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Sail Date: December 2007
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Cunard World Club Members as well as Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our eleventh cruise since 2004. My wife is 45 and I am 41. We have two ... Read More
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Cunard World Club Members as well as Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our eleventh cruise since 2004. My wife is 45 and I am 41. We have two boys ages 9 and 4. This cruise was our anniversary cruise without the children. We have cruised on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) three times and obviously this was our first voyage on Queen Victoria. Pre-Cruise Stay - We booked a pre-cruise hotel stay in London for two days through Cunard Line. They picked us up at Heathrow International Airport and took us directly to the Millennium Hotel at Mayfair. They transfer was on time and the driver was friendly and courteous. We had a wonderful time in London, even though it is very expensive. The exchange rate was two US Dollars to one Pound Sterling. That made the prices even worse!! We did alot of walking around the city and spend virtually all our money on food. Over $500 in two days for six meals. We had a great dinner at a Lebanese restaurant on Duke Street between the hotel on Grovesnor Square and Oxford Street. We did not buy any gifts in London. The food was very good and the hotel very nice. The room was a bit small and warm. It seemed the heat would not shut off, so the window stayed open. We loved Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Tower Bridge. We also went to Piccadilly Circus and Harrods, but they were very crowded and expensive. I thought the city was very clean and the people very friendly. Cunard had a liaison at the hotel and she gave us all of the necessary information for the transfer to the ship. Our baggage was picked up timely and the coach bus was comfortable and timely. We arrived in Southampton after a two-hour ride and the terminal was decked out for the Maiden Voyage and also for Christmas. Embarkation - The trip through security and check-in was a breeze. The delay came when boarding the ship. For some reason, they decided to take your picture for your sea pass while getting on the ship. The line on the gangway back up quite a bit and the older folks had some trouble standing on uneven ground after a while. This seemed unnecessary. The pictures are usually done when getting your card at check-in. It was odd. Other than that, the embarkation process was smooth. The Ship - Very elegant and well designed. The ship was built in Venice, Italy and I love how the Italians use natural light to illuminate the spaces. There are plenty of two and three tiered spaces. The Grand Lobby is one of them and it just gorgeous. The Wintergarden is also lovely. It is on deck 9 next to the main pool. It has a retractable roof and can be used in sunny and rainy weather. This voyage was cold so not many people ventured to this spot. We also loved the Royal Court Theater. It is modeled after a Victorian Era theater and has the only private boxes at sea. They can be reserved ahead of time at the Purser's Office for $30. This gets you Champagne and food with white glove service during the show. The Lido Buffet is also a great space with plenty of seating and good design. The Britannia Restaurant is the main restaurant and has a two tiered dining area with plenty of light. It is a great room to dine in and talk with friends. The Casino is nice, but small without many slot machines. It was quiet during our voyage, which was fine with us. If you are gamblers, this will be a disappointment. The gym was very well designed and I even took some exercise classes. The massage I had was passable, but far from the experience on board QM2. The shopping area is very nice, but the shops are very expensive and it is best just to browse unless you have money to burn. Smoking is heavily restricted on board. You can smoke in your room and on your balcony, but most of the bars and public spaces are non-smoking. The only other smoking areas on the ship are the Casino Bar, Churchill's Cigar Bar and the port side of deck 10 and deck 3. I was at the Casino Bar and Churchill's alot. Accommodations - We had an A6 balcony stateroom on deck 4 amidships. It was a very nice room, but it did not have enough shelf space. Plenty of space in closets for hanging clothes, but it needed more shelf space for casual clothes and such. The bed was great!! A real queen size mattress that was very comfortable. The duvet on the bed was too heavy and thick and I was too warm quite often. Bathroom was small, but well designed and we had enough room for our toilet necessities and such. The balcony was nice and I always like sitting out there, even in colder weather, just to hear the ocean waves and the sea birds. It is very relaxing. Our cabin attendant, John, was very good and friendly. No towel animals. Thank God!! They have complimentary guest laundry, but the washers and dryers are very small. Wash small amounts of clothes in each load or else they'll never get dry. Itinerary - This did not matter a great deal to us. We wanted to go on the Maiden Voyage of this ship, so the itinerary could have been pretty much anywhere. The departure from Southampton was great. Many ships were in the harbor to see us off and the fireworks display was awesome. Cunard did a great job at that. The ports were Rotterdam, Holland, Copenhagen, Denmark, Oslo, Norway, Hamburg, Germany and Bruges, Belgium. I won't bore you with everything we did at each port, but we did like Copenhagen and Bruges the best. Oslo was the most expensive. Hamburg had the best Christmas Markets. The cities of Copenhagen and Hamburg did give us great fireworks displays as well. We also loved the windmills in Kinderdjik, Holland. Shore Excursions - Were well organized and fun. Since we docked at every port, tendering was not necessary. YEAH!!! The windmill tour and the Belgian chocolate tour were our favorites. They are expensive, so make sure you book some time to explore on your own. We did that in Copenhagen for two days and had alot of fun walking the city on our own. We were not impressed with Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, but the time of year was probably the reason. We heard from some guests that went on the ski jump tour in Oslo and had alot of fun. We also heard from some guests that took the Berlin tour in Hamburg. It is a 14-hour tour. Eight hours in the coach bus roundtrip for six hours in Berlin. Too long and expensive. Entertainment - We loved the theater and the shows. Our favorite shows were the comedian John Martin and the Elton John tribute singer. He looked and sounded just like Elton John and he is the only tribute singer sanctioned by Elton John World. We did not like Opera Babes at all. The production shows were good. The Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers are very talented and put on well-choreographed shows. Passenger Demographic was old, old, old. We expected this given the length and time of year of the cruise. Virtually no kids. We were one of the youngest couples on board. Dining - Britannia was great. Our waiter Krasimir was terrific and the food was excellent. We also tried two alternative venues on board. The Lido has a fondue dinner and an Indian dinner between 7 and 9pm. They are both great and our server for those meals, Attila, was terrific. Reservations are recommended. We did not eat at Todd English. We had tried it on QM2. The food is very good, but heavy. We did not feel it was worth the $30 per person cover since all of the other restaurants are free and the food is equally as good. Disembarkation - Was very smooth and well organized. We had a transfer through Cunard Line, so we were off early, on the bus and to the airport quickly and efficiently. Overall - We loved the voyage and the ship. The service was excellent. The ship had a few minor problems. We expected that with it being the first voyage and also being the first passengers in the cabin. For example, the sink stopper got stuck, the safe would not open, and the toilet stopped flushing. All problems were reported to the Purser's Desk and fixed promptly by the Technical Services Dept. Some of the public spaces had toilet problems, but the crew looked hard at work fixing the issues. We had a very enjoyable and memorable voyage and we look forward to our next Cunard voyage in July 2008 on QM2. Before that one, we will be on the farewell voyage of the Empress of the Seas from San Juan in February 2008. Stay tuned for those reviews. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
I should preface this review by saying that I have always chosen Cunard for three basic reasons: its elegance, its service, and its onboard educational programs. That said, I can attest that, for the most part, Cunard's new ship, ... Read More
I should preface this review by saying that I have always chosen Cunard for three basic reasons: its elegance, its service, and its onboard educational programs. That said, I can attest that, for the most part, Cunard's new ship, Queen Victoria, met or exceeded my expectations in all three areas. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION Embarkation in Southampton at the City Cruise Terminal was a bit trying. As I understand it, the delays in boarding guests may have been due to the ship's sanitizing/clean-up operations, which were required following the outbreak of the Norovirus on the previous maiden cruises. Nevertheless, when I boarded at about 1:30 PM, there was approximately a 2 hour wait to actually get onboard. I didn't mind the delay itself so much. The real problem was that we were forced to wait standing up for most of that time and there were no chairs available (in the immediate area of the queue) where the people could rest their feet...if only for just a moment. Being in pretty good shape myself, I was able to manage this wait without any real problems, but I did have concerns for how some of the more elderly passengers were holding up. Apparently, there was insufficient seating in the cruise terminal to accommodate all the passengers who were awaiting embarkation, so they would call the boarding groups to line up well before they were actually permitted to embark (just to clear the waiting room). I'd never encountered this problem before when boarding the QM2, so was disappointed in the boarding process for the Queen Victoria. I don't know that I can blame the ship itself for this problem...it seemed to be more a product of the City Cruise Terminal's inability to accommodate so many passengers. Disembarkation in Los Angeles was surprisingly smooth (considering how the lack of sufficient customs agents in the Port of Los Angeles frequently results in long delays getting off ships there). Everything went extremely smoothly for me, but from what I could tell just from observation, Non-U.S. citizens had a rougher time of getting through customs/immigration in a timely fashion. QUEEN VICTORIA PUBLIC ROOMS In my opinion, the ship itself is lovely. For the most part, there is a feeling of elegance throughout. Asthetically speaking, I was wowed in particular by the Royal Court Theater, the Commodore Club, and the Library - all of which, I think, are much more architecturally exciting than on the QM2. Royal Court Theater Sitting in the Royal Court Theater, you feel as though you've been transported to London's West End. The sight lines are great as are the accoustics - all in all, a very comfortable and luxurious spot to take in a show in the evening or to listen to a lecture during the day. In fact, I haven't seen such a grand theater on any other ship! The Commodore Club The Commodore Club on the Queen Victoria is larger (while still retaining a sense of intimacy and coziness), and in my opinion, even more elegant than the QM2's lounge of the same name. The service there was fabulous and the entertainment offered enhanced the overall mood (rather like a high-class piano bar or jazz club in New York or London). The Library The library is wonderful to look at - stretching two stories with a spiral staircase - and the selection of books is vast and varied (was actually able to pick up a collection of Yeats' poetry which I dipped into throughout the voyage!) Practically speaking, however, I don't think the library works quite as well. Negotiating the wooden stairs of the spiral staircase was quite treacherous in high-heeled shoes (I also felt I was disturbing the readers there with each clackety-clack of my heels) and the rather limited space for just relaxing or reading made the library somewhat less inviting than the QM2's library. The Golden Lion The Golden Lion Pub - another favorite spot of mine - is larger than the QM2's, but has an equally authentic feel to it and serves great pub lunches (I particularly enjoyed the fish and chips). It offers lots of fun entertainment in the evenings (sing-alongs, karaoke, trivia contests, etc)...but I was disappointed that there were no dart board contests while I was onboard! I should note that the Pub did spring a couple of water leaks from the ceiling while I was there (which hopefully have been fixed by now) to the extent that one of the performers had to juggle an umbrella while he was singing and playing the piano ("singin' in the rain" only added to the fun, however, and all of us did appreciate his "the show must go on" spirit !) The Queen's Room The Queen's room is a lovely setting with its crystal chandeliers and balconies overlooking the entire room, but probably should have been placed further forward (or aft) on the ship. It is the venue for all the Captain's parties and its location creates a bit of a logistical problem. Since one has to pass through the area on the way to or from the casino or the pub, there is constant traffic of non-invitees going back and forth during some of the more restricted gatherings (e.g., the Senior Officer's Party for Diamond and Platinum members). On one occasion, they tried blocking off the passageway on Deck 2 through the Queen's room and I was directed to go back to the staircase B elevators, go up to Deck 3 to get past the Queen's Room, than take the staircase A elevator back down to Deck 2 in order to get to the casino. Quite annoying! The other thing about the Queen's Room is that it is simply not large enough to accommodate all the guests invited to the Captain's Welcome Party and even some of the smaller parties or World Club events that were hosted by the Captain and Senior Officers. It was so crowded on a few occasions that you literally could not move, and getting a drink was next to impossible, since the waiters had so much difficulty. circulating (a friend who couldn't get a drink at one of the parties commented one night that we must have stumbled into a Friend of Bill W's party by mistake!) My recommendation to resolve this particular problem is that the ship make greater use of the atrium for the Captain's Welcome parties (much as Princess Cruises does). As for the other parties, depending upon the numbers of invitees, I would suggest that they schedule more of them to allow for fewer guests at each party. I realize that this will make further social demands on the officers' already busy schedules, but it may be the only way to reduce the unacceptable crush of humanity at these events. Other Lounges/Bars I didn't spend much time in the other lounges. The Hemisphere's "night club" is a bit over-the-top in design (lose the chandelier!) and doesn't really feel much like a night club. The Chart Room, in my opinion, isn't quite as nice or intimate as the QM2's, primarily because it opens off a main passageway and thus gets a lot of traffic walking by. Same problem with Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar. The Casino bar is good for smokers, but it is probably something of an annoyance to non-smokers, because of its openness to passengers going to or from the Pub or from the forward part of the ship aft. Atrium Quite elegant - not sure I care for the three-dimensional artistic rendering of the ship which serves as its centerpiece - but, nevertheless, it's a lovely venue for some of the classical musicians to provide entertainment, and as indicated earlier, could really be utilized more for some of the social gatherings. Internet Cafe Relatively large and well-equipped - a welcome spot to catch up on things....when the computers are actually working. There were a lot of problems with Internet access - particularly early on -- during the Tandem crossing, but these glitches seemed to have been fixed as the voyage progressed. Winter Garden In my opinion, this is a much nicer room, asthetically speaking, than on the QM2. Only problem is that, in cold weather, the Winter Garden is much too cold to use (I wasn't even able to view it during the Transatlantic crossing) and in Caribbean climates, it's much too hot to be comfortable. I hope that something can be done about temperature control in the Winter Garden, since otherwise, this would be a lovely room in which to read or just relax. Britannia Dining Room I really loved the dining room with it's revolving globe. Perhaps not as dramatic in design as the one on the QM2, but certainly lovely in its own way and a bit more homey. Churchill Cigar Lounge A wonderful, cozy little room - with some great photos of Churchill -- hidden away next to the Commodore Club. Be sure to check it out...if you're a non-smoker, best time is probably either in the morning or very late at night. Shops Far superior to the QM2 in this regard, as I see it, the Queen Victoria offers more shops with a wider selection of merchandise - from cosmetics to clothing to jewelry to souvenir items. The book shop was one of my favorite stops on my way around the ship offering an interesting selection of Maritime books, posters, greeting cards, best selling novels and various collectibles. Spa and Gym The gym is the best equipped I've seen on any ship with lots of female-friendly equipment/weights. There are also some great workout classes available to the passengers. My experience in the spa/salon was limited to getting my nails done...but was delighted with the service and workmanship. Lido Buffet I saved the worst for last. The Lido is pretty much a disaster in both design and execution. There was constant chaos here during the busy eating hours. People enter from both directions to each buffet section and there are constant problems with traffic flow (a lot of defensive driving is required in making your way through the Lido!) The service left much to be desired (see my comments about service later on in this review), the logistical arrangement of the food and condiments made little sense, and the quality of the food (at least for breakfast - which is about the only time I ate there) was pretty awful - cold eggs, burnt toast and very greasy bacon. If you're just passing through to the aft decks, you are required to thread your way through either the food area itself or dodge the tables on the other side of the buffet. Either way, there is very little room for getting from point A to point B. ENTERTAINMENT/ONBOARD LECTURES You will never find yourself at a loss for something to do on the Queen Victoria - even during those back-to-back sea days on a transatlantic crossing. The daytime activities are non-stop and offer something for just about every taste and interest - fencing lessons, art auctions yoga, water color painting classes, bridge games, trivia and sports competitions, dancing instruction, and lectures by various experts in their fields. I particularly enjoyed the lectures onboard. We had two fabulous maritime historians lecturing during my journey - John Maxtone Graham and Bill Miller. Their presentations were absolutely superb - extremely informative and humorous. I also enjoyed the art lectures and those given by a forensic crime expert/novelist. As for the evening entertainment, there were several interesting entertainers offered in the Royal Court Theater ranging from singers and musicians to ventriloquists and comics. That said, while I'm not someone who's particularly interested in production shows on cruise ships, I must say that, if I had been, I think I would have been rather disappointed. There were, I believe, only a handful of production shows presented during my 24 days onboard. Part of the problem, or so we were told, was that rough seas during the transatlantic crossing prevented rehearsals by the dancers/singers. Don't know why there were so few production shows subsequently between NYC and L.A., but hopefully, whatever the problem was, it's been remedied by now. All in all, I thought Alistar Greener was one of the best Cruise Directors (Cunard calls them Entertainment Directors, I think) I've encountered in all my 25 or so cruises. He and his staff were on the go constantly to ensure that the entertainment offerings were going well and that the passengers were enjoying themselves...and their morning show was always fun and informative. STATEROOMS Much has already been written about the lack of drawer space in the cabins, so I won't take up more space here talking about that subject, other than to say that Cunard seems to be fully aware of the problem and hopefully, will be remedying the situation at their first opportunity. The Captain referred to the problem several times at his parties while I was onboard, so I'm sure it's at the top of Cunard's list of things to get done. As also pointed out in other reviews of the ship, there is a problem with shelf space in the bathrooms, but both this and the drawer problem should be quite easily fixed. As for the cabins overall, I was in an inside cabin (traveling solo) and it was more than adequate - space-wise and otherwise - for me. Nothing really special about it in design, dEcor or functionality, but certainly comparable to any other inside cabin I've been in on other ships. One small thing that was important to me, however. They do need to place the full-length mirror elsewhere. It is currently located on the inside of a closet door that won't stay open, so I had to use my foot to prop it open while trying to grab a glance at myself in the mirror (this does not meet a woman's mirror requirements!) Yes, the shower stall is small...but is certainly adequate to the task...and maybe it will encourage people to eat less while they're onboard! SERVICE Overall, the service on the Queen Victoria was exemplary and consistent with Cunard's high standards. The Senior Officers and Entertainment staff were friendly, accessible and interacted in a very positive way with the passengers. In particular, Captain Wright, who is an extremely personable and humorous man, seemed always willing to go the extra mile with the passengers - agreeing to photos when asked and chatting with folks who would stop him as he made his way around the ship. I found the Purser's office to be consistently polite, competent and helpful. When I had a problem with my safe, they were on it immediately and they were always able to answer any questions that I had with professionalism and directness. For me, the service in the Britannia dining room was excellent. The waiters were, for the most part, fast, friendly and professional. The food, I thought, was great - comparable to my QM2 experience and superior to the food I've had on Princess ships. As for the room steward service, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed. On two occasions, my room wasn't made up until late afternoon and I always felt a bit like I had to tailor my activities to my room stewardess' schedule, rather than the other way around. My room stewardess came from the QE2, so it wasn't as if she wasn't already aware of Cunard standards, but I gathered from her that they were a bit short-staffed. She did mention that on the QE2, the stewards had someone to help them carry the dirty linens to be washed, whereas on the Queen Victoria, she was expected to do this herself, in addition to her regular duties. Of course, my somewhat negative experience may not reflect the overall standard of steward service elsewhere on the ship. I do know that the best room steward I ever had (who was with Princess) is now on the Queen Victoria, so apparently they have sought to draw some of their very best from elsewhere in the fleet. Now to the Lido Buffet. The service there was, for the most part, unacceptable. The staff were frequently quite slow in picking up the trays and dirty dishes. On several occasions, I would see them busily chatting with each other while dirty dishes lay around on tables. The cream and milk for the coffee was rarely replaced according to the time listed (on a couple of occasions, I actually had to throw out the coffee, because the cream had gone bad and had left an unappetizing grime around the sides of the coffee cup). Despite the Norovirus outbreak on the early cruises, there was never anyone stationed at the entry to ensure that passengers used the hand sanitizers (this was not the case in the Britannia restaurant, however). Most passengers I saw just walked by, ignoring the hand sanitizers. All in all, there seemed to be a number of disgruntled workers up in the Lido...who never bothered to smile or speak to the passengers, but preferred to stand around and scowl. As mentioned earlier, the food there left a lot to be desired, as well. This is definitely one area that the ship needs to take a very close look at. SUMMARY I didn't mean to end this review on a negative note. Since I promised to do this evaluation of the ship for Cruise Critics, I found myself throughout the voyage actually looking for areas where I might provide some constructive criticism. But just because I've brought up some specific problem areas here does not in any way mean that I did not thoroughly enjoy my experience on the Queen Victoria. To the contrary, it was an exciting voyage and I do love the ship! All things considered, the Queen Victoria is a truly elegant lady and I stand by my initial assessment of her. I feel confident in saying that, once she gets through some of these inevitable growing pains, she may very well become the brightest jewel in Cunard's crown! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was our first major cruise which we looked forward to for months. We were travelling with previous Cunard cruisers. We checked in on time at Southampton at a new terminal which is operated I believe by Carnival. At first we thought ... Read More
This was our first major cruise which we looked forward to for months. We were travelling with previous Cunard cruisers. We checked in on time at Southampton at a new terminal which is operated I believe by Carnival. At first we thought things were going smoothly but this soon descended into a farce. We were shunted from room to room and then into a lounge after an hour, where we were held for about another hour. we were then called to board and thought that this was it - instead we were shown through a door and onto an escalator which led us to another queue. In the meantime more people were allowed on to follow us and there was nowhere for them to stand so they were trapped on a moving escalator - very dangerous. At the top of the elevator was an unattended bag. When this was pointed out to staff they said it was OK as it belonged to a staff member ! An unbelievable lapse in security. Finally after nearly 3 hours we reached the ship lobby where we were photographed and there were only 2 machines in operation which obviously had contributed to the delays. We finally found our cabin ourselves as there was no one to show us which lift to take - totally fed up and exhausted. My wife has arthritis in her back and this long period standing caused her severe pain. Our cabin was very clean and acceptable in size - although there is very little drawer space. The bathroom however is a different story - very , very small with no storage for your essentials. The shower is tiny with a shower curtain - which we consider to be unhygienic - as they cannot be cleaned properly. If you dropped your soap in the shower you had to get out to pick it up. Our American friends will not be amused by this poor design. It is a major mistake and should never have been allowed to happen. On the plus side our cabin was quiet and the bed very comfortable. Many guests however had little sleep as their cabins suffered from a non stop creaking noise - which we could hear quite loudly when walking through the corridors particularly near the launderette. These guests who were affected had asked to be moved but I believe were not - as all cabins were full. It was a bit disconcerting seeing passengers having to hold meetings amongst themselves in order to try and get this matter resolved. Cunard should have taken control of this situation at an early stage and resolved the problem. The trip experience for us was very good. The voyage was greatly enhanced by being able to listen to the lectures given by Stephen Payne - the architect for the Queen Mary 2 - a really brilliant man and also very modest. This was very refreshing - I hope Cunard appreciate what a talented designer they have on board. The Britannia restaurant is excellent. Quality of food - choice and service cannot be faulted. The Lido restaurant also provides a great choice of well prepared food - although it does get a bit crowded at times. Facilities on board are good. The Commodore bar is the best on board for views and The Golden Lion pub hosts enjoyable quizzes - which guests really love to take part in. The theatre is excellent - although it does lack handrails on the stairs leading down into the auditorium, which is a safety issue - especially in heavy seas. It was disappointing that we did not get a full show until the last night of our cruise. The magician was excellent. And now the bad bit. Cunard booked our party of 6 a minivan to take us to our hotel in Times Square. we were charged $300 [£150]. On checking with he hotel they said their charge was $46 for a minibus, or $20 for 2 yellow cabs. What a shame we were ripped off by Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
Having had several days to digest our experience we thought it time to share the impressions we formed on our recent New York to Los Angeles voyage on the Queen Victoria. In order to provide some insight into our perspective I'll ... Read More
