Our 2018 Cunard cruise was a short, 3 day trip trying out the Britannia Club restaurant on Queen Victoria, so our last experience of the Britannia restaurant was in 2017 on Queen Mary 2. Having found that experience pretty disappointing ... Read More
Our 2018 Cunard cruise was a short, 3 day trip trying out the Britannia Club restaurant on Queen Victoria, so our last experience of the Britannia restaurant was in 2017 on Queen Mary 2. Having found that experience pretty disappointing (see my review on here), I was hopeful that the improvements suggested by our Club dining last year might have also worked their way into the main restaurant. I am very pleased to say that was the case!
Cunard has re-worked the menus fleet-wide since 2017 and I found the choices far more inspiring than 2 years ago, often having trouble deciding what to order because so many of the choices appealed, particularly the main courses. There are 8 main course options, of which two are always fish or seafood-based and 2 vegetarian. Lamb was featured far more prominently than on previous cruises and poultry offered across the fortnight included turkey (twice), goose, squab pigeon, guinea fowl, partridge and of course chicken. Fish mains included salmon several times, sea bream, sea bass, barramundi, cod, plaice, scallops (twice), langoustine risotto, crab cannelloni (divine), mac & cheese with king prawns, lemon sole, lobster tail and Goan seafood curry. The starters, soups and salads are under a single heading on the menu but you can order what you like. It was good to see that the excellent consommés are still offered on many evenings. The dessert range had also had a make-over and I was delighted that souffles were offered on 4 nights (chocolate soufflé twice, pistachio and my all-time favourite Cunard pudding, lemon vanilla soufflé with limoncello sauce). In all, there were six desserts, including a low sugar option, an ice cream selection and the spa dessert, as well as cheese. We often asked for one of the ice cream choices to accompany our chosen pudding and Shailendra, our fantastic waiter, was happy to arrange that. He was able supported by Abner - both these gentlemen couldn’t do enough for us and they really helped to make our dining experience memorable. Shailendra was especially helpful to my partner who likes his food to be on the plainer side - he often asked for the vegetables from one dish to be served with the meat or fish from another one. We were given a copy of all of the menus on the penultimate evening. Our sommelier, Marko, was one of the best we’ve had on Cunard and was excellent at anticipating our requests. We were on a table for two on deck two of the restaurant - two lovely Australian ladies on the adjacent table provided great company.
As usual, we had chosen second sitting - this trip was notable for the fact that a large area in the centre of the restaurant remained completely empty throughout the two weeks - Shailendra explained this was because so many people had asked to switch from late to early sitting. As a consequence, whilst second sitting was quite leisurely, first sitting was apparently frenetic with extra people squeezed onto tables set for six and eight.
We went to the Commodore Club for pre-dinner drinks pretty much every evening and were very surprised by how quiet it was compared to previous cruises: we almost invariably had a window table and whereas the CC is often standing room only from about 7.30 until second sitting, there was always space to sit somewhere. I discovered my new favourite cocktail - “The Commodore’s Cure”, inspired by Sir James Bisset. It’s made with Pol Roger champagne and unfortunately for our onboard accounts, was something like $24 plus the 15% gratuity! Hot canapés were served each evening around 7.45 and consisted of two meat, two fish and two vegetarian offerings.
We had dinner in the Verandah one evening - we enjoyed the meal very much and the portions were huge. I ordered the Rhug estate lamb cutlets which I enjoyed but the waiter and restaurant manger insisted that I would not be charged for my meal because they said there was too much fat on the cutlets and not enough meat. I said I was very happy to pay because I didn’t think there was a problem with them - however, I appreciated the gracious gesture which seemed to sum up the overall attitude of the crew we encountered.
We didn’t go to the evening shows because generally they aren’t our thing, but I went on my own to “The Flyboys” - they perform mostly modern songs in the big band/swing style, with a touch of humour. I thought they were a breath of fresh air and really enjoyed their performance. During sea days, we both enjoyed classical guitarist Ben Kearsley’s concerts in the Queens Room - Cunard really excels at live music and cocktail pianist Lisa Harman in the Commodore Club was another highlight.
Aside from Ben’s concerts, we mostly read, enjoyed the outside decks or watched the waves on sea days - there was a big programme of Cunard “Insights” lectures but again they didn’t appeal to us. We had afternoon tea in the Queens Room 3 times - it’s just a nice thing to do with the tables laid and musical accompaniment and most days we had coffee sitting at the bar in the Chart Room - the bar tenders there were excellent and got to know our preferences quickly.
Cabin-wise, it was exactly what we were expecting - a few knocks around the edges after more than 10 years of service but kept very clean by Francis, who efficiently dealt with our requests: we asked if firmer pillows could be provided and for the underbed drawers to be cleared of their contents of spare duvets. We used the ship’s laundry a couple of times - our clothes came back beautifully pressed and it really was worth the money (I got the Diamond World Club member discount after we had spent our onboard credit). The voyage navigation channel was pitiful - far less useful and interesting detail than on either QM2 or QE and it stopped working altogether for about 24 hours when the ship’s call to Barcelona was cancelled due to the ongoing independence protests there.
Fortunately, Cunard substituted Valencia instead and having not been there, we spent an enjoyable few hours in the old town - shuttles were laid on for this purpose. A port guide was also provided and Cunard even managed to arrange some tours at very short notice, so I thought the situation was handled very well. On a related point, I did appreciate that all of the port guides for the cruise were available in our cabin on embarkation - a thoughtful touch.
Were there any negatives about this cruise? Not really - the internet was very slow, but to be honest, I just used it for checking emails and a bit of news browsing (normally I avoid news whilst I’m away but I wanted to know whether the UK was still going to be in the EU by the time we landed in Gibraltar...) It was also a bit irritating that the senior officers’ party seems well and truly relegated to the mornings on one of the final sea days (I don’t want cocktails at 11.15). All the cocktail parties are now much shorter than they used to be: the welcome aboard ones are just 30 minutes and the World Club and senior officers’ parties 45 minutes. We only went to the World Club party this time - we had a souvenir photo taken as I have been celebrating a significant birthday this year.
I purchased future cruise deposits whilst on board, so look forward to booking a further trip for 2020 - I hope Cunard keeps up the improved standards we saw this time. If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you found it useful! Read Less