The overall package was very good value for money. The opportunity to sail around South America through the Magellan Straits, including a voyage up the Amazon to Manaus, plus a crossing of the Pacific past Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Bora Bora and others on the way to Auckland and Sydney was very attractive.
Cunard prides itself on its history and standards, but this is somewhat of a veneer. The cuisine in the Britannia Restaurant showed the influence of the German executive chef and the menu was repeated, monotonously, every 10 days or so with no variation. The food was nowhere near as good as I have experienced on smaller ships with less facilities. If you like German food, it may have been fine, but I found it not to my liking. Whilst the service of the attentive waiters couldn't be faulted, the disappointing food, plus the need to wear a jacket (including black tie on well over one third of the nights at sea) when sailing in the tropics drove me to eat in the Lido buffet on Deck 9 once we sailed into warm waters. The choice at the buffet was much better than in the restaurant, albeit the food often being unavoidably luke-warm. Unfortunately the Lido had all the ambience of a motorway service station cafeteria (with dirty windows - see below), and was not a place to linger.
The number of black tie nights was hugely excessive in my opinion, especially when in tropical waters. Those who chose not to wear formal dinner suits were banned from most of the ship (including the evening entertainment in the Theatre) - only being able to sit in the Lido, or the Winter Garden on the same deck. The Winter Garden was attractive BUT was spoiled by 6 large TV screens blaring out noisy sport 24/7, which gave it the aura of a down-market, inner-city Pub. The whole of Deck 9 housing the Lido, the Winter Garden and Pavillion Pool had panoramic windows. Unfortunately these quickly became salt-encrusted on the outside and I don't believe were cleaned once in the entire voyage to Sydney. This greatly spoiled the enjoyment of these spaces. I appreciate that salt spray is unavoidable, but the failure to clean the windows when alongside in any of the 14 ports hardly fits with the high quality image Cunard likes to present.
Though a minor point, the UK Red Ensign was flown at the mast when in foreign territorial waters, and a larger one at the stern in port. In fact the ship is Bermuda-registered, and I believe is only entitled to fly the Bermuda ensign, not the UK one. Moreover the flag at the mast was ragged and of very tatty appearance. I politely enquired half way through the voyage whether a more presentable ensign could be used but nothing was done. This doesn't quite fit the constant references to Cunard traditions and standards.
On the plus side, the entertainment programme was excellent with a very wide variety of of music, dance, comedy etc and marvellous educational lectures. The Theatre on board was fantastic (such a shame I couldn't use it when I didn't want to wear black tie in outside temperatures in the eighties), but cold.
The air conditioning was ferocious in some areas of the ship and this was probably the underlying reason why just about every passenger caught severe colds regularly throughout the voyage. If you have any kind of chest problems I suggest you give the Queen Victoria a very wide berth indeed. The sound of hacking coughs, morning, noon and night all over the ship will live in my memory for some time.
I suppose you get what you pay for, but Cunard, seemed to me, to be trading on its illustrious past. The service for the most part was good, but I couldn't help noticing that the largely Filipino crew seemed morose and unhappy, though very polite. I have been on a ship with a Filipino crew before and missed their naturally cheerful and exuberant nature which was absent on this cruise.
Shore excursions were very expensive and usually involved long waits and queues which I suppose is unavoidable on a ship carrying 2,000 passengers.
The price of drinks on board was exorbitant when the compulsory 15% gratuity was added. Everyone I met on board mentioned this, and most people bought bottles ashore to drink in their cabins.
At night, I like to view the moonlit sea and night sky when conditions are clear. Unfortunately the ship was lit up like a fairground and it was consequently impossible to gaze at the stars at all. Ironically, one of the Bridge officers made a broadcast about how clear the sky was at night in the Pacific, but he seemed totally unaware that passengers had no access to a dark space on deck.
Overall, the experience of visiting some remarkable places was a good one, but it would have been so much better on a ship with decent food, a happy crew, clean windows and less fierce air conditioning.
The cabin was quiet, comfortable and well equipped, and the service from my attentive steward could not be bettered. Though lacking a window, it was perfectly adequate for my needs.
A lovely concert in this unique location which was very enjoyable, though a long wait to get back on boardView All 11 Teatro Amazonas Opera House Reviews
Barbados was lovely but spoilt by there being 4 cruise ships in port at the same time which swamped Bridgetown.
The shuttle bus took those not on an excursion to an ordinary shopping mall some distance from the main centre of Las Olas boulevard.
A lovely looking island but not there long enough to explore adequately.
Boarding was painless and the terminal is not far from Southampton rail station.