Having had several days to digest our experience we thought it time to share the impressions we formed on our recent New York to Los Angeles voyage on the Queen Victoria. In order to provide some insight into our perspective I'll share our background. I'm 45 and my wife is 39. Prior to this trip we have done six TA's on the QM2 (four in Britannia and two in Queen's Grill) as well as the Dubai to Southampton world cruise segment on the QM2 last year (in Queen's Grill). Both my wife and I are Cunard World Club Platinums and have never sailed with any line other than Cunard. All previous QG cabins had been Q5, and our Britannia cabins were A1-A3. On this trip we booked a Q5 and were assigned cabin 5189, located on the fifth deck on the extreme starboard stern corner of the ship. As there have been many questions about how the QV "compares" I've provided my highly subjective comparison to the QM2 when appropriate. First Impressions Upon arriving to board the QV we were able to compare it to its much older "sister" the QE2 which was moored one terminal away. I have to admit to being an admirer of the classic "liner" lines of the QE2, and with respect to hits hull planform, the QM2. As such I found myself thoroughly unimpressed with the lines of the QV. The most disconcerting characteristic of the QV, to me at least, is what I'll refer to as her "pug" nose. Although aware of Ms. Marlowe's contention that the QV has a lengthened and strengthened bow I couldn't see it. In fact, to me, the QV looked, quite simply, like a Vista Class cruise ship dressed up in Cunard livery Embarkation We boarded the QV at Pier 92 in Manhattan. Weather was overcast and cool. Boarding was fairly well done and we were in our cabin within 45 minutes of our arrival. The terminal on Pier 92 was much cleaner and "user friendly" than Pier 88 and a bit more personable than the terminal located in Brooklyn. It was really nice to be boarding back in Manhattan - I continue to hope that, one day, the QM2 will return to this magical departure point. Sail Away We had the opportunity to sail on the QM2 when she did her tandem eastbound crossing with the QE2 in 2004. Prior to departing New York harbor on that cruise we sipped "sparkling wine" on our balcony and were treated to a wonderful fireworks display by the statue of liberty. We both thought of this wonderful experience as a once in a lifetime event. Now, in 2008, we were thrilled to be standing on our wrap around deck, this time sipping Champagne, watching an even more impressive fireworks display in trail of the QM2 and in front of the QE2. Despite the drizzle, which had begun to fall, it really was a tremendous send off. Cabins (Q5 - Cabin 5189) Having spent quite a bit of time in Q5 cabins on the QM2 we were expecting "bigger and better" on the QV. We were both disappointed in terms of "useable" size. Our cabin, although well appointed, was poorly laid out, lacked storage space (there was no walk in closet, instead we had a five door closet and a total of 7 drawers - five of which we so shallow as to be filled with two folded trousers). The poor use of space and relatively cramped cabin was, however, mated to a wrap around balcony that allowed us a virtually unobstructed 270-degree view. Unfortunately, unlike the QM2 all deck furniture was cheap plastic, which, I might add, also covered the decks of the entire ship. The wonderful teak decks of the QM2 are nowhere to be found having been replaced with linoleum like material with painted lines meant to simulate planks. As 14 of our 17 days were spent in balmy, sunny, weather this huge deck was wonderful and more than made up for the shortcomings of the cabin. On the other hand, had we been in colder waters or spent more of our time inside I'm afraid that I would have been annoyed with the premium we paid for such a cabin. Those booking in either QG or PG aboard the QV must be aware that there is significant variance between cabins of the same grade and, more expensive grades are not always worth the premium. As an example - the QV has Q5 cabins located both mid-ship and at the stern. Those that are mid-ship have a walk-in closet but a very small balcony while those at the stern lack the walk-in closet but have amazing wrap around decks. Friends who opted for Q4 (referred to as a "Penthouse") on the QV were quite annoyed that our deck was immense compared to theirs and the size difference between their Cabin and Q5's was negligible. We also had occasion to share cocktails with friends traveling P2 in cabin 5001. Their cabin, while costing thousands of dollars less, was, functionally, almost double the size of our cabin with a walk in closet! Given the general confusion about value for money proffered by more than one guest I would hope that, in the future, Cunard might actually amend cabin categories on this ship. It should be noted that as the QG cabins are spread throughout the ship (as opposed to the QM2 on which they are almost completely concentrated on a single deck) the Butler staff is stretched very, very thin. Our Butler, Constantine, was assigned five cabins on the stern of deck five and four mid-ship cabins on another deck. As such, our impression was that the poor guy was always out of breath - running from one end of the ship to the other. Despite this, he did all in his power to address our needs. Staff I must say that Cunard staffed the QV well! Our voyage was commanded by Captain Wright. The Hotel Director on board was Robert Howie and the Queens Grill was overseen by Benjamino. In fact, upon sitting down for our first lunch in the Grills we knew every person assigned to our section from the QM2. This continuity of personnel had much to do with the very, very positive impression of service that we came away with and is one that we heard repeated by guests throughout the trip regardless of cabin grade. Ironically, and with very few exceptions, those staff that had transferred from the QM2 and with whom we spoke, all wanted to go back to the QM2. In addition to missing the unusually well appointed crew accommodations on the QM2, several of them really missed the "grandeur" of the "Mary". One of our favorite QM2 QG junior waiters, recently promoted to senior waiter in Britannia on the QV, made the following observation: "No mater where we went on the Mary there was always some celebration, on this ship - we're just another cruise ship". This type of pride (in this case for the QM2), something intangible, is something that we simply didn't see exhibited by the crew on the QV. Public Spaces Several years ago my wife and I had dinner with the hotel director onboard the QM2. Having no other experience than that ship I asked him to tell me what I would miss if I tried another ship. With little hesitation he said "space". At the time, we were sitting in the Chart Room on the QM2 and he pointed to the ceiling. It was not until I boarded the QV that I understood what he meant. Although beautifully appointed I always felt cramped on the QV. Although I never felt jostled or crowded in any public space the lack of "volume" simply made ever room feel more closed in. The two-story library, is so close upstairs that I ever felt the desire to dawdle as I always did in the QM2 library. The casino, being inboard and without any outside light, felt small and claustrophobic. The Golden Lion pub with its low ceilings would have been miserable were they to allow smoking in the space. Despite these misgivings there are two spaces aboard the ship that I found superior to the QM2 - they were the theater and the Commodore Club. The theater is set up just like a Broadway or West End theater. The sight lines are superb and both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the private box option for certain shows. The Commodore Club is huge when compared to that on the QM2 and, personally, I found the dEcor to be superior as well. We were privileged to share Captain Wright's table one evening so spent a bit of time in the Britannia - again - the grandeur of the QM2 Britannia, both in space and dEcor, was simply not available in this room. The Grills Without a doubt the most memorable part of the ship, as far as we were concerned, is that relatively small portion that is reserved for Grills guests. Two of the elevators adjacent to the B stairway are, once a keycard is entered, capable of whisking PG and QG guests to their little oasis. Located mid-ships on deck 11 the PG and QG dining rooms, as well as the QG Lounge are wonderfully set up. Unlike the QM2 where grill guests are often peered at by those enjoyed their walk about the promenade on deck 7, these rooms allow diners unobstructed views to the horizon. Each room was wonderfully appointed and, despite the ever-present lower ceilings, seemed quite airy as a result of their views. A small courtyard is located between the two dining rooms and allows alfresco dining for those so inclined. We found this to be a wonderful spot for lunch. Deck 12 is an outside area that sits atop the Grills restaurants that allows guests to enjoy a great place for sunning when weather permits. Conclusions Obviously, all I share here is subjective and neither right or wrong. Overall both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The Panama Canal was stunning, the weather was perfect, the service - superb. Would we book the QV again? Perhaps, but we would do so with a very careful eye towards cabin selection and itinerary. We recognize that, for us, there is simply no comparing a cruise to a crossing. Having now done two world cruise segments, we've come to realize that we are crossing people. I hope that readers will find the info that I share helpful. I'd be more than happy to answer any specific questions that are posted. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
BACKGROUND. My wife and I decided on three segments of the inaugural Queen Victoria world cruise, namely Los Angeles to Sydney, Sydney to Singapore and Singapore to Dubai, as an early retirement present to ourselves being aged 61 and 59. ... Read More
BACKGROUND. My wife and I decided on three segments of the inaugural Queen Victoria world cruise, namely Los Angeles to Sydney, Sydney to Singapore and Singapore to Dubai, as an early retirement present to ourselves being aged 61 and 59. We have lived in both the U.K. and Cape Town, are well travelled and are not new to cruising and modern day ships. PRE-CRUISE. We flew into Los Angeles airport in January this year and apart from a distasteful comment from the U.S. immigration official regarding "You Brits..." we arrived at the old Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach without incident. We spent a pleasant night on board this old Cunarder pending our embarkation the next day on the new Queen Victoria. It was interesting to compare the width of the corridors on the old Queen compared to today's more compact construction. Embarkation was smooth and efficient, having completed all our personal information on the internet prior to arrival, and we were soon comfortably settled in our (soon to be changed )stateroom no 8062 on deck 8. The room was more than adequate for size, however there was a noticeable lack of drawer space, a comment echoed by most of our fellow guests. Also the shower cubicle was small and if you are taller than 1.75 metres you will have to duck under the showerhead to wash your hair. THE SHIP. For a virtually brand new ship, one expects a few faults, however I am amazed that Cunard took delivery of such a poorly finished vessel. The initial look around no doubt creates a good impression with a very effective layout of public rooms and connecting passageways. It is very tastefully finished, but on closer inspection most finishes are poor with joins in the paneling and laminated finishes not meeting correctly, glue having oozed out of these joins and ceiling panels not fitting flush. In some areas such as the Lido restaurant, the spotlights in the ceiling are not even aligned properly. The maintenance staff are continually working on problems. We saw them re-glueing chrome handrail finishes onto the woodwork, repairing light fittings in the library, a single fire sprinkler that just activated itself,non-flushing toilets,automatic door closers,deck chairs,problems with the swimming pool machinery to name just a few. The plastic coating on the tables in the Lido is already cracking and peeling off and with it no doubt harboring germs. We were forced to request an alternative cabin after about 3 nights as we discovered that the pool filtration system and steam heating valves and pipes are situated on the same deck as we were assigned and were in close proximity to our cabin. This meant that we were treated to the sound of these valves opening and closing all through the night and we were deprived of sleep. In fact it was so bad that the technical crew concerned then had to turn off the heating system at night until an alternative stateroom no 1016 became available in Sydney. This, however, was not before the outer door on our bar fridge fell off when the screws came completely away from the chipboard to which it was attached. The automatic door closer on the stateroom door also parted company with the wall when the screws sheered off due to poor fitment. Upon moving we had a problem with the door closer on the new stateroom. For a new ship, it has a lot of vibrations and noises and an excessive roll in high seas which I have not encountered before on Princess, Carnival or Royal Caribbean in similar sea conditions. The decks are not finished in wood but are covered with a plastic coating with simulated deck stripes which gets terribly hot and on which some person suffered serious burns to the soles of their feet. My overall impression is that whilst the layout is good the ship has been poorly finished with cheap materials which are already starting to fray around the edges. This also appeared to be the opinion of the technical staff I questioned about all the faults. According to some of the crew, the electricity supply has not been completed to all of their cabins and I was informed by an internet cafe supervisor that the satellite for the internet was placed so close to the funnel that the signal is lost when steering in a South-westerly direction. The Britannia dining room experience was acceptable if not of a particularly high standard one would expect of a "Queen". The portions were well presented but were small in comparison to say Princess Cruises and were not always hot. The menu seemed to repeat itself after about 4 weeks. Staff were attentive and polite and the service provided was excellent but having said that a couple of men at our table were "hit-on" by a certain male waiter, not very pleasant and reported to the Maitre D. I understand that the best staff were "cherry picked" from other vessels to create a good impression on this new ship. Bearing in mind the age group, the activities on board would appear to cater for most, however it was interesting to see passengers opting to play cards on the ship's computers instead of enjoying the decks and pools. There is a children's club but again due to the age group and nature of the cruise, it was not utilized when I visited the facility. Live entertainment was limited to say the least. One had the option of listening to a pianist or another pianist or a classical pianist in the public rooms or a lady playing a harp or a classical string quartet. Apart from the odd comedian and dance routine the theatre at night time again featured the same classical overtones and "Singing stars" ( read has - beens )that no one had ever even heard about. The piped music that was played during meal times and in the onboard cafes was depressing to say the least and reminded me of BBC Radio 4, whilst the TV repeated the films ad nauseam. One would have thought a new supply could have been obtained in port. Quite frankly when the more modern music was played in the Queen's Room such as a 1970's night, the dance floor was well populated. Shore excursions were, in the main, most enjoyable and catered for all tastes however in my opinion were rather expensive at an average of USD79 for around a 3-4 hour coach trip especially in the cheaper ports in Vietnam, Thailand and India where coaches were not quite up to first class standards. Disembarkation was not a problem and went very smoothly. SUMMARY An enjoyable cruise, spoilt by a lack of variety in live entertainment and styles of music and too many formal nights ( 3 each week ). Probably best suited to those in their late 70's or 80's as one has to contend with many "senior moments" during the course of the day. The ship is nice but poorly finished and has a "plasticky" feel. Cunard is obviously trying to re-create the grand old days but I'm afraid the guests on board are not up to this standard. Many men do not appear to know about the use of deodorants, whilst others do not understand the dress code or perhaps ignore it, as it is too restrictive when you are on holiday. According to Cunard, a man must wear a jacket every night in the public rooms. One final tip. Do not obtain a stateroom near the self-service launderettes situated on the 4th, 5th, 6th ,7th and 8th decks. They are filled with noisy and aggressive people. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We'd heard that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Prince Charles, had failed to shatter the traditional bottle of Veuve Cliquot when she launched the Queen Victoria on December 6, 2007. We'd also heard that a week later, on ... Read More
We'd heard that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Prince Charles, had failed to shatter the traditional bottle of Veuve Cliquot when she launched the Queen Victoria on December 6, 2007. We'd also heard that a week later, on the Queen's maiden voyage, nearly 200 of her passengers had developed an intestinal infection, the Vicky Novo Virus. Despite this, we were ecstatic that we'd succeeded in booking passage on the first segment of the Queen's maiden voyage around the world. We could hardly wait to experience Her Highly-Publicized Majesty, her stylish parties, her elegant staterooms and particularly, her gracious service. Yes, we remembered the good old days of Cunard. Yes, we dreamed of having our shoes polished daily and watching solicitous stewardesses add select fragrances to our bath water. Who then, other than superstitious ancient mariners, could have fathomed that the new Queen would suffer from a wave of general mismanagement, slipshod service and inadequate cabins. Yes, the dEcor was attractive - the furnishings were tasteful and the synthetic woodwork gleamed - but we were happy that we only had to sail on the Queen for 24 days, from Southampton to Los Angeles. Alas, the Queen Victoria was on the cheap. She had, from conception to berth, been Carnivalized. It all began with a highly disorganized embarkation process at Southampton. Because our driver let us off at the baggage intake area of the Cunard terminal, we only had to walk all the way around the building to the main entrance in order to check in. However, we pitied those who were dropped off at the main entrance. They had to self-porter their heavy luggage back to the baggage intake area and then return before registering. It soon became apparent that the boarding process was also disorganized. Because our accommodations were on the 8th deck, we were told that we could board at 1 p.m. while passengers with less expensive quarters on the 1st through 7th deck were asked to board at 2, 3 or 4 p.m. But this was not to be. Instead, we waited in the sparsely furnished terminal, crowded with some 2000 passengers, until 2:45 p.m. without so much as a free glass of water from Cunard - although water and stale sandwiches could only be purchased at the terminal's concession booth. After this wait and after queuing and waiting again, this time within the jammed gantry gangway - where our places and spaces were usurped by a lengthy parade of wheelchair guests that Cunard should have boarded earlier - we received no on-board welcome whatsoever. An unsmiling crewmember simply pointed to a staircase that would take us to our quarters. Later, we learned that both port and final disembarkations would be worse. In New York, our first destination, many passengers had no intention of leaving the ship. Nevertheless, we were told that all of us must disembark with our custom declarations and health forms in hand - allegedly to satisfy the INS, Customs and Homeland Security - and that we would have to wait to reboard until each and every passenger had disembarked and passed muster with these agencies. Thus, we waited 2 plus hours to disembark and another 2 hours to embark again. Ashore, no one attempted to collect our health forms and the Customs officers seemed bewildered and annoyed that those of us in transit who had purchased nothing were wasting their time. In Fort Lauderdale, for no apparent reason, we again waited several hours to disembark, and in Los Angeles, the New York scenario was repeated. In fact, in each of the endless announcements made in conjunction with the disembarkation of all passengers, the ship blamed its own delays on federal agencies. However, we, the passengers, knew better. Cunard needed to make sure that each and every one of us had left the ship in order to conduct full crew maneuvers, and as rumor had it, to avoid the requirement that if even one passenger remained aboard, some 25 crew members would have to be available to answer to his or her needs. But back to that moment in Southampton when we first entered our quarters - which could hardly be called a stateroom. Crammed into approximately 160 square feet was a Queen size bed, a 4 foot sofa-bed, a small coffee table, 2 night tables, a straight chair which had to remain under something similar to a desk if we were to access the balcony, an unstocked mini-bar and within those same 160 square feet, a postage stamp bathroom which couldn't be entered if any of the closet doors opposite were open. We were very grateful for our balcony although we used it only 2 or 3 times - the North Atlantic weather was icy and the Central American climate, unbearably hot and humid. Almost immediately, we - and every other passenger - noticed the absence of drawers and adequate closet space. With 3 ½ small drawers per cabin, there wasn't a traveler who didn't proclaim with disbelief, sarcasm and humor that "the Queen had no drawers". With two tiny unlit closets, they were also quick to proclaim that the Victoria was "no closet Queen". Consequently, a number of guests only went ashore in New York to collect empty boxes for under-the-bed storage. Others, who planned to travel the world on the Queen Victoria launched a protest and decided to ask en masse for a rebate. Where were the Queen's drawers? The small desk, attached to the mini-bar, was cluttered with a vinyl stationery folder (soon placed under the bed), light-computer-electrical switches and outlets, a telephone (automatically programmed to say without apology that all lines are busy or unavailable), water glasses (for which we could purchase water), and a permanently unfilled ice bucket (also placed under the bed). The mini-bar's top provided a flat surface for an unpredictable TV set - without CD, VCR or DVD accessories and without a guide to the TV programs, movies and lectures playing somewhere at some unknown time on its 50 channels. But, the tiny desk did have a stationery drawer - too small for the stationery folder - and the mini-bar did have a 6x16 drawer that housed a large, permanently attached hair dryer - as far away from the bathroom as possible. In additional, each of the two night tables had a small bottom drawer at floor level - so that able-bodied guests could access them by doubling over or lying on their stomachs. The drawer crisis could have been corrected simply - and even cheaply enough to satisfy Carnival, but it wasn't. The TV could have been attached to the wall, freeing space for at least 4 drawers above the mini-bar. Two drawers could have been added to each night table, and another three could have been placed in the 3 ½ foot black hole in the life preserver cupboard located next to the closets. Still, the cabin's lack of drawers and closet space did harmonize smoothly with the bathroom facilities - a throne that flushed randomly, a sink that wouldn't hold three pairs of Queen-size pantyhose and a shower for the short and lean that only had elbow room for half a dozen elbows. The bathroom, with neither bath nor room, had no drawers, cabinets or even absorbent towels, but on the positive side, the bed linens, pillows are mattresses were eminently seaworthy. If we were uncomfortable inside our cabin, there was no escape from the inundating commercialism and the absence of service in the public rooms. "Commercialism" was the polestar of the Queen Victoria and "Cheap" was both its adjective and watchword. Sadly, sailing on the Queen was akin to making a transatlantic flight in economy class - where passengers must purchase their box lunches, soft drinks and head sets. Carnivalized from its inception, the ship's policy was to save a buck, make a buck and pass the buck. To make a buck, daily sales of cheap goods - sunglasses, perfumes, watches, caps, and tee shirts - were pro forma. Guest photos - the ship was awash with photographers - not-so-fine art, books, memorabilia, beauty treatments and even yoga lessons - were constantly sea-hawked via flyers, the ship's TV channel and the daily program - which also provided maps to the port shops that Cunard favored. To save a buck, most of the entertainers and lecturers - with some notable exceptions - were second rate, the destinations planned were those that charged little or no port fees, i.e. the container port of Manzanillo where the ship charged $8 for a shuttle ride into town; and guests who won the daily competitions received coupons that might be traded for ¼ of a bookmark or several links on a key chain. In addition, nothing was free in the public rooms - not a bottle of water, cup of coffee or soft drink - and nuts and potato chips were served with great reluctance in only one of the many bars. Nevertheless, cardboard canapEs were served at some of the Officers' cocktail parties because the invitation lists were limited to guests making the full voyage around the world or those who'd sailed a specific number of days at sea with Cunard. As frequent world travelers, who've sailed on both luxury ships and expedition vessels, we've never before experienced such poor service. The passenger staff, with few exceptions, was sour-pussed, surly and unaccommodating. We learned that this was due to their low wages, a heavy work overload and little time off - all because some 210 staff positions had not been filled. Why hadn't these positions been filled? Because Cunard/Carnival had again tried to save a buck. It built the Queen Victoria without sufficient quarters to harbor the staff it needed. This explained why she actually needed another 40 chefs - which in turn explained why our uninspired dinners frequently arrived late, cold, overcooked or all of the above. For this, we couldn't fault our courteous waiter and his assistant. They had to serve approximately 20 passengers and often apologized to us when they had to wait indefinitely for food to emerge from the kitchen. Similarly, our cabin attendant was the only steward available for a corridor of some 20 rooms. Thus, we were quick to forgive him for his occasional inability to service our cabin. As to the other staff members, few had patience with the guests and consequently, few of the guests had patience with them. Bartenders and waiters in many of the public rooms might not appear for hours, or ignore the passengers, or refuse to serve them a particular beverage because they were not, at the time, seated in the room designated for that service. As a result, we were often forced to fetch our own coffee - free only in the 9th deck cafeteria and carry in down to a 2nd deck sitting area, or purchase a glass of wine on the 2nd deck - and carry it up to the 9th deck in order to enjoy it with friends or with meals. In one instance, when I wanted a teatime sandwich to accompany a soft drink that I'd fetched from the pub, I was told that I could only have the sandwich with tea in the Queen's Room - where soft drinks were not permitted. After arguing first with the waiter and then with the maitre d', the latter allowed me to take my finger sandwich into the adjacent sitting area if I promised to return the plate ASAP. In 15 minutes, the maitre d' appeared and snippily asked if I was finished with his plate yet. While this incident makes it plain that Cunard considers it too costly to service more than one or two public rooms at a time, this does not excuse Cunard for its failure to train and discipline its staff - all the while touting its legendary White Star Service. It would cost little to require the staff to smile occasionally, say "hello" or "good morning" and ask "how may I help you" instead of saying "I can't do that" and "you can't do this". Perhaps they were using the daily program, listing the shipboard "can'ts" and "don'ts", as a manual. Oddly enough, as we approached Mexican waters, the staff grew more polite and helpful - which might be attributed to the fact that their contracts were coming to an end voluntarily or involuntarily. It may also be attributed to the passengers who gently taught the staff to smile and offer appropriate greetings. With the void in cordial service - or any service, it would seem that we had difficulty in handling gratuities. We didn't. To save and make a buck simultaneously, every passenger was automatically docked $11 per day for gratuities while, in addition, each and every chit for anything automatically included a 15% gratuity plus a large black line labeled "gratuity". Annoyed, any number of passengers insisted that the $11 daily charge be removed from their bills. To this, the purser assented - at least prospectively - as he was duty bound to run a very tight ship. We were also embarrassed by our Queen's parsimony. While docked in New York, we were abashed to see the city's group of "plaque presenters" and port officials, unaccompanied by an officer or host, pushing their trays though the ship's cafeteria. As a matter of protocol, "plaque presenters" are treated as honored guests. They come aboard to welcome a ship on its first visit to their port and they typically present the Captain with a commemorative plaque, the key to the city, assorted gifts and kind speeches. To reciprocate, the ship is expected to welcome these special visitors with an elaborate luncheon or elegant champagne reception. But the Queen provided no such regal fare. Instead, her staff informed the plaque presenters that they were "welcome" to grab a bite in the cafeteria prior to the presentation ceremony. We could only hope that the actual presentation ceremony was considerably more gracious. On this, the Queen Victoria's maiden voyage, there were, as expected, unexpected construction and maintenance problems that surfaced. Overlooking the occasional air conditioning and toilet flushing problems, the only major complaints came from passengers who had sewage backups in their showers and those who, day and night, were subjected to loud thumps and booms immediately overhead - deck construction problems that could only be corrected in dry-dock. Other than that, the biggest protest came from an angry but united community of both smokers and non-smokers. Subject to the unhealthy smoking policy aboard, some 60 smokers and their non-smoking partners were relegated to a small outdoor area on the 10th deck - dangerous in both the cold blustery weather of the North Sea and the blazing sun in the tropics, or the cigar lounge seating 8 people, or another 8 seat area adjacent to the casino between 2 restaurants. To accommodate more than 8 people, passengers had to move uncomfortable casino and pub stools into the area and/or stand in the corridors where smoke drifted up the grand staircase to the upper decks. When the Captain and Purser were, by petition, asked to designate one of the many bars for smoking, preferably one with beverage service, they went overboard to pass the buck to Cunard and Carnival. This further irritated both the non-smokers and smokers who were promised smoking facilities aboard and who felt that, since they were paying the same high prices as the other passengers, the master of the vessel could and should honor Cunard's promise. Consequently, some refused to pay the daily $11 gratuity and numerous others vowed that they'd never again travel with Cunard. For some passengers, food can make or break a cruise. Guests seeking quantity could sate themselves with mediocre meals in the main dining room - with lamb chops always served in rhubarb juice; in the pub - with stale mashed potatoes on the cottage pie; in the Queen's Room - with tea with finger sandwiches possibly imported from the original Queen Elizabeth; or in the cafeteria - which provided a varied menu of comfort foods, an unvarying salad bar, processed cheeses and packaged ice cream. Guests seeking quality were far more limited. If they were not entitled to dine in the Queen's or Prince's Grill, excellent Indian and Oriental meals were available on certain evenings in the "alternative dining" section of the cafeteria. There, only the first 40 in the queue would be served - albeit very slowly. As an alternative to "alternative dining", guests could enjoy exceptional food and service in the Todd English restaurant for $30 per person, excluding wine and gratuities. Upon embarkation, passengers were given a month-long dress code calendar - often modified in the daily program - which designated the after 6 attire expected in all public rooms. If the evening was to be "formal", dinner jackets were required; if informal, jackets and ties; and if "elegant casual", jackets without ties. While one might expect Cunard to honor and enforce its old traditional dress code, one steeped in etiquette and protocol, the Queen's procedural commanders were either ignorant of or oblivious to any Post-Vanderbilt influence. Shipboard etiquette - any system of etiquette - must insure that all guests feel at ease in the anticipated environment. On the Queen Victoria, the prescribed dress code was inconvenient if not outrageous. Never before have we sailed on a ship that required passengers to dress formally after a day spent in port, on evenings prior to disembarkation, on Sundays, or on evenings when guests would later have to change into a costume. Confused and inconvenienced, many guests simply chose to dress informally or casually despite the dress code - although it was hardly appetizing to dine next to a hirsute man decked out in a sweaty tank top. In fairness to those who did observe the dress code - often at their own inconvenience - the various maitre d's should have been required to ask such patrons to dress more appropriately or "dine in". Alas, it seems that for Carnival, a sea of formal evenings - as many as three per week - is "the" pinnacle of shipboard elegance. In retrospect, the high points of our voyage were the gala "Meeting of the Three Queens" in the New York harbor and our transit of the Panama Canal. The Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth II had sailed in tandem across the Atlantic and after joining the Queen Mary in New York, all three queens, assembled together for the first and last time, were honored with a majestic firework display near the Statue of Liberty. In Panama, Cunard finally opened its pocket book. It paid $100 per passenger - about $200,000 - for the privilege of transiting the canal during the daylight hours. It further engaged the best of lecturers to educate us every step of the way. But it was the passengers who made the ship. The finest part of our Queen Victoria experience was meeting wonderfully warm people - acquaintances that we now call friends - although dining with them or inviting them to dine with us was another Cunard no-no. Most of our new friends are Brits - English, Irish, Scottish or Australian - who are probably the best-balanced people on earth. They don't allow their serious side or their personal problems to impair their sincerity, cheerfulness and wonderful sense of humor. Admiring their style and character, we even learned how to shrug off our disappointment with the Queen and laugh about her shortcomings. One day, we joked for hours about being forced to walk the plank for criticizing her i.e., "On plank day, were we to dress formally, informally or casually? Would we need to pay the full $11 gratuity for that day? Would the added 15% gratuity be enough? Would Cunard charge us for the plank and the blindfold?" Some of our new friends plan to leave Cunard permanently for smoother waters while the die-hard Cunarders plan to renew their loyalty to the Queen Mary II. They have little choice because the Queen Elizabeth II will soon become an over-the-top but charming bistro in Dubai and to them, "the Queen Victoria is no queen". Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
