We have just returned from a short, 5 night cruise visiting Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Le Havre on the Queen Victoria, our first cruise on this ship. Embarkation was fairly easy although there was a wait to go through security clearance. Once on board we went directly to our cabin and was very impressed to find our luggage there waiting. We had a midship balcony cabin on Deck 5 and feel we made a good choice. The cabin was quiet and during bad weather it felt stable, although it did creak. The bed was very comfortable and the stateroom fairly spacious.
Our dining room was the Britannia Restaurant and we were seated on a table for six. The service was very efficient and unobtrusive. Overall we felt the food was very good although the puddings were too sweet for our palates so we generally gave them a miss. We ate lunch in The Lido and found the food there varied and well cooked. It was usually easy to locate a free table and there were no long queues. We did not partake of afternoon tea so cannot comment on that.
The entertainment on the first night in the Royal Court Theatre was the Cunard Singers and Dancers (not brilliant I'm afraid) and a violinist but as this genre of music is not really to our taste we gave that a miss, the second night was a comedian but we decided to go elsewhere. We did watch Dance Passion featuring the Cunard Singers and Dancers and this was the best show we saw on board. The show on the final evening was supposed to feature a tribute to Sting followed by the violinist and the comedian. I don't know if we missed the tribute to Sting but we didn't see it but we did see both the violinist who was extremely accomplished playing the music to Schindler's List and a medley from West Side Story. The comedian's jokes were nothing new. Overall, the entertainment was not that great and I wonder if this was due to us being on a short cruise so not all the stops were pulled out.
We generally went for a drink in either the Golden Lion pub or Hemispheres which had a very good band called Changez. They played a variety of popular music such as covers of Bob Marley, Van Morrison and the Beatles.
The weather was more autumnal than summer. We overnighted in Amsterdam and on our full day there it rained heavily at times so it was necessary to try and dodge the downpours. Luckily we had taken our trusty waterproof jackets and so we sent off on our own managing to visit both Anne Frank's House as well as the Van Gogh Museum. For anyone deciding to visit these places on their own I would suggest booking tickets on-line before departure to beat the inevitable queues.
Enroute to Zeebrugge the sea was very rough. Around 6.15pm the captain announced that there was some interesting weather ahead and so it proved to be. The next day we were told that at one point the ship had listed by 7 degrees although we were never in any danger. The ship certainly did creak a lot and shuddered at times during this weather. If I'm honest I found it scarey but then I am a scaredy cat! We got caught in a dreadful storm last year off the west coast of Iceland on the Artemis and I thought it was going to be a repeat of the same. In the event it was nowhere near as bad as that experience.
At Zeebrugge a complimentary shuttle bus was provided to take independent travellers into Blankeburg. Blankenburg has one main shopping street and a fine beach but the weather was not good enough to take advantage of it. We had a pleasant half day walking round and the church located near the shuttle bus stop had a beautiful interior. There is also an hourly train from Blankenberg to Bruges. Apparently it takes about 15 minutes to get to Bruges but as we have visited Bruges several times before we did not go.
Our final port of call was Le Havre where again a complimentary shuttle service was provided to the dock shopping area and town centre. I had been looking forward to visiting the Malraux Museum which houses a large collection of paintings by one of my favourite artists, Raoul Dufy but sadly the museum is closed on Tuesdays, the day we were there. In retrospect I am sorry we did not take the trip to Honfleur but it is on my list to visit next time we're that way.
Towards the end of the cruise on board credit (OBC) was a hot topic amongst some passengers. It seemed that whilst some people had secured as much as $1100 OBC for this short cruise others had none. And it wasn't the people who had booked early who had secured the cheapest price and the best OBC.
Overall I was very impressed by the Queen Victoria. She is an easy ship to find your way around, there were no congested areas and the service was what I like best - there if you want it but not in your face. Would we travel on her again? Definitely.