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 ... Read More
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.
• Good itinerary and we had sufficient time to explore independently at each port.
• Efficient embarkation, disembarkation and port tenders.
• Splendid decor with elegant Queen's Room, Garden Room and good theatre.
• Excellent afternoon tea in Queen's Room and good pub lunch in the Golden Lion.
• We enjoyed Jenny Bond's lectures, talks on forensics and the piano and guitar recitals.
• Cunard is not constantly trying to sell passengers photos, art works, spa treatments etc.
• Food in the Britannia restaurant was a major disappointment.
• Service was generally mediocre, especially in the Lido but our cabin steward was good.
• Drinks were very over priced.
• Ship can be unpleasantly cold, especially in the Queen's Room and Britannia restaurant.
• Too restrained - nothing resembled "fun" and no sail away gatherings on deck.
• Port lectures were poor and simply promoted the trips instead of giving useful information.
• Shuttle bus charges were applied to selected passengers who had booked Early Saver fares.
FOOD AND DINING
There is no anytime dining in the Britannia restaurant, so we chose to eat at 8.30 pm. The service was variable and our table of 6 could finish eating at any time between 9.30 and 10.30 pm. We also went there for breakfast at 8 am and the service then was quite efficient.
Food in the Britannia restaurant was a major disappointment with dull menus, no seasoning and very little flavour. We normally prefer the fish dishes but found them to be poorly cooked and flabby with not even a slice of lemon. Carrots and pak choi were served most days as was rice and mashed potatoes. Half of the menu seemed to be vegetarian options and the gluten free soufflés were mainly egg white. We explained this to the restaurant manageress but nothing improved. Even regular Cunard passengers commented that the food standards had deteriorated significantly - but few people thought to complain and just said "it's fine" when asked. We were served a mushroom tart with pastry like concrete, a crab starter that was a spoonful of nothing much in a bun and several deserts that were swimming in ultra sweet golden syrup.
The menu on the four formal nights contained nothing special and lobster was only available once during our two weeks on board. Being presented with a set of menus on the last night only served as a grim reminder.
The lunch time menu was also very dull, so we often went to the Lido restaurant where we could be more selective. Service in the Lido restaurant was poor, with nobody offering to fetch drinks and disinterested waiters.
The Golden Lion pub served fish and chips, chicken curry, pies etc each day and we found this to be a really good alternative.
The daily highlight was afternoon tea, served each day in the elegant Queen's Room with a string quartet or harpist to create the right atmosphere. There was a nice choice of crustless sandwiches, followed by cakes and then scones with jam and cream. All were served nicely at a leisurely pace and with a choice of teas.
Cunard charged around 50 USD for a bottle of very ordinary wine, which is extortionate. We took a couple of bottles on board and, even with the excessive 20 USD corkage charge, it was OK. It was, however, noticeable that little wine was being consumed because it was over priced.
A half bottle of chilled bubbly awaited us on arrival which was a nice touch. One glass of wine and no canapés were served at the Commodores reception in the Queen's Room, which was a poor affair compared to the Princess's Captain's Circle. It reminded us of the P & O champagne waterfall, where they charged for every drink!
The TV was small and there is no "on demand" capability, even after the recent refit.
The theatre is very comfortable and we enjoyed trying the boxes at the sides. Drinks are not served in the theatre and there are no tables in the arm rests, which are useful for taking notes during lectures.
Theatre entertainment ranged from excellent to poor but was perhaps a bit above average. We enjoyed Jenny Bond's lectures and talks about forensics.
We enjoyed hearing a group called The Rewind Project presenting the music of The Moody Blues, The Hollies, 10cc and Cliff Richard. Another group (called the Overtures ?) also put on a good show of 60s and 70s music. A comedian named Jon Courtney entertained us with some good jokes and piano playing. David Howes, a multi-instrumentalist played the piano and trumpet and put on quite a show. Ilia and Plexus provided an interesting gymnastic show but trying to fill an hour with such performances is difficult. There was also a grim comedian / ventriloquist one evening.
The resident singers and dancers, who put on four shows, were OK but the singers were not very good.
The Queen Victoria is a lovely ship but we were very disappointed with Cunard, who failed to come up to their quality image. Breakfast and afternoon tea were good, but, for most meals, menus were dull, food was poorly cooked and lacked flavour. Service was mediocre and the crew simply did their job. Drinks were over priced and the ship was unpleasantly cold in some main areas.
No cruise line is perfect but, in our view, Princess provides a much better experience and we have no desire to cruise with Cunard (or P & O) again. Read Less