We arrived in Southampton before lunch, to find longish check-in lines. However, the check-in process went smoothly as we had completed appropriate documentation on line. We were then held an embarkation louge for anout 45 minutes as staterooms were not all ready. We are more used to the Royal Caribbean/Celebrity procedure of being permitted to board immediately to explore and have lunch, while awaiting an announcement that staterooms are ready.
Queen Victoria is great. Unlike Queen Mary II which is very much the trans-Atlantic Liner – heavy woodwork and fairly sombre inside, with steel fronted balconies on lower decks and the buffet crammed into the Promenade Deck (7) amidships, Queen Victoria is a modern-style cruise ship. In fact she is very similar to P&O’s Arcadia which we believe was originally ordered for Cunard until they then amended their specification. The main difference is that Queen Victoria has a very large public area – The Queen’s Room – on deck 2 amidships Not only is this a very good focal point, it also is a great improvement. On Arcadia, the only space large enough for the Captain’s cocktail party is around the indoor pool!
Queen Victoria is bright and airy and tastefully furnished. There is a lovely buffet at the stern near the pool deck area, and the ship is very easy to find your way around. We had a balcony cabin on deck 4 – immediately in front of the forward lifeboat on the starboard side – and the balcony was enormous. That is more than can be said of the cabin which was just about acceptable and lacking in storage space. The toilet/shower room was particularly cramped compared with RCI and Celebrity ships and had no space for storage of toilet bags, toothbrushes and other personal items.
Food was superb in the Britannia Restaurant and Lido. Service was extremely good as well, but many of the crew seemed very tired and had to make an effort to be cheerful. Perhaps they had just had a long cruise, but we did notice that they had 3 safety drills during our 5 days which added to the pressure on them.
One of the unique features of Cunard is its afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room. It is white glove service and a string quartet plays music for those who wish to dance (there are even male dance partners for unaccompanied ladies). The other feature of our 5 night cruise was Cunard's formality. Dress of an evening is formal (black tie) on one night and elegant casual (jacket and tie) on the other 4. There were no casual dress evenings, maybe because the cruise was too short.
The one disappointment was the entertainment – or lack of it. We did have 3.5 port days in our 5 day cruise (Amsterdam overnight, Zeebrugge and Le Havre) but there was virtually nothing on during the day. The shows in the Theatre at night we thought were diabolical – although taste is a very personal thing. We went to the opening night show and were less than impressed as it seemed very dated. I tried 2 more shows but left each one early. One was a comedian/impressionist although I thought that was a breach of the trade descriptions act! One of his impressions was of Max Wall – who was my father’s era, and I am retired. The next show was Victorian old-time music hall complete with Chairman, sand dance and other hackneyed routines. I could not believe how bad is was compared to the modern, sharp and sizzling shows on Celebrity and RCI.