A Tale of Two Virgins: Queen Victoria Cruise Review by tpms2000

Queen Victoria 5

Overall Member Rating

A Tale of Two Virgins

Sail Date: April 2012
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Southampton
This was a 14-night cruise into the Western Mediterranean - our first with Cunard and in fact a first cruise anywhere for JacqTar.
Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary was:
Gibraltar - Alghero (Sardinia) - Civitavecchia (Rome) - Livorno (Pisa/Florence) - Monte Carlo - Barcelona - Lisbon.

The Ship:
The Queen Victoria is a large ship whose exterior is rather anodyne. It aspires to be a classic liner yet fails to offer a true promenade deck. For shame! It is also not possible to find a forward position that isn't encased in glass or Perspex - at least, not without accidently wandering through a Crew Only door. The interior is rather beautiful with sweeping staircases, elegant public rooms and fine artwork aplenty but finding your way around takes time.
Announcements were in English only, except for noonday navigational announcements which were in French and German also.
The on-board currency was the US dollar - one of several More illusion-breakers that this might be a British ship.
The passengers with whom we came into contact were mainly from the UK and the US. There were four formal nights which was at least one too many.
The dress code was uniformly adhered to although the requirement for men to wear a jacket even for the least formal meals was tiresome - as the Britannia restaurant could be quite warm, I tended to remove mine almost immediately. I often wore smart jeans for non-formal nights - just not blue jeans. Girls have it so much easier - even for formal nights where elegant cocktail dresses were perfectly fine.

Embarkation and Disembarkation:
These were quickly and efficiently organised in Southampton where we experienced minimal queuing. Having the crown jewels subjected to elbow-fondling by Security made me wonder if Cunard might be taking the concept of 'personalised service' to extremes. The passenger safety drill was conducted before sailing. Cruise cards were collected during disembarkation.

Ours was probably the most 'exposed' cabin - about as far forward and as high up as possible - yet it was still a smooth experience. It was comfortable and well-furnished with a good en-suite. The disadvantage of an inside cabin was mitigated somewhat by having our TV tuned overnight to Channel 47 - using it as our window to the outside world. The cabin steward (Nelson) was very good. I asked him not to turn down the beds at night - just leave the chocolates.

The Britannia dining experience was excellent with the occasional curiosity - for instance, Appetizers and Soups (the spelling of the former being another illusion-breaker that this might be a British ship) did not always have a vegetarian option indicated. The entrees however always did. In general, the food rarely disappointed (except for potato mash which was invariably potato mush) with the artistic presentation of the desserts being a particular delight. The wine waiter was overly fond of over-pouring such that a bottle barely sufficed for four glasses. We had to ask him to stop it. Standbys, though not indicated on the menu, were always available. We were a table of ten and got on splendidly. A toast was offered on the last night at our second-sitting dining table to "Friends" - an indicator of the quality of Table 313.
The 24-hour Lido buffet was always excellent with a tremendous range for all meals. Strangely though, cakes predominated and biscuits were rarely sighted although cracker plates usually included digestives (sometimes that's all you want with a cuppa).
The restaurant managers to whom I spoke stated that there was no way to ensure your plate is not taken away by enthusiastic waiters. However, this may be due to a preference that new utensils should always be used.
Fish, chips and mushy peas in the Golden Lion pub was almost perfect - it was delicious save for the batter which left too much of an oily film on the plate.
The white-glove service afternoon tea in the Queens Ballroom (the lack of an apostrophe meant that we were unsure if it was named for royalty or gay divas) was very enjoyable although there was only one actual tea dance. An identical tea was also available in the Lido.
The menus were presented to guests at the last formal dinner - a questionable gesture as the final night's menu was therefore missing.

The lecture programme was rather lacking. I was rather hoping for an astronomy lecture, perhaps out on deck, but was disappointed. The port talks were enthusiastically presented by a not-particularly-natural speaker who had immense difficulty pronouncing any name that wasn't English. The shore excursions were promoted without too much of an annoying hard-sell and proved popular. We preferred to do our own thing at our own pace, but many others told us that they were of high quality at even higher prices. There was useful information for independent passengers which was appreciated.
The shows in the very impressive theatre were justifiably popular - the resident musicians and dancers were excellent although the music hall presenter needs gavel training. Light reflections on the box and balcony screens proved a distraction.
There was no crew talent show and the waiters' renditions of "Happy Birthday" were 'a cappella' rather than 'alla chitarra'. There was a passenger talent show which proved that, inside, everybody's an entertainer. However, not everybody appreciates that generally, it's best left inside.
JacqTar loved the ballroom and the dancing. I attended some of the (many) dance lessons so, although not a fan of the Big Band sound and era (unlike JacqTar who is) I can now just about struggle through a rumba, waltz or foxtrot. She may even enjoy dancing with me one day if I ever work out which is which. Fortunately, the attentive dance hosts were more than adequate substitutes.
All the musicians, without fail, were excellent, although there was a tad too much reggae from Nexus.
The casino seemed little used when we passed by and we had no interest in art auctions.
Pub quizzes (three per day) proved very popular. We even won on one occasion but you'd have to accumulate a lot of win vouchers to get a decent prize, so we just kept them as a souvenir.

Public Rooms and Spaces:
There is an outstandingly beautiful and well-stocked library, plus internet room, card room (with bridge courses and competitions), lounges, bars, pools and hot tubs, and deck space aplenty which includes areas for shuffleboard (we enjoyed a game before dinner most evenings), quoits, paddle tennis, table tennis and a golf driving range. JacqTar thought the covered Winter Gardens was a particularly pleasant place to relax.
There were launderettes on every deck with washers, driers, ironing boards and irons, baskets, wash basins and sachets of powder. The convenience of this cannot be over-estimated.
There are play zones and outdoor areas for children and teens, but there were very few of them on the cruise.

Fitness and Spa Centres:
Suffice to say that these had excellent facilities and proved popular. Trying to get from A to B was usually exercise enough for us.

Ports of Call:
These were all a success, and arrival and departure was always on time if not always at the most convenient berth:
- Gibraltar
A half day (a full day would have been better after two days at sea)
- Alghero
A full day, and an excellent day
- Civitavecchia
A very full day, and a most excellent day
- Livorno
A very full day, and a most excellent day
- Monte Carlo
A full day, and an excellent day
- Barcelona
A full day, and an excellent day
- Lisbon
A full day, and a good day (it would have been 'excellent' had it not been for the morning rain and the attempted afternoon robbery)

This was an extremely enjoyable cruise on a clean, stylish and well-kept ship where we found staff and crew to be polite and helpful (in contrast to Cunard ashore where a couple of inquiry emails before the cruise failed to elicit any response).
Understandably, although disappointingly, fellow passengers were generally even further removed from the prime of youth than we were.
Also, I've had weekend breaks in the Channel Islands including flights and accommodation for less than the cost of driving to and from, and parking in, Southampton, so the ability to use northern ports would be a much more attractive option in future. Less

Published 05/21/12

Cabin review: IC8006

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