Our embarkation experience was positive and pretty much in line with previous reviewers' experiences. The staff were prepared, knowledgeable, and pleasant. The public rooms, and our cabin, were about what we expected after studying ... Read More
Our embarkation experience was positive and pretty much in line with previous reviewers' experiences. The staff were prepared, knowledgeable, and pleasant. The public rooms, and our cabin, were about what we expected after studying the brochures for nearly a year. Our cabin looked just like the picture. We have plenty of space for hanging clothes and don't mind having shelves instead of drawer space for folded items. We would have appreciated, though, a reading lamp near the sofa. We selected a Princess Grill cabin specifically because of the separation between the sleeping and sitting areas, but the lack of adequate lighting made the sitting area space virtually unusable. Having two television screens seemed like a great feature, too, until we discovered that we couldn't adjust the viewing angle of the high-tech screen. The screen in the sitting area was positioned so poorly that we couldn't watch anything on it without standing up in front of the screen. Our biggest disappointment is in the meal menus. The service in Princess Grill is outstanding; our waiter and his assistant are some of the most consistent professionals we have seen anywhere in the world. They are to be commended. However, though the menu choices look appetizing, the execution frequently falls short of our expectations. The beef offerings are standard grade meat, tasteless and tough. For $1,000 a day, we'd expected better. Despite chef's claim of offering healthy selections, we rarely see a vegetable other than potato on the plate. And when they are present, the portions are little more than a bite or two. A selection touted as "steak with asparagus" could have included more than two spears of asparagus. And for the first month, the kitchen served spears sliced in half vertically! So the apparent serving of two spears was in reality one spear disguised as two. And I'll never understand the meal planning in the Lido buffet. Today's choice was touted as "Mexican" but whoever planned - and cooked - the meal has obviously never been even close to Mexico. The pork roast was tasty but was served dry and carved amateurishly with the grain, making it stringy and all but inedible. Anyone who's eaten at even the worst Mexican restaurant knows that rice and beans are never served mixed together, nor would you ever see a kidney bean in Mexican cuisine. There wasn't a tortilla in sight. The vegetable choice was the inevitable frozen cauliflower-broccoli-carrot medley, English-style broiled tomatoes, artichoke bottoms sauteed with mushrooms in olive oil, and Cajun-spiced potatoes... accompanied by Minestrone soup! What are you people thinking??? I chuckled the first time I heard some loyal Cunarders refer to the Lido as "the smash and grab" but I understand better now after having tried to enjoy a decent meal there. The incongruous menus, coupled with the dreadful traffic flow mentioned by other reviewers, and the general tendency for a certain group of passengers to push into queues as though they haven't seen food in weeks makes the Lido dining experience all but unbearable. The shore excursions are interesting and reasonably priced, but they are far too ambitious for the typical Cunard traveler. Whoever planned the 30-minute stops failed to take into account that it takes at least ten minutes to get the passengers off the bus and another ten minutes to get them back on. Allowing ten minutes to see any sight, let alone something priceless like the Luxor Temple, is just plain incompetent. Every tour we went on tried to cram five sights into a time space that could reasonably accommodate perhaps three. Combine the rushedness with the Lido-type pushiness of that certain group of travelers, and the experience becomes more frustrating than satisfying. I suggest the tour staff pay some close attention to the "slow travel" trend and reconsider the excursion itineraries. Despite all of this, we've enjoyed our World Cruise. The Cunard experience wasn't quite what we expected, but the ship is beautiful to look at and very comfortable. Our cabin steward is outstanding and anticipates our every need... always with a smile. But did we get $1,000 a day worth of value? I think not. We'll think twice before booking with Cunard again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
Having been fortunate enough to experience the QM2 maiden transatlantic, my wife and I were hoping to duplicate the experience on the Queen Victoria. Unfortunately the weather was not as turbulent as on the QM2, but the sight of the QE2 ... Read More
Having been fortunate enough to experience the QM2 maiden transatlantic, my wife and I were hoping to duplicate the experience on the Queen Victoria. Unfortunately the weather was not as turbulent as on the QM2, but the sight of the QE2 ploughing through the waves alongside us was very spectacular and more than enough to compensate for the lack of a Force 10 gale! Overall, we were very impressed with the Queen Victoria. We felt that the decor was superb, the dark wood veneers (or plastics?) gave exactly the right impression of a dignified London club or hotel and the Royal Court theatre was the best we have experienced at sea with no sight line problems and gave a real feeling of being in a small London theatre. The arrangement of bars was good, with sufficient feeling of separation while allowing good passenger flow.The Commodore Club was especially well done and gave a comfortable feeling, avoiding the rather cold feeling of other such rooms on HAL ships. I particularly liked the Winter Garden which gave the opportunity of fresh air without the ocean 'breezes' of a winter North Atlantic crossing. Service throughout the ship was good, and the earlier complaints from passengers seem to have been mostly solved. One area that we thought could be improved was the 'in-cabin' electronics. The television was badly adjusted and the programming was not good. In particular we were disappointed that no news channel was available when out of TV satellite range - other ships have provided a BBC World Service radio feed or even a text news service. Also, some improvement of e-mail facilities is needed. The Internet Room was almost always full, and why was it not possible to install facilities for cabin texting as in the QM2? We are travelling on the QM2 again in October and will see how we like it now, but the more compact size of the QV was an advantage. And yes, the bathroom was too small (how do large clients manage?)and there are few drawers (although my wife says that more shelves would be better than more drawers),but overall we thought she was a well-designed ship and well able to carry the Cunard name. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2008
Last Sunday we got off the June 10th 12 Day Queen Victoria cruise to Norway. We had cabin 5192 which is located along the back end of deck 5. It is a Q4 cabin. Since many of the folks on CC have yet to have their first QV cruise I thought ... Read More
Last Sunday we got off the June 10th 12 Day Queen Victoria cruise to Norway. We had cabin 5192 which is located along the back end of deck 5. It is a Q4 cabin. Since many of the folks on CC have yet to have their first QV cruise I thought it would be helpful if I documented my impressions. Recently I submitted a thread describing the awful experience we had with the Cunard transfer from our London Hotel to Southampton. Fortunately that was the last bad experience I had on this trip. Overall I really enjoyed the Queen Victoria. I say that as a recent convert to Cunard having only sailed on the QM2 two previous times in the last two years. I have never been on the QE2 so my comparisons here are reflective of my QM2 experience. While I have noticed that some folks have complained that the ship doesn't look, from the outside, as elegant as the QM2 or QE2 and maybe that is the case. However, you need to remember that the QV is not an ocean liner... it is a very elegant cruise ship. Frankly that is fine with me for except for a few times when I view the ship in port the most important aspect of a cruise vacation for me is how well the ship operates for the passengers on the inside and not how it looks on the outside. The really good stuff: Royal Court Theater may be the most beautiful theater at sea. Actually it may be the most beautiful theater either at sea or on land. It is truly magnificent. The theater has about 15 boxes that you can pay to sit in during the major productions ($50/person). We initially reserved a box for a couple of the productions but when we saw how many empty seats there were in the orchestra we cancelled those reservations and just sat with everyone else. You could come to the theater a few minutes before show time and not have a problem getting a good seat. Besides the four major productions by the Cunard dancers and singers on our twelve day cruise there was great entertainment brought in for the other nights including Mac Frampton an amazing pianist, a really funny British comedian, a women singer, a Texan tenor and a gorgeous women violin player. We went to every one of the shows and found them to be outstanding. Queens Grill Dining Room: Both the Queen and Princess Grill dining rooms are on deck eleven and are not accessible to any of the non Grill passengers. The Grill passengers gain access to the 11th floor by inserting the room key into a slot in the elevator that allows you to push the deck 11 button. The slight problem is that it takes two or three attempts to push in the card key to make the 11th floor button actually work. A few times while I was fiddling with the card key the elevator got called to a lower floor and I had to go down to Deck 1 before I could go up to deck 11. Also only two of the four Stairway B elevators go to the 11th floor so sometimes there is a wait to get the right elevator going in the right direction. Not a huge problem and worst case scenario is that you go to deck ten and walk up one deck. The layout of the Queens Grill is fabulous and in my opinion is a much better layout than on the QM2. You enter the Grill from the center of the room rather than from an end. As a result there is not the bowling alley type walk that you have on the QM2. Also the Grill windows are larger and look directly on the water. Unlike the QM2 Grill where there is a passenger promenade outside the windows, on the QV Queens Grill this does not exist. We had a window side table for two and the view outside the window was fantastic...especially when we were sailing through the Norwegian Fjords. Commodore Lounge: In my opinion the best lounge on the ship and much nicer than the Commodore Lounge on the QM2. It has huge windows and a fabulous view of the bow of the ship. The lounge is huge and had a great pianist every evening. Frankly even given its large size we often had a problem finding a seat in the evening attesting to the popularity of this lounge. Eventually someone got up and we were able to be seated. Also during the day it is the best place to bring a book and just sit back, read and relax. Queens Room: A little smaller but otherwise very similar to the Queens Room on the QM2. Still the great dancing orchestra and all the major formal events occur here. I noticed on a previous thread someone commenting that it is not an enclosed room which is the case. There is a corridor on the side of the room that goes from the Cunardia Museum to the Casino and Royal Court Theater area. This is not a problem and I never felt that this side corridor took away from the ambiance of the Queens Room experience. The only thing that is a little bit weird, and frankly unnecessary, is that on both sides of the stage there are large wall mounted color TV's that show the activity in the room. These are not necessary and take away from the elegant ambiance of the room. Shopping Arcade: They really did a good job with the shopping area. It is located on deck 3 between the Royal Court Theater and the second floor of the Queens Room. They have kept it away from the main grand stairway Also, while they still have the evening flea market on a few of the days and nights it is not as large as the one on the QM2 and it is kept in the area around the shops so that it does not take up the entire ship. There are no big name shops like on the QM2 which, in my opinion, is just fine. Winter Garden: The Winter Garden, on deck 9 between the Lido and the main swimming pool is a great space and has a moveable ceiling that opens up on nice days. Admiral's Lounge Located between the Commodore Lounge and the Churchill Cigar lounge on Deck 10 it is rarely used (except in the afternoon for "Friends of Bill"). It is a comfortable place, very tastefully decorated and a great place to write or read a book. Cabin 5192 (Both Very Good and Not Convenient) We had this cabin which is a Q4 Penthouse suite. It was large, had a separate bathtub and shower stall, plenty of storage space and a wonderful balcony that was large and wide that overlooked the back of the ship. The balcony was particularly worthwhile on the days we were cruising up the Norwegian fjords. We loved how the cabin was laid out but did not like how inconvenient it was to the places on the ship where we spent most of our time. The problem is that the cabin is closest to Stairway/Elevator bank C which is primarily used to go to the Britannia Restaurant on Deck two and three while you need to walk down to elevator bank B to get to the Queens Grill and elevator bank A to get to the spa, Commodore lounge and the Royal Theater. I have no problem walking but the hallways do not go in a straight line and are not very wide and actually changes width as the hallway meanders through various turns between the front and rear of the ship. This inconvenience was further complicated because the service carts, which took up more than half the width of the hallway, were kept in the hallway literally all day long. What we ended up doing was going to the closest elevator which was C taking the elevator to Deck 2 or 3 (which have all public rooms and wide hallways) and then walking on those decks to Elevators A or B. On my next cruise I will book a cabin between Stairways A and B. Also since the Grill cabins are located throughout the ship and not on one or two decks like on the QM2 it makes the life of the Butler much more challenging as his cabin responsibilities extend between cabins on different decks. The Disappointing stuff: Queens Grill Concierge/Lounge: Despite the great Queens Grill dining room the Grill Lounge does not work on the QV. They tried to combine the QM2's Concierge Lounge (which is on Deck 9 on the QM2) and the QM2's Grill lounge (which is on Deck 7 opposite the Queens Grill on the QM2) into one lounge outside the Grill dining rooms on deck 11 of the QV and they came up short on both lounges. First it is too small. Second, unlike the Concierge lounge on the QM2 (where a lounge attendant is there all day) the lounge attendant on the QV is only there for a limited number of hours each day...a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Also and most important to me was that there is no dedicated shore excursion person to help you select the shore excursion for your tours. If you wanted shore excursion info you needed to go to deck one, wait in line and use the same shore excursion folks as the non Grill passengers (Hey don't call me elite. I paid a pretty penny to have a Queens Grill suite). Finally, there is no special entertainment in the evening hours in the Grill lounge as there was in the QM2 Grill lounge this past February. The QV lounge is just not big enough or set up for it (no piano). I hope on the new Queen Elizabeth they go back to the separate format for the Grill Lounge and the Grill Concierge Lounge. Library: Giving all the hype about the Library I was really looking forward to seeing and using this space. While it is two stories high and has an abundance of wood features and lots and lots of books (mostly travel guide books) it has a very crowded feel and the few chairs that you can sit on to read a book. Also the few chairs that exist are mainly near the windows, which is fine, except the windows in the Library on Deck 3 look out on the storage area for the tender stairway. So rather than looking out at the sea you are looking out at a metal stairway on its side. My recommendation is to check out a book here and go to the Commodore Lounge to read it. Cunardia Museum: Like the Library an area that was disappointing given all the pre launch hype. It is not a separate room but rather a wider hallway area between the main stairway and the Queens Room. Some of the stuff is interesting but essentially it looks like they had one of the Cunard secretaries go on Ebay and buy whatever Cunard memorabilia that she could find. The Cunardia is not a problem; probably a good way to use some space that was not big enough to be a lounge but it is certainly no big deal. Cabin Balcony I had read about this on previous posts and thought it was written by a bunch of cruise purists. But I got to tell you that I was really put off that the balcony table chairs and lounges were not wooden but was metal with a plastic web on the chairs. They looked like the type of outdoor furniture you would buy at the Wal-Mart end of season sale. Also the floor surface was not wooden but some type of concrete surface with the wood planking literally drawn on the floor. It really looked weird. Ship Photographers: These folks are always annoying but appear to be more so on the QV. I believe that they have changed the comp program for the photographers so that they get a larger commission depending upon whether the passengers purchase their photos. When we got off in the ports there was not just one or two of the photographers at the bottom of the gang plank but literally six or seven of these folks chasing you down the dock until you got on your bus. I have a new appreciation of celebrities who are chased by the paparazzi. Overall it was a great cruise. The shore excursions in Norway were fantastic and the dining room service and food was second to none. We are definitely going to book another QV cruise. Despite some shortcomings it is a truly fabulous ship. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
I embarked on a "one world cruise - three ships" adventure with Cunard in New York on January 13th. I started out on the QE2 and transferred to the Victoria in Sydney, then took the QM2 back to New York from Southampton (107 ... Read More
I embarked on a "one world cruise - three ships" adventure with Cunard in New York on January 13th. I started out on the QE2 and transferred to the Victoria in Sydney, then took the QM2 back to New York from Southampton (107 days). Since I live within driving distance of New York, I booked no hotels, flights or cars through Cunard. Here, I am only going to review the Victoria, which has been the subject of much bad publicity and reviews. I was on the Victoria from Sydney to Southampton, - 59 days. Accommodations - I occupied an A3 cabin with balcony, midships, portside. My first impression was - it looks exactly like the cabins on the QM2 - and it did. Virtually the same dEcor and colors - very attractive. I did not think it small, especially when one takes the balcony into consideration. I admit that I was alone and so did not want for closet space, despite the fact that I brought 6 suitcases!!! But a couple traveling with 6 suitcases would have had plenty of room. When my steward arrived, I said: "So the rumors are true - there are no drawers!" We had a laugh. Well, there were two shallow night table drawers and two in the desk - containing information and a hair dryer. So, yes, it was true - nowhere to stash the lingerie!!! Shelves? Yes, one for the two life jackets, which I stashed under the bed; one over the large closet; one with the safe; and one other. My steward offered me a set of plastic drawers on wheels, which I squeezed into the lower hanging space in one of the closets. If you have read previous reviews, you will know that all these drawers, plastic or cardboard, were those purchased by the world cruisers in New York and Ft. Lauderdale in January whilst ashore. All of these drawers stay on board and are stored when passengers disembark...so you have to ask for them. We were told that the closets would gradually be retrofitted with drawers. When we asked who made such an outrageous mistake, the answers were too confusing to go into. I saw other cabins, inside and outside, with and without balconies - nothing to criticize, in my view. Bathroom was disappointing - shower is about half the size of the QM2 and woe betide anyone who drops the soap. The shower curtain is not going to stop your fall backwards. Storage consisted of two small shelves and one long open shelf under the counter. Very odd that. No cupboards as on QE2 and QM2. Sink is tiny and there is no soap holder. Again, what were the designers thinking? Some people went up to the spa to take showers. After my initial shock, it didn't bother me. Public Rooms - Beautiful, even if the wood isn't always real.... or the marble, or the decks. Hey it's the 21st century! The pub is the best I've seen. It's like a real pub building rather than an open space. The Queen's Room is very nice, but does not compare to the QM2 or even theQE2. The traffic flow is not good at all - a problem especially on port days when everyone meets there for excursions. This is also the main venue for concerts and the space is terrible for that. The Theatre is spectacular...like a West End theatre. Boxes look inviting and, for special events, one can book them for the night, complete with champagne and truffles. However, the glass is curved and one does not get a clear view. Britannia two-level dining room is very nice - a sort of scaled-down version of that on the QM2. The Lido is very long and narrow, more like the King's Court on the QM2 (which I still find very confusing), and not as welcoming as the Lido on the QE2. The bars are all good, but the best is the Commodore Club which occupies the entire forward section of deck 10. Great place, with great bartenders, day or night. To my mind, the Chart Room, which has always been a favorite venue on the other Queens, is badly located. It is right outside the Britannia and people start lining up almost 30 minutes before the doors open. (You'd think they hadn't eaten for 24 hrs!) Not a good place for a quiet drink before dinner. Library is beautiful, but how many people want to go up and down a spiral staircase - think of the average age - and the upstairs checkout desk is rarely, if ever, manned. Hemispheres, the disco, is absolutely gorgeous, but underused. It is not easy to find and opens late. Probably does better on shorter cruises when average age is lower. The overall dEcor is splendid, especially the carpets - beautiful. And the red rug for port, blue for starboard in corridors is most helpful. Dining - The food is virtually the same as on the other Queens, but no truffles unless you really insist! (It was tough making the transition from the Caronia dining room on the QE2!). Todd English is superb - same menu as QM2. Alternative dining in Lido for dinner - I tried Carvery, Fondue, Indian and Italian. Indian was outstanding, as good as anything I had in India and the dEcor was wonderful. Carvery was excellent. Fondue was, too, and it was fun! Italian was, to my mind, barely Italian at all. Lido pool grill has the best hamburgers and onion rings I've had in years. Cafe Carinthia is great for elevenses and snacks. Room Service has a good, but limited menu - the Queen Victoria club sandwich is wonderful and comes with salad and fries. Oh yes, the fries are great ion this ship! Shops - No comparison to other Queens, but adequate. Lots of space for those "cruise specials" outside the shops. Way too much space allocated to jewelry and fancy gifts. Missed the great selection of casual clothes and the $10 shop on the other Queens. Pools/Spa/Fitness - Two large pools with Jacuzzis and bars. Great. Spa pool very disappointing. - gave half of my package to a friend. Did not do any treatments. Area with saunas, steam rooms, aromatherapy etc. very nice, especially the warm tiled chaises lounges grouped in a semi-circle in front of picture windows. They were wonderful as long as quiet reigned! Beauty Salon, no better no worse than others. A treat, though, to have a pedicure in front of a picture window! Gym takes up entire forward section of Deck 9 - divided into two areas - one for machines, mainly treadmills and the other for exercise classes. Also, an array of bicycles for spinning. Some classes had an extra charge attached, but Zumba didn't and it was great - but not enough room. Disappointed in lack of variety of machines. Great view over the bow from the treadmills Entertainment - Excellent all around. I saw many of the same shows and entertainers as on the QE2, but that was fine. Some of the shows date back to 1999, but that's OK - they are still gorgeous. The Caribbean band - Lido pool at lunch, Hemispheres at night and theme nights in the Queen's Room - really terrific. Good concerts, despite the venue. String quartet and Harpist - the usual Cunard suspects, and very good. Great bands in pub and Queens Room. Activities - All the usual choices. Any Cunarder would recognize the list. One could take lessons in just about anything all day long. The lectures were top-notch, as usual. Can't imagine better: an astronaut; a Great Barrier Reef pilot; the current Afghani ambassador to the US; biologists, authors, linguists.... and more! Great first-run movies plus the Academy Awards live and the first-ever satellite broadcast to cruise ships from the Met in New York - Zeffirelli's "La Boheme". Staff/Crew - Friendly and smiling, as always, except for the Purser's Office where the customer is usually wrong on Cunard ships. Not enough Lido or Britannia staff. Tours - Excellent staff. Terrific selection of shore excursions. Only one caveat - we went to so many container ports which involved hours of driving before reaching a "real destination". So, for example, a 4-hour tour of Bangkok involved a 12- hour day!!!! As for overlands, Cunard does them in style. I did two and one was a 6-day trip to Bhutan and India. We were accompanied by a member of the Tours office, a full-time Indian guide and we had local guides in every city. 5-star hotels were gorgeous; food was excellent; service was of the highest order. We never once touched our luggage or even got our own boarding passes - we were very spoiled. They are expensive, but, if you are traveling alone, they are ideal. Plus, the ship will wait for you if there are delays!!! Overall impression - I love the ship and have booked for a segment in 2010. While one inevitably makes comparisons, especially to the other Queens - can't be helped. But Cunard isn't Cunard any more (though some vestiges remain!) and the Vic is not the QE2. Nor should she be. She's young, she's flash, she's got some warts, but she is a keeper. Any specific questions? Just ask. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2008
We travelled in a large group with our travel agent to Singapore and on the whole had a good time amongst ourselves. The ship was a big disappointment in terms of facilities, service and food. On first impression, the public rooms looked ... Read More
We travelled in a large group with our travel agent to Singapore and on the whole had a good time amongst ourselves. The ship was a big disappointment in terms of facilities, service and food. On first impression, the public rooms looked tastefully furnished but after a few days, we soon realized that the public rooms seemed claustrophobic because of the low ceiling height. There were many smallish rooms except for the Queens Room and Royal Theatre. There were not many places where you could sit without being hassled by the waiters. It's totally revenue orientated, even the shops and the spa staff are constantly advertising their products. We did not feel relaxed in this kind of environment. There is definitely a non-inclusive feel on the ship where the Grill class passengers, round the world cruisers and loyalty club passengers were given priority, special treatments and cocktail functions which were not available to first time Cunard passengers. Our balcony cabins were tight and badly configured. We had to maneuver ourselves between the awkward bathroom door, cupboard doors and the bed when we get changed. There is not much drawer space which the Captain admitted to many times. Makes us wonder what the interior designers were paid for. We all heard about the laundry room arguments and we believe them - there were only 3 washing machines, 3 dryers and one ironing board on each deck! The laundry room is so tiny. Washing detergent was complimentary......not that we used the washers. The prescribed dress code was outrageous, where men had to wear a jacket every night - jacket without tie for casual elegance, jacket and tie for informal and suits/black tie for formal. In fairness to those who observed the dress code, there were no strict policing by the maitre d's. My husband got tired of it in the end and we chose the "alternative dining" at the Lido in the end (elegant casual required). There were not enough production shows, too many second rate entertainers and the second-sitting show started too late at 10.45pm! The string quartet which featured every night in the restaurant or the lobby was so bad that passengers tried to avoid them. The double story library was a farce as it was not spacious at all. The legendary White Star service is long gone. Staff are over worked and stretched to minimize cost and passengers are bombarded by waiters, photographers and spa staff to increase revenue. We also heard that there was not a full complement of staff on this new ship. Officers and entertainment staff were not friendly or welcoming. We had to force them to smile or say hello as they walk past passengers without any effort to be courteously polite. Food was mediocre and uninspired to say the least. The menu in the dining room was quite predictable but we were lucky to have a great team of staff there. The Lido buffet did not have the choice we used to have. The "alternative" dinner at the Lido offering themed Indian, Oriental or fondue nights were more interesting, if you could manage to be the first few handfuls to make reservations at 9am in the morning. The Todd English restaurant had only slightly better service and food for an extra USD30 for dinner. Afternoon tea is still a tradition on Cunard and we enjoyed the atmosphere at the Queens Room. Pity the sandwiches were always dry. Cunard also placed the blame on others for not getting prime docking berths in Brisbane, Hong Kong and Singapore. By opting for cheaper port fees, the ship berthed at container terminals. We were disturbed to hear that several gay passengers were put off the ship without the ability to defend themselves. We heard rumors that vindictive "Grill" class passengers set up these poor passengers by making false complaints of indecent behavior in the spa area. These passengers were given the marching orders by the Captain who only wanted to wipe out any bad publicity. We heard that the passengers were not given any warnings. We would be outraged if it happened to us, especially if we had planned a longer cruise. I warned my husband not to go near the spa just in case he gets accused too. The disturbing bit I heard was that the married men do play up in the sauna area on some ships. Whilst we do not condone such behavior, it is totally unacceptable for fellow passengers to make up complaints and let the Captain play judge and jury. The arrival into Sydney and the royal rendezvous with the QE2 was a highlight of our cruise. The Sydney residents sure knew how to throw a party on the fabulous harbor. Nevertheless, we could not hear their loud cheers from our balcony because the ship's entertainment crew boomed louder Aussie music over the public address system throughout the entire rendezvous/farewell. On the whole, the cruise did not meet our expectations, given the amount of publicity Cunard has built up over the past year. Shame on Cunard for cutting corners and making the experience as generic as the other Carnival brands. Did anyone else enjoy their cruise or were they too busy catching up on the latest gossip or complaint on the ship? Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Much has been said recently about this new Cunarder and I have been in general, dismayed by the negative reviews she has garnered since entering service late last year. Even before she had her first cruise the naysayers were condemning her ... Read More
