The 830-seat, three-deck Royal Court Theatre on Deck 3 was designed to emulate the grandeur and luxury of the spectacular designs of architect Frank Matcham, whose dramatic multi-tiered theatres made him one of the most prolific theatre designers, with over 80 venues to his name. The ambience is similar to a 19th-century theatre with lots of rich brocade fabric, deep red velvet curtains and murals framing the walls. Among the Royal Court's most distinguishing features are the 16 private boxes that frame the stage and are furnished with armchairs and cocktail tables, two of which are wheelchair accessible. A box for two costs $55 plus a 15 percent service charge. The fee entitles you to a glass of Champagne, canapes or chocolate-covered strawberries, a photo taken in the box and the services of a uniformed bell boy who escorts you to your seat. Otherwise, you can grab orchestra seats for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Two shows per night -- at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. -- last around 50 minutes. While onboard, we saw "Hollywood Rocks", which is on once a week and had a great reception from the audience, and a performance by English comedian Tom O'Connor, which went down well, though his British sense of humor was unsurprisingly rather lost on many of the Americans and Australians in the audience.
Especially on sea days, passengers are spoiled for choice with lots of activities, including beginners' bridge classes, golf-putting tournaments, whist, bingo and lectures. The Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2) hosts a variety of entertainment (such as darts or trivia games), while ballroom and line dance classes get passengers moving in the Queens Room. Art classes are sometimes held in Hemispheres (Deck 10). You can buy an art kit for $35. There are also daily Friends of Bill W and Friends of Dorothy meetings. Wherever you go, you will encounter live music, typically harpists or pianists.
Passengers interested in nautical history can check out the Cunardia museum on Deck 2. It is a lovely room, with leaded-glass canopies and panels, which exhibits memorabilia and artifacts telling the story of the Cunard ships -- known as the Queens. It houses articles from the original Queen Mary and QE2, including Queen Mary's log book. It is open from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is adjacent to a museum-style shop. One deck above, artwork is devoted to Cunard's heritage, and there is a touch-screen for archival footage of milestones in the company's history.
Every evening sees some kind of pub entertainment in the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2. One night the ship's entertainment team hosted a "Blankety Blank" game where passengers had to guess the missing word -- the kindest way to describe this entertainment would be to say it was amateurish. Another evening a mediocre pianist/ singer belted out some numbers, while a rather good Dixieland Jazz night had the pub packed out. Additional live music, featuring pianists, harpists or a string quartet, can be found in other bars and lounges around the ship.
Occasionally Hemispheres on Deck 10 will play recorded ballroom and Latin music in the early evening and offer live music for late-night dancing from 10:30 p.m. onwards. Some evenings, the Queens Room is the scene of ballroom or sequence dancing; on our cruise, few dancers were willing to take to the floor, so there was a decided lack of atmosphere.
The small European-style Empire Casino on Deck 2 has leaded-glass canopies over three of the main gaming tables. It was relatively popular on our cruise with table games including roulette and poker and slot machines that are open 24 hours while the ship is at sea. During occasional 'happy hours', slot players with a minimum of 300 points receive complimentary drinks while playing.
Queen Victoria Bars and Lounges
Passengers can relax, read a book or have a drink at the many bars and lounges dotted throughout the ship. All of them are excellently furnished with comfortable seating.
Passengers can buy drinks packages, including soft drink, wine and liquor packages. The soft drink package costs $6.50 per person, per day, plus a 15 percent service charge and entitles you to enjoy unlimited soda and juices served by the glass in any of the restaurants and bars. The package does not extend to bottled water, in-cabin bar service or other non-alcoholic beverages. Wine packages are available from $175 for four bottles, including gratuity.
The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar (Deck 2): 1920s Art Deco was the inspiration for this bar, which overlooks the Grand Lobby. It is a chic room sparkling with golden glass elements that form a backdrop for sandblasted Art Deco glass panels. It also features several canvases depicting the launch of the first Queen Mary. As the name suggests, the bar serves Veuve Clicquot Champagne exclusively. This costs from $80 to $395 a bottle; you cannot order Champagne by the glass. The bar accommodates 34 people. Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The Chart Room (Deck 2): There is no mistaking the nautical atmosphere in this 77-seat venue near the Britannia restaurant. This cosy room features sand-blasted maps with sea views, glass vitrines displaying ship models and maritime artifacts. Trumpet light fixtures are copies of those in the first class cocktail bar on the first Queen Mary. Perhaps the most dramatic element of all is two striking oil painting portraits by noted maritime artist Robert Lloyd of Britannia (Cunard's first ship) and Servia (Cunard's first steel-hulled ship). It's a quiet venue and the ideal place for pre-dinner drinks. Some people come here to read. Open 5 p.m. to late.
Queens Room (Deck 2): Inspired by Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight, and in the style of a grand ballroom in a large country house, this two-deck high room is designed for dancing, cocktail parties and afternoon tea accompanied by a harpist or string quartet. Two magnificent crystal chandeliers are reflected in intricate, backlit, leaded-glass panels, and murals around the room depict ornate gardens. Cantilevered balconies overlook the ballroom and are detailed with classically ornate, curved railings. The 1,000-square-foot patterned dance floor is hand-crafted from inlaid wood with light maple-panelled walls. There is a portrait of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Marcus Hodge, based on the original by Sir Edwin Landseer, and an attractive oil-on-canvas depiction of Osborne House by Clarissa Parish.
