Review of Cunard Queen Victoria
This was our first cruise ever, and for the purposes of the review I suppose it is prudent to note that my partner and I are in our late 30’s - which is quite young for Cunard passengers.
The Queen Victoria is a beautiful ship, both inside and out. We saw in several ports bigger ships, but in my opinion when the QV lacks in size on some of these behemoths is the fact that it is stately and elegant. The outside areas on Decks 3, 9, 10 and 11 are lovely and you do feel at times as if you have 'stepped back in time' to be on this ship. If you get up early enough (as my partner and I did a couple of times to experience dawn in a couple of beautiful ports) you will see the deck hands hard at work cleaning the ship every morning to keep the ship spotless.
We Embarked in Civitavecchia, and flew into Rome on a Cunard chartered BA flight from Heathrow. Flight was on time, and check in was painless and easy. One of the small downsides was the situation once we arrived in Rome. The bags took an absolute age to arrive, and once we had given them up to the helpful Cunard reps (the last time we would see our bags for a good while) we were directed around by locally sourced staff working on behalf of Cunard. This wouldn't have been an issue if they had told us what was going on but passengers were herded from place to place without any explanation of what was going on, seemingly to walk to a location simply to then stand with no information for 10-15 minutes, before repeating the process to another location for another wait. Eventually after a good while of being sent from place to place we were on the coach to Civitavecchia.
I will note now that if you are being taken anywhere by Cunard they will massively over-estimate the time it will take when they tell you how long the journey is - planning for a worst case scenario i suppose! The drive to Civitavecchia, billed as 70-90 minutes, took about 45. We walked from the coach directly into the pier reception area and were checked in very quickly indeed - a couple of pictures, give over the credit card, and then through security and you are on - I had read horror stories about wait times, but from Coach - Ship took all of 10 minutes, maximum. Really slick and professional I thought.
We went directly to our stateroom on Deck 5 midships, the cabin was ready and looking great (more of this later) however but no luggage yet (this was to be expected) so we went off for a tour of the ship and a bite to eat in the Lido buffet on deck 9. I thought the Embarkation process was absolutely magnificent and apart from the situation in Rome airport with the local reps couldn't really fault it (and even that was a minor annoyance) I had read reviews that stated you need to surrender your passport - this was not the case with us.
TIP: If you are on a lower deck (2, 3 or 4) instead of waiting for the lifts at midships when you embark, just walk up the stairs - this was the one and only time we had real issues with getting in the lifts as so many people were getting on at once. It doesn’t take long and had I known, even on Deck 5, I would have walked up the stairs to avoid the wait for the lift.
We were on deck 5 mid-ship, with a 'restricted view' - I did not find the view a bother at all and could see everything. It possibly limited your photo opportunities, but to be honest I didn't spend a great deal of time on the Balcony anyway so it didn't bother me in the slightest. If I had the choice again I would have gone for an unrestricted view but if your budget will only let you go for the restricted view, just go for it! The ship isn’t very old, less than 10 years, and the state of the Cabin reflected this. It was spotless and very nicely decorated, with a king size bed, dressing table, sofa (which I believe also turned into a bed), coffee table etc. Nice towels, bathrobes and slippers were provided and the amenities in the bathroom were of a high quality (Penhaligon’s) and refreshed should you require (although our steward did need a bit of prompting in this regard). There’s a refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, and several electrical outlets. I knew from reading reviews that UK outlets were provided, however since you have one UK, one US and one European, if you want to use more than one power outlet at once, bring a 4 way power strip or an adapter if you have one.
The bed was lovely, with a huge abundance of pillows, and excellent quality bedding. Bathroom was slightly cramped but it was designed very well so you soon got used to the reduced dimensions. The fridge was stocked with water and cans of soft drinks, and the prices for these were fairly reasonable. There was a complimentary half bottle of champagne on ice waiting for us when we got in our room. We saved it for sail away rather than devouring it immediately! The one downside to the room is the size and quality of the television. It is small at 21” and the reception was not of a high quality. The choice of channels is quite limited. However, I didn’t go on the cruise to watch television, I can watch television at home so it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the cruise.