Much has been said recently about this new Cunarder and I have been in general, dismayed by the negative reviews she has garnered since entering service late last year. Even before she had her first cruise the naysayers were condemning her shape and the quality and styling of her fitout, mostly before seeing her let alone stepping foot on her. Interestingly enough the same complaints circulated about the Queen Mary 2 before her launch and previously the now much lauded QE2 had horrified travelers in the 60s by her now perceived iconic profile. Both ships are now regarded as icons and woebetide anyone who criticizes either ship. The recent negative reviews of the QV on this forum have made me wonder if the writers and I had been on the same ship. After spending several sectors on her during her recent Maiden World Cruise I think I had enough time to explore her and all her services without coming to any hasty decisions. I personally, was thrilled with her, the fitout is superb and the experience was exceptional, the crew efficient and from all accounts happy and the Captain gracious and very sociable. This has made me wonder...who would write reviews, unless you had an axe to grind or a particular complaint to make why would you bother? I figured therefore that its about time that those many of us who have enjoyed these ships should get out our pens and warm up our mice and start having our own say and try and redress the balance..... so here goes...... Background, I am a New Zealander in my late 40s and a Cunard Platinum Traveller. I have previously travelled with groups of friends and family ranging from 8 to 12 people. This was my first and longest cruise travelling solo and I embarked in Singapore and travelled through to Southampton. Comparing the Ships To compare the QE2 and the Queen Victoria is like comparing an old grey mare to a young filly. The mare has been around for a long time and you are very fond of her, she has a solid pedigree and everyone forgives her for her laterday gammy leg because of her years of faithful service. Her colors are faded her mane is tatty and shes tired and likely to refuse the odd jump. The filly on the other hand is fresh and chomping at the bit to prove herself. Everyone who sees her makes comparisons to her predecessors but she's her own master and is keen on showing her own personality even if during her first few races she faulters and stumbles she will, with experience prove her worth and show her detractors wrong. The Fitout The decorators charged with the design should be commended for the way in which they executed her decoration. It was a pleasure to be in each space, you only have to see pictures of her interior to know what I mean , the flow from one room to another was smooth and well executed. As mentioned previously the commodore club is a great space, much improved on since the QM2 with windows that reach down to the floor making great viewing when coming in or leaving port. Cafe Carinthia made great coffees which were about $US2 per cup, but the muffins and cakes were free. Lunch here was also very pleasant and on the one rough day on our trip the cafe was packed as it was a comfortable place to sit and watch the waves go past. Much has been said about the theatre, so I cant add anything here other than to say it is a fantastic space and everything you have read about it is correct. My other favorite room on board was the lobby. There was live classic music played here most days and it was a great place to sit and people watch, on port days they had local groups play in this area and it was a great welcome home after a day on land. The ship also held Kitchen tours, there were several each sector and I went on it a couple of times. Each time I went on it was different and at different times so you saw the kitchens from one extreme to another, from been sparkling and serenely quiet to bustling and full of chefs. Ask the purser to put your name on the list and they will ring you when they are organizing the tour. The only downside to the trip was some of the other passengers. There seemed to be an element on board that appeared to be out to make sure that neither they or anyone trapped into buying into their unhappiness enjoyed themselves or the ship. As I said to one particular passenger after an encounter with them, I had paid far too much money to be on the ship to be grumpy and neither should they. Accommodations Travelling solo, I was forced into paying the dreaded single supplement which amounted to 175%, however with the various discounts I received, early bird booking, previous passenger, world club and booking on a previous cruise etc, I was able to make a considerable saving, (about 50%) I travelled in an inside d7 category cabin on the 4th level. It was great, beautifully fitted with muted colors and the bed one of the best I have have slept in on a ship. I had no problems with the storage in the cabin, and infact had an empty drawer which was often offered for rent and became a running joke amongst the people I socialized with onboard.. For one person,there was plenty of room and I would have no problems booking the same cabin again in the future. The shower seemed to be a normal size shower to me and the bathroom although compact was perfectly adequate. Travelling Solo I was a little hesitant about travelling solo and was concerned that this may have hampered my enjoyment of the trip.I was led to believe that they sat all solo travellers together on the one table however this was not the case and solos are just fitted into other tables depending on numbers. Fortunately the Maitre D, Jean Paul suggested I might like to dine at a different table each night until I found one I was happy with and so each night I would arrive a little later and he would sit me accordingly. This worked very well and it was only a couple of nights before I found a great table and was happy to stay put. During the cruise I met a number of people who had spare seats at their tables and I was able to join them for a meal. It was very easy to meet like minded people on the ship and I wouldn't hesitate to travel solo again and in fact am looking forward to it. (2010 at this stage) Excursions Once again as I was travelling solo, I took mainly shipboard excursions. Fortunately the crew in the Travel Office on the ship were helpful and very knowledgeable of their product. I found the tours to be good value for money and the overnight excursions of which I took one (Safaga to Luxor, Egypt) were really well organized and in fact a lot of fun. I noticed that they seemed to fill the buses about 50% capacity. This meant that everyone who wanted one, got a window seat which was very much appreciated as there wasn't a lot of pushing and shoving to get on to get the most desired seats. There was a number of times when tours arrived back late at the ship and of course the ship waited. There were several passengers left behind during the last two sectors of the world cruise who had toured on their own and arrived back too late. I am sure a few more were grateful that our ship tour buses had been late and they didn't have their own names added to the hall of infamy! I particularly enjoyed the several excursions that included lunch and/or dinner, you could always guarantee you would be in for a treat, our stops in India were good examples of this, Chennai, Cochin and Mumbai. A special mention I feel its important to comment on the recent review which mentioned an incident where a single passenger was put off the ship in Hong Kong for one reason or another, I normally wouldn't do so but it has left an incorrect impression of the incident which I feel deserves redressing. Yes, the charge was Indecent Behavior, and its unnecessary to go further into the details in this forum however I think the Captain dealt with it in an entirely professional and discrete way. A number of rumors circulated around the ship after the incident, however contrary to one particular rumor the fact of the matter is that the incident was proven, admitted and witnessed by a third party. I commend Captain Rynd for dealing with it in the manner he did, it must have been a very difficult decision to make and one I am sure one he did not do lightly considering the ramifications on all effected. To make further comment on the circumstances in a public forum without the full facts being disclosed is unfair to all parties concerned In Summary If you are considering a cruise on the new Queen Victoria, ignore what you read one way or another and go and find out for yourself. Travelling is what we make it and if you go with an open mind and no preconceived notions of what to expect you will gain an terrific experience and memories for years to come. LONG LIVE THE QUEENS (all 3 of them) Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Just finished a 14 night cruise on the QV in the Q1 suite. Room was extremely comfortable and loved the oversized balcony. However service and food needs improvement. Queens Grill dinner service was often inconsistent and VERY slow. Few ... Read More
Just finished a 14 night cruise on the QV in the Q1 suite. Room was extremely comfortable and loved the oversized balcony. However service and food needs improvement. Queens Grill dinner service was often inconsistent and VERY slow. Few times we waited up to an hour between starter and main course. Steaks were sometimes very tough and other times perfect. A simple desert request for Cookies & Cream ice-cream was denied immediately because it was not on the menu that night even though it was on the menu the night before and to my surprise the following night, no effort was made to see if it was possible. Overall food & service in the Queens Grill did not compare to most other Luxury lines like Crystal & Seadream. House keeping service needs improvement. Our room was usually serviced between 1-2pm daily and with 14 nights in the Q1 suite not once was our floor vacuumed. On the last day of the cruise there was still caviar condiments on the floor which were from the first day we arrived and made a mess. Balcony became very dirty from soot during the cruise and was only cleaned once, the day before disembarkation obviously getting ready for the next guests. Room service often came with missing items as well as broken cracked coffee pots that leaked. Butler seemed overworked as he had too many suites to look after. Anytime we requested something it was usually finished with a reply from the Butler "thats going to take a long time is that ok?". As he always seemed too busy we often just get the coffee from the Lido ourselves and bring it back down to our room as it was always quicker and wouldn't take an hour. I think room service would of been quicker without the butler as he is the crew member that always has to deliver to our suite but he was always busy. They have many other room service attendants which could have delivered immediately. Although saying that, he did deliver breakfast 30 min early one morning as he said he had too many other orders at the same time!? Most times we went to get a drink in the Queens Concierge lounge before dinner we were not able to get a seat as it was full. Apparently they are going to extend the lounge and make it a lot bigger next dry dock. Bar service in the many other bars was always superb!! our favorite was Dina in the Veuve Clicquot bar and Jessie in the Disco. Spa service and massage was the best I have had at sea. The entertainment is the best we have seen on the sea. That includes the many different bands, musicians & orchestra playing in the Queens room and bars. Never have I seen so much variety on one ship. We never complain whilst onboard as we do not want any of the crew to be in trouble. Maybe that was our problem?! But why should we have to complain to get things done when they should be done automatically? Ok, overall we had a good cruise as we try not to let these little things bother us but I think people should be aware that "Queens Grill" is not the pinnacle of service and dining on the sea they claim it to be. If you are looking for luxury & going to pay that kind of money; I would recommend looking at a different luxury cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Background Information My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful cruise to the Norwegian Fjords on the Queen Victoria! We primarily booked the cruise because of the itinerary; we had to cancel a trip to Europe in December due ... Read More
Background Information My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful cruise to the Norwegian Fjords on the Queen Victoria! We primarily booked the cruise because of the itinerary; we had to cancel a trip to Europe in December due to illness and wanted to use a large credit in airfare! as well as take a vacation with a little less physical impact. We thought that the fjords would be a perfect solution, and we were not disappointed! We have taken two cruises prior to this, both to the Caribbean: one cruise on Celebrity and (yes!) one cruise on Carnival. We believe that our experience on Celebrity was equal to Cunard, and much less expensive. Many of the reviews of the Queen Victoria seem to point to a "Carnivalization" of the Cunard line; however, we did not have a bad time on either cruise. For the money, the Carnival cruise was fine; the service was actually superior to what we encountered on the Queen Victoria. (Keep in mind that many of the QV's staff were new! And they all tried very hard.) But unlike the QV, the food on Carnival was terrible! The passengers on Carnival and Cunard are about the same; just age your average Carnival passenger about thirty or forty years, and meet your average Cunard passenger! But really! it is all about vacation, and everyone should see the Norwegian Fjords this way! Travel To Port of Embarkation We took the morning flight from DC to Heathrow two days before the cruise. This meant that we could not use the Cunard transfers to Southampton, but it also meant that we did not have to deal with jet lag. We arrived at our hotel near Heathrow (Thistle) around 10 PM, had a quick bite, and went to bed; breakfast the next day was included. Traveling to Southampton couldn't have been easier—we took a taxi! It was expensive, but not that much more expensive than the Cunard transfers, and we had door-to-door service. In Southampton, we stayed at the Holiday Inn near the docks. The hotel was fine; however, they unfortunately had a gas problem and no hot water the day we checked out. We had a nice time walking around Southampton, and spent a pleasant day before the cruise. On the morning of the cruise, we took an inexpensive taxi ride to the QE2 port. This was the easiest embarkation we had ever experienced. There were no lines and one infinitesimally short wait to board the ship. We found our room, drank our sparkling wine, and had lunch. By the time we finished, our luggage had arrived! Stateroom and Ship Info We booked late, and there were very few staterooms left. We had an obstructed view on deck 4, but the view was not bad at all, and the room was great! I agree that a few more shelves would have been nice; there is a lot of room for hanging gear. It would also have been nice to have at least one more shelf in the bathroom. Otherwise, the room was fine. Our steward learned our rhythm early, and our room was always clean. The ship itself is easy to traverse. They should have installed at least two more elevators mid-ship; however, the elevators are quick, and we rarely waited long for them. The decorations lean more toward Art Nouveau, or late Victorian to Edwardian. There is so much space on the ship; you never feel crowded! My husband worked out a few times in the fitness area, and all of the equipment is brand new. They charge for all of their classes, but the fitness center was full service, and they offer all of the usual amenities. My favorite part of the ship was the promenade deck (3); it was very nice to watch the views wrapped up in wool blankets! The Commodore bar is beautiful; Hemispheres has a terrible DJ. The Golden Lion Pub has the best bartenders on the ship! Also, Winter Garden is relaxing and lovely. Dining You can expect consistently excellent food on this ship! We did not try Todd English, but dined in Britannia all week. Typically, we would have a leisurely breakfast in Lido and lunch in Britannia. We did try breakfast once in Britannia—service was a little slower than lunch and dinner. We also had room service breakfast in Alesund, as we had an early morning tour. The dinners were a definite highlight! Also, we had tea in the Queens Room—very nice atmosphere for tea! Shore Excursions and Entertainment We booked excursions for all of the ports. We were slightly disappointed in the Panoramic Bergen tour; the tour guide was inexperienced and did not point out much to see.... The tour in Geiranger provided the most extraordinary views! Actually, cruising from Hellesylt to Geiranger was the best experience of the week. Everyone stood out on deck that morning, silently watching the beautiful mountains that you could almost touch, drift by. There were waterfalls after waterfalls and rainbows everywhere! We had amazing weather—no rain at all in Norway! This is particularly special since we learned that Bergen had 300 days of rain last year! Our Hungarian tour guide in Alesund was fantastic; the highlights tour gives you more of an opportunity to learn about Norwegian history—more than just learning about the 1904 fire in Alesund the spawned the Art Nouveau architecture. However, the Jugensstil museum is worth a visit there! In Stavanger, we cruised the Lysefjord! Again, a very beautiful experience! The tour office was open at inconvenient times, and be sure to check your bill throughout the week, as the tour office does make mistakes—fortunately easily rectifiable by the Purser's Office. We only went to one show—so-so. I attended a couple of very good lectures about Queen Victoria and Lord Nelson. Again, the DJ in Hemispheres is terrible. Disembarkation Our luggage tags apparently fell off, so it took some time to find our bags at disembarkation. Customer service here was a bit stiff, especially considering the somewhat stressful situation. We were left to find our bags ourselves, randomly placed in the sea of bags. The transfer to Heathrow, though, was smooth and pleasant. Summary Overall, we had a fantastic time on the Queen Victoria! I feel compelled to write about the complaints we heard throughout the week, negatively comparing the Queen Victoria to the Queen Mary 2. However, the Queen Victoria is a cruise ship, not an ocean liner; therefore, it can go to places that the QM2 cannot. A large part of your cruise experience should be the itinerary, and QV will take you to lovely places! Yes, the ship is undergoing growing pains, but it offers a beautiful and extremely comfortable venue to experience beautiful venues!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We returned yesterday from our cruise to the Norwegian Fjords and all of our party of 6 had the most fantastic experience which was further enhanced by clear blue skies and a very kind North Sea calm. The scenery was quite spectacular and ... Read More
We returned yesterday from our cruise to the Norwegian Fjords and all of our party of 6 had the most fantastic experience which was further enhanced by clear blue skies and a very kind North Sea calm. The scenery was quite spectacular and we would all whole heartedly recommend the cruise to anyone. Our departure from Southampton was smooth and efficient with very little waiting time for boarding. But why is there no attempt to create a happy atmosphere? Even a bit of piped music would help but surely it's not beyond Cunard to lay on a band? Or at least do something to signal the start of something special rather than creating the image of boarding an aircraft? The same goes for the "welcome aboard" (!!??!!). A number of people stood around but no-one making any effort to extend warmth or hospitality. We were simply pointed to the lifts and expected to find our way to our staterooms - admittedly not a difficult task but you know what I mean. Has Carnival started to downgrade the level of the Cunard experience we wondered? Having sailed last year Transatlantic on QM2 the first thing that strikes you is that Queen Victoria seems substantially smaller but no less spectacular. Great first impression of the quality of her build. We arrived at our staterooms on Deck 8 and all expressed great delight at the standard of our accommodation for the next 7 nights. Having read comments that there was insufficient storage facilities we were pleasantly surprised at the wardrobe space and had no trouble hanging the entire contents of our many suitcases. The bathroom was perfectly large enough for the purpose and the shower cubicle was a perfectly normal size. The striking thing about the room is the color scheme and the large bed which oozed comfort with beautifully laundered cotton, brightly colored cover and fantastic pillows. A bottle of sparkling wine sat invitingly in the ice bucket ready for sailaway celebrations. After unpacking we took a tour around the ship and in particular headed for the Britannia restaurant to view our allocated table for six. We were not disappointed - we were positioned right at the back with a window view overlooking the sea - it couldn't have been more perfect. We explored the rest of the public areas and the excitement was definitely starting to build. We then made our way to the Lido for lunch and indulged in our first buffet food experience. First impressions were very positive and one of our party was delighted to see that the ice cream machine was available 24 hours a day! The quality and layout of the food was superb with ample choices of hot and cold foods and separate stations for the preparation of made to order pizza and pastas. Strangely there appeared to be a distinct lack of staff in attendance. We wondered yet again, could this be another area of cutbacks (profit improvement measure) by Carnival to downgrade the Cunard experience. Is a theme developing here? We ordered the first of our bottles of Veuve Cliquot for the sailaway and got into the mood. The band started playing and again we wondered - have Carnival started to ........? We subsequently saw them playing at several venues and we unanimously agreed that they were at best a local pub band rather than the required standard aboard a Cunard vessel. They just appeared to go through the motions of singing and playing without any real attempt to connect with their audience. Anyway, we enjoyed our champagne and headed back to the staterooms to be greeted by our steward Jhun who was one of the few singled out for special praise throughout the journey. He was excellent in every department and always had a smile on his face despite the number of rooms he had to cope with twice a day. He received a glowing reference from each of us and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. We dressed appropriately for dinner and headed for our perfectly positioned table to find a warm and smiley welcome from Kenneth and his female assistant (whose name I have forgotten). They both served us brilliantly and we thoroughly enjoyed their unobtrusive efficiency, courtesy and sense of humor. The head steward of the section, Attila also performed his task admirably and although a little bit "over the top" he looked after our every need during some quite splendid dinner sessions. Sadly the wine waiter (masquerading as a sommelier) was not quite up to the task and his duties were largely taken care of by Attila. Thankfully the Carnival cutbacks didn't affect our dining experience although we understand that each team now has to cover more tables than before. After dinner we made our way to the Hemispheres night club which at first sight (and sound) was quite impressive but after a while, we all concluded that the DJ was only average at best. It seemed that his game plan was to play 2 records to get people dancing followed by two to clear the floor!! And it never got any better - is this another indicator of the Carnival intervention and has the Entertainment Director got it wrong or is it that she just hasn't got the budget? Our one and only visit to the theatre also left us with the same feeling although the place itself is wonderful. The night finished with a visit to the Commodore bar which is very impressive and it transpired that it had the best (and seemingly happiest) team of all of the bars. Sadly there didn't appear to be too much positive team spirt around the bars and public public areas. Is this another indicator....?? We eventually retired to the comfort of our staterooms to spend a very peaceful night's sleep before our first excursion to the breakfast experience. And this is where we started to have serious concerns about the quality of service and the very real feeling that the Cunard experience is suffering decline. By now you might be starting to think that we are a difficult bunch to please but I can assure you that all in our party are seasoned and very tolerant travellers who have a fair amount of cruising experience between us. Almost all of us work in the services sector and we know a fair bit about customer service. Generally speaking, it takes a lot for us to complain but our first breakfast experience certainly warranted comment. We arrived at the Britannia restaurant for 9.00 am in plenty of time before the stated closing time of 9.30 for last orders.The queue was horrendous and we waited in line for a good 20 to 25 minutes. We enquired what had caused the problem to be told by the lady in charge of seat allocations that "it is always like this on the first couple of days of the cruise but it eventually settles down" - not very encouraging when you are only on board for a 7 night trip!!. We were eventually shown to our table (not the one allocated for dinner) and waited, and waited to receive any attention at all. To cut a long story short, we had to ask for coffee and water, what we ordered failed to materialize and we felt a distinct air of disinterest by our waiter. He had no sense of our disappointment, had very poor command of English and generally seemed overwhelmed by the whole thing. He was clearly getting little support form the kitchens and again we wondered .......!! At the end of our breakfast, the previously mentioned lady approached us to enquire whether we hand enjoyed the food. On hearing of our troubles, she commented that we could have gone to the Lido for a breakfast buffet if we preferred!! We sighed (and giggled) and she then suggested that staff shortages and poor training might have contributed to our woes. Great - that's what we pay for on a Cunard experience. Carnival take note!! Such was our disappointment and surprise that we felt we had no alternative to visit the Pursers desk to request the removal of the optional $11 per day service charge. We explained our position to most accommodating attendant (Moses) who clearly had no authority to influence the situation other than an apology. We therefore asked him to contact the Food and Beverage Manager on our behalf in order to register our observations. He agreed and sent an email requesting that he made contact. After 2 days we heard nothing other than a telephone message left by Moses asking if the situation had been resolved. We told him that no contact had been made and he volunteered to send another email. Two more days went by with no contact from the Senior Officer. We finally received another telephone message from Moses saying that he hoped the the restaurant situation had improved. A very poor show by the management of the the Victoria despite the best efforts of their Purser. Needless to say we heard nothing more. Despite the lack of concern by the (Carnival) management, the breakfast service did improve and apart from the odd hiccup, we were satisfied overall. We opted to organize our own shore excursions and apart from Stavanger which seemed to be closed on the Sunday of our arrival, we managed to enjoy each of the trips ashore. Without doubt the Norwegian Fjords experience is one to remember if only for the magnificence of the scenery. To have done it aboard such a wonderful vessel as the Queen Victoria is indeed a privilege but if it hadn't been for the underperforming service elements it could have been perfect. I genuinely hope that Cunard doesn't become so Carnivalised as to lose it's hitherto splendid identity. God save the Queen(s)!! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
For those who know the Cunard line, the new Queen Victoria (QV) is a somewhat improved, yet understated version of her older "sister" Queen Mary II. QV has a more intimate feel, with impeccable service in all classes. Many highly ... Read More
For those who know the Cunard line, the new Queen Victoria (QV) is a somewhat improved, yet understated version of her older "sister" Queen Mary II. QV has a more intimate feel, with impeccable service in all classes. Many highly experienced staff members from QM and Princess were recruited for QV. Sadly, Cunard chose not to include an enclosed swimming facility, which was sorely missed on the June 10 Norway sail. The Royal Court Theater with two tiers of theater boxes was extraordinary. Dining: Cunard has retained the old "class system", with vast improvements for the two "Grills" classes. The Queens and Princess Grills have access on the uppermost levels to a private outdoor lounge area, private bar, and both out and indoor single-seating dining areas. Britannia class passengers, making up the vast majority of the passengers, have a choice of early or late seating in the Britannia restaurant. Both the food and food service in the Britannia are excellent; guests can order an "off the menu" steak or salmon at any time. Britannia guests are made to feel both special and welcome. Waiters make an effort to remember the names of the passengers and their food preferences. All guests have access to Todd English ($30 surcharge in the evening); there is an alternative theme dining room and a theme buffet in the Lido each evening. In addition, there is a wonderful pasta bar/pizza station in the Lido. Cunard's food service in the Lido runs almost 24/7! The pastry chefs made the most fantastic chocolate chip cookies, available along with tea sandwiches, scones and pastries from 3 pm to 5:30 each day. (We would fill a plate with cookies and save them for early morning excursions the next day.) There is a lovely tea service each afternoon in the Queens room. QV offers a variety of Twinning's teas; unfortunately, the coffee is not up to US standards (i.e., strong and delicious). Breakfasts could be more varied (more smoked salmon, please!). We had no trouble bringing aboard a bottle of duty free Scotch. Bottles are sold in the ship's store as well. The wine list is extensive (many offered by the glass) and the Britannia has 22 sommeliers! Two wine tastings (modest surcharge) were held on sea days. QV's "mixologists" have created a number of specialty drinks. The Rose Petal Martini packs a particular punch! Drinks are fairly priced (roughly half of what a New York City restaurant would charge). Children's Program: QV ran a full children's program even though there were only a dozen or so children on Board. There is a facility for the six-and under group; seven-year-olds and up had a separate facility (the Zone). My eleven-year old could not stay away - it was pasta at the Lido at six, then up to the Zone at eight! The Zone had an area for movies (the preferred evening entertainment), air hockey, arts and crafts, games and assorted electronic equipment. Entertainment: Cunard's musicians, singers and dancers are all top notch and extremely professional. I thought, however, that QM had a more extensive roster of entertainers. The lecturers are quite proficient. Surprisingly, there were no "shore" lectures that many other cruise lines seem to offer. (Those are lectures where passengers who are not on shore excursions receive detailed information about local sights, restaurants, shopping and transportation.) The daily bulletin had an information sheet on each port, but the information was a bit cursory. The QV Library has a wide range of books on many different subjects and is a popular spot. Seats in the Library are in heavy demand. Accommodations: It is now common knowledge that the cabins are shy drawer space and that the shower is very small. (My husband remarked that it was simply not possible to get every part of one's body clean in a shower of that size!) We managed, however, to stow all of our gear, but it is probably advisable to pack light. Laundry service is excellent. The cabin stewards are well trained and highly responsive. QV, like QM, has its own noise issues. Those affected by noise should not book 8th floor cabins underneath the Lido. (Note to the QV Engineers - next time in dry dock, rip up the Lido terra cotta floors and add an insulation layer.) Room service in the Britannia is good, but limited (if you can get them on the telephone!). Shore Excursions: We had a preference for "active" shore trips and were not disappointed. Those trips tend to attract fewer people. The three-hour Guided Mountain Hike through the Fjords was splendid as was the uphill hike to the Glacier (Olden). Both trips had only about thirty passengers. Our daughter loved the visit to the Husky camp - it is possible to pick up and play with the husky puppies. The Island Bird Watching expedition was also extremely worthwhile. We suited up in all-weather jump suits (it was pretty cold), went out on a small fishing boat and saw Puffins, eagles, seals and a host of other indigenous bird life. (BYO binoculars). Local tour guides were knowledgeable and spoke beautiful English (better than most of the tourists!) Spa Services: My husband booked four massages of varying types and was quite satisfied. There is a separate charge for the some of the spa facilities. Many ships, including the QM, allow persons booking treatments to use these facilities for free (on the day of the treatment); this was not the case on the QV. The Beauty Salon was in high demand; my daughter (yes, the eleven-year-old) and I booked manicures and pedicures. They were high quality, as were the products they sold. Athletic Facilities: We are not one for gyms (it looked great, however), but had a great time at the ping-pong table. We managed to get in one game of Paddle Tennis. For some reason, Cunard tends to place the Paddle Tennis court in the windiest area of the ship, although it had a little bit of protection from the elements. There is no real promenade area, but it is possible to construct a jogging path along the 9th and 10th decks. All in all, the Queen Victoria rates an "Excellent" in our book.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
