A short drive from home of 40 minutes, brought us into Ocean Terminal in Southampton on Thursday 22 July 2010. On arrival our luggage was whisked away, the car keys handed over and we walked into the terminal building within minutes, carrying just our hand luggage. Up the escalator in the departure lounge, we filled in a medical form and were soon booked in with all paperwork completed. Then we walked through port authority scanning and straight onto the Queen Victoria. We had had a glimpse of her as we arrived and wondered at her magnificent size and splendour. We found our cabin 1050 very quickly from the directions given and were impressed by how well appointed it was and even more delighted with the half bottle of champagne on ice that awaited us. We met Norven our cabin steward who seemed very kind and pleasant. Then we went up to the Lido restaurant for a delicious lunch. The whole procedure from leaving home to sitting down for lunch had taken less than an hour and a half. Our holiday had begun! After lunch we spent some time exploring the ship and were very impressed by the fabulous decor and the plentiful amenities. We were looking forward to trying our luck in the casino, with the roulette and blackjack tables and of course the gaming machines. Our luggage had been delivered within minutes of arriving in our stateroom, so we unpacked and found plenty of storage space. At 4.30 there was a muster drill in the nearby Queen's room and we were soon sailing on our way down Southampton water and out into the English Channel. We had been designated second sitting for dinner in the lower area of the Brittania restaurant. The food was presented beautifully in a nouvelle cuisine style and to be honest, this wasn't really to our liking so we dined often in the Lido restaurant instead. The Lido always had plenty of choices for a rich and hearty main course, with an abundance of appetisers, accompanying vegetables and puddings. We found the food in the Lido for breakfast, lunch and dinner exemplary in quality. The staff were super from the chefs to the waiters and waitresses. Nothing was ever too much trouble and was always accompanied by laughter and smiles.
Cobh for Cork.
On Saturday morning we awoke to find the ship docked in Cobh. This is a delightful little port town in Southern Ireland with much history to it. There were even musicians playing on the quay and a lovely museum right on the dock. We noticed that the train station was nearby, from where one could catch a train into Cork city. We chose to walk round the friendly town of Cobh, looking in the shops and walking up the steep hill to visit a beautiful church. We had lunch back on the Queen Victoria in the irresistable Lido restaurant and after a short rest, returned ashore to look round the museum that was beautifully constructed in the old railway station building. That evening we dined in the Lido where there was a superb carvery in addition to freshly cooked fish and other dishes. We spent some time in the casino, although sadly 'Lady Luck' was not on our side that night. Afterwards we found ourselves drawn back to the Commodore bar, where we had a few drinks as a nightcap.
The next morning when we woke up, the ship had docked in Cherbourg. After a hearty breakfast in the Lido restaurant, we caught the free shuttle bus into the town centre. We spent a very pleasant morning walking round the town, visiting places of interest and doing some shopping, mostly of the window variety. As we waited to catch the return shuttle bus, we found two friends waiting as well whom we had met on a previous cruise a year ago. Both they and we were amazed to find we had come on the same cruise a year later and it was great to renew friendship. The shuttle bus arrived and we returned to the ship for lunch and again ate a delicious buffet meal in the Lido. After watching the television, reading a book and enjoying a short nap(the sea air seemed to induce this), we got ready for dinner. That was a formal night, so we dressed up and went to the cocktail party before the evening meal in the Brittania restaurant, meeting the captain and having our photos taken. After dinner we met up with friends and enjoyed a drink and a chat in the Commodore bar, which has a wonderful atmosphere and is very comfortable listening to the reminiscent music of Gershwin played on the piano. We slept very well that night again in the luxurious bed.
On Wednesday we arrived in Greenock, Scotland, having sailed past many Scottish islands. Here we were welcomed by bagpipes playing. As we walked into the terminal building, we were met by guides dressed in full traditional outfits with family tartan kilts and jackets. We were told that they offered a choice of free tours of the area, so we jumped at the opportunity. The guides were volunteers and our bus took us round Greenock to see fantastic views of the lochs. Our guides were very informative as to the history and important part Greenock played in the Second World War as it still does to this day with the submarines. We were even shown a photograph taken in exactly the same spot where we stood on the cliff top, with all the ships in the harbour in 1941. This was a very moving experience.
Thursday we spent all day at sea. It was like a mill pond it was so calm and the scenery as we passed the islands of Lewis and the Hebrides, then sailed on past the Shetlands round the top of Scotland, was simply stunning. Little did we know that the Queen and her family weren't far away at the time. We thoroughly enjoyed a talk by Lembit Opik the ex Liberal Democrat MP. He was highly entertaining and had gone to a great deal of trouble researching his presentation, enhancing it with film clips and photographs.
On Friday we arrived at South Queensferry and anchored just by the Forth rail bridge. We were taken ashore from the ship by tender and walked into the town. There we caught a bus into Edinburgh for more shopping. We liked the quaint little town of South Queensferry very much and enjoyed the views of both the Forth road and rail bridges, taking many photos.
We spent all day Saturday at sea again, sailing down the North Sea past the oil rigs and gas platforms towards the Channel. There was plenty to do all day with Lembit Opik's second talk followed by a political quiz in the Golden Lion pub. My partner was pleased to join a line dancing session in the morning which she wasn't expecting, which was great fun and good exercise. The day was marred by having to pack our suitcases. Suddenly the ten days had almost gone and we were about to go home. We enjoyed walking round the ship again, admiring the decor and browsing in the lovely boutiques.
Sunday morning sadly we had to disembark at Southampton. Again, this was a very smooth affair that went like clockwork. The sun was shining and we were home after the end of a brilliant voyage on the fabulous Queen Victoria. We will definitely sail on her again soon!