Queen Victoria Cruise Review by rafinmd: Southern Asia on the Queen Victoria
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Southern Asia on the Queen Victoria
Background: I tend to be a small ship person so Cunard is a bit of a stretch for me. I first tried a QM2 transatlantic crossing on 2007 and my reaction was "too big and impersonal", but my behavior has not been very consistent with that assessment. I left the ship with a booking for a crossing on the way home from a vacation I had already booked for Africa the following summer. I booked 2 more crossings as a result of needing to get across the Atlantic in conjunction with other travel plans, and by the time of my 4th crossing decided that like it or not, I was a Cunarder and might as well try a cruise that fit my plans. This voyage, across southern Asia with mostly countries I have never visited before seemed to fit the bill. The Queen Victoria World Cruise encountered a number of problems with snow and norovirus on the transatlantic segment and fog in Shanghai, but by my segment these problems were all a thing of the past.
Hotel: In Bangkok I stayed at the excellent Four More Seasons which was Cunard's hotel there. I found Cunard's price prohibitive, but my TA booked an attractive rate with airport transfer from the hotel, at I think about $500 below Cunard's price. I spoke with the Hospitality desk and booked a Sightseeing transfer to the ship for about $70.
Ship info: The Queen Victoria entered service about 2 years ago, and at about 2000 passengers is smaller than QM2 but still larger than I prefer. Despite Cunard's slogan of "The most famous ocean liners in the world", this is a cruise ship. There is only one ocean liner in service today, and it's the right company but the wrong ship. It is nominally a multi-class ship, but it is really very open. The Queens Grill and Princess Grill passengers dine in their separate restaurants on decks 11 and 12 aft in a relatively small area. All other areas of the ship are open to everyone, there are ample lounges and deck space available to everyone, and the ship is very complete without any need to go near or around the area set aside for the grills, unlike the Grills Lounge and Restaurants on QM2 being on the Promenade deck. Not a real problem on QM2 but there is a bit of inconvenience not having doors to the inside from some sections of that deck.
Staterooms: My inside stateroom was compact but more than adequate. I had only a shower but everything was well laid out. Cunard breaks it's rooms into many categories often with less than 10 rooms assigned to a category.
Dining: Most passengers are assigned to the Britannia Restaurant on decks 2 and 3 aft. I thought the restaurant decor was a bit drab, but the service and food are excellent. The restaurant maintains traditional early and late dinner seatings around 6 and 8:30pm. Breakfast and lunch are also served there with open seating. Unlike the QM2 and coming Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria does not have a separate Britannia Club restaurant.
The Lido restaurant on deck 9 is open 24 hours daily, although the selection at odd hours is limited (I took a test walk through it about 3am and there were fruit and sandwiches but not much else). A more formal theme dinner is typically served in a section of the Lido by reservation, and another section is a typical buffet for dinner. The Lido Pool Grill immediately behind the Lido serves burgers with few side dishes but is close enough to the buffet that a burger can readily be combined with side dishes from there. Lunch is also available in the Golden Lion Pub on deck 2.
The Todd English specialty restaurant on deck 2, with a cover charge of $20 lunch and $30 dinner serves superb meals in an intimate setting (No lunch on port days).
Activities and entertainment: A wide variety of activities are offered. The Cunard Insights enrichment program is quite strong, with lectures on a variety of topics. At various points of my voyage we had presentations by 2 destination lecturers, a security expert, a chief detective, a hostage negotiator, and a music historian.
The spa has a strong program with several fitness sessions and several seminars each day. There are classes in bridge, the arts, and computer usage, various games such as bingo, trivia, and dancing.
In the evening there are several venues featuring diverse varieties of musical entertainment, and a daily presentation in the Royal Court Theater. The excellent Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers usually presents about 5 or 6 shows per voyage; on the world voyage they have only a couple of shows per segment with headline entertainers brought in every few days, often doing one show on their own and appearing in a variety show with other acts on another night. Other venues are the Golden Lion Pub and Commodore Cub with pianists, a DJ in Hemispheres, a variety of performers in the Chart Room, and dancing with the Queens Room Orchestra in the Queens Room.
Children: There is a children's facility although there were few children present on the World Voyage.
Ports will mostly be described at the separate page at the bottom of the review, but it looks like the review format only allows 6 so I'll deal with the first and last here:
Ko Samui: This small Thai island (about 10 miles square, population 30,000) has no significant dock, and we anchored about 2 ½ miles from the harbor. My "Around the Island" tour made 4 stops. The first was a Buddhist shrine with 2 buildings, a temple containing the body of a beloved monk and a beautiful temple where new monks are ordained. Our second stop, a very short ride later was a coconut plantation where we learned that the work of harvesting coconuts is done by Macaque monkeys, and observed them in action. The shrine of the Big Buddha, on a hill overlooking the ocean on a platform elevated about 50 feet up a stairway is probably 50 feet high, and there are about 20 bells situated around the platform. Ringing all 20 bells is supposed to be good luck. Our final stop was for lunch at the Chaweng Resort Hotel.
Dubai: While not a traditional "port of call" I am treating this as such since we arrived early at our destination and disembarked the following day, with shore excursions offered on the day of arrival. The United Arab Emirates is a union of 7 individual states, each ruled by an Emir. It was formerly a British Protectorate, with the states getting their independence about 1979 and forming a union a year later. It has a population of 4.8 million, 4 million "locals", foreigners admitted for permanent residence and 800,000 citizens.
My tour was "Sharjah's East Coast". Sharjah is one of the 7 Emirates comprising the UAE, about a half hour drive from the port. We visited the Arabian Wildlife Center, with a variety of wildlife that can live in a mostly desert area. There are of course fish in the seas and various reptiles, amphibians, and birds near the Wadi's (Oasises), but also quite a variety of mammals. We also stopped at the Maritime museum, with exhibits on the hard life of oyster harvesters and models of a wide variety of dhows.
Disembarkation: My segment closed with an overnight in Dubai, and I had a 9:30 flight there was no difficulty disembarking at 5:30am.
Summary: This voyage covered an area I had always wanted to see. I am very pleased that I finally got to all these ports, but there are few if any I wish to visit again. Visitors to this area should be well prepared for hot, tropical weather. Cunard provides a refined, quality experience. Expect to be with a very diverse group of passengers representing a wide cross section of the world. On my voyage, about a third of the 1900 passengers were British, a sixth American, and at least 100 each from Germany, Australia, and Canada, and the remainder from 34 other countries. Less
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Cabin review: IC8158
Nothing unusual to report