Here are our experiences on the Jewels of the Med cruise. There is relevant info within for disabled passengers which Carnival Cunard should tell you but don't! The Good: Upon embarkation you enter through a very grand opulent lobby ... Read More
Here are our experiences on the Jewels of the Med cruise. There is relevant info within for disabled passengers which Carnival Cunard should tell you but don't! The Good: Upon embarkation you enter through a very grand opulent lobby which looks fabulous. Our balcony stateroom on deck 8 starboard rear, was very well appointed with mini bar (non complimentary) and a sizeable private balcony area. Complimentary dressing gown and slippers are waiting for you and the air conditioning is very efficient. The bed is huge and the most comfortable I have ever slept in. I even checked out the Italian manufacturer as I want one! Breakfast can be delivered to your stateroom at no extra charge but the choice is fairly limited. Some of our waiters in the Britannia were not so experienced and some only had basic English language skills, but what they lacked in these areas were more than made up for in enthusiasm. The Royal Court theatre is exactly like a Victorian west end theatre with dark corridors to the boxes and the production shows were of the highest quality. It's like a mini Palladium. We found the food excellent, lots of veggie options and diabetics are catered for. Not all passengers we spoke to agreed with us about the food quality however. The Bad: The welcome card said: "Congratulations Mr and Mrs Wright on your anniversary, welcome back!" This would have been fine but our name is Newhouse we were on honeymoon and it was our first time on the Vic. Such things don't bother me, but the new Mrs Newhouse was a bit put off. On our deck there was one laundry with 2 washers and 2 dryers for the whole deck. This means long queues and whilst maximizing passenger stateroom availability for Cunard to sell and forcing people to use the expensive cabin laundry service, you have the sight of improvised washing lines hanging from stateroom balconies! The fake painted on teak decking must have taken ages for somebody with a felt tip and ruler to do and this completely covers the open decks. This spoils the illusion that you might be somewhere very special and inevitably draws your attention to the faux Victoriana and fake plastic wood. Eventually I started to feel I was in some MDF Victorian theme park. The staterooms whilst well appointed are much smaller in real life than they appear on the internet. The bathrooms are tiny and about the same size you would get on a ferry or in some well appointed caravans. Charges - Cunard don't make it clear that you can opt out once on board from paying the $11 a day gratuities. We didn't find this out until the last day at which time it was too late, and had additionally tipped the staff we thought deserved it. Go to the pursers office on arrival and opt out if you don't agree with this policy. You will pay 15% service charge on all drinks. Tea and coffee is only free in The Lido buffet restaurant (which at times can be a bun fight) and afternoon tea in the Queens Room. There are no tea and coffee facilities in the cabins. We were charged $49 each to send our luggage to our hotel in Venice and a 2 day tender ticket through Cunard cost $25. You could get a return ticket yourself for 11 euros and pay only 3 euros for luggage at a kiosk 100 yards from the ship. Oh and if you want to complain in writing and use the facilities in the onboard computer room - you will be charged for the privilege. The Ugly: On day one at the late sitting (8.30pm) in the Britannia we found ourselves at the end of a queue of several hundred people facing the closed doors to the restaurant which stretched back half way through the ship. We went for a drink until the queue died down. At 9pm we entered and were shown to our table which was already fully occupied. We were left for several minutes with our wheelchair blocking the restaurant until an alternative temporary table was found. I asked the Spanish Maitre'd why we had no table and was told "you were two minutes late. It is your fault I gave your table away". The next morning I complained to the Pursers office and later received a begrudged apology and token bottle of wine from the same Maitre'd with the words "if you continue to be late I will still keep a table for you". At this point our party decided to get off the ship in Gibraltar if things did not improve. Thankfully in the restaurant they did and his waiting staff made up for his failings. Having put this incident behind us we then went on a very nice excursion to Rome which was only spoiled by a cold lunch with terrible service in the Jolly Hotel. Having paid $189 each my partner only thought it fair to ask the tour office if she could be reimbursed for the lunch part as she had had no lunch as a result. Unfortunately the very horrible Suzanna told her quite coldly "it is your decision whether you eat the food or not" Needless to say, we got no refund. The Tour Office Manager Mr Parker must have also gone to the same charm school as we had the misfortune to run into him whilst disembarking at the wrong stairway "we would like to get off" said I, "not here you're not" said he. "Go back upstairs and go along to the next stairway. This chap thought it was in the interests of the hundreds of passengers coming down the stairwell to force us to fight our way back up through them, rather than letting us walk the 20 paces more off the ship with everybody else. He then continued to bark orders at the crew and talk to the passengers like sheep. Mobility Issues If you are in a wheelchair you may find the ship a bit daunting at first, but once you get to know her you will find access around it easy. Even to the upper decks. Some of the security staff are not the shiniest pennies in the fountain and will quite happily make you walk the entire length of the ship with your wheelchair if you try to enter or exit at the wrong gangway. We disembarked in Venice and were directed to....an escalator. Make sure you ask for a table near the entrance to the Britannia restaurant as you will be at the same table all week and it is fairly packed. The staff are helpful, but it is difficult to access the rear of the restaurant without having to ask someone to move. We received our hotel the day before disembarking with the wheelchair but Cunard sent us to a pier which should have gone to St Marks pier but was about another half mile down river, with several more bridges to cross. The tender gangplanks are not wide enough to accommodate a chair and the boats move a lot. In a nutshell, if you cannot walk, don't get off in Venice! In Conclusion I did many cruises on the QE2 "BC" (before Carnival) and it is impossible not to make comparisons. The Vic is a lovely ship if you ignore the plastic wood and fake Victoriana. She seems illogical in layout compared to the QE2 as you access many public rooms by going down into the ship rather than up. She is a cruise ship (her sister ship is the Holland America Zuiderdam) and not a liner. Cunard used to be about Quality of Service not Quantity of Onboard Sales and you may feel like a well milked cash cow by the time you get off. Still, Carnival have to make a profit. We have politely requested our onboard gratuities are refunded directly, from Carol Marlow, Carnival Cunard's President. Our request has so far been ignored. It seems spending £10000.00 isn't quite enough to get a response from the boss. Would we travel on the Vic again? Unlikely. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
With all the negative reviews I had read about the QV, I had the feeling that i would be pleasantly surprised. Not only was I not disappointed but cruising on the beautiful Queen Victoria cemented in my mind how we would holiday in the ... Read More
With all the negative reviews I had read about the QV, I had the feeling that i would be pleasantly surprised. Not only was I not disappointed but cruising on the beautiful Queen Victoria cemented in my mind how we would holiday in the future. Being ozzies, we have not had the opportunity to cruise as much as those from the USA or UK, so we could not make comparisons, we just enjoyed! Flying to Paris via Zurich 10 days before the cruise, we arrived in Southampton with FlyBE at 10 am on departure day and were met at the airport by our driver from West Quay Cars. I had booked a half day tour of Hampshire which included Stonehenge and which was to get us back to the docks around 2 pm. The tour began well but on the way to Stonehenge, the traffic suddenly came to a standstill and we ended up being 1 hr behind schedule! We didn't get back to the Docks until 3 pm and by then I was somewhat stressed, since I am perfectionist about timing and I didn't want to rush on board. Unfortunately that's what happened. We embarked quickly without any hassles but had little time to unpack before they announced muster. One good thing was the extremely civilized way muster took place in the theatre rather than the usual deck that tends to be hot and squeezy. Then we had to meet our friends as prearranged and before we knew it, we were pulling away. Then as we were early sitting, we had to get changed for dinner, so quickly grabbed the outfit close to the top of the case, which then ended up being a little more informal than the rest of those at our sitting. Oh well, we soon got into the routine- so much so that I just wanted to go on each night dressing up like a queen and being treated like royalty. Maybe there was one too many formal nights - we were all glad when the 5th was over! The CABIN was good - subtle relaxing colours - we were on the port side which was blue carpet and pillows - starboard had red. Bed was great, pillows large and fluffy, much too thick a downer / duvet and yes, not enough drawers. great balcony, not squeezy. Then there was the bathroom - miniature - what I would call a standard Carnival bathroom that just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the Cunard image! DINING was wonderful. At 60+ yrs, we were the youngest on our table, but we had lovely companions - one elderly couple from the US which we hope to see again one day and two lovely English ladies. The service was really bad for the first two nights, so much so that a complaint was made to the Maitre' D, after which we were served 3 courses in the first hour!. After that we all adjusted to the routine and dinner was a most enjoyable experience. I could not fault the food especially since I had requested low fat and every night the Head Waiter ensured that I received as requested. We had breakfast and lunch in the dining room as much as possible and each time we were given a table by the window and attended to with the usual attentiveness. ENTERTAINMENT was very good. Every evening we went directly to the Theatre and even though we went early to get a good seat, we felt spoiled just sitting in the beautiful red velvet seats and soaking in the atmosphere. The production nights were superb - vibrant costuming and exciting dancing. I personally did not like most of the individual performers but the flautist and violinist were excellent. We tried out the boxes on two occasions and again felt very special just sitting there The PORTS were good, but we mostly had either private tours or did our own thing. Bruges was just delightful, Tallin good and similar to Dubrovnik, Gdansk delightful because of the enthusiastic young tour guide. Then there was St Petersburg. Hmmm supposed to be the highlight, I can only say it was the lowlight. Extremely crowded (7 ships were in port), we and some others that we spoke to, found St Pete depressing. We had arranged an Alla Tour with a gp of 12 and it was great to be in a small tour gp. Everything went according to plan (except for the evening folk show exit from the dock - the customs woman wouldn't let us out without a ticket and had the tour guide not come to the rescue we might still be standing on the dock!). However, although the palaces and cathedrals were magnificent, the traffic jams, basic food, dismal surroundings and exorbitant prices we all had to pay ( whether you took the ship's excursions or private), did not really do much for us. On the other hand, the ship's excursion we took in Finland to a family farm which bred horses, was relaxing, informative and very enjoyable. We had been to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo so we just wandered around reminiscing all the time. The ship was docked almost in the downtown shops, which made wandering very easy! Finally DISEMBARKATION. because we had booked the train from Southampton to Gatwick airport, we had to disembark ourselves without help as the train went before the porters started work! Considering the porters had totally broken the top handle of one of the suitcases at embarkation, we managed to drag the heavy cases off ourselves OK and negotiate a taxi very quickly. It was exhausting but very easy. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
We had a great time on our recent Baltics cruise onboard the QV. I originally planned our cruise at the end of 2007 and was pleased that we booked a balcony cabin as the weather apart from a couple of days was perfect allowing us plenty ... Read More
We had a great time on our recent Baltics cruise onboard the QV. I originally planned our cruise at the end of 2007 and was pleased that we booked a balcony cabin as the weather apart from a couple of days was perfect allowing us plenty of "sitting out" opportunities. Being our first cruise onboard a Cunard cruise we had high expectations. On the main these were met, however I do believe that there are some training issues which Cunard should consider which I will cover later. Embarkation was easy, living only 80 miles away from Southampton we drove down that morning and took advantage of the valet parking option which meant that from arriving at Southampton to getting onboard took about 10 minutes. we went straight to our room which was ready by the time we arrived which was around 14.00. Straight away we found the lack of drawer space as mentioned on numerous occasions and the small shower cubicles which also had a lack of places to put shower gel/shampoo. Other than that the cabin was fine apart from the thick layers of dust we discovered in various places, for example on top of the headboard, on the shelves in the bathroom, behind the television. The few drawers that there were had not been cleaned with dust inside the drawers as well. On several occasions our cabin steward did not wash up the glasses after they had been used and was generally a bit slap dash. Although to be fair on every other cruise we have been on the cabin attendants have all been excellent so we were just unlucky as our chap did not have a very good attention to detail. Other passengers we spoke to were very happy with their cabin attendants. On 3 occasions we had chipped glasses in our cabin after they had been washed up. Some times he would put one chocolate on one side of the bed or not the other! Easy to complain when you get used to being spoilt!! I would think that this is either a training issue or perhaps our cabin attendant had too many cabins. The public areas are very nice and fairly intimate. We particularly enjoyed the Golden Lion pub which also served lunch time meals as well. We had second seating dinner in the Britannia restaurant. This could be a bit hit and miss with the doors opening 15 minutes late on the first night and was late opening on various occasions. Not a major issue but it could get pretty warm in the surrounding areas when people congregated in front of the doors. The food was generally good and there was plenty of choice. One night we had an excellent alternative dining meal in the Lido which was for the night turned into an Indian restaurant. There was no extra charge for this. The options alternated every 3 days so there was also Greek and Chinese nights. We purchased a 5 day spa pass which worked out really well as it was usually quiet as they limited the number of passes sold. This allowed entrance into the hydro pool, heated beds, sauna and steam rooms and was very pleasant. My husband had a massage which as pleasant although expensive by English standards. There was plenty of choice of wines and the wine waiter in Todd English was very good in helping us to select the right wine for us which became our favored wine for the rest of the cruise. Our experience in Todd English was excellent and over the 2 weeks we ate there twice. We did not go to all the shows as they were simply too late at 22.45 when we had a busy port schedule. When the shows were before dinner at 19.00 we preferred this as we sometimes struggled to stay awake at the later shows! We made plenty of friends as we shared tours with some of them following our roll call on cruise critic. This worked out really well. I would however suggest that Cunard should address the noise issue around the launderette, we were unfortunately opposite and fellow cruisers kept leaving the door open and also spoke very loudly to combat the noise of the machines. Unfortunately the doors to the launderette did not have doors which closed automatically unlike the cabin or balcony doors which would have meant that the noise would have been contained. We did a couple of ship tours which were OK and fairly well organized although it was chaotic around the Queens Room where you had to meet before hand. We ordered room service a few times which always turned up early. We would have preferred a call before hand to say it was on the way which we have experienced before. The breakfast menu was adequate although not as extensive as Celebrity for example. Overall we loved the cruise although there were a few issues these were not enough to detract from the overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
CRUISE REVIEW - CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA - SOUTHAMPTON TO VENICE, AUGUST 1 - 13, 2008, Stateroom 5054 Cat A5 This was a much-anticipated cruise for me and my two children age 20 (son) and 15 (daughter). It was our 8th cruise, with previous ... Read More
CRUISE REVIEW - CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA - SOUTHAMPTON TO VENICE, AUGUST 1 - 13, 2008, Stateroom 5054 Cat A5 This was a much-anticipated cruise for me and my two children age 20 (son) and 15 (daughter). It was our 8th cruise, with previous voyages having been onboard Holland America (old Westerdam, new Westerdam, Zuiderdam), Royal Caribbean (Enchantment, Adventure), Carnival (Destiny), and Celebrity (Galaxy). My daughter was attending a 4 week program in the UK to obtain a high school credit. Our selection of Queen Victoria depended heavily upon the following criteria: embarkation in England, timing coincided with the end of my daughter's course, and the itinerary included Florence, Rome, and Venice among other ports. In other words, we weren't specifically looking at Queen Victoria or Cunard cruises. But I will admit we were far from disappointed when we realized the ship and itinerary that best suited our criteria was the newly commissioned Queen Victoria. I still remember the tone of reverence in my son's voice when he realized I was giving serious consideration to this ship ... just the way he said, "ooooh, Cunard!" told me he hoped I would pony up the funds and get us onboard. Our enjoyment of this cruise proved to be predominantly a function of the quality and variety of the ports we visited. Sadly, I cannot say that Cunard or Queen Victoria met our expectations. These expectations, courtesy of Cunard's own intense, frequent (and, based on our experience, excessive) marketing of its "legendary White Star Service" were set quite high before we even boarded the ship. A few days following our return home at the end of the cruise, I read an extremely well-written, painfully accurate, and somewhat humorous member review of a Queen Victoria voyage. I recall the writer, a gentleman, referring to Queen Victoria as "Carnivalized". I beg to differ; Cunard would have benefited from that process had it occurred. We sailed with Carnival onboard Destiny several years ago. Our expectations of that cruise were actually rather low in terms of food and service quality but we booked it because a premium cabin was available, the itinerary was perfect, the timing was right, and the price was reasonable. Our expectations were handily exceeded by Carnival in virtually every respect. There is no question we got at least what we paid for, and considerably more than we expected in many areas.. We do not feel that way about our experience onboard Queen Victoria. Every element of their marketing, before and after you board, focuses on the concept that their service is a cut above. They never forego an opportunity to point this out. This focus on their superb service is merely wishful thinking on their part. Cunard has many inherent weaknesses in their systems and procedures (or lack thereof) that prevent them from delivering on their promise of legendary White Star service. Our experience and my observations of other passengers suggest they need significant improvement and better coordination in the delivery of their product. EMBARKATION Embarkation went fairly smoothly. We took the Cunard transfer from the Victoria coach station and it was a fairly lengthy drive (almost 3 hours) to the cruise terminal owing to heavy traffic and lane closures. There was virtually no line-up for check-in. Once invited to the check-in counter, I was asked (among other things) for the credit card I would use to pay my on-board account. I had already set up a prepaid onboard credit in a significant amount prior to my departure from home. I had received confirmation from Cunard that this amount was received and credited to our stateroom onboard account. I knew it was unlikely we would exceed the amount of this credit so I declined at check-in to provide a credit card. "But I cannot see ANY credit set up under your stateroom account", the check-in agent said. Little did she know how accurately she was defining one of Cunard's greatest administrative weaknesses. Quite simply, the left hand rarely knows what the right hand is doing. Repeatedly during our 13 day voyage it became clear that information in the Cunard database was seldom available to the departments that could benefit from access to it. In any event, I provided details to the check-in agent regarding the timing and the magnitude of the onboard credit I had set up. Eventually she sought the advice of a manager who indicated I should proceed to the Purser's Desk once onboard the ship in order to determine whether the credit was properly allocated to my stateroom. We were issued our ship's ID cards and carried on. OUR STATEROOM Our stateroom was ready when we embarked and in fact our suitcases arrived very promptly. Our stateroom attendant, Helen, introduced herself to us very soon after we crossed our threshold. Other reviewers have already commented about the lack of drawer space in the staterooms. We had a balcony stateroom and in fact ours was the largest square footage offered in this category (472 sq. ft). Throughout the stateroom it was easy to see the missed opportunities for more efficient storage. Each night table had one very small shallow drawer - they could each have had 2 or 3 larger drawers and that would have been very useful. The flatscreen television on the writing desk could easily have been wall-mounted. Inexplicably, a few feet of its electrical cord sat on the desk tangled up with our laptop cord throughout the cruise. Neither the TV nor its cord should have been allowed to take up space on this already miniscule surface. There was one each of US, British, and European electrical outlets. Since we had a supply of electrical adapters with us, we were able to take advantage of all three styles for digital camera and cell phone and laptop charging. The water closet (and I use this term quite literally in terms of the size of the facility) could have had a mirrored medicine cabinet configuration with sliding doors or glass shelving as we've seen on other ships to accommodate personal care items, toothpaste, lotions and potions, etc. Instead there was literally no room for these items except a shelf below the counter about 6" above the floor. A far from convenient location. Regardless of the class of stateroom we've booked, we have never had a smaller bathroom onboard a cruise ship. Our cabin had the advantage of an unusually large balcony which we enjoyed many times during our cruise. It was a triple cabin, and occupied by 3 people, so a third chair would have been appreciated. The balcony was more than large enough to accommodate 3 (and indeed even 4) chairs. Bear in mind that most balcony staterooms had substantially smaller balconies than ours. We found the beds to be very comfortable, with premium mattresses, linens, and pillows. Temperature control of the stateroom was easily accomplished THE SHIP We all felt that Queen Victoria was quite elegant, understated, and comfortable. We had previous Vista Class experience and so found our way around quite easily from the start. Even during the sea days, of which we experienced 3, the ship never seemed crowded. We were always able to find a table at the Lido Deck and there were always places to sit in lounges to enjoy music or a drink. I didn't go into the Library as it was almost claustrophobically small despite the spiral staircase to a second floor. The internet lounge was generously sized and well laid out but the satellite signal was among the slowest I've experienced and for at least 2 days there was no service at all. Strangely, Queen Victoria separated the charges for access within the internet lounge vs. wireless service available on the ship if one brought a wireless device. I purchased a substantial package of minutes for our cruise knowing that I would need to keep up with email. Those minutes could only be used by me personally and only in the lounge. We have never before seen this requirement on a cruise ship. Ordinarily we can purchase a package as a family and share the minutes and use them in the internet lounge OR on our own wireless laptop. During the 2 days when the internet lounge was closed (literally, locked, due to lack of signal), the wireless system performed very well. I was charged 50 cents per minute to check my email on my own laptop using the Queen Victoria wireless system. Meanwhile, I disembarked at the end of our cruise having about 100 unused minutes left in my "internet package". This makes no sense. The Cunardia displays were interesting and I spent some time reading about the role of the Queens in carrying troops during wartime. The theatre was truly beautiful, the largest and the nicest we've seen on any ship. The seating was very comfortable. The theatre was truly designed to be a theatre, not a lounge, and so there were no tables for drinks and no drinks offered prior to the performance. Not an issue for me. The private boxes were well utilized during the gala nights but otherwise were easily accessed on a first-come basis. However, the clear acrylic in front of each box somewhat distorted the view of the performance. The shops on board were not especially interesting. Their window displays were attractive but the merchandise was just not that enticing. They had their daily sidewalk sales of a variety of kitsch (inexpensive watches, the usual assortment of sparkly costume jewelry, colognes) which I really hadn't expected to see onboard Cunard. The absence of constant announcements was welcome; Celebrity does the same thing, with only a brief morning announcement and everything else to be seen on the "Cunard channel" or in the daily printed program. The lack of constant calls to Bingo and other activities means I can pretend I have nothing to do and hunker down with a book instead. The sleeping decks of the ship each feature a Launderette which is free to use. We used it on our first sea day as we arrived onboard Queen Victoria after a week spent exploring Glasgow and London and so our laundry needed attention. It was the only opportunity we had, and we were only a half dozen doors away from the launderette. After the 2nd day, the laundry room became the protected territory of a group of laundry vigilantes (I kid you not, everyone was talking about it) and they were pretty much camping in there full time. Who does that? Why pay for a cruise and live in the Launderette? The same people were in there all day every day, and fighting would break out over use of the washers, the dryers, the ironing board, just ridiculous! I don't know how these folks even managed to get their clothing dirty enough to launder in the short intervals between visits. Occasionally we'd see them going in and out of the laundry room in their Cunard robe, as presumably they'd exhausted their supply of dirty clothes and could only clean what they were already wearing. It was the weirdest thing! I kept an eye on the laundry room thinking we could do a quick load at some point but after about 4 days of keeping an eye on it, I realized the laundry vigilantes were never going to leave until the doors were locked at night. When we needed additional laundry services, we simply filled out the laundry slip in the room and let Cunard handle it. I gather the laundry vigilante situation is a common experience onboard as other reviewers have mentioned it. We never have seen this onboard other ships. SERVICE Overall, we were disappointed in this area partially because our expectations were elevated based on Cunard's constant references to their renowned White Star Service. My comment to that would be if you are going to keep drawing everyone's attention to your service, you had better deliver it in an exemplary manner. They fall short of their own marketing and consequently fell short of our expectations. They also fall short of the service experience we've enjoyed when cruising with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and Celebrity. I would have expected service to be on par with Celebrity but it wasn't on par with any of our past experiences. I spent more time at the front desk (purser's desk and excursions desk) on this cruise than on our preceding 7 cruises combined. (See, "our adventure" later in this review for details.) Our cabin steward frankly did not seem to enjoy her job at all nor was she particularly friendly. She rarely greeted us if we passed her in the hallways, kept her eyes down and never smiled. We've had great cabin stewards and poor ones and a couple in between; she was probably the worst of the bunch. She also didn't take advantage of opportunities to show us she was paying attention to our habits. Usually after one or two days at sea, a capable cabin steward will have noted the preferences of a stateroom's occupants and will organize the room accordingly. In our case, my daughter slept with an extra blanket on her bed every night of the cruise. Not once was that blanket placed on or near her bed when beds were prepared for the night. It wasn't lack of time, clearly, as our cabin steward attempted to do something artistic in arranging my pajamas each night. (This, quite frankly, I found rather weird as it's not exactly a "towel animal" - it's my personal nightwear!) We fared somewhat better in the dining room as our waiter (Zaldy) and his assistant were friendly and reasonably capable; however, our waiter's command of English was limited which sometimes hampered the process of ordering our meals. He did always manage to get it right in the end and on the one occasion when my daughter's meal arrived undercooked (gnocchi, almost raw in the center) he quickly had the meal replaced and the head waiter for our section checked soon after to make sure she was happy with the