In the Queens Room, people attend dance classes during the day, and watch -- or participate in -- ballroom dancing in the evening. Ladies, if you want to strut your stuff with a waltz, foxtrot or tango, but don't have a willing partner, gentlemen hosts are available to accompany you.
Midships Lounge (Deck 3): This small, pleasant lounge was never busy on our cruise. Open from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Winter Garden (Deck 9): Modelled on London's Kew Gardens, this is a lovely spacious area with a retractable glass roof, fountain and honeycomb tile-clad walls. It is a light and airy indoor/outdoor relaxation area reminiscent of a grand conservatory and guests who do not wish to adhere to the dress code can relax and enjoy a drink from the small bar here. A moveable glass wall opens out to an open-air swimming pool in sunny weather. Cushioned wicker furniture, ceiling fans and lots of greenery help enhance the area's colonial theme. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hemispheres (Deck 10): Hemispheres, adjacent to the Commodore Club, is the ideal venue for daytime pursuits and transforms into a disco and nightclub open from 9:30 p.m. into the early hours. The most contemporary area on the ship, the glamorous room features a backlit perforated metal sphere encapsulated in decorative glazed screens, a dramatic focal point. Light mahogany wood panelling, leather-clad columns and metallic wall surfaces in shades of dark blue, burgundy and gold give the room a modern look. The circular dance floor is handcrafted wood and highlighted by a rather spectacular chandelier suspended above. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows offer 270-degree panoramic views. You'll find a comprehensive martini menu here, along with other popular cocktails such as the Rhubarb Mule (vodka, homemade rhubarb puree, lime and ginger beer) and Azul Margarita (tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon and lime juice).
The Commodore Club (Deck 10): Featuring sweeping views over the ship's bow, the Commodore Club captures the essence of Old World elegance. Highlights include murals of past Cunard liners and two ship models at the entrance. The room's nautical atmosphere is further highlighted by wood inlaid flooring with a compass design. Cosy gathering areas feature leather sofas and club chairs. Live music plays from late afternoon through early evening, making the club an ideal retreat for oceanview cocktails. The Commodore Club seats 122 and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to late.
Admiral's Lounge (Deck 10): Just off the Commodore Club, this is a small, elegant room with seating around an oval table. It is available for small parties and meetings, but other passengers can use the room when it's free.
Churchill's Cigar Lounge (Deck 10): Next to the Admiral's Lounge, this small wood-panelled lounge for cigar and pipe smokers seats 11 and features a selection of cigars in a humidor as well as Armagnac, Cognac, port, Madeira and Scotch.
Grills Lounge (Deck 11): Available for Grills passengers only, the forward-facing lounge is a quiet, refined area ideal for enjoying afternoon tea or cocktails accompanied by live entertainment.
Queen Victoria Outside Recreation
The Pavilion Pool on Deck 9 is located outside the Winter Garden, and is one of two generous pools on this deck with 10,000 square feet of sunning area. There is a small pool bar here and two hot tubs. Sun seekers flock to this pool, and it can get packed on hot days.
The Lido Pool, located aft on the same deck, is reserved for passengers ages 16 and up. It also is flanked by two hot tubs and a bar. There is no separate pool for Grills passengers.
On Deck 10, passengers can enjoy paddle tennis, deck quoits and shuffleboard. A lone ping pong table on Deck 9 is located just outside the spa area.
Approximately 412 garden-style white framed sun loungers surround the two main pools and are free for all to use. Decks 11 and 12 have 86 steamer sun loungers for Grill passengers, who have more space to sun worship. All sun loungers are available on a first-come, first-served basis. At the Grills Upper Terrace on Deck 12, staff provide Evian spritzes, fresh fruit, sorbets and sandwiches to sun seekers.
Queen Victoria Services
The reception desk, purser's office, shore excursions desk and sales office, for those who want to book their next cruise, are all located on Deck 1.
The card room on Deck 2 was almost always deserted during our cruise. It also houses boxes of board games for passengers to borrow. The library on decks 2 and 3 offers a selection of 6,000 books, the bulk of which are in English. This traditionally styled, mahogany wood, double-height room is connected by a spiral staircase to the upper level. The carpet is embedded with signatures of literary figures and there are plenty of leather sofas and armchairs. The library is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on ports days, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on sea days.
Shops selling mainly high-end goods, including jewellery and perfumes, are housed in the Royal Arcade on Deck 3, which is also where to find the Clarendon Art Gallery and Photo Gallery.
There are self-service launderettes on decks 4, 5, 6 and 8, beside stairway A. These are complimentary with washing machines, washing powder, tumble dryers and ironing facilities and are open from around 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.
There are three Internet centres onboard called ConneXions (Decks 1 and 3) with plenty of computers available if passengers don't have their own devices with them. A crewmember is available to assist passengers experiencing technical difficulties at ConneXions 1 on Deck 1. Help is available from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on port days and from 2:30 p.m. to :30 p.m. on sea days. Costs of packages are pretty high, particularly as Internet access is slow and could be compared to a slow dial-up -- $167.95 for 480 minutes, $89.95 for 240 minutes, $47.95 for 120 minutes, or passengers can pay as they go at $0.75 a minute.