Perhaps we were lucky, but our cruise exceeded our expectations,especially after reading quite a few negative reviews.As first time cruisers we were looking forward to travelling on the Queen Victoria. We travelled down from Scotland by car and stayed at The Hilton overnight, where we were able to leave the vehicle as part of the deal, so that suited us very well. Our luggage was taken away overnight and next morning a courtesy bus took us to the ship. Embarkation seemed smooth and well-organised, meaning that we were soon on board where we were greeted by smiling staff who helped us to find our cabin on deck 8. On entering, we found flowers, champagne, chocolates and an anniversary greeting from the captain and the hotel manager. That was a lovely welcome and we thought the cabin was perfectly fine for the two of us. We even managed to get three suitcases into the wardrobe and all our clothes had plenty of hanging space. The three drawers either side of the king-size bed were very useful,the bathroom was well equipped, the sofa comfortable for relaxing and the balcony was wonderful at all times. It was a bit of a crush sometimes with wardrobe doors versus the bathroom door, but so what? We just had a laugh about it! The service all over the ship was excellent in our eyes and nothing was too much trouble for the staff, including our capable steward, Gio. The dining staff were all very efficient which made our evening meals extremely pleasant with very little waiting for food to appear. Although we'd requested second sitting, our first evening was down for the early meal, which was a bit rushed but not a problem. However,there was a note outside our cabin next day saying that we'd now been allocated a place at the second sitting and that worked out very happily as we shared our table with two delightful couples. We hit it off immediately and after each evening meal ajourned to the theatre, the ballroom or one of the bars. We all agreed that the standard of food in the Britannia Restaurant was exceptionally good, given that this was,in reality, mass catering.Plenty of choice on every menu, variations if requested and hot, well presented dishes every evening made us all extremely happy. We ate our anniversary dinner in the Todd English restaurant and that was well worth the extra payment as it was a lovely, intimate dining room with wonderful food and attentive, friendly staff. The anniversary cake was special too, although we didn't eat it at the time and had it delivered to our stateroom,where it arrived rather late with a singing waiter! We took breakfast and lunch in the Lido each day and were more than pleased with a terrific selection of dishes, though the hot meals tended to be a bit luke warm. Even though there were lots of passengers eating in the Lido, we always managed to find seats and it never appeared overcrowded. The daily paper with a list of activities was ideal and there was so much to do on the ship that we were never bored. The three lecturers were all interesting speakers and we particularly enjoyed Martin Bell's talks. The different demonstrations were all fascinating, especially when the chefs made beef wellington and then it was on the evening menu....delicious. The shows in the theatre were top notch and very professional; most enjoyable. Perhaps the art auctions were somewhat unecessary, the market stalls a little tacky and the casino a smoke hazard, but one didn't have to partake and that's the joy of freedom of choice. We only took two excursions and they were very good, but the shuttle buses were grand for doing your own thing.It was exceptionally hot in Florence and Rome, even for August, and we did wilt by lunchtime so we were quite glad to return to the air-conditioned ship. Tenders and security arrangements seemed adequate at each port. My husband's only gripe was the 15% on all drinks, even coffees, and the space for an extra gratuity. My only complaint was.........well, maybe I'll think of something eventually! Overall it was a fantastic cruise and we both loved every minute of it.
Oh yes, thought of something which wasn't perfect......the chaos when we disembarked to face a hanger full of suitcases and people pushing trolleys in all directions! That was hell and all those lovely, friendly passengers changed into rude, aggressive maniacs! But,hey,we were still in holiday mode and kept smiling!