replacement. Interestingly, neither of my children were ever offered a beverage other than water in the dining room. This is unique in our experience! Usually my son would have a daiquiri (virgin daiquiri when he was younger, regular now that he's 20) and my daughter might do likewise. At the very least, my son would probably consume a diet soft drink with his meal. None was offered at any time. I have no idea why this would be the case. With the automatic gratuity applied to every order from the bar, be it soft drink, mixed drink, or wine, the bar steward could have earned some revenue from two kids who routinely order at least a daiquiri each at dinner. Front desk staff were for the most part professional and courteous and attempted to be helpful but it seemed they often were in the dark about policies and procedures. I spent a lot of time at the purser's desk on this cruise and had the opportunity to observe literally dozens and dozens of passengers raising a variety of what seemed reasonable and common issues without deriving much satisfaction from the experience. If not for my determination and persistence in resolving our issue with Cunard, I would have ended the cruise feeling equally frustrated. DINING On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being excellent and 1 being inedible, I would rate the food onboard Queen Victoria somewhere in the vicinity of 3.. I would give approximately the same ranking to food onboard Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I would give a ranking of 4 to Holland America and 4.5 to Celebrity. That said, our voyage on Cunard was more expensive than any of the aforementioned cruise lines. I would have expected more quality, variety and capability from the kitchens and particularly in a dining room that requires gentlemen to wear a jacket every single night of their cruise. We dined in the Britannia restaurant every night with only one exception, which was an evening spent in the reservations-only (surcharged) restaurant "Todd English". The food in the Britannia ranged from "OK to good" according to my son. Fair comment. Sometimes we engaged in serious contemplation of the possible presentation of a particular food. That resulted from an early dessert in which a "parfait" arrived as a pyramid-shaped jelly-like mousse. Desserts were generally not terrific; my kids took to ordering the ice cream with every dessert as a no-fail backup plan. Unlike other cruise lines we've experienced, Cunard did not mention "alternative" options in the event that no menu items appealed. Celebrity, for example, offers Caesar salad, grilled salmon or steak in addition to the menu items and this is noted on the menu on a nightly basis. If Cunard offers something similar, it was not mentioned at any time by our waiter nor was there any indication printed on the dining room menu. One evening my daughter ordered pasta from the menu, asking that mushrooms be omitted. It arrived without any discernible sauce whatsoever. As it was the only item that appealed to her at all on the evening's menu, she soldiered through about ¼ of it. If alternatives to the printed menu had been offered it would have been helpful. After the 3rd or 4th dinner in the Britannia dining room, we came to think of the meal as more of a refueling stop than "fine dining" because the food quite simply wasn't of that caliber. This was the first voyage of 8 cruises that my son was required to wear a jacket each and every night. (Cunard's "elegant casual" dress code requires jackets for the men.) My son commented that this restaurant was simply "not good enough" to require men to wear a jacket every night. He's right. We made reservations for dinner one evening at the Todd English restaurant onboard. We had visited Olives at Bellagio in Las Vegas and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal, and prior to embarkation onboard Queen Victoria had enjoyed Zuma and Gordon Ramsay in London, so we were hopeful of another taste treat. Todd English onboard Queen Victoria is decidedly a step up from the Britannia experience, but in no way a match for its land-based sister, Olives. The food was much better than anything the Britannia was serving but the service seemed impersonal, almost mechanical. We felt that the Lido restaurant did a very capable job at breakfast and in fact was probably the best organized breakfast buffet we've seen on any cruise ship. Some ships scatter the necessities for breakfast across so large an area that the pancakes are long chilled before syrup can be found. If you started at the beginning and proceeded to the end (which not every passenger did), you would systematically have assembled on your tray absolutely everything needed for breakfast including the appropriate condiments. I have never seen a more logically put together buffet. The food was generally good and the "cooked to order" omelettes, pancakes, and waffles were very tasty. Lunch was much less predictable. The sandwich station had the same boring sandwiches day in and day out. On most cruise ships I am easily satisfied with a good sandwich but these were just plain uninspired. They could have prepared them in advance; there was no advantage to having the sandwiches made to order as they lacked interesting fillings and variety and basically just kept making the same things again and again for days on end. The pasta and pizza stations were a better bet, with some customization possible. The pasta chef had fun one day with my daughter and I making a "pink sauce" out of his alfredo and arrabiata sauces and adding an array of chopped vegetables. The resulting creation, which we shared, was absolutely delicious. Generally I restricted my lunch time visit to the Lido to a salad and soup as these were fairly no-fail options. Sometimes it was tricky to find a table at lunch time but perseverance always paid off. The room service menu was probably the most limited and boring we've seen on a cruise. It went virtually unused by us. The Golden Lion Pub provided a welcome change at lunch from time to time. Generally it wasn't busy if one arrived fairly promptly at noon and the meals, although limited in variety, were delivered piping hot and were reasonably tasty. I'm a serious fish and chip lover and the Golden Lion Pub didn't disappoint in this area! It was nice to sit down and have a simple meal with my kids a couple of times during our cruise and not have to face the lines and the trays in the Lido. ENTERTAINMENT My son plans a career in live theatre production so he of course had a very high level of interest in seeing the shows and seeing the production values of these shows in such a beautiful venue as Queen Victoria's theatre. They have apparently invested considerably in absolutely first-rate equipment for sound and lighting and a great deal of it! He was very impressed by the investment made to ensure that every show could be lit to perfection. However, the cast of the production shows seems uninspired much of the time. There was no strong female singer and no strong male voice. They had 4 "decent" vocalists but no one who could really put out a powerful vocal. Usually we find that there is one particularly powerful voice for each of the male and female performers and there are usually ways to showcase those voices within the production shows. As I said to my son after the first production show, "I am having a lot of trouble connecting with the show, the performers, with any of it". I felt the shows had no real story (beginning/ middle / end), lacked energy, seemed more than a little disorganized, and the lighting was sometimes all over the place. In one instance the lights were aimed straight at the audience, forcing many people to cover their eyes. Not a smart idea. We later learned that this was a changeover cruise for the cast which had been onboard since the maiden voyage. Their contracts were finally coming to an end and their replacements embarked when we did and were frantically in rehearsal every hour of the day. That probably explains the lack of energy of the departing cast! The final production did seem more put together and the cast must have felt inspired to go out with a bang because it was a far higher energy performance than any of the preceding shows. They should have begun the cruise with an equally strong show and put the less organized, weaker shows in the middle with the powerhouse at the end. The walk-on entertainers were all musicians or vocalists. One gentleman played a wide range of instruments, had a very pleasant singing voice, and the audience responded very enthusiastically to him. His show was my favorite of the cruise. There was a female vocalist who almost managed to put the audience to sleep; many people got up and left mid-song (which I personally think is offensively rude) and she performed two shows (one too many). There wasn't enough variety in the walk-on performances; they were all vocalists and musicians, with no illusionist, comedy, magician, etc. On non-production show nights the late show was poorly attended, in fact I don't think more than 20% of the seats were occupied for most of the shows. I don't think I've been on a ship previously where the late seating of dinner had an after-dinner show. Usually the late diners see an early show, the early diners get the later show but both shows are usually finished by about 10 p.m. Our show didn't start until 10:45 p.m., and generally wrapped up about an hour later. With port arrivals at 7 and excursions at 8 a.m., that's just plain too late!! I missed at least 4 or 5 shows as a result. Walking around the ship, I heard and enjoyed some very competent pianists and a harpist who was very good. SPA The spa was truly "state of the art" and absolutely lovely. I had several excellent treatments in the spa, particularly on the sea days. My favorite treatments were the stones massage and two sessions of reflexology. I always talk with staff members about life on board the ship because both of my kids are studying for careers that will likely take them onto a cruise ship after they graduate (technical theatre production, and hotel management). By chatting with the spa staff, I learned a few things onboard Queen Victoria that were of interest. First, the staff on this ship lacks deck privileges. They are not permitted on passenger decks when they are off duty, not even to sit and have a coffee in a lounge and interact with passengers. Other ships we have sailed (Holland America, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean) definitely had staff members circulating. They are required not to drink on passenger decks, to comply with the dress code, and to act professionally as the representatives of the cruise line, but they are up there on passenger levels. I gather the restriction of deck privileges was recent and there were staff members who had come onboard when deck privileges were extended. Many were not planning to renew their contracts now that these privileges were revoked. In fact, none of the staff members with whom I spoke expected to renew their contracts on the same ship again. PORTS SOUTHAMPTON: We spent 3 days prior to embarkation enjoying London, our second visit in 3 years. We had a wonderful dinner at Gordon Ramsay's at Claridges, an even more amazing meal at Zuma (Japanese), and saw Les Miserables which is probably my all-time favorite show. My daughter and I enjoyed browsing at Camden Market; my son opted for relaxation that afternoon instead. We had beautiful weather (much nicer than folks at home were having) and our hotel, Flemings Mayfair, was terrific and beautifully located 5 minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. GIBRALTAR: We took the ship's excursion "Walking Tour of the Rock" and were carefully briefed by our guide about the Barbary Apes. They are very precocious and especially the teenagers will try and snatch anything they can, particularly food! There is a 500 pound sterling fine for feeding the apes but the apes are not fined for stealing YOUR food! However, it can get a little tricky so it's best not to rustle wrappers, reach into bags, etc. because they associate those movements/sounds with food. One young boy came out of a souvenir/snack shop with a newly-purchased ice cream bar on a stick. The wrapper was no sooner removed than an ape grabbed the ice cream bar out of the boy's hand, climbed onto a roof, and demonstrated a good working knowledge of how to thoroughly savour an ice cream bar. He licked the stick on both sides, then climbed down. Very cute, we took photos! Many of the mini-vans used for the tours had apes climbing onto and into them. The apes seemed to be particularly fond of the horn and would reach in and press and hold it for minutes at a time. It sounded like rush hour at a gridlocked intersection but it really was just the apes having fun with their own version of an orchestra. The same excursion includes a visit to the caves and this was worthwhile also. From one vantage point we were able to see the Gibraltar airport which is of interest because there is a major road running right across the runway!!! There are only a handful of take-offs and landings each day and automated arms (like at a railway crossing) have been installed to prevent movement of vehicles and pedestrians across the runway for a few minutes before, during, and after it is in use. We were fortunate to see the road closed at one point for an inbound aircraft, watched the landing, and then a few minutes later the road re-opened and traffic was transiting the runway once again. A very unusual setup, but it seems to work. CANNES: We were fortunate to be able to book the services of a fantastic and highly recommended private guide. I had read of this gentleman in numerous cruise reviews and bulletin boards, Michel of Revelation Tours, and we were not disappointed. He really hit the ground running, with wonderful commentary that brought to life the history of the area, and helped us understand and appreciate everything we were seeing. He had a very comfortable Mercedes van, soft drinks and bottled water on board, and did everything to make our day enjoyable, educational, and we really crammed a lot in! We visited Monte Carlo/Monaco, Eze (charming!), St. Paul de Vence (have to go back there some day!!), and lunch in Nice. The three of us agreed that he is our all-time best private tour guide providing superbly paced and interesting commentary. If I find myself in the south of France again, I will be in touch with Michel. FLORENCE/PISA: We booked a private tour with Rome in Limo and had requested Carlo for both Florence and Rome tours. However, their local driver Gianmarie met us at the ship at the port of Livorno. He quickly got us away from what must be the ugliest port area I've ever seen. I'm sure the town is pretty but Livorno's economy is all about shipping so anything within a mile of the pier is strictly related to that and very unattractive as Gianmarie pointed out! He was a terrific tour guide, young, personable, interesting, with lots of good information to share with us, a good sense of humor, and he kept the commentary moving so we were never bored. Gianmarie was an excellent choice of guide for the dynamics of our family. We started with a visit to Pisa and really you only need about an hour for this. It's mainly a photo opportunity and as we drove through Pisa, Gianmarie pointed out that it wasn't exactly the only "leaning tower". Pisa just doesn't have the substrate needed to keep a tower standing straight! Gianmarie had made a reservation for us at the Accademia so I finally met the famous "David" who is every bit as good-looking a man now as he was when Michelangelo discovered him! Best of all, he took us to a fantastic restaurant in Florence for lunch ... "La Posta" ... we had the most wonderful pasta, the owner looked after us personally and told us all kinds of cute stories of comical customers. My son says he would go back to Florence specifically to dine at that restaurant again. Me too. ROME: We spent 3 days exploring Rome before our last Mediterranean cruise onboard Celebrity Galaxy in August 2006. This time we elected to have a private driver and we had a specific list of places we wanted to go. Again our booking was with Rome in Limo and this time we had Marco as our driver. Marco was driving a Mercedes minivan with half of the rear seats facing backward. These were not useful for our purpose so we sat in the back row of seats which were facing forward; unfortunately that made it difficult for us to hear his commentary, which I'm sure he noticed since I needed him to repeat almost everything he said. I later learned he could easily have turned the rear-facing seats to a forward-facing position and I'm not sure why that wasn't done, considering how far back we ended up sitting in a half-full minivan. Marco did not offer a great deal of commentary; that may have been because we told him it wasn't our first visit to Rome. Having said that, he was interesting and with good English skills, and he paid attention to our comment that we would like the opportunity for a really nice lunch, and to take some interesting and different photos. Unfortunately, that second statement of preference ended up costing us $2,000 before we were even halfway into the tour. He took us first to the Colosseum as this was our number one request (we only saw the exterior on our last visit to Rome). Then he embarked on a mission to "surprise us" with hidden gems and panoramic views. Unfortunately at one such stop, a panoramic view of a large part of the city taken from the Aventine Hill area, we were out of the vehicle for about 10 minutes and returned to find items we had left inside the car, gone. The vehicle was locked, parked on the street outside a church in a quiet residential area, but the vehicle's security had been defeated, probably by a screwdriver inserted under the covering of the driver's door handle to short the electronic locking system. My camera bag (with an SLR lens, spare battery, charger, and assorted camera accessories), my daughter's bag (with a digital camera and a digital video) and our driver's jacket (with his wallet, all ID, driver's license, and credit cards) were all gone! About a $2,000 loss for our family which I have since learned is not substantial enough to merit an insurance claim so we have to write this off to experience. We spent about an hour at the police station to file a report before declaring a lunch break. Marco was very upset to have such an event occur on his shift, but we did all recover somewhat after a nice glass of wine and wonderful lunch, consumed at a restaurant he indicated was his favorite in the city. Our afternoon stop was at Vatican City, primarily to see the Sistine Chapel. Earlier I had been asked by Rome in Limo if I wanted a private guide to take us into Vatican City and I had declined because the cost was 150 euro and I didn't think my kids would be sufficiently interested in the Vatican Museum's art to warrant a detailed explanation of it. In fact, given their 'druthers they would probably elect to get through the Vatican Museum as quickly as they decently could! However, the owner of Rome in Limo was waiting for us at the entrance to Vatican City to express his condolences on the loss of our items earlier in the day.and to offer us the complementary services of one of his private guides, Catherine. She was terrific! Young, knowledgeable, interesting, funny, quick paced, kept things moving, and we benefited hugely by having her accompany us. We especially appreciated the time she spent familiarizing us with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel so that when we stepped inside (where silence is required and photography is banned) we knew what we were looking at and had a better ability to appreciate and understand the nuances. Catherine's tour and commentary was definitely a highlight of our day in Rome. We enjoyed our day in Rome and we realize that a theft can and does occur in any place in the world. We travel frequently and we bring some expensive toys (cameras) with us, and electronics are always tempting targets. We arrived in Rome already in love with the city and nothing has changed that. However, we do offer this caution: Do not assume a locked vehicle is safe even for 5 minutes. Apparently Rome in Limo requires their drivers to remain with their vehicle but in our case this requirement was ignored and really in only a very few minutes in a quiet residential area, the vehicle was emptied. I did notice in Florence/Pisa that no matter where we went or how long we were gone, anytime we glanced back at the Mercedes minivan we could see Gianmarie standing right beside the driver's door. We thought it a bit comical, actually, but we now understand exactly why he was doing this. Our driver in the South of France, Michel, did exactly the same thing at all times. Clearly they know there is a risk of a Mercedes minivan being spotted as a "private tour vehicle" with perhaps some personal effects or cameras inside. MESSINA: Our home has been under renovation for about 10 years, one room after another, and the imaginative, talented contractor with whom I've worked on all of this is originally from Sicily. I showed him our options for our day in port and he said "Go to Taormina". It was terrific advice. Taormina is beautiful! We had about a 45 minute ride in a very nice coach with a wonderful tour guide whose name I've forgotten but I could pick her out in a crowd by her voice. She had a very distinctive manner of speech, a bit slow paced and very theatrical. This served her well as it seemed to keep everyone quite engaged and listening to her commentary. We had ample time to wander around Taormina that day; sadly, it was extremely hot but she had great advice for refreshment: granita, a kind of lemon slush that is eaten with a spoon. We found a sidewalk restaurant that offered granita, enjoyed it thoroughly, and searched for it every hour of every day for the balance of the cruise, with no success. I guess we will be going back to Sicily if we get desperate enough for granita. I bought a painting from an artist in Taormina, very reasonably priced at 300 euro. The painting is very detailed and whenever I look at it, it reminds me of the beautiful views that were literally around every corner in this town. Our guide referred to Taormina as "magical" and I think that's a fair comment. CORFU: We took the ship's excursion to Acheillion Palace, a Monastery, and Corfu town. The Palace is a complete waste of time. There are a few sculptures and paintings but after FLORENCE???? No comparison. Much of the Palace appeared to be closed to the public and what was open was just not that beautiful. I found it small, sparsely furnished and with a few interesting pieces but having just come from Italy and its treasures there was little here to impress the observer. Visiting the palace necessitated a lot of driving on very narrow congested streets for no good reason. For this tour we had such a pedantic, boring tour guide that many of the passengers actually fell asleep in the bus on the way to the palace! The Monastery was situated in a beautiful area on the coast with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery. Although it wasn't all the interesting in itself, the drive to and from the Monastery was beautiful and we took some lovely photos of the ocean and beach. When we got back to Corfu town, many people (including my son) opted to go straight back to the ship, but my daughter and I stayed in town, feeling thirsty and in the mood for a snack and people-watching. We sat on the sidewalk at a restaurant for refreshment, and had delicious greek salad and moussaka and wine served very promptly and at a reasonable cost. We did a little souvenir shopping and then it was time to get back to the ship. DUBROVNIK: We did a ship's excursion primarily of the Croatian Riviera. This is a port I had under-estimated and frankly wasn't all that terribly interested in when I made the booking. However, the Croatian Riviera is stunning. Beautiful, peaceful, no big crowds, we went to Cavtat with its population of 2,000 and as soon as we were one block from the waterfront, we were enveloped in peace and serenity. I could definitely enjoy a vacation here! The excursion continued inland to a restaurant where we were served a glass of wine (choice of red or white, the white was delicious) and a small snack of local home-made break, cheese, sliced cured meat, and freshly sliced tomato. It was an extremely pretty location and well worth walking around to enjoy the scenery. From there we stopped in Dubrovnik, the old town, where we wandered around for a couple of hours, had some very tasty pizza (and a very un-tasty glass of rose wine that I couldn't drink), and then were taken back to the ship. Others who came into town without an excursion had to queue for the ship's shuttle and it was clearly pandemonium as the shuttle arrived and was set upon by many more Cunard guests than could possibly fit on the coach. We were glad to be able to take the excursion coach back to the ship and not have to content with the line-up for the shuttle as Dubrovnik was very hot the day we were in port. VENICE: Venice was the #1 reason we booked this cruise. I'd been warned a few times about a funky smell but didn't notice it. What I did notice was the beauty, the romance, the history, the water.. water ..water everywhere! It takes a few minutes to assimilate that really there are no roads. All the usual types of transportation - limos, taxis, buses - are available, but all of it involves water! We did the ship's excursion of the Doges Palace and St. Mark's, both of which were interesting although I suspect my kids would have happily done without both. From there we proceeded to the gondola and were seated with a family of 3 and off we went! There was much jockeying for position as initially the gondola embarkation area was very congested; the canals were almost equally busy with the gondolas proceeding in a "nose to tail trailride" formation for the entire length of the trip. Meanwhile, the gondoliers shouted and laughed back and forth between themselves in Italian (probably commenting on their hapless guests who were taking pictures of every brick along the way) but it was nonetheless interesting and I wouldn't have wanted to forego the experience. (Possibly the attractiveness of the gondoliers is at least partly responsible for this.) Later we set off on our own to buy some tourist tat (sorry, couldn't help it!) including a beautiful Venetian mask for 25 euro (seemed very reasonable). We sat down at a sidewalk restaurant for wine and snacks and people-watching. However, we couldn't stay in town too late because it was "packing night" (that very dreaded event) and we had a great deal of luggage to sort. The following morning we again stepped of the ship to spend some time sight-seeing in Venice. I had it in mind that we would go to Murano and perhaps buy a piece of glass. Finding ourselves again in St. Marks Square, we were almost immediately approached by a gentleman who indicated that we could have a free water taxi ride to Murano if we would visit a specific glass factory. I didn't have any problem with this, asked how long it would take, and we hopped into the taxi. This gave us an interesting ride and it was about 20 minutes to Murano as I recall. We were greeted as we stepped off the boat by one of the representatives of the factory, welcomed, told we could feel free to take pictures of the demonstration we would see, and in we went. The demonstration was a glass master first blowing a glass vase and then sculpting a glass horse by pulling on a ball of molten glass to create a head, body, legs, and tail. It was amazing, just a few pulls with something that looked like pliers and there was a horse! "Master" is definitely the word! The tour of the showroom (where photos were not allowed) was equally amazing; we had lots of questions and our factory representative explained the various processes used to create such intricate, amazing glass pieces of art. Some were absolutely huge, others very small, some of the chandeliers were indescribable, and it was definitely a very worthwhile morning. There was no chance I'd leave without purchasing something, the only problem was narrowing down the choice, but in the end we arranged a piece that will be shipped. It's a crystal branch with 3 birds on it (we are a family of 3) and we each chose a color for "our" bird. It will be a beautiful and a wonderful memory of our time in Venice when it arrives in about six weeks' time. OVERALL There were some things we really enjoyed about this cruise and I would be remiss if I didn't highlight them. First, it was the dressiest cruise we've experienced. The dress code was respected by 99% of the passengers each and every night. Even on the 'elegant casual' nights some of the ladies really were dressed, leading my daughter to question whether they might turn up in wedding gowns on the formal nights. We saw gentlemen being turned away from the Britannia restaurant because of the lack of a jacket or tie. I've always disliked seeing people in the dining room on a formal night who refuse to even try to conform to the evening dress code. This didn't happen on Queen Victoria. We requested a "small table" but were seated at a table for 6 with a delightful couple (Pam & Nick) from the south of England. We never asked them but it's possible they had requested a table for two. There weren't very many such tables in the Britannia and I know that many passengers who requested a table for two did not have that request accommodated. We have a lovely photograph taken of the 5 of us at dinner to remind us how much we enjoyed their company. Our past experiences with large tables were not always favorable, with table companions who dined at the Lido on all the formal nights, leaving us in the awkward position of being only 3 at a large table half of the time. This time our dining companions attended dinner every as we did. (excepting our one meal at Todd English). They were delightful and we had some great conversations, sometimes lingering at the table well after coffee was finished. I enjoyed the music broadcast over the ship each time we sailed from a port but I wish it had been themed a little more closely for some of the ports (sometimes I really couldn't understand the choice of songs) and it was a little too loud. Anyone out on deck or on their balcony to enjoy the departure would be hard-pressed to have a conversation. At one port there was a bit of a whistle competition between our ship and Ocean Village. Each ship blasted away numerous times with Queen Victoria the clear and impressive winner. The half bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin for sail-away was much enjoyed but I think a small basket of fruit would also have been welcomed; it is something we've grown accustomed to in our cruises with Holland America, it costs the ship very little, and it's a nice welcoming touch. I believe Queen Victoria was in most of the ports of this itinerary for the first time. Our tour guides in each port commented on how beautiful the ship is, and this is true. The Queen Victoria looks stately and handsome in port, very much the ocean liner, and the red stripe at the water line and dark livery of the ship's hull really set her apart from all those white (almost plastic-looking) cruise ships that shared the port facilities with us during our itinerary. OUR ADVENTURE Encoded into my DNA is a requirement for dotting I's and crossing t's. I am a born organizer as anyone who knows me will attest. This means that as soon as we book a trip, I open a "trip file" and the amassing of information begins. I surf the internet, clip articles, read reviews, look at travel forums, and the process of trip planning begins. What do we need to see and do, where should we eat, what private drivers do we want to book and where should they take us, what excursions are the best ones to take ... all of this become part of a fine, FAT file that expands steadily for months before departure! By the time we leave home to embark on our trip, the bookings made as a result of all of this research are synthesized into a spreadsheet format which provides "at a glance" information about the commitments, reservations and plans we've made. All this planning actually makes the trips more relaxing as it is easy to keep track of the day's plan by consulting this chart. This cruise had a port-intensive itinerary and that is why we chose it. There were a lot of ports, and they were wonderful ports, most of which we had not previously seen. Thus, we wanted to ensure we saw everything we could. I never quite understand the people for whom a cruise is "just a boat ride" and they either don't get off the ship when it's in port, or they are back on again by lunch time. I'm usually among the first off and last to return! My son jokes that they can throw a rope over the side so I can swing back on - it has never come to that but I am certainly going to eat in Rome when I'm in Rome!! In my view, there is no ship so wonderful that it can eclipse the treasures and culture of the ports it visits. 