My husband and I loved the Queen Victoria and the Pearls of the Black Sea Cruise. We were in the Britannia level. We are not retired, we are in our 40's and 50's, but we are pretty low key. This cruise was perfect for us. I have taken two other cruises, Alaska and the Caribbean. Both of those cruises emphasized nothing but shopping. When I go new places, I want to sight see. These cruise emphasized the sites in each port, which was wonderful. I did not hear about buying fabulous Swiss watches, etc. I did not hear the Macarena once - THANK GOD!!!
I agree that the ship was mostly retired people. I only went on one cruise-prepared excursion, but I did not find the people to be immobile. The cruise ports and sites all required walking or climbing stairs and were not handicap accessible - easily, yet the passengers seemed to participate in droves.
We had the late seating dinner and had excellent dinner companions and severs. We sat at a table of six as we enjoy meeting new people. It was great fun and we were usually the last table to leave. We would go to the Golden Lion Pub each night before dinner and we met a couple we played trivia with each night (although, bring American, we felt sometimes at a disadvantage on questions, our British partners were awesome!). The library was awesome, again, a lot of American bestsellers I had hoped to read and I was able to take them out and do that. We used the pool in the back of the ship by the Lido and it was great, we could always find a place to sit.
Renewal of vows: Not many people talk about this. My husband I decided to renew our vows on board. This was the only thing that started a little as a struggle, but overall was awesome. To sign up for this, we had to print off a form on the Cunard website and send it in. I scanned and e-mailed it. I then got a return e-mail saying I needed to call and discuss it and pay for it, they sent b=me a British number. I told them I was calling form America, could I e-mail or was there a US contact. - NO. SO I called one day, left message, tried to call back and was told I needed to contact a US contact (?). Anyway, I did and everything was fine. When we got on the boat, we were contacted immediately about this, went to meet with the coordinator, and they did not have all the info. Regardless, it was fine, she was fantastic, set everything up for 7:00 PM on the last day fully at sea. In a few days, after meeting our table mates and trivia partners, we asked if we could get invitations to invite them to the ceremony. The vows coordinator sent them out for us and they were thrilled to join us. We did a non denominational ceremony, the Captain did it and he was lovely, they took pictures, we had cake and Champaign. They gave me a bouquet and a boutonniere for the hubby. It was really a highlight of the cruise.
FOOD: We enjoyed the food, on the most part we were happy with our meals. The Salads and dressings were great, the Lobster Thermidor was the one bog disappointment, but otherwise the meals were good. Breakfast was in the Britannia when at sea and the Lido in port as my hubby ands I are the first off the boat kind of people. Britannia was always very good for breakfast and the Lido was slow if you wanted pancakes or waffles, but otherwise good, and with the bread, meat and cheese available, we could make sandwiches to take on shore excursions, which we liked. I had lunch only once in the Britannia, it was OK. WE had lunch in the Golden Lion, fish and chips..awesome. I did have high tea almost everyday though. I LOVE IT, we went twice to Queen's room (awesome white glove service), otherwise, I could run up the Lido to get my scones. We went to the chocolate buffet the one night, I had Belgian hot chocolate with Bailey's and fruit and fondue, it was a nice treat.
PORTS: Most of the ports are covered in other places, so I will only mention a few things.
BY the time we hit Odessa, we were exhausted (almost five days straight in ports). It was beautiful, but mostly high end shopping. SO it was not an interesting as we hoped. We were tired that day, so we walked all around, then holed up at a cafe and checked out a street fair and relaxed. Our trivia friends took a walking tour that they said was awesome.
Yalta we set up our own excursion, we like to hike, so we found a guide who was recommended on trip advisor and we set up a full day with the morning hiking Ay Petri (really the mountain range along the Crimean coast) followed by a drive past the Swallow's nest and a visit to Livodia Palace. It was awesome. The hike was great, our guide was a really nice and knowledgeable man. We hiked to the top, then drove inland a bit and hiked a little more to get a view back into the peninsula, it was beautiful. The Palace required a tour, so we started on the tour, but after about40 minutes (it was hot, crowded and we had been hiking) we snuck out, met our guide and left. He took us to a great wine shop (we had asked). We walked along the port area and back to the boat. It was a great day. I highly recommend if you are a hiker, to consider something like this of you hit Yalta. Our boat friends were all not impressed with their tours, as the town was not that exciting and there was not much to see. We loved ours (it was about $100 per person cost, but well worth it to us).
Kusadasi (Ephesus): We also set up our own tour using Ephesus Shuttle. It was $85 per person, the two of us, a driver, a guide for an all day tour. We did Ephesus first thing (awesome and do not miss the Terrace Houses - they were so amazing!!), then went to Sirince (a hill town where they say the women do handicrafts to sell - well - very commercialized and touristy for shopping - so I do not think it was true how it was sold), but great to see the hill and get into Turkey a bit, that was well worth it. Plus our guide took us to a restaurant at the top of town; lunch was included in the tour. He selected traditional items to eat, which were very delicious, cooked on an open flame hearth. I had the apple tea(I am in love with this). The trip to the town for this traditional mean and the views form the top of the town were great. We then went to St. John Basilica and Artemession Temple (basically an overgrown field with one column - so not that exciting) and we skipped House of Virgin Mary as we did the Terrace houses in Ephesus instead. (Tour 11 with our own adjustment). Our tour guide was awesome, I would highly recommend him.
If you want any of the tour guide names, message me.
We did Istanbul, Athens, Naples on our own. They were easy to do on your own.
SHOWS: We went to only one show. The first one was cancelled due to sound problems, It was a West End singer, I would have gone if available. The other one we went to was another west end singer, it was OK. We got mixed reviews from our boat friends on the other shows. I went to one of the insight lectures by Robert Powell (an actor not familiar to me) about Jane Austin, it was awesome. Our triva friends went to several others (by him and another speaker) and they loved them all.
Overall, I would do Cunard again in a heartbeat.