There is a laundry on every floor, but be warned they are busy. There were three washers and three dryers, open from around 0730 to 2100. Use of the machines was free and the soap was also free. Getting a machine seemed to be a challenge as they were always busy with lots of passengers waiting. I did not need to wash any items but I did have to iron a few things, and there tended to be a queue to do this. However not a huge one and didn’t take a huge amount of time. If I were to go again, I would probably take less clothes and simply use the Laundry service for a few select items, as I didn’t think the charges were astronomical for this service from what I could gather (compared to the pricing for some other things – more on that later)
There are two levels of Dining, one for Britannia level passengers, and the Queens/Princess grills for the higher levels of passenger – We obviously did not have access to these grills so I cannot comment on them. We had requested a table for two in the Britannia and were granted this, however on reflection I think next time I will state no preference/larger table, as some of the couples who were randomly mixed on the larger tables seemed to be having a whale of a time. However, this is highly dependent on whom you get paired with, and as I will go on to state throughout this review, you could well be unlucky in this regard.
Our neighbour on the first evening ordered a sirloin steak well done and then spent 20 minutes complaining loudly to the waiter that it was tough! If you’re going to ruin a steak by ordering it well done madam, don’t be surprised that it’s ruined – you made that happen, not the chefs! We were given a table on the upper floor of the Britannia on the 2nd seating (8:30 dine time) again, I'm in two minds as to which would be the most advantageous – earlier seating at 6:30 means you have more time to enjoy the evening activities, however it does curtail your daytime activities. A quandary you can figure out for yourselves! We had one waiter with two assistants (Wilfredo, Srdan, and Marius), and a dedicated sommelier assigned to our section (Milo). All 4 of these gentlemen were an absolute delight and worked SO hard to keep myself and my partner happy over the course of our voyage. I actually submitted commendations for them as I thought they were absolutely amazing. They really enhanced our voyage and our dining experience every night was amazing.
The food is excellent quality, although on occasion slightly rich and you do end most evenings feeling extremely full! (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) Some of the choices I made over the course of the week were an absolute delight – The Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska were particular highlights. We did enjoy breakfast and lunch in the dining room as well, but not always, often choosing the Lido over the more ‘formal’ setting of the dining room for either the breadth of choice or because we were in a bit more of a hurry. Dining in the Britannia is not a rushed experience (nor should it be)
You can dine on Deck 2 in the Veranda, which is high quality French food, for a surcharge, or in the Lido Buffet on Deck 9. We did not bother booking the Veranda; I thought the quality of the food in the Britannia was more than adequate for our needs. We did walk around it when not open though and it is very tastefully decorated and I am sure the experience in there would be excellent. We enjoyed several lunches and breakfasts in the Lido on deck 9. The Lido buffet is huge, with areas that we didn’t even notice until several days into the cruise. Breakfast in the Lido is a cornucopia of choice, from Waffles and Pancakes (and Eggs) cooked to order, to anything and everything that you might expect for breakfast, be you American, British, or Australian (or indeed many other nationalities!) So much choice that I can’t even begin to explain in words – I don’t have enough words. Suffice to say whatever you want for breakfast is there. I guarantee it, including huge quantities of fruit and breads.
For Lunch it’s much of the same, choice wise, with additional areas that come into play, most notably a pizza and pasta station where they will cook your order fresh each lunchtime – the pizza was of excellent quality. They also serve an informal ‘afternoon tea’ in the Lido and also have sections dedicated to fresh donuts, cookies and cupcakes at seemingly random times of the day. It literally never closes, you can get something there 24 hours a day, should you require. There is also a Lido bar and grill at the aft serving ‘fast’ food like Hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. Also it should be noted that every day you can take ‘proper’ afternoon tea in the Queens Room down on deck 2 which is very nice indeed, accompanied by a string quartet (Very elegant). There is also a champagne afternoon tea available for a surcharge but once again we didn’t see the need to partake of this. It’s also worth noting that the Lido does themed nights (for another surcharge). Room Service is also available 24 hours but I felt no need to take advantage of this at any point.
The Lido can get very busy at ‘obvious’ times. (9am for breakfast and 1pm for lunch) – it’s sometimes a challenge to find a table at these times, although I never completely failed to find one – it just required an eagle eye!
Like most cruise ships this ship has shopping at the Royal Arcade. There were some very competitive buys in perfume, leather goods and liquors. Sales are a common occurrence.
The Spa looked amazing and Cunard pushed it quite heavily, but this would be one of my main criticisms of the QV. The prices are (in my opinion) astronomical for the services provided. If they reduced the prices in the Spa I felt like we would have actually used them but I didn’t think we could really justify this. If you have plenty of money though, it did look amazing.
