If you’d like to cruise on the Baltic and visit some of its interesting ports, then a trip on the Queen Victoria may be just up your street.
The Queen Victoria is basically a floating 5 star hotel. Designed with more American taste in mind (you are in state rooms - not cabins) - but if you ignore this, it is a very pleasant way to spend two weeks aboard ship.
Like everything in life though, there are pros and cons but in the main it is a pleasurable experience - if you have the money!
Cruising is not a cheap pastime and certainly the Queen Victoria is not cheap. Be prepared to pay $11.50 per day each for a service charge This is supposed to be a gratuity that is split among the crew. Of course one might argue that if they were paid a decent wage tipping would be unnecessary. Personally, I find having to tip someone for doing their job is patronising but that’s just me. However, you can opt out of this by seeking the purser’s office and telling them you’d rather not get involved in the scheme and pay people individually.
The other catch is that you are charged 15% on every drink that you purchase - what the justification is for this I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind if the drinks were cheaper in the first place (what happened to duty free?). To give you an idea expect to pay $13.95 + 15% for a large glass of Pinot Grigot - total $16.04 or a pint of London Pride Bitter $6.95 + 15% - total $7.99. Wine in the restaurants isn’t cheap either. I paid $40.00 + 15% = $46.00 and that was one of the less expensive bottles. The pound at the time of writing is currently $1.27 so for the Pinot Grigot for instance you are paying £12.62.
Having said all this, the staff are marvellous and very welcoming. Nothing seems to be too much for them and they seem genuinely concerned that you have a good time.
The food on Queen Victoria is excellent. One can choose to eat in the Britania restaurant - which is silver service all the time ie. breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or can choose the more relaxed style of the Lido restaurant which is self service. In either place, the quality and amount of food is outstanding. The only drawback of having dinner in the Britania restaurant is that you have a fixed time and men must wear a jacket (dinner jacket on gala nights). There are also other restaurants on board but they involve paying a supplement. We had dinner in the Verandah and it was very good.
Accommodation is extremely comfortable. We had a cabin with a balcony and it does make all the difference if you want some privacy. Passengers are kept up to date by a daily newspaper and daily programme of events left in the cabin by the steward. Dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your own use and you can even buy the dressing gown from your steward to take home. Be warned though, you might find that you’ll be asked for $75 each for the privelege. Interestingly, the purser told me it was only $35 while another passenger told me he paid $55! If there was one gripe I had about the accommodation though it was non functioning toilets. Most mornings it didn’t work for about half an hour - most unpleasant.
The trip on Queen Victoria was our second cruise (last year P&O’s Oceana) and like the previous ship enjoyed the evening entertainment. Now bear in mind that the majority of people on these ships are around the 60 mark so the entertainment is geared up to them. The stage shows were very good and the performers were talented however some in our group thought they were a bit ‘samey’. The other aspect of the activities offered on Queen Victoria are afternoon dances. It seems cruising is a favourite way of dance fans to spend there time. Finally, on our cruise we were offered a number of talks by experts - well, it’s up to you if you find them interesting or not. For example because we were visiting St. Petersburg, we had a couple of talks on the Russian revolution and Faberge eggs - all relevant of course but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who weren’t interested.
In summary, would I recommend this ship - undoubtedly yes. Bon voyage.