Everyone has their favorite cruise ship. Some extoll the modern convenience of Queen Elizabeth. Others swear by the majesty of Queen Mary 2.
For me, Queen Victoria is Cunard's best-kept prize: a ship large enough to offer the usual cruise ship fare yet small enough to be intimate. For this voyage, I traveled for the first time in the Queen's Grill. There has been a lot written on Cruise Critics' boards about Queen vs. Princess Grill Suites. Many wonder if the different experiences are worth the difference in price.
I had a wonderful journey in the Queen Victoria's Princess Grill Suite last summer so I can understand the questions. However, having gone up a level I can tell you that the queen's grill experience is superior. Our butler was quietly efficient and our housekeeper was prompt and cheery. The stall shower in the bathroom itself was a true luxury. The room layout, with a curtain able to separate the sleeping area from the couch in front of it was airy and roomy. Our favorite spirits were always well stocked and small treats, like hors d'oeuvres before meals were appreciated.
The real highlight of Victoria is her food. In the Queen's Grill, service was unmatched. The highlight is ordering off the menu and our team was all too happy to make suggestions. A special birthday cake was made (without our request) and saved for the next night. Favorite muffins were saved at breakfast. Drinks were remembered and served without prompting. Dining in the Grill Suite alone was worth the price and made for a memorable voyage. The food was out of this world- many starred land based restaurants would be envious!
No cruise is perfect, though QV comes close. I have two main critiques. The ship was ridiculously crowded. It seemed to be operating over capacity, which may be due to the sudden fare drop before we sailed. The staff told us they never saw such crowds before. There were long queues for everything- elevators, tour departures, performances etc. All the seating at the pool and public areas was continually occupied. This made us grateful for haven that the grills deck provided.
Finally, the cruise tour office was dreadful. Port presenter Gavin gave lackluster presentations (why oh why did Cunard remove their informative travel guides on tv for this man's presentations) that were often filled with misinformation (a tour in Estonia was described as a shopping tour- but there was no shopping of any kind) or just plain missing (the night tours in Russia were not discussed!) Several of the tours stated that they were rigorous with lots of walking and yet elderly patrons with canes were allowed to go. This meant the rest of the group lagged behind (this was particularly egregious in the Hermitage where we had to wait up for several passengers who couldn't handle stairs). There were huge queues to disembark at each tour stop. This voyage pretty much destroyed any interest I might have in future Cunard shore excursions.
Thankfully, those were the only sour notes in an incredible voyage. I look forward to returning to Cunard and the world of the Grills again!
This medieval city is absolutely gorgeous. While you will need transportation from the port to the city, the city itself is easily walked. This is a city made for shopping, so enjoy! From delicate Belgian lace to delicious handmade chocolates and marzipan, Brugge offers the perfect souvenirs to help you remember your voyage. We warned that pickpockets were abundant.
There are some nice shops at the terminal. While you could walk from the port to the city, there aren't marked paths for pedestrians and it seems like it could be dangerous. I would recommend some form of transport.
Copenhagen was very cosmopolitan. It was very 'city like' with a lot to do. Tivoli Gardens is a great place for children and adults to visit. The royal palace was quite beautiful (but the accompanying museum was not that exciting and certainly not worth the kroner). Many of the sites restrict baggage size, so be prepared to check backpacks and large purses.
I would recommend transportation from the port. I didn't find Helsinki that exciting. We did a highlights tour and felt it was blah. If you have a lot of port stops on your cruise, I think this is one that could be skipped to conserve energy.
Our tour guide was quite xenophobic, which left a bad taste in our mouths. The city itself was beautiful and the Vasa museum was a must-see. It made up for the Kon Tiki and the Fram.
There are two ports- if you are lucky you will get to the one nearer the city and the shops.
This was a surprisingly modern port- free Wifi and tons of pax were using it. Lots of shops at the terminal. Transportation is recommended to get into the town. The old town is walkable and very medieval. Lots of shops, particularly with amber. A very pretty place to visit for an hour or two.
The city tour was excellent- we saw all of the major sites with an English speaking tour guide. It was a great way to get an overview of the city.View All 378 City Tour Reviews
This was the reason for our visit and it did not disappoint! Immigration (which was required any time you exited and returned to the cruise ship) was fast and well controlled. You need a tour ticket or a visa to enter the city. The city is not walkable from the port, you will need transportation. This is not a tourist-friendly city in the sense that everything is in Russian and signs are poor. There is a lot of solicitation of guide books near tourist spots and of course you need to be careful for pick pockets near the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. Its a once in a lifetime city and you'll be glad you went.View All 377 Hermitage Museum Reviews