This has to be one of the smallest casinos on the seas. Located on Deck two, there are enough slots, roulette and card games to keep one busy.
This is shopping and as with most ships there is a small retail outlet where one can purchase from a limited selection of clothes, watches, jewellery, etc. There was a store selling essential items and also a book store – although the shops are nice you do seem to pay full whack for everything but if you have forgotten any essentials you will find yourself covered. Once again I didn’t come on a cruise to go shopping, but the fact that they were there was a nice touch.
THE ROYAL THEATER
One of the visual highlights of the ship. A beautiful room indeed, seating for a lot of people and a wide variety of shows on in the evenings and insight talks from subject experts during the day. The productions were of a decent quality but nothing amazing, but still a fun way to spend an hour or so in the evening before or after your meal!
DECK CHAIRS & SEATING
Really nice deck chairs on the cruise and they seem to be dotted everywhere where there is room on the upper decks. Although Prime positions go quickly, we never had a problem finding somewhere to relax on deck, either in the Sun or the Shade if required.
I heard from several passengers horror stories about the speed of Internet on board. I didn’t need to use it as we were only on for a week and I could use my phone in any cafe when in port with free wifi, so I just limited my use to those times – this did not bother me in the slightest. Again I don’t want to spend my holiday checking my emails!
One on the aft of deck nine and one in the mid-forwards section of the ship on deck 9. The pools were rarely busy but a lot of the passengers enjoyed sunbathing next to them. Two hot tubs by each pool as well. Very nice if not enormous, but then when are pools enormous on board – I used the pool twice and the temperature was perfect. There were towels by each pool and in several other common areas – I had read reviews stating you needed to take your towels from your room – this is definitely NOT the case!
YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS
Now onto my biggest gripe of the cruise. This ship had about a third of the passengers from the United States followed by the UK and Australia. The remainder was truly a global mix. Many were seniors. Very few (perhaps less than a dozen) children were aboard. The ships’ dress policy stresses appropriate dress all over the ship in the evenings. They mention that there is strict enforcement. Well I couldn’t disagree with that more. There was absolutely no enforcement. At dinner where a jacket is required for men I saw several men in casual shirts with no jacket in the Britannia dining room and some of the women looked downright scruffy. I am not a snob by any means (as you will see shortly!) but one of the driving factors behind our decision to go Cunard was to experience the evenings as an ‘event’ and dress up. Well some of the passengers really push the limits of what should be deemed acceptable in this regard. Formal nights had a much higher ‘hit rate’ of passengers dressing up and making an effort, but some of them still really did push their luck in this regard. If you are going to pay for a Cunard cruise and you know the dress policy, why would you then ignore it? It doesn’t make sense to me. A less formal cruise would save you money if you detest dressing up that much. I suppose the trend away from Smart/Formal attire is a relentless one and even Cunard cannot escape forever. I think personally this is a shame.
This takes me onto the rest of the passengers and their attitude. Although we met a great deal of nice and pleasant people on board, it was one of the main detractions of life on board that there were a significant minority of awful people on board. The personality and behaviour of some of these people was appalling. I saw several instances in bars, dining rooms and out on deck when passengers were not just rude to staff, they were downright abusive. Some of them treated the staff like slaves. I was horrified by some of this behavior and went out of my way to be as polite and thankful to the staff as I could be, just to try and redress the balance. I would say that if you say good morning/good afternoon/good evening to everyone you pass; approximately three quarters of them will return the greeting with a smile. The disgusting quarter of them who think they are better than everyone else on the planet will look upon you with disdain, but it’s wise to remember that you are the better person, and manners cost nothing. I lost count of the people I held doors open for who acted as if I was their personal butler rather than a fellow guest being polite. How hard really is ‘please’ ‘thank you’ etc? Apparently these simple words are too much effort for some people.
TOURS ON SHORE
We mostly preferred to do our own thing in this regard and the prices of some of the trips did seem a bit excessive and we talked to a couple of guests about their experiences and it seems they are very mixed. Some tours are excellent and some are very poor, and there appears to be no way of knowing in advance which is which! However, we got lucky – we booked the Doges Palace/St. Marks Basilica and Gondola ride tour in Venice, and it was absolutely brilliant, our guide was excellent and I enjoyed every moment of it! Well done Cunard! They did mess up though in advance of the tour, saying that our tour tickets would be outside our stateroom the night before the tour, and then they never turned up. Sadly this then led to me rushing around to get them in the morning before the tour, and after bizarrely telling me off for something Cunard had messed up, the member of staff on the tour desk printed us a couple of duplicates. I got the impression that you do pay over the odds for tours and it does seem like a huge money making exercise to me. I think you roll the dice and see if you get lucky on the tour front, we did but make sure you read up on them in advance and make sure that the tour at least provides you with exactly what you want to do, at least then if you do pay over the odds you don’t mind because it was exactly what you wanted!