5 months before we sailed I had booked all of our shore plans with the exception of Venice. For 3 ports I booked private drivers. For 4 ports I booked a ship's excursion because I couldn't justify the cost of hiring a driver everywhere and yet I don't just want to walk off the ship and poke about a few shops before re-boarding. The most important factor in our decision to book Queen Victoria was the opportunity to spend the last 2 days of the cruise in Venice. It was therefore important to us to have a good plan for exploring this fantastic city, both on our day of arrival and the following day after sleeping onboard the ship in port. Queen Victoria was arriving in Venice at noon on Aug 12 and we would not disembark until Aug 13 so that would give us about 6 hours in the city both days. I had to keep some time available the evening of Aug 12 for packing as luggage would be picked up by midnight, as always happens on cruises. I booked a shore excursion for the afternoon of August 12, which was "walking tour of St. Mark's and Doges Palace and gondola ride", leaving several hours free afterwards for wandering and exploring. For August 13, what we needed was a "tour/transfer" commonly offered by ships on the disembarkation day. What that accomplishes is safe storage and transportation of your luggage to the airport while the day can be spent touring and then reuniting with the luggage and the end of the day in order to fly home. Cunard was offering 3 tour/transfers for Venice on their website. One was a visit to the islands of Murano and Burano, one was the Villas of Brenta, and the other one was of no interest and consequently I cannot recall the description. None of Cunard's shore excursions could be booked online. I haven't encountered this with any previous cruise; normally they can be booked online and paid with a credit card and confirmed many months prior to departure. Cunard does not offer an on-line booking facility, so the shore excursions were booked directly with Cunard by my travel agent. For reasons that were not explained, when we booked the other 4 shore excursions, Cunard had not yet priced the Venice tour/transfers Sheila was told to call back in two months' time at which time Cunard would be able to finalize the arrangements. She did so in March and was told to call back in May. When she called in May, she was told that the tour/transfers for disembarkation day in Venice could only be booked at the excursions desk after I came onboard. I'll admit I felt this was a loose end and wasn't entirely comfortable with it, given that on the strength of Cunard's tour/transfer offerings I had booked an evening flight out of Venice on August 13 Sheila sent me copies of the tour/transfer options, which I put in my cruise trip file and brought with me. My first day onboard the ship, I went to the excursions desk and picked up the leaflet of tours because the line was absolutely enormous. The leaflet made no mention of August 13. The following day, a sea day, I went back and took my place in line. When it was my turn to be served, I explained that I wanted to book a tour/transfer for August 13. I was told that these tours had not yet been uploaded to the computer and they were therefore unable to make a booking. They expected to see the tours within 48 hours and suggested I come back in 2 days' time. I went back two days later, after we sailed from Gibraltar. Then I was told that the tours were in the computer still BUT that all staterooms would be receiving printed information about August 13 within the next day or two and I could make my selection when that occurred. The next day we had a leaflet for "disembarkation" delivered to our stateroom. It offered 4 options. No transfer arrangements at all. Transfer to the airport. Transfer to the rail station. Transfer to a list of hotels. None of these were tour/transfers and I was horrified! I certainly didn't want to be transferred to the Venice airport at 9 in the morning and spent the day there waiting for an evening flight. Nor did I want to choose "no transfer arrangements" and be responsible for figuring out how to get our luggage from the ship to the airport. It certainly couldn't be pulled around with us for a day. Back to the excursions desk I went, to wait in the line again. It was another long line. This time I brought with me the hard copies provided by Cunard of the tour/transfers they were offering in Venice. The excursions desk personnel took a look at this and said they had NO information about these tours and that I should speak with the purser's desk. At the purser's desk I spoke with Nel. I showed her the hard copies of the two tours/transfers in which we had an interest. I told her that the Excursion Desk had no knowledge of these and that the options being offered for transfers on August 13 were not acceptable to us due to our booking of an evening flight based on the offerings I held in my hand. I explained that as recently as late May my agent was told by Cunard's office that we would be able to book a tour/transfer once we were onboard. Nel noted that these were clearly produced by Cunard and said she would show them to the tour manager who was presently out of the office. She committed that she would get back to me later in the day to let me know what arrangements could be made. She called our stateroom several hours later to advise that these tour/transfers would not be offered at all on this sailing. That left me in a quandary! How were we to get off the ship with our 7 pieces of luggage, spend the day in Venice, and get ourselves and the luggage to the airport at the end of the day for our flight? Where would the luggage be stored? How would it get physically off the ship? Suddenly it seemed I was to handle a logistical issue with no assistance when Cunard's office had been assuring us for months that a tour/transfer would take care of everything! I tried seeking information online but the ship's internet service was so slow that it literally took 5 minutes for the google search page to load. At that rate, I was never going to find a private arrangement. I emailed my travel agent who was well aware of what Cunard had promised, asking her to contact Cunard and see if they could assist. She then forwarded to me the reply she received from Cunard, essentially that they were very sorry to hear of our situation but that they were not in a position to handle what had become an on-board matter and that we should pursue it onboard. In a binder in our stateroom there was a supply of stationery including some little note cards (size of post cards) for comments and concerns regarding "White Star Service". There wasn't much space but the card did indicate it was for bringing to Cunard's attention anything that would make our cruise more enjoyable. With only a few lines to work with, it wasn't easy to outline our situation, but I did my best and deposited the card at the front desk. The pre-printed small text on the card indicated that these White Star Comment cards were delivered directly to the hotel manager. Within hours, I received a response from the hotel manager which basically confirmed receipt of my White Star Comment Card, thanked me for bringing my concern to her attention, acknowledged the sharing of my comments with the relevant departments, confirmed that combined tour/transfers would not be offered in Venice, and wished me an enjoyable cruise. A 3 sentence response that offered absolutely nothing. I spent a few hours thinking about this. If Cunard had never offered tour/transfers, I would have organized this privately as I did with 3 other ports. I would have done that with the luxury of time and high speed internet. Now I had no time to work with, the slowest internet in the world, and something we had verified again and again and again with Cunard was simply pulled off the table. Yet on the strength of their assurances, I made flight arrangements enabling us to enjoy Venice for as long as possible. Was I supposed to be happy at the prospect of enjoying the hospitality of the Venice Airport instead? NO!!!! The same binder that contained the stationery held all manner of ship information, room service menu, the usual details of shipboard life. The front page was a 12 point statement of "White Star Service". I had read this upon embarkation and thought it a rather lofty goal but nice to see upfront what the ship expected from its personnel. I re-read the points of White Star Service, took out a full sized sheet of Cunard stationery and wrote to the hotel manager. I began by saying 'Point #12 of the White Star Service program, which is detailed in the binder in every stateroom onboard, states "We never say no - we always offer alternatives". I am writing to you today to ask what alternatives you are prepared to offer my family". I then outlined our situation more comprehensively and chronologically, starting with the phone calls between my travel agent and Cunard, the hard copies of the tour/transfers for August 13 that I had brought on board and surrendered to Nel at the purser's desk, and finally the booking of an evening flight out of Venice on the strength of Cunard's offer of tour/transfers which offer now appeared to be nothing more than smoke. I clearly indicated that I understood the tour/transfer option was gone. So be it. What I was now asking from this premium cruise line with the vaunted and legendary White Star Service was standard fare for any 3* hotel to offer a departing guest. Specifically, I requested the following: safe storage of our luggage, the ability to leave and explore the city, return and be reunited with our luggage, and a transfer to the airport at the end of the day. Literally any hotel will do this. A cruise ship is just a floating hotel and what I was requesting was absolutely within their capability to do. I hand-delivered my letter to the purser's desk and it was addressed by name to the hotel manager. I waited for a response. For four days. On the fourth day we were getting perilously close to Venice and we still had no disembarkation plan. Back again to the purser's desk I went, realizing that at this point I had probably invested something like 9 or 10 hours in lining up over this one issue, more hours spent in line in one cruise than in all of my previous 7 cruises combined. Fortunately, the receptionist available when it was my turn was Nel, and she remembered me and my hard copies of the tour/transfer options. I updated her quickly with respect to my correspondence and indicated I was not satisfied with silence. When a customer has a valid concern - and I had documented mine already - a response is required. This is a simple Customer Service 101 protocol. The tone of my letter was polite and my request was reasonable. Any mid range hotel and certainly every cruise ship we've sailed would cheerfully accommodate the same request. The failure by the hotel manager to respond (or even to delegate to someone else, for response) was rude and unreasonable. Frankly I was by this time quite fed up with the legendary White Star Service which is a lovely phrase that means absolutely nothing tangible on board Queen Victoria. I asked Nel if she could assist me in obtaining an appointment with the Hotel Manager. I also indicated that I knew there were many passengers onboard the ship with an issue similar to ours, because I had overheard similar conversations at the purser's desk each time I lined up to address this and I also overheard conversations on the subject in the "relaxation room" of the Spa. The Cunard customers discussing the Venice disembarkation and lack of arrangements for passengers with late flights were certainly not "relaxing" but in fact were quite hot under the collars of their spa robes. Nel returned after a few minutes to indicate that the Tour Manager would meet with me. He introduced himself and suggested we sit comfortably in the lobby area near the purser's desk. He was aware of my letter and asked me to recount the situation chronologically, which I proceeded to do. I made my request once again for safe storage of our luggage, the opportunity to explore Venice, and transfer at the end of the afternoon to the Venice airport. In conclusion, I reminded him that even the most moderately priced hotel would cheerfully make such an arrangement for a departing guest and I expected nothing less from the premium cruise line that Cunard claims to be. He thanked me for my time and indicated he would see what could be done and would respond to me by the end of the day. By late afternoon, I had a message from Tanya who I believe is the purser, indicating that she would call back and provide disembarkation details. She did call our stateroom again about an hour later and set out for me the plan for August 13 for our family. Essentially, they agreed to everything I had requested. We were given Gold #1 luggage tags and told to put our luggage in the hallway the night before disembarkation as is customary. It would be taken to the airport the following morning and held in a safe area for us to claim in the afternoon prior to checking-in for our flight home. Our hand baggage could be brought on the morning of August 13 to the Connexions lounge where it would be safely stored and we would be given receipts for it. We were to be provided with visitor cards so that we could re-board the ship on August 13. (Ordinarily on disembarkation day the passenger cards are cancelled in the system, making it impossible to re-board at a later time.) We were told that we would be accommodated for our transfer to Venice Airport at 3:30 p.m. with the group of passengers who were taking the "Cunard Charter Flight to Gatwick". I was also specifically asked not to mention these arrangements to any other passenger onboard the ship because an exception was being made for us and could not be offered to anyone else. We complied with this request. However, I know for a fact that there were many other passengers in a situation similar to ours who should have been properly accommodated. When we arrived at the Venice Airport later in the day, we met people who had literally spent their entire day at the airport following an early morning transfer from Queen Victoria. They had not expected this and, like us, had booked a late flight hoping to enjoy Venice for as long as possible. They were not happy campers and I suspect gave their travel agent an earful to relay to Cunard upon their return home. I suspect the biggest difference between our fate and theirs on August 13 in Venice was my persistence. Another contributing factor was the fact that I remained polite and reasonable in my request for "alternatives". It was also beneficial in supporting my contention that Cunard got us into this mess and Cunard should get us out of this mess, that I had brought with me hard copies of the offered tour/transfer excursions. This made it difficult indeed for Cunard to deny having offered such arrangements to us, and explained our willingness to rely on these plans when making our air arrangements to return home. Would I cruise with Cunard again? Not likely. This cruise was enjoyed primarily because of the quality of the ports (which has nothing to do with Cunard). Our cruise experience was also enhanced by those individuals (our dining room waiter, various spa personnel, Nel at the purser's desk, the tour manager, and the purser who provided a solution to our disembarkation issue) who, in an otherwise nondescript service environment, provided caring, quality service. Many departments onboard a cruise ship report to the hotel manager. True leadership in service excellence can only come from the top down, and my personal experience in service with the hotel manager gave Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
For this, my first voyage on QV, I had booked a Princess Grade suite for the twelve day cruise and was upgraded to the Queens Grill category. Perhaps it was because we made a Transatlantic crossing on QM2, but nevertheless it was a ... Read More
For this, my first voyage on QV, I had booked a Princess Grade suite for the twelve day cruise and was upgraded to the Queens Grill category. Perhaps it was because we made a Transatlantic crossing on QM2, but nevertheless it was a delightful surprise. Having travelled frequently on QE2 I had found QM2 rather large and over-decorated for my taste, but with Queen Victoria, Cunard and its parent company have hit the nail on the head. Unlike some reviewers I did not find anything "cheap" onboard but rather found it to be a fitting successor to QE2 in both size and ambience. Our suite had complete privacy, our butler was discrete and ensured that everything needed was present, even exchanging the complimentary bar contents for a preferred wine. There were absolutely no complaints about the accommodation or service. I would recommend Queen Victoria to anyone having the funds to pay for it. Dining was a delight although in retrospect I would have rather had a smaller table since out table companions were rarely present when we chose to eat; two people sitting at a table for eight can be rather daunting! Ordering 'off-the-menu' for a birthday celebration, Lobster Thermidor was not a problem - and incidentally, one of the best versions we have had. Lunches and dinners were as good as anything on land with an outstanding variety; perhaps not Michelin 3 Star, but as good as any fine restaurant in London or Los Angeles. Portions were just right for us although some larger passengers may have felt they were small. Only on one morning did we take breakfast in our suite and that was not in the least "greasy" as another reviewer puts it. Because we are late risers, we frequently took breakfast in the Lido which we found to be very good and a big improvement on QM2's "Kings Court". Teatime in the Grill's lounge was, for the most part, splendid, although I do wish that sandwiches could be made with really thin bread. But not even The Ritz can do that today, so perhaps it's widespread. Pastries and tea itself were fine and there was always a server at hand to bring more as required. The lounge itself is a delight; clubby, quiet and understated elegance with a staff which was ever cheerful - but never over-familiar. Unfortunately, the Patio area was rather windy, so that precluded sitting out there with a drink in the evening. Am attractive spot nevertheless. We had previously dined in the Todd English restaurant on QM2, and since the menu appeared to be identical, did not do so on QV, but it's location seemed to me to be more appropriate. Incidentally, I thought the extra-tariff was worth every penny when on QM2, but in any case, we had a very good dining experience in the Grill. The main public rooms seemed very attractive, the ballroom smaller than QM2, but with an upper level from which one could observe those dancing. The Golden Lion was far more 'pubby' than either QE2 or QM2 and succeeded well on that score. However, since we were in Q class, there was little need to use such facilities - however, it is anticipated that next time we shall be in a much lower grade and will then have a better feel for them. Dining in Britannia on QM2 has always been more than acceptable and I anticipate no less on QV. Entertainment was splendid, the Royal Court Theatre being a remarkable simulacrum of an older West End Theatre. The major productions were excellent and although we did not attend every evening, what we did see was first class. Some people took advantage of the bookable 'boxes' with Champagne, but that was not necessary for full enjoyment. Excursions - as always, just a bit over-priced, but in each port there was sufficient time to see the sights, get the T-shirt and any other souvenirs! The approach to Venice was remarkable in itself because much of its glory could be seen so much better from the upper decks than would otherwise be the case. Getting us to St Mark's Square was no problem and having visited before, we did not avail ourselves of any organized tours. The other ports en route were as fine, although I chose to remain onboard at Dubrovnik while my companion went ashore. My only complaint was and is the amount of junky jewelry, perfume and other assorted bargains which was always "on sale" along with the ridiculous art auctions. No doubt they bring in extra revenue, but for a luxury ship they are most out of place. Happily, in the Grills area there was no such thing, but if one decided to go elsewhere, a veritable bazaar greeted on along every public space. All-in-all, our experience was very positive. It is easy to complain about the price of drinks or the largely "foreign" staff, but that's how the entire industry is today. Thirty years ago on QE2, all the crew and wait-staff were British and drinks far less expensive than on land, there being no duty on them. Today that duty goes into the pockets of the shipping line and makes the bottom line easier to reach. However, that is the way of the modern cruise industry and one must accept it. I agree about complaints noting that a space for a tip was left in addition to the 15% service charge, but it can of course be ignored. Besides such minor quibbles we had a splendid voyage and with the right itinerary, would definitely choose Queen Victoria again. She is a fitting successor to QE2. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
Had to think long and hard about this voyage. We have sailed many vessels, mostly brand new, from Crystal, Holland America, RCI, etc. (21 voyages so far). The hype of Cunard maybe is a little too much and maybe our expectations were too ... Read More
Had to think long and hard about this voyage. We have sailed many vessels, mostly brand new, from Crystal, Holland America, RCI, etc. (21 voyages so far). The hype of Cunard maybe is a little too much and maybe our expectations were too grand. Overall experience..... good looking ship, good ports, average to below standards in service, okay cabin. Was a bit worried about Cunard as this cruise was booked almost one year ago and yet we did not receive our tickets until we were only 5 days out from the cruise. Don't feel that they were on top of communication. ARRIVAL: We arrived in London and spent two wonderful SUNNY days in the UK! Our transfer pickup at Heathrow was excellent. We were the only pickup and had a private driver who escorted us to the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in London. He was an excellent host and we enjoyed the ride into the city. The hotel is a beautiful establishment and we would highly recommend the stay here. Staff was great and only a minor problem with room service delivery for breakfast; otherwise a 5+ to stay. Main problem came on the morning of embarkation. We were scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. transfer, so we went out to breakfast. When we got back at 9:30 a.m., a representative of Cunard ( from the Queen Mary 2 ) had our bags removed from our room and had left us a phone message saying that we had missed our transfer and it was our duty to catch a train to Southampton! Naturally stressed, we phoned Cunard representatives, who stated that we were still being picked up at 11:30!! The hotel had kept our bags (we thought they had taken them to the QM2!). Our bus did arrive as scheduled and we proceeded to Southampton for embarkation. Never received any word from Cunard as to the stressful miscommunication or why the QM2 rep had removed our luggage. More about London in the PORTS section. EMBARKATION: Heavy traffic to Southampton (took almost three hours due to road work and accidents). Boarded the ship in record time; no more than 10 minutes! Service well organized and very hospitable. THE SHIP: The vessel itself is a well dressed, sleek liner. Very posh look throughout the vessel (though most woods and marble areas are either plastic or Styrofoam) Lots of faux marble walls and nice furniture. The ship feels very homelike for a large vessel and is easy to navigate through all decks. A standard array of bars and lounges throughout, with nothing ordinary from other ships. The spa areas are very nice, but again, are about standard with other vessels. The Wintergarden area next to the main pool is a very nice space, with a retractable roof, to have a nice tea or freshly made juices from the juice bar. The Internet Centre (English spelling) is very comfortable, with enough cubicles for this large of a vessel. Internet service very slow (most guest though so company could make more money!) Two out of twelve days the internet was down. Did not use the casino (again standard) and the shops did not have much selection for this size of vessel. Looked nice, but no substance. The LIBRARY is a standout as an architectural body of work. Very good service and selection of books. Purser's office service was also very efficient and helpful. CABIN: Much has been said of the QV cabins. I had read all of the CC reviews so knew what to expect. Yes, it is nothing special for a ship in its class, in fact, a bit inferior. Standard balcony cabin with not much (as everyone has noted) space. Knowing that there are literally no drawers, we opted to take two dozen hangers with us. This REALLY helped as the closet space is ample if you have hangers! Bathroom has no place for cosmetics or medicines. Bed and pillows a disappointment. One very thin sheet over the bottom of the bed, so slept in the crack every night. No sheet on the bed, only a European style comforter. Bed had a covering and two nice throw pillows, but the cabin attendant only placed it on our bed twice during the entire voyage! Service to our room (Emma) was sorely lacking and I would state here that this is a major point of disappointment. Mini bar not serviced 6 out of twelve days. Room not made up (even when we were out of the room for extended periods) twice. No personality from our attendant. Turndown each night just very standard Cunard candy (we stacked them up so there were over twenty pcs. Of the same as we did not choose to eat them). Half bottle of sparkling wine on arrival was nice, but no fruit service to rooms whatsoever. When we think of the service that we have received on Crystal or Holland America, this is not acceptable. ENTERTAINMENT: We only saw shows two nights on this voyage. We had booked late seating this voyage as we wanted to have time to relax after long tour and port days. Unfortunately for us, the late seating show was at 10:45 p.m. each night. All ships that we have been on have the late seating shows early. I can only assume that this is due to being a British ship (did both encounter this last year in Med on Carnival Freedom). Now we could have made most shows, but unfortunately, our dinner service was soooooooooo slow that we rarely made it out of the dining room until 11:00 p.m. (see FOOD). The entertainers were good although the main show "Victoriana" started great and went out of control by the middle. We asked our British friends what they thought (as the show was about British music halls) and all agreed that it started nice but ended up as a very misunderstood mishmash of ideas. All of the entertainers and bands on the shop were very good. You had every kind of venue that you could expect. FOOD: Britannia Dining Room.... Again, as in a vessel of this stature, a nice looking room. Very understated, yet it was nice. It seems every ship we go on in the last few years can never get the doors open on time on the first day. Usually 15 minutes late and this ship was the same. Sat with a table of 10 persons. Service was lackluster. I guess we have been travelling too long, but what is now "White Star service" would be considered mediocre by past standards. I realize with the ever growing cruise industry it is very hard to find labor. I DO understand this; however, my expectations of this ship would have been lower than Crystal and higher than Holland America. Our service on Carnival was better! (And I know that Carnival Corp. owns Cunard). SLOW service, auctioning off food (not remembering who gets what), are unacceptable in this class. Servers used to know exactly what you drank after the first day. On this ship, they had to ask me EVERY night for beverage (which was always decaf!). Food product okay..small menu with no alternatives listed on menu (i.e. Caesar salad, steak, chicken, etc.) Now you could ask and get it, but sad that it is not on the menu. Food just warm, not hot. Most meats not at the desired temperature (chef LOVES cauliflower..on every plate and then on the buffet the next day! ) Desserts some of the worst at sea. Had really expected a higher standard here and was completely let down. Thought maybe Princess Grill or Queens Grill class may have been better, but had long discussions with passengers in those classes who were not happy. LIDO BUFFET: Food just okay, nothing different between ships. It would be nice if the breakfast could just change a bit every day. Hard to move around in this space, but understand constraints. GOLDEN LION PUB: Eat lunch HERE!! All items, particularly the Fish & Chips, were very good! Food came out HOT each time. TODD ENGLISH: Beautiful facility, good food and good service. Worth every penny and probably should have eaten there more. On a side note, Cunard should have thought about a Brit chef for this ship (Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver). Most Brits know who they are and probably would have packed this restaurant. Todd English is a great chef, but most Europeans have no clue who he is! We talked several Brits into eating here after we told them of Todd's reputation and they all enjoyed themselves. LOUNGES: Again, best fun and food at Golden Lion Pub! Good champagne at the VC Champagne bar, but poor service. Hemispheres is a good dance club, but before midnight, is filled with too many teenagers with no place to go. Queen's Room is a wonderful space for dancing and enjoying an evening. Very elegant! Also, must say here, a great English Tea every afternoon....don't miss this. ROOM SERVICE: Had a lunch from Room Service that was very good. Seems like one half the ship had RS breakfast each day as there are not enough elevators (lifts) on the vessel to handle this procedure. Each morning every elevator is jammed with servers taking RS breakfasts. PHOTO SHOP: Only bought one picture this cruise as I thought $27.50 for just one pick is a bit much! However, did want to mention the excellent service help we received as we had a battery problem with our camera. The way the cabins are designed, you cannot plug in your charger! A tip...the camera shop will charge your battery for you at no cost to you. Thanks to those who helped us! PORTS: Will go through this quickly... LONDON: Better than ever...great sunny days, excellent shows", Wicked", dinner at Gordon Ramsey (one of the best dining experiences in Europe), wonderful food markets, historical sights and don't miss the Food Hall at Harrods!! GIBRALTAR: Nice half day..take the walking tour..excellent. You will love the apes and the caves! CANNES: Went to the beach at L'Annex. Great beach facilities and some of the finest, freshest seafood you will ever eat! A highlight in a town where there isn't much to see (suggest if you don't want the beach experience, take a tour! LIVORNO: Booked a tour to Volterra and it was cancelled last minute. Had been to Florence before, so we took the Chianti tour with two hours in Florence and the rest in Greves. Had an enjoyable time.....you will like this if you are a foodie or enjoy wine as we do. ROME: Were in Rome for three days last year so we took the bus" On your own tour" into town. We had a great 6 hours to walk, shop, eat and explore. Highly recommended! MESSINA: What a disappointment!!!! Arrived on Saturday and no one on the ship bothered to tell anyone that the ENTIRE town is CLOSED up on Saturday. Take a Tour as there is NOTHING here even if it had been open. We couldn't even find a good restaurant that was open. Also, one minor complaint about the itinerary.... we arrived in three or four ports at noon. In Europe, all the shops and businesses tend to close between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., so just be aware!! CORFU: Nice tourist shopping area, okay restaurants good walking tour of fortress; otherwise take a tour! DUBROVNIK: One of the cleanest towns I have ever seen!!. You MUST walk the fortress walls to gain the scope of this jewel. Nice restaurants and shops. VENICE: Crown jewel of ports. Wonderful food shops, sights, people watching!! Okay, yes we did take a gondola tour and yes, they are expensive, but it is something you will remember forever! DISEMBARKATION: This process tends to always be painful, especially if you have a late flight. The vessels crew did a very good job with this process and it is only about 20 minutes to the airport. So, there you have it. I don't know that the hype of CUNARD made me expect more, but in cabin service and food and beverage, they have a long way to go. I don't feel that I would spend my dollars on Cunard again only because there are so many other vessels in that caliber that offer a better experience. We do thank those who made our voyage pleasurable, but do think that Cunard needs to really work on their "White Star Service"! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
While getting to know the latest addition to the Cunard fleet, we were hoping that this cruise would give us the insight needed to choose locations for future non-cruise vacations. We found out that we don't like the French Riviera, ... Read More
