While Queen Mary 2 reveled in its innovation -- with its biggest-ever size being only one element of its otherworldliness -- its smaller sister is going in a slightly different direction. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that Queen Victoria is by no means as big, though the 90,000-ton, 2,000-passenger still qualifies as post Panamax-large.
More intriguing is that the design really celebrates Cunard tradition -- while at the same time offering a number of fresh twists. "With Queen Victoria what we've done is combined Cunard traditions and heritage and developed some innovations, too," Marlow, the cruise line's president, told Cruise Critic today. Ultimately, she adds, "we try and take the best of what we have on previous vessels and move forward, learning from our passengers as well."
Queen Victoria is, for example, designed as an ocean-liner rather than a traditional cruise ship, which means it has a different superstructure -- and a strengthened hull and bow. Inside, numerous public spaces are two and three decks high -- adding an extra sense of space.
Many features set to appear on Queen Victoria exist on Queen Mary 2 but have been tweaked, so to speak. Among them?
The library will be an elegant two-story facility, which in Cunard tradition will stock a voluminous collection of some 6,000 tomes.
Grill passengers -- the select suite-holders who qualify for the ship's restaurant-style Queen's and Princess Grill eateries -- get an entirely new atmosphere. The new restaurants will be located on Deck 12 at the top of the ship and feature areas for alfresco dining, not to mention imbibing. As well, the grill-only lounge will feature concierge service.
The Winter Garden, which on QM2 is an indoor conservatory, gets an overhaul -- and a move to Deck 9. Even more notably, the new locale, tucked in between the lido buffet and the pool area, has a movable glass roof for indoor/outdoor ambiance, depending on weather conditions.
Slight changes to QM2's lavish Royal Court Theater include the addition of private boxes (oh so very 19th century, not to mention the 21st) -- the first theater at sea to have such seating. And, responding to comments about the lack of a drink service on the big ship, Queen Victoria's Royal Court Theater will be adjacent to a lounge that will serve post-dinner dessert and drinks.
Instead of a "heritage trail" that wanders through various public rooms on QM2, this ship will get a museum space of its own in which to showcase Cunard history (and a shop selling memorabilia will be housed next door).
While Queen Victoria is built for ocean crossings -- and will sail some -- the ship will be much more port-focused than its big sister, though details of its 2008 itineraries have not yet been revealed.
Other features that QM2 aficionados can expect to enjoy on Queen Victoria in one form or another include a Todd English alternative restaurant, the 4,000 square ft. Royal Shopping Arcade, a two-story high Queen's Lounge, a traditional London-style pub, and a double-deck high Britannia restaurant.
What QM2 features didn't make it in the translation from QM2 to Queen Victoria?
There's no planetarium. "It was a function of space, not of popularity," Marlow says.
QM2 has just revamped their pet kennels and service, but folks cruising with Fido and Fifi will have no other options. There will be no kennel aboard this vessel.
There will be no atrium-view cabins though Queen Victoria has a reasonably high balcony ratio. Of the 1,007 staterooms, 86 percent are outside, and of these 71 percent have verandahs.
The ship, which debuts in December 2007, will sail one of the most unique maiden voyages in recent history, a 10-night Christmas markets tour of Europe from Southampton. Ports of call include Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Hamburg and Bruges. The only other itinerary announced was its actual Christmas/New Year's cruise, and for that the ship swings south, heading to the Canary Islands.
For Marlow, who only recently joined Cunard from sister cruise line Swan Hellenic, the design, construction and launching of Queen Victoria will be a primary focus for the line over the next two years. But, just as important, she told us, is remembering that Queen Victoria is one of three sisters. "We'll also be focusing on keeping QE2 ship shape," she says, as well as reminding travelers who already know that QM2 is the er, Queen of trans-Atlantic crossings, that the ship will be circling the globe in 2007 -- and offering a number of more traditional port-intensive itineraries.