By Kari Reinikainen, Cruise Critic contributor
Queen Victoria, which debuted in 2007, lacks some of the high profile glitz of Queen Mary 2, its much larger sibling -- but never mind. The ship is large enough to feature plenty of space, but also cosy enough to foster a sense of intimacy, and is actually the most beautiful ship Cunard has built (at least in my day).
The ship's interior pays many tributes to Cunard's venerable history (the British line dates back to 1840) as well as to England. These celebratory nods range from black and white photos of the rich and famous as they travelled on various Cunard steamers to an homage to Queen Victoria herself in the design of the two-deck high Queen's Room, meant to replicate the general ambience of Osborne House, the monarch's favourite residence.
Polished veneer on the walls in staircases also harks back to the age of liners; trumpet light fixtures in the Chart Room Bar remind us of those that graced the First Class Observation Lounge on the first Queen Mary (1936).
As important as history is in creating a certain elegant ambience onboard, what makes it all work is that Cunard has successfully fused heritage with modernity. Cabins are relatively state of the art while the Golden Lion pub boasts an antique-ish pressed tin pub ceiling.
Ultimately, Queen Victoria doesn't awe passengers with breathtaking extravaganzas as does Queen Mary 2 (which it must be admitted I admire even so). It's grand -- yet with warm colours, familiar and competent service and plenty of smallish-sized public rooms, it's built on a human scale. This is a much more British ship in the sense that it's overall ambience is understated rather than stunning. Ultimately, it's worthy of note that while there's a museum on the ship, by no means is Queen Victoria a mere museum itself.
Queen Victoria Fellow Passengers
On Queen Victoria, you will be travelling mainly with quite well-traveled, well-to-do people in their 50's (and up). However, the ship does attract first-timers too, and it's not a bad choice for those who want an elegant experience that focuses on good entertainment and service.
A spring cruise from Southampton in April had some 1,500 Brits, 200 Americans and around 200 other nationalities from around 30 countries onboard. The ship caters mainly to couples -- there were quite a few gay ones too on the cruise -- but you will feel welcome if you come just on your own.
As the duration and geographical coverage of the cruises the ship takes vary greatly, from a four-night mini-cruise to circumnavigation, so too will the passenger mix.
Queen Victoria Dress Code
The first and last night of your cruise will be "elegant casual" (jacket but no tie), while up to three sea days each week will be formal (black tie or black suit). Port days and sea days beyond the up to three formal nights are semi-formal (jacket and tie).
Practically everyone observes the dress code on formal nights and so much the better: This is an elegant ship and looking at your best on those evenings is definitively part of that experience.
Queen Victoria Gratuity
A daily charge of $11 for Britannia passengers and $13 per day for Queens and Princess Grill passengers is automatically added to your shipboard account as gratuity for the hotel and restaurant staff. A 15 percent tip is added to all bar and spa treatment prices.
My friend (1st time cruiser)and I have just returned from a short cruise to Hamburg and Le Havre on Queen Victoria. Embarkation at Southampton was completed in minutes by helpful and friendly staff..a great start to a lovely holiday. What a lovely ...continue
Queen Victoria is a very stable and organized ship. Everything from the shore excursions, activities, meals were run so very smoothly.
Some of the public areas are very beautifully done, especially the library.
The meals were very mediocre. ...continue
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Embarkation at San Francisco was not too well organized. As everyone joining Queen Victoria (over 1000 passengers) seemed to arrive at the same time, the queue started on the pavement well outside the terminal building. after about an hour, we ...continue