for the people in the first seating. A lot of the tours got back to the ship at 5:30, leaving the unfortunate first-seaters 30 minutes to get ready for dinner. Not a great way to start the „unwind" after a busy day of sight-seeing.
We had a couple of issues on board: They damaged my white dinner jacket when I had it pressed and we had the world's worst sommelier for the first half of our trip. Our sommelier was just plain incompetent. I'm not one who complains about staff, but I have no idea how this woman made it on to Cunard's dining room floor. The peak of her inability was the night that she dumped a glass of wine down my back. Instead of apologizing, she blamed it on our waiter and left him to clean up the mess that she made. Our waiter - being an absolute professional - didn't even utter one complaint and was visibly concerned with my well being. The sommelier consistently served the wrong wine and then argued with others at our table when they called her on it. Sometimes she delivered wine when it wasn't ordered - again arguing that it had in fact been ordered. She was always there when you didn't need her and never there when you did. I complained to the pursers desk. My complaints were acted on the very next evening and for the second half of the trip we had an excellent and competent sommelier, who was able to deliver the same high level of professionalism demonstrated by the rest of our table staff. I have to say that our first wine steward was the one and only exception to what was otherwise nearly perfect service during our entire cruise.
QV is not a ship to sail the Atlantic on. Luckily my wife and I don't get seasick, because she was really rocking more in the force 4 gale we encountered on our second day than the QM2 was in a force 10 storm that we went through on a transatlantic voyage.
Ports of call: Gibraltar was interesting and worth a few hours visit (and not more). We both didn't like the French Riviera. Crowded, lots of cars, small beaches and overpriced mediocre food (at least where we ate) - just wasn't our scene. We should have stayed in Cannes and not gone over to Nice. Actually, the more I think about it, we should have just stayed on the ship.
We loved Florence. What a beautiful city! We will be going back...yes, yes. We did the „Florence on your own" and thanks to a tip from the guide on the bus to the city, we had a great four course Florentine meal, complete with a nice bottle of Chianti. The name of the restaurant was La Grotta Guelfa (via Pelliceria, s. Of Pz della Republica - right across from an Irish Pub). They offer set menus (in addition to a la carte) and we chose the menu „happy memories" ( or something like that). Total bill was 70 Euro and worth every penny.
In Rome we did a private tour of the Vatican Museums using . We had a private tour for the two of us; pricey, but well worth it. We've booked several private tours throughout Europe and this was by far the best with regards to guide quality. The best thing about this tour was bypassing the lines that stretched back all the way to St. Peter's square (a kilometer?).
In Sicily we did a QV tour to Taormina, a small city not too far from the port city of Messina. Nice town, looks like it's straight out of the movie "The Godfather". It was so hot when we were there that it was really difficult to enjoy it. We spent most of our time there trying to find shade.
Corfu - great Greek island, we really liked it. Same goes for the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Super little city on the Adriatic. Walking the walls in Dubrovnik is a must do. Try to find the hole in the wall cafe (actually I think there are two) where you can sit perched outside of the walls, sip a beer, and look out at the millions of diamonds glittering on the surface of the Adriatic. We were the only cruise ship in port that day and they were having problems getting us back to the ship in the afternoon. The line for the buses was long. I wouldn't want to be there when 2 or 3 ships are in port at the same time...
Venice is a great city. It was really hot and humid and just packed with people near St. Marks and the other popular sites. If you moved away from there, it got quieter and you could discover the real Venice. Forget Harry's bar - it's a rip-off. They could do so much with it to share just a bit of its history - but alas, there is nothing there but the focus on turning men away at the door for not wearing long pants (luckily I knew this in advance) and charging 15, yes 15, Euros for a tiny bellini (or in my case a tiny martini). We paid our 30 Euros for two drinks, learned a lesson, and will never darken their doorway again.
Our Hotel in Venice, Hotel Paganelli, was just about perfect for us. Our travel agent has a knack for picking exceptional 3 star hotels. Great hotel, recently renovated and in a perfect location. Massimo, the guy who works at the front desk was great in helping us with restaurants. One day for lunch he sent us to Trattoria da Rimigio, which was pretty close to the hotel. For dinner one evening he sent us to Restaurant Al Giardinetto (Salizada Zorzi) where we just went crazy and ended up having a three hour wine and food orgy. After four courses and well into our second bottle of wine, we settled our bill - which was more than our hotel room cost for the night - and somehow found our way back to the Paganelli.
We enjoyed Italy and will be going back, but we will probably never go back to the Med. in the summer. It's just too hot and too crowded. We'll go back in the shoulder seasons.
While we enjoyed our cruise, we probably won't be cruising with the QV again. She's just not our ship. We do like Cunard and favor the QM2 over all other ships that we've been on, but future non-transatlantic cruises will most likely be with sister-company Princess.