While getting to know the latest addition to the Cunard fleet, we were hoping that this cruise would give us the insight needed to choose locations for future non-cruise vacations. We found out that we don't like the French Riviera, that Italy was better than we expected and that we'll never go back to the Mediterranean during the summer. We've decided that the Queen Victoria is a great ship. And while it just really isn't fair to compare her with the Queen Mary 2, as they are really different types of ships, we just couldn't stop ourselves. We liked the QV, but much prefer QM2. We were on the August 1st, 2008 Med cruise sailing from Southampton with the Queen Victoria. We had an A5 balcony cabin on deck 5. Pictures and videos - as well as a daily log - can be found on our website . Probably the biggest thing we missed on QV versus QM2 was the ability to walk completely around the ship on the outside promenade deck. It may sound silly, but for us that is a substantial design flaw and one of the many reasons we will not cruise on the QV again. The exterior of the QV is nowhere near as „sexy" as the QM2, but inside they have improved on many details. QV doesn't have the big open spaces that QM2 has, but on the other hand, her spaces are much more a testimony to the attention to details. We don't do the pool scene, but heard from many people that they were very crowded on the sea days: Another plus for QM2. The stateroom was comparable and the limited drawer space didn't bother us. The balcony, while on the smallish size, was great. Our room steward kept the balcony's balustrade spotless (unlike some other cruise lines we were on) so that we always had a great view when seated. We like Cunard's formal evenings and „dressing up" for the occasions. However, on a longish cruise like this, a couple less formal evenings and a few more informal evenings would have been appreciated by us. This has also helped us to decide to eliminate Cunard from future non-transatlantic cruises. Our evenings always started with a cocktail in the Commodore lounge, deck 10 forward. A great martini menu, spectacular views and an accomplished piano player were the ingredients that made our evenings start off well. From there it was off to the Britannia restaurant. The QV's Britannia doesn't have the same "wow" effect, due to the smaller dimensions, as the QM2's Britannia. We found the quality of the meals in the dining room to be excellent, but neither of us were impressed with the buffet. We found the difference in food quality substantial. While the quality of the buffet food was fine, it just wasn't up to the standards we have experienced on other cruise lines. We had the same food quality experience on the QM2, where I found the whole layout better, with my wife preferring the QV layout. I didn't enjoy the bizarre, feel-good-new-age music that they played in the morning at the buffet. Found it annoying actually. That said, it's an obvious conclusion that we ate more in the dining room than at the buffet. We had requested, but did not receive, a table for two. We were glad it worked out that way. We had a table for six, with two other couples who became friends during the course of the cruise. Our table was way at the back, on the lower level, right in front of floor to ceiling windows that offered exceptional views on many nights. We couldn't have asked for a better table, or dining companions. It turns out that the other couples at our table had also requested tables for two. Maybe that's why we hit it off so well. We truly enjoyed our evenings in the dining room - the time just flew by. When we booked the cruise, our travel agent strongly urged us to take the second seating. We heeded his advice and, phew, glad we did. We felt bad for the people in the first seating. A lot of the tours got back to the ship at 5:30, leaving the unfortunate first-seaters 30 minutes to get ready for dinner. Not a great way to start the „unwind" after a busy day of sight-seeing. We had a couple of issues on board: They damaged my white dinner jacket when I had it pressed and we had the world's worst sommelier for the first half of our trip. Our sommelier was just plain incompetent. I'm not one who complains about staff, but I have no idea how this woman made it on to Cunard's dining room floor. The peak of her inability was the night that she dumped a glass of wine down my back. Instead of apologizing, she blamed it on our waiter and left him to clean up the mess that she made. Our waiter - being an absolute professional - didn't even utter one complaint and was visibly concerned with my well being. The sommelier consistently served the wrong wine and then argued with others at our table when they called her on it. Sometimes she delivered wine when it wasn't ordered - again arguing that it had in fact been ordered. She was always there when you didn't need her and never there when you did. I complained to the pursers desk. My complaints were acted on the very next evening and for the second half of the trip we had an excellent and competent sommelier, who was able to deliver the same high level of professionalism demonstrated by the rest of our table staff. I have to say that our first wine steward was the one and only exception to what was otherwise nearly perfect service during our entire cruise. QV is not a ship to sail the Atlantic on. Luckily my wife and I don't get seasick, because she was really rocking more in the force 4 gale we encountered on our second day than the QM2 was in a force 10 storm that we went through on a transatlantic voyage. Ports of call: Gibraltar was interesting and worth a few hours visit (and not more). We both didn't like the French Riviera. Crowded, lots of cars, small beaches and overpriced mediocre food (at least where we ate) - just wasn't our scene. We should have stayed in Cannes and not gone over to Nice. Actually, the more I think about it, we should have just stayed on the ship. We loved Florence. What a beautiful city! We will be going back...yes, yes. We did the „Florence on your own" and thanks to a tip from the guide on the bus to the city, we had a great four course Florentine meal, complete with a nice bottle of Chianti. The name of the restaurant was La Grotta Guelfa (via Pelliceria, s. Of Pz della Republica - right across from an Irish Pub). They offer set menus (in addition to a la carte) and we chose the menu „happy memories" ( or something like that). Total bill was 70 Euro and worth every penny. In Rome we did a private tour of the Vatican Museums using . We had a private tour for the two of us; pricey, but well worth it. We've booked several private tours throughout Europe and this was by far the best with regards to guide quality. The best thing about this tour was bypassing the lines that stretched back all the way to St. Peter's square (a kilometer?). In Sicily we did a QV tour to Taormina, a small city not too far from the port city of Messina. Nice town, looks like it's straight out of the movie "The Godfather". It was so hot when we were there that it was really difficult to enjoy it. We spent most of our time there trying to find shade. Corfu - great Greek island, we really liked it. Same goes for the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Super little city on the Adriatic. Walking the walls in Dubrovnik is a must do. Try to find the hole in the wall cafe (actually I think there are two) where you can sit perched outside of the walls, sip a beer, and look out at the millions of diamonds glittering on the surface of the Adriatic. We were the only cruise ship in port that day and they were having problems getting us back to the ship in the afternoon. The line for the buses was long. I wouldn't want to be there when 2 or 3 ships are in port at the same time... Venice is a great city. It was really hot and humid and just packed with people near St. Marks and the other popular sites. If you moved away from there, it got quieter and you could discover the real Venice. Forget Harry's bar - it's a rip-off. They could do so much with it to share just a bit of its history - but alas, there is nothing there but the focus on turning men away at the door for not wearing long pants (luckily I knew this in advance) and charging 15, yes 15, Euros for a tiny bellini (or in my case a tiny martini). We paid our 30 Euros for two drinks, learned a lesson, and will never darken their doorway again. Our Hotel in Venice, Hotel Paganelli, was just about perfect for us. Our travel agent has a knack for picking exceptional 3 star hotels. Great hotel, recently renovated and in a perfect location. Massimo, the guy who works at the front desk was great in helping us with restaurants. One day for lunch he sent us to Trattoria da Rimigio, which was pretty close to the hotel. For dinner one evening he sent us to Restaurant Al Giardinetto (Salizada Zorzi) where we just went crazy and ended up having a three hour wine and food orgy. After four courses and well into our second bottle of wine, we settled our bill - which was more than our hotel room cost for the night - and somehow found our way back to the Paganelli. We enjoyed Italy and will be going back, but we will probably never go back to the Med. in the summer. It's just too hot and too crowded. We'll go back in the shoulder seasons. While we enjoyed our cruise, we probably won't be cruising with the QV again. She's just not our ship. We do like Cunard and favor the QM2 over all other ships that we've been on, but future non-transatlantic cruises will most likely be with sister-company Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Altogether, the Grills experience is a smashing success and the Queen Victoria a fitting successor to the QE2 (insofar as the latter served partly as a cruise ship) and sister to the Queen Mary 2 (which best serves as the purpose-built ... Read More
Altogether, the Grills experience is a smashing success and the Queen Victoria a fitting successor to the QE2 (insofar as the latter served partly as a cruise ship) and sister to the Queen Mary 2 (which best serves as the purpose-built liner she is). Embarkation: Upon arrival at the port of Civitavecchia, the QV reveals herself as quite a lot better-looking than her Holland America Vista class hull-mates, particularly up top: the single sculpted funnel, the Grill restaurants cantilevered over the lower decks, unmistakable Cunard livery, and the overall symmetry of the composition, are quite appealing. Her greater length is also in her favor. The less said about her rear end the better. The pier lounge was comfortable and pre-boarding for Grill guests and Platinum and Diamond World Club members was polite and speedy. Public Spaces: The interior is absolutely stunning: lush, inviting, well-scaled, well-executed, sunny, warm and dignified. It is fruitless to compare her directly with the QM2 as the as the latter is an ocean liner and the QV is a cruise ship. They each serve their purposes magnificently. The level of detail on the QV is exacting and the execution very beautiful. Passenger flow is excellent, particularly surprising considering that the QV lacks the grand central axial promenades of the QM2. In fact, though smaller than the QM2's Queen's Room, that on the QV is, I feel, a more welcoming space: better situated in its integration with the other public rooms and more finely-detailed in its decor. The QV ballroom plays more the part in shipboard life that the Grand Lounge did on the QE2 rather than being a rather independent venue as is the QM2 Queen's Room. The elements of Victoriana in the decoration are kept in check. The designers make appealing reference to the style of the namesake Queen's Osborne House on the Isle of Wight but, fortunately by contemporary standards of taste, refrain from dripping the place with ornament. Truly, the extreme, even ponderous and excessive stylings of Osborne House would be a bit too much to take over the length of a cruise - the eyes would tire. Stairwells are decorated with original or reproduction paintings of Cunard vessels through the centuries: marvelous. This treatment is more consistent and appealing than the artworks in the QM2 stairwells which are, in places, peculiar and inappropriate. The public spaces were always uncrowded, particularly impressive for the Queen's Room as it is often impossible to get a seat there on the QM2. The lighting was also more pleasing in the QV's ballroom than that in the QM2's. The QV, with great and much-appreciated success, segregates the commercial (revenue-generating) enterprises onboard from the rest of shipboard life. To wit: to proceed to an evening of dancing on the QM2: one passes through the grand lobby marred by commercial activity (the shops and usually some dreadful folding tables overflowing with trinkets and other rubbish outside of the shop doors), runs the gauntlet of numerous make-shift photo-shoot set-ups by the ship photographers in the otherwise grand corridors, then on to the equally distasteful options of suffering (depending on the choice of port or starboard route) either the haphazard presentation of "art" auction items or the overpriced shipboard souvenir photo displays. Far, far from ideal. The QV has addressed all these failings. On QV, one proceeds happily and peacefully from dinner or a lounge (wonderful rendition of the Commodore Club aboard) to the ballroom or other entertainment without any crass assaults on one's sensibilities. The commercial activities are cordoned-off in the "Royal Arcade" instead - a great success all around. Passenger cabin alleyways are oddly bereft of any decoration whatsoever - looking, by any measure, as if the budget ran out. Q3 Penthouse Suite: We absolutely loved our suite. Coming from New York City, it was truly a grand size for us (perhaps 700 square fee): two very large writing tables, living room, enormous granite wet bar, bedroom which could be cordoned-off from the living room by heavy drapery, dressing area, walk-in closet, enormous chest of drawers, marble bathroom in two parts separated by a door: the first part with glass stall shower and separate whirlpool tub, the second part with sink and toilet. In addition to the floor-to-ceiling glass surrounding the glass door to the large terrace, the suite enjoys a picture window bedside. Colors are muted and tasteful, artwork on the walls is pleasant, and furnishing quality is high. The terrace offers two large recliners and foot rests and a very large table. Space is ample. We had asked that one of the 32" flat panel televisions be removed because it is unsightly and unnecessary as an additional panel is installed on the wall somewhat opposite the bed. In place of the second panel our excellent travel agent had placed a Bon Voyage bouquet. Cunard provided lovely orchids in the bathroom and writing desks as well as another arrangement on the bar. Champagne and fresh fruit were additional welcomes. Our butler soon after introduced himself. Cheerful, impeccably turned-out, intelligent, and well-trained, he proved a great asset to us. Ever, it seemed, on-call and immediately-responsive, he took extremely good care of us. He has an assistant to clean and perform other tasks. I asked for Campari to be stocked in our bar along with fresh limes. He attended to this request right away although Campari is not on the list of in-room bar items. Smoking: We were thrilled never to smell smoke save for one brief moment outside the casino. This is an important improvement over the QM2 where the Chart Room is effectively off-limits to non-smokers because of the stench as is Sir Samuel's. The G32 nightclub on QM2 is also marred by the smoking which is allowed on the upper story. On QV we could breath freely and enjoy all the public rooms. Musak: As other reviewers have noted, the open decks suffer from pervasive, pernicious, painful, perfidious background "music." As we were Grill passengers, we could escape this in the blessed peace of the Upper Grills Terrace. Why would Cunard subject non-Grill passengers to this noise? Is it to punish them for failing to book in the Grills? Thankfully, there are no loudspeaker announcements in the stateroom. I would never set foot on a ship which had them. Dancing: The Queen's Room orchestra was in good form playing strict tempo dance music (thank goodness), even "calling out" the dance for those in need (e.g., "and now, a cha-cha"). This is especially helpful in the smooth dances as it improves flow on the dance floor. Guests were generally polite on the dance floor (allowing a couple their "spot" in the spot dances and following the line of dance in the traveling dances). Unfortunately, this atmosphere was ruined on a number of occasions by a group of eight extremely-amateur but aggressively-trained persons who dominated the floor, running down anyone "in the way" during their hideously-executed competition dance routines. After being nearly knocked down three times within minutes (intentionally, it seemed), we were pleased to note that one of the gentlemen hosts took control of the situation by tapping one of the offenders on the shoulder and causing him and his partner to leave the floor. The Hemispheres disco is a much more welcoming space than is the G32 on QM2. Hemispheres is semi-circular with floor to ceiling windows and a dance floor not interrupted by a supporting column as is G32's. Unfortunately, the large chrome inlays in the floor are not entirely flush with the wood which poses a tripping hazard to the ladies in heels. This must be addressed in the first refit. Theater: Indeed, this is the most beautiful of its kind at sea, I am sure; would that there were a production and talent worthy of it. Instead, the ghastly choreography we glimpsed on the video of a performance and the, shall we say, "sounds" which emanated therefrom were enough to keep us away. Queens Grill Lounge: This amenity is the QV's greatest achievement: meeting friends for cocktails and appetizers there before dinner, watching the sunset, settling into one of the lovely couches or club chairs, is one of the pinnacle pleasures of refined society. This is true not only by virtue of the beauty of the room, its lovely stained glass illuminated dome ceiling, the orchids, the comfortable arrangement of tables, the wall decorations. Rather, it is that the space, opening as it does in a semi-circle, welcomes passengers, facilitates socializing, leaves no-one out. It is one of those special places which foster the social grace of which the passengers, as is our past experience on Cunard, have a surfeit: Gentlemen rise when ladies arrive, conversation is polite and at appropriate volume. Simply, we enjoy each other's company with conviviality and treat our shipmates, crew and officers with mutual and happy respect. Queen's Grill Restaurant: Making one's way at one's leisure from the lounge to the winged grill dining rooms one is pressed not to feel giddy with pleasure as these are easily the most beautiful dining rooms afloat. Quite in contrast to the rather unfortunate narrow rectilinear spaces on the QM2 which are partially-enshrouded by the outside promenade deck, the Grills on the QV are, like the Grills lounge, welcoming semi-circles giving onto floor-to-ceiling windows cantilevered over the superstructure and therefore providing an expanse of sea and sky views. The severity of so much glass is softened by delicate semi-transparent balloon shades along the tops of the windows. More fine illuminated stained glass and "peacock alley" artwork lend a sense of tasteful celebration to the room. Service exceeded our expectations (which were extremely-high). The headwaiter, Ismael, could not do enough for each table. No request was denied. We asked for an Indian feast for one night and he presented a series of wonderful dishes: lamb, fish, and chicken curries, sauteed cauliflower, naan, raita, papadams, daals, etc. He actually solicited suggestions regarding what the chef might prepare for us. I developed quite a taste for pheasant, quail, and duck. Filleting of the Dover sole tableside he accomplished with special speed and finesse. Very good (probably United States origin) sturgeon caviar was available nightly for the asking. Ismael was tableside nearly every night completing the preparation of a rack of lamb (perfectly rose in the center with a nice crust and served at the perfect temperature), fillet mignon, or one of many flambe desserts - all truly excellent. Trout Almondine? of course. Okra? (for the Indian dinner) naturally. Our waiter and assistant waiter were also superb. Shirred eggs with caviar for breakfast: What a way to begin the day. Upper Grills Terrace: This area is a resounding success. Here, at the top of the ship, one can enjoy the pleasures of the fresh air, (our preferred choice of comfortably-shaded) sun, panoramic views, much more comfortable and well-padded loungers than those on the lower decks, and blissful quiet. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the silence. There is no musak piped onto the Upper Grills Terrace. Bravo, Cunard. Also, where, on the QM2, the Queen's Grill terrace is a narrow, rather small space aft of the stacks and therefore is often subject to the foul odor of partially-combusted diesel fuel and some soot, the QV Upper Grill terrace is forward of the stack and so the air is fresh. Further, the QV terrace is enormous (more like deck 13 on the QM2 than like the grills terrace on the QM2) with a great distinction: where deck 13 on the QM2 is a wasteland with regard to service, on QV, the deck attendants are much in evidence and provide wonderful pampering: they set you up exactly where you want, etc. Further, once, after I had dozed off and awakened just nearly having formed the thought that I was slightly hot, a kind attendant appeared at that moment offering, with tongs, a hand towel which had been soaked in ice water and which bore a delicate scent of lavender and lemon. An aesthete defines his life by such moments. Room Service: Our butler proved exemplary: as is our custom, we left polite notes for him in the beginning in which we stated our preferences and named our pleasures. Service staff are not mind-readers, after all. I believe many of the situations which give rise to complaints posted on these boards could easily have been avoided if the passenger had articulated his or her expectations to the steward or waitstaff at the time. He fulfilled every request promptly and properly, from posting our mail to watering the cut flowers to delivering the unnecessary (but appreciated) canapes before dinner (which preceded the further canapes in the lounge before dinner), scattering rose petals in an artful pattern on the bed after he turned it down on our anniversary evening, leaving a freshly-baked tuille cookie-basket filled with chocolate truffles as a goodnight treat, the list goes on. . .His shining performance was in the service of food: we availed ourselves of breakfasts, some lunches, and a dinner in the room (our excuse: a long hot day of sightseeing). Each meal he plated by the course and offered either on the terrace or in the living room The dinner, especially, was a showstopper: He presented the appetizers and then asked at what interval we would like the main course to be presented. At the appointed time, he arrived to clear the appetizer plates and served the main courses. Mine was a lobster tail Thermador: the best lobster I have ever eaten: a large and flavorful specimen from Maine, according to the headwaiter, served perfectly cooked and at perfect temperature. I simply cannot imagine how the staff accomplished this. Some odd lapses: orders for scrambled eggs in the room bring a substance based on powder or squeezed from a plastic bag - something one would get in hospital. There is no excuse for that in Queen's Grill class. Indeed, scrambled eggs in the Queen's Grill restaurant itself were properly prepared. Similarly, the juices (grapefruit or orange) were from a tin, concentrate, or powder where fresh-squeezed should be the order of the day. This was true even in the Queen's Grill itself: for shame. Also, there was a dearth of fine dark chocolate aboard. The chocolate sauce on the profiteroles was excessively-sweet and, though darkly-colored (as was the "bitter" chocolate ice-cream) had barely a hint of chocolate flavor. I found this disappointing in light of the generous provisioning of caviar. Really, more gourmet-quality chocolate should be on offer - and I did ask. The bread also, though fresh, plentiful, and competently-prepared, was not artisan-quality and should be better. Spa: The spa's defining feature is its floor-to-ceiling windows giving onto the sea. This was much more pleasant than the Canyon Ranch Spa on QM2 which is almost entirely interior. On QV, heated loungers (chaises clad in glass tiles and heated from within) are reclined at an extremely comfortable angle with great sea views. Thoughtfully, as one wants both to retain a neutral spine while on the loungers and also enjoy the sparkling of sunlight on the water, the ceiling features a semi-reflective surface so that one can enjoy both at the same time. Well done. The spa was never overcrowded, the result, I believe, of the charge of approximately $ 100/week per passenger to access it. I also enjoyed the "dry flotation ritual" spa treatment. Britannia Restaurant: Our sole visit there was to have breakfast with friends. Aside from the pleasure of their company, the experience was unfortunate. The room, though pleasing upon entering it, reveals itself as much more of a clamorous food-hall than the Britannia on the QM2. Further, the food, though described in the same way as it is on the Grills menu, was carelessly prepared and plated and served with haste and indifference by beleaguered staff with limited command of English. True, we were engaged in delightful conversation and lost track of time after we finished eating but never before have I had the napkin wordlessly snatched from my lap and the tablecloth half-removed from the table to indicate, in no uncertain terms, that we, the passengers, were in the crew's way! Quibbles: The outer decks are, with the exception of a few stairs and a "lookout" section atop the Upper Grills Terrace, clad in an awful linoleum-type surface which gives the decks the aspect of a freighter. The material is not up to the task as it is already worn in places where there is a high volume of foot traffic and there are also already chips, cracks and divots. How will these be properly repaired? Disgraceful. The only solution is to install proper teak decking (as even the QV's Holland America Vista Class hull sister ships enjoy). Also, the the outdoor "promenade" (deck three) is appalling: narrow, vacant, filled with sharp turns, not running around the entire ship, each aspect of the view blocked at least partially by equipment in the way. . .altogether a very sad space. What a contrast to the greatest promenade deck ever at sea: that on the QM2. Also missing from QV is the passengers' viewing area behind the bridge. There, on QM2, I have spent much time happily watching the officers' activity as they run the ship. I had hoped it could be one of the spaces that define the new, young, Cunard fleet. Alas, it is not to be. In sum: The Queen Victoria is a smashing success for Grill passengers: make your wishes politely known and I cannot imagine you would be dissatisfied. She is beautifully turned-out (as are the friendly passengers) and well-staffed. I would not recommend traveling in the Britannia class on this ship. Mind you, I am far from a snob: in four of my five crossings on QE2 I traveled on Deck 5 (though long, long ago), on the France in Cabin Class and on my six sailings on the QM2 we have traveled Britannia (later designated "Britannia Club") Class. The QM2 does not offer Grills passengers an experience different in kind from that offered Britannia passengers. In fact, the Britannia Club dining room is much nicer than the Grills, in my opinion, on QM2 and the Grills Lounge is unprepossessing on QM2. The QV experience is different in kind and greatly-enhanced in the Grills. Though Cunard insists on calling her a "liner," the Queen Victoria assuredly is not one. Instead of the primordial throb of the QM2 engines and the assured high-speed slicing of the bow through all seas, one might be tickled, if in a charitable mood, by the jiggle-wiggle of sympathetic vibrations from the QV's engines. Also, lolling along at 19 knots, nearly her maximum speed, she was subject to noticeable (though not disturbing) light, truncated rolling even on deck 2 midships in conditions of low swells. How different from the mighty QM2. They are each magnificently well-suited to their respective purposes. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Queen Vic ancient wonders Reviewed By: Chesham, Scunthorpe England u.k Cruise Line: Cunard Cruises Times cruised before: 10+ Cruise Ship: Queen Victoria Sailed: November, 2008 Destination: Mediterranean Age: 56-65 First time on ... Read More
Queen Vic ancient wonders Reviewed By: Chesham, Scunthorpe England u.k Cruise Line: Cunard Cruises Times cruised before: 10+ Cruise Ship: Queen Victoria Sailed: November, 2008 Destination: Mediterranean Age: 56-65 First time on this ship, second on Cunard line.The other a 4 day taster to Hamburg on the Queen Mary. Flew from Manchester , Titan Airways. Journey good , but breakfast was , a full english in an aluminum container, a eat and mess combination. Hot towels and free papers given to you, comfortable seating. Arrived in Rome, journey by bus 1 hr ,quick and efficient transfers, worried about 600 cases all piled into a furniture van, but delivered to the stateroom in less then 2 hrs of arrival at the port. Embarkation, was so quick, although the hall was packed on board in less then 10 mins. Directed to the lift,s then shown to the stateroom on deck 5 by the deck housekeeper. Balcony stateroom, was the same as the Queen Mary , drawers under the bed had been added, even had 4 complimentary slippers, found everything up to the standard Cunard preaches. Bathroom,s shower was big enough for me and i am not a small person. Kept wonderfully clean and tidy by our steward Nelson, nothing was to much for him and always with a smile. Britannia restaurant Was a joy, everything that was wrong on the Queen Mary was brilliant on this one. The restaurant manager kept our open sitting table for us as we gelled with our two waiters. Kriystoff the head waiter was a dream , made our holiday. Arranged a galley tour for the two of us with Nick the executive chef, and gave us the menus in advance, so my wife could order what she liked. On my birthday the rest manager and the head waiter and 4 waiters "sang happy birthday " and gave me a birthday cake. The service , food and treatment we were given was beyond the 5 star i had hoped for. It was so far in front of the Queen Mary. The first night we were invited to a Sailaway party in the Mauritania suite, by some of our friends. found on this site. We sailed away to champagne and met interesting and varied new friends from America and Canada. and the U.K The entertainment was not as good as the Queen Mary , but enjoyable none the less. Although i do prefer Victoria,s theatre, i wish that they had put a planetarium on here. Being a trivia person , we had a good time in the Golden Lion at various times, and the food there was first rate, and very busy at lunchtimes.The in house band ,dixieland special was brilliant. The Food Court , nicknamed the zoo , was quick clean and the food up to a high standard. The special nights were booked up within 1 hr, must have been the 100 japanese on board, The only sour note was on remembrance day when a few of these people , glared at our friends and us as we wore our poppy,s, time to move on for them , i think? The Queens room Afternoon tea twice the standard as the QM, it helps that they can rope the area off and lay up without anybody there, run in military style , a joy to watch if you have ever been a catering. Excursions These are always expensive , but you know this before so you can always do your homework and go alone. Pyramids and the sphinx , long and hard , 13 hr day, and only on the sites for a total of 2 hrs. Why they have never seen a dustbin in Egypt, defies me, it was a bit off putting seeing dead and bloated ,water buffaloes, in the river with rubbish strewn around the banks, if you go be prepared for a culture shock, Turkey, Greece and the Italian historical sites ,educational and interesting. Malta was one of the best went on our own tours 14 euro,s for 4 hrs. To cap it all , my friends had a birthday party for me in there suite on the last night, canapes to die for and a pleasant butler Victor serving us all At 11,000 per person, it was luxury , i could never afford, but a taste , i will never forget. To finish I can only say , that i could not find a fault on this cruise, (i was not looking for any) and it exceeds a 5 star rating. Not a liner but a very superior cruise ship. Special mentions to the executive chef Nick ( who will go to the new QE if rumors are true ) and his no2 twin mark, who we had many conversations with Krystoff the Head waiter , who was a star as was all the restaurant personal A holiday to remember and the best of out 10 plus cruise by a mile Quality of Food Britannia Restaurant Dinner and breakfast lido and the golden lion for lunch Entertainment 3 Stars Shore Excursions 3 Stars Staff how many above 5 stars can i give Children's Facilities n/a Onboard Activities 4 Stars Cabins 5 Stars Read Less
Queen Victoria Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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