Having cruised many times with Princess Cruises, we decided to try Cunard's Queen Victoria because the itinerary included Dubrovnik, Montenegro and overnight in Venice. The ship had just undergone a £34 million refit in May and looked splendid, especially the Queens Room, Garden Room and theatre. That said, the new Grand suites and the additions like the Britannia Club restaurant are of no benefit to the majority of passengers.
The ship was filled to capacity (around 2,000 passengers) with 1,300 Brits and several hundred Australians but, surprisingly, it seldom felt crowded.
We chose a De Luxe Inside (GB) cabin, which was spacious because one bed disappeared into the ceiling and another became a large sofa. Wardrobe space was adequate but with just one chair and a tiny coffee table there was nowhere to eat had we used room service. Being located on deck 1 was very convenient but the noise from the Queen's Room above was an irritation at night.
The duvet was too warm and we missed the lovely new bedding from the Princess ships. The new tea and coffee making facilities were handy.
The port of Argostoli on the Greek island of Cephalonia had several fisherman selling their catches from their boats and a small fruit and vegetable market but there is not very much else to see or do other than enjoy a walk along the waters edge.
Dubrovnik is an interesting town which reminded us of Talin in Estonia. We caught the cable car to the summit which gave us a good view of the old town and surrounding areas. At 20 euros for a 3 minute ride it was quite expensive but at least the queue was quite short.
We walked right round the walls, which took us about 1.5 hours, as there are a lot of steps up and down as you go round. There are many exit points but there is no re admission. The old town is interesting but is mainly shops and cafes serving the numerous visitors.
The shuffle bus for Dubrovnik cost us 7 USD per person each way, which was not very good because it only applied to early booking passengers and Cunard did not advertise the cost.
Sibenik, Croatia (not on the list of Ports)
The tender took about 3 minutes, then we caught the free shuttle into Sibenik town. There are numerous steps in the town and many old palaces. The cathedral of St James is quite interesting outside with about 70 sculptures on the rear of the building. Entrance charge was 3 euros, which included the baptistery. We then found an interesting local market but weren’t able to buy anything because they only accepted the local currency. A cafe by the tourist shop served good coffee but they did not accept euros or pounds, so we simply paid on a credit card.
We cruised into Venice on a clear sunny morning and enjoyed the lovely views as we approached the port. On our first day in Venice we went to Murano to see the glass. We visited the excellent Murano glass museum, for which the entry charge was 9.50 euros if over 65. There were numerous shops selling some very attractive glass but none of the factories were open. To get to Murano we had to catch the number 3 (or 42) water transport to the island. The number 3 transport is much quicker than the number 42 which we used to get back to St Mark's square on our return.
After an overnight stop, we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, at her former home, which contained an interesting collection of pictures and a temporary small Picasso exhibition.
Kotor is a pleasant stop with the very old town right on the port. We only had to step off the ship and walk through the gate in the wall to be in the centre of the old town, which was very interesting and attractive. With several ships in port it was very busy and most of the people around town are tourists from the cruise ships. There are numerous places to stop for coffee or a snack.
They charged 2.5 euros for entry to the cathedral, which also has a little display upstairs. It is not possible to climb the cathedral tower but you could get a good view from the upper levels.
The whether was pleasantly warm in the morning, so we went ashore at 9 am. By lunch time it was beginning to look cloudy and the Commodore had bought forward the departure time to 1 pm based on the weather forecast. However, some of the Cunard excursions ran late and we did not depart until nearer 5 pm.
One of the options that we decided not to do was to climb numerous steps to a fort at the top of the hillside. It looked very strenuous and there was enough to do around the town in the limited time that we had in the morning.
To get to Corfu old town you need to get the shuttle bus from the port and then catch a local bus which takes about 5 minutes and costs 1.70 euros each way. Alternatively, it is possible to catch the Cunard shuffle bus for which they charge 6 USD each way to selected passengers.
The town is quite interesting but very busy since there are very few other sites to see, apart from a fort just on the outskirts of the main Corfu town.
Cagliari is not a very exciting place but the cathedral and its crypt are worth a visit. There are plenty of steps and hills to climb in the old town and it is quite a climb up to the cathedral but entry is free.
We walked to the amphitheatre, which could be seen very clearly from the upper road way. We continued to the botanic garden and spent some time walking around there. Unfortunately, the greenhouse with tropical vegetation was closed and there was only another small greenhouse with large cacti inside. Overall, the botanic garden was rather neglected and hardly worth the 4 euro entry fee. We decided not to walk across to the market because it involves quite a climb down and back up again and we had seen several markets earlier.
The shops appear to cater for locals rather than tourists and there were very few interesting looking cafes or shops but graffiti everywhere. The only thing we did not try was wine tasting and we noticed that the wine tasting trips had been overbooked on board the ship.
At first sight Sardinia appears to offer rather more than some of the other stops but it turned out to be one of the least interesting. On a positive note, the map we picked up from the tourist office was very good and the information provided by the tourist office was very helpful.
Rating applies to Sorrento
Naples is a convenient starting point to visit Herculaneum, Pompeii or Capri but we opted to catch the train to Sorrento instead. The old tram to the main station has been replaced by a metro but it is deep underground, so takes longer to travel the two stops to Garibaldi station. It then takes 1.25 hours to get to Sorrento. Going by boat is faster provided the water is calm.
Sorrento is an attractive old town with nice shops, great ice cream and good places to eat, so we go there whenever the opportunity arises.
Left ship for Rome