DAILY NEWS AND EVENTS
The ship provides both a daily news summary and daily events bulletin to your stateroom. Some of the Port guides were better than others, some including Maps and some without, but on balance they were informative and helpful and we carried them around with us to plan our days.
We missed the announcement of the bridge/back of house tour which was a shame, would have loved to have done it. We did do the galley tour with executive chef Mark Oldroyd and he was brilliant, giving us loads of interesting information and introducing us to a lot of the chefs on duty at the time preparing our lunches – a really nice passionate guy, both about his work and about Cunard. I was impressed he knew every single member of staff personally – there are hundreds of them! One of the best parts about the galley tour was seeing it was clear that the chefs enjoy their work – they all looked very happy and cheerful in their work. It seemed to me as an outsider looking in that Cunard must treat their staff well.
Simple review of the photographs – very nicely done, but hugely overpriced. We looked at the prices and decided that at the end of the week we’d choose ONE to have rather than several. If you want a selection of photos and an album, it will cost you several hundred pounds – for a few photos and an album! Even one picture we had cost me £25. It’s a lot of money for a picture. There isn’t a hard sell at least which is a plus point, there are photographers everywhere especially on formal nights but if you don’t want your picture taken, don’t queue up
The Queens Room is a very large room where lots of activities happen – fencing classes, ballroom dancing classes, afternoon tea etc. It has a large dance floor open every evening for your dance pleasure. From a man with two left feet, the mixture of dancing on offer was amusing. From one Japanese couple taking it SUPER seriously and throwing themselves about with abandon to older couples moving slowly around the dance floor, there is always something interesting to see. Some of the people thought they were on strictly I think! There is also a ‘nightclub’ on deck 10 called Hemispheres which was more to my tastes, although I was often too full or tired to enjoy it for a long period of time!
There is the Queens Room, the Champagne Bar, the midships lounge and the Chart Room---all elegant and a nice place to relax with a drink. The service was excellent in all of the bars. One step up from these is the Commodore Club at Deck 10 forwards. One of my favourite bars of all time, you get a great view from the front of the ship and absolutely brilliant service - and some quite wonderful (if pricey) cocktails. This is offset slightly by the snacks and canapés you will be served to go with your drinks, which were varied and delicious.
At the slightly more ‘rough and ready’ (although obviously, as it’s Cunard, not really rough and ready) end of the scale you have the Golden Lion pub opposite the Casino on Deck 2. This is a great little pub with the cheapest drinks on the ship (basically UK pub prices before the service charge) and some varied entertainment – live sports, quizzes, bingo and pianists/jazz bands – You’ll enjoy the Pub. They only do food for a short period of time (12-2) but it’s excellent pub grub, the fish and chips in particular was delicious. The quizzes were taken very seriously by some!
This ship has the best library we have ever encountered aboard a cruise ship. Located on Decks 2 & 3, there are hundreds and hundreds of books that can be checked out. Even if you are not a reader visit this library. It is one of a kind and a beautiful space.
Smoother than Embarkation, bags outside the room the night before by 11pm, they were gone in a flash. The transfer to the airport in Venice took no time at all and the flight was again on time – once again slightly ruined by some of the ruder contingent aboard ship but I’d gotten fully used to their behaviour by then!
I absolutely loved my first cruise on board the QV. The Ship is fantastic and the service is excellent. I enjoyed the formality of the ship and dressing up as an event for dinner. It’s not for everyone but we loved it. Next time I would have no hesitation in going with Cunard, although I think we’ll try a more casual cruise line to compare the two. We are still novices at this after all!
The food was excellent, and the choice is bewildering at times. The Room was very nice and we had no complaints at all with our Steward who was attentive and serviced our room constantly without us ever actually seeing him!
Downsides are the size and quality of the Television, the prices for the following services: Spa, Photos and Tours and of course back to the rudeness and attitude of some of the guests.
I would have no hesitation in recommending the Queen Victoria or sailing aboard her again! Read Less