Whether it’s far into the most remote and hostile reaches of the Atacama desert, deep in the abyss of the Marianas trench or in the bowels of a seething volcano there will be no place on the planet where some inconsiderate knuckle-dragging cave dweller has not foisted his screaming, bawling brat toddler on the sensibilities of peace-loving holiday makers. Thus it was both in the Britannia and the Lido buffet restaurants of Cunard’s magnificent Queen Victoria. In general, Cunard’s customer base would be well-off retirees with a smattering of younger inquisitive explorers who feel the need to be acquainted with the reputed delights of the cruise scene. Cunard promotes the excitement of travel in various grades of luxury with the added novelty of dropping in for a day or two at resort ports around the world so that tastes of exotica can be sampled with the reassurance of coming back to the mother ship at the end of the day. There are distinct attractions in this leisure market but some disappointments for the unaware.
Cabin is a long bygone term and modern guests enjoy “Staterooms”. The degree of stateliness is directly proportionate to the price paid and this might vary from a few hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds for the same cruise which might be from 3 to 100 or more nights. Dining options and degrees of restaurant sumptuousness vary with the stateroom grade, though the menu will be impressive throughout. Standards of dress at the twilight of the day are expected to conform to smart semi formal or full evening dress depending on ship’ schedules. Food is of consistently high quality, free and abundant for better than 22 hours a day but alcohol is an extra at breath-taking, some say obscene, prices and in US dollars. Various supplements, additions and extras will rack up a hefty load on the unprepared wallet accompanied by a 15% surcharge on shown prices. Liberal use of Wi-Fi might set you back hundreds of dollars. Cash on board is considered somewhat vulgar and cruisers are issued with an identification card which is used for ingress/exit for the ship, stateroom doors and payment.
At port visits, shuttle busses are arranged to ferry the troops to town centres or on numerous ship’s excursions arranged by a dedicated team but the cost of the any trip will considerably exceed the same expedition if arranged in port at the roadside or via local taxi.
Entertainments aboard ship will satisfy practically every whim with dancing, theatre entertainments, recitals, concerts, lectures from celebrities, art exhibitions, film shows, card games and instruction in subjects as diverse as computer use and painting classes.
Cunard identify very strongly with the romance of ocean travel from the golden era of the 20th century and this is reflected all over the ship with prominent images of famous liners of the past and photos of film stars, celebrities and luminaries sporting camelhair coats, wide flared trousers, pearls and silk scarves. Many of the traditions and customs from the past including deck quoits and the cigar room remain along with clumsy 1900 era slatted wooden deckchairs on the outer decks which are cripplingly uncomfortable. Titanic passengers must have been delighted to get off. Whilst lifeboat drill is no longer practised, passengers will get a stern telling off if they fail to attend the safety lecture which includes instructions and practice on the donning of lifejackets.
Stateroom televisions show the ship’s progress in the manner of an airliner screen, a bow camera, updates from the entertainment director, lectures you may have missed, dress code for the evening and a selection of films and News broadcasts in various languages with repeats of popular UK TV shows.
Sundecks are screened from the wind and surround at least 3 swimming pools with towels to hand for those intrepid enough to be thrown up and down the pool in rough weather. The ship’s furnishings and décor outdo the extravagance of the finest hotel and stateroom refinements and comfort are particularly impressive with the caveat that bathrooms might be bijou.
As with all ocean travel Queen Victoria is not immune to vagaries of weather and rough seas can bring on the misery of seasickness. Modern developments in ship design include stabilisers under the waterline which reduce the amount of roll and larger ships such as Victoria suffer less from the pitching motion you might have experienced on cross channel ferries.
Daily, the captain announces progress and expectations of weather conditions with times of arrival. If you consider yourself tolerant of motion sickness, happy with confinement in a big village for a few days and fancy brief samples of holiday destinations which would otherwise takes years to achieve, then the ocean wave may be the life for you.
Pretty much OK with a slightly too cosy bathroom