This was for us a "taster" cruise to see if we liked the whole concept of a cruise break/holiday - having become disillusioned with airports and the delays and waiting times. The experience could not have been smoother and more relaxing. Having stayed at a quayside hotel overnight, we waited there for our designated boarding time. The hotel concierge drove us over and twenty minutes later we had embarked, our luggage was whisked away right to our cabin (deck 8 starboard) and we had been issued with our boarding passes which gained entry to everything and covered all the expenses we needed while on board ship.
The ship itself is fabulous - big but not daunting and all the public areas are beautifully kept. Fresh flowers everywhere: plus the whole place was tastefully decked out for Christmas. Our cabin steward (Bryan) was excellent and always helpful and attentive - leaving us in peace if we were in the cabin, but buzzing around and replacing towels etc. whenever we seemed to be away. The dining experience was equally excellent. The Brittania restaurant was fine: once we had sorted out that we preferred to dine alone rather than in a big group, The whole ambience of the ship was exciting and interesting (especially if you are a "people-watcher): whether it be the experience of teatime in the ballroom (with a tea dance on Sunday) or sitting in one of the bars or enjoying the entertainment in the theatre (we bagged a box for two of our nights away). The entertainment was good: a lively male singing quartet, a comedian and then the ship's singers and dancers on the last evening with a new show. We also attended a daytime lecture (on the RNLI in Suffolk) which was well done and interesting.
Our overall impression (as first-timers) was excellent. We were on deck 8 (just below the aft pool deck). I suspect this might be noisy in the summertime - you could hear people walking about above us on the deck. But nothing was intrusive and people kept to themselves: it is a sedate experience and very enjoyable. We found all the staff (our steward, the waiters, the bar staff and the purser's office) all very helpful as we had a few issues with our card opening the cabin door (keep it away from your mobile phone was the answer!). Even disembarkation was smooth and painless. The system looked complicated (parting with our luggage by 11pm the night before). But it all worked out and we were off the ship earlier that timetabled as the luggage was ready and waiting for us after our last breakfast at 6.30am.
The food - excellent throughout. The self-service restaurant (The Lido on the top floor) was well presented buffet-style food - but good - not that we needed it! But the restaurant food was always beautifully presented and the cuisine is a credit to the many staff who must work tirelessly behind the scenes. It would be hard to fault anything we experienced.
My only comment would actually be about the fellow guests on board. We were informed well in advance of travelling what the dress code would be: certain evenings informal (jackets for the gentlemen but ties could be optional). Then one night was formal - (dinner suits or dark suits). If you wished to avoid this, you were urged to keep to the top floor buffet restaurant. Despite this, several gentlemen did not wear jackets when asked to and several of them removed their jackets (even on the formal night) and put them on the back of their chairs. I don't think this is on when the air of the whole experience was the create the right atmosphere to meet the occasion. Play the game chaps! I am surprised the maitre'd didn't tap them on the shoulder and ask them to put their jackets on again! The ladies did the occasions proud and many of them looked very elegant indeed. It made for a magical experience to see people looking smart on such an elegant ship such as the Queen Victoria.
We had one day on shore and chose the trip to Ypres, Tyn Coyte war cemetery and Flanders Memorial Museum. We were a small group (suited us): but I have to comment that our guide was excellent. He delivered nothing short of a lecture on the nature, causes and details of WW1 as we made our way to the cemetery. He was well informed, communicative and very interesting. Thank you for that: we felt that although these trips ass to the cost of the cruise - on this occasion it was well worth it and we could not have undertaken this (and been so well informed) had we done it ourselves.
Spacious and very comfortable. Plenty of storage space and good facilities. Very little noise (a little from the corridor late of an evening and sometimes from above with people walking along the open deck area). A very enjoyable experience.
Stayed one night at the Grand Harbour hotel (already reviewed on Trip Advisor). In general we enjoyed the experience.