One more cruise on the Queen Victoria, and we were delighted to find the ship as usual, in excellent condition. This classical masterpiece of modern cruising, if we may call her so, looks every time the same as some years ago, when we ... Read More
One more cruise on the Queen Victoria, and we were delighted to find the ship as usual, in excellent condition. This classical masterpiece of modern cruising, if we may call her so, looks every time the same as some years ago, when we embarked on her for the first time.
As to the particular cruise, it was special, as it combined two anniversaries simultaneously: the 100 years of the Gallipoli campaign in WWI, and the 175 years of Cunard line.
Embarkation in the port of Piraeus (Athens, Greece) was smooth. We were soon on board ('always nice to be back'), straight to our cabin, where our suitcase already waited for us. The same did a bottle of complimentary sparkling wine (which I think applies even to those traveling to Cunard for the first time). The cabin was spacious and tastefully decorated, with a nice sofa/sitting area. Storage space was ample, and there was one additional large drawer under every bed.
Arguably, the weak point of the cabin (and virtually of all this beautiful ship) was the bathroom, a bit on the Spartan side and somewhat small. In addition, the water stall in the shower was fixed, something that we are not accustomed to. However, the bathroom was adequate and neatly appointed (and after having a fixed water stall in a Waldorf Astoria suite bath, in New York, we have realized that it is more common than we used to believe).
Moreover, the bathroom was made more attractive by the provision of toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and body lotion. After trying various brands through the years that we travel with them, Cunard has introduced Quercus toiletries, which we found superb and the best of any cruise line that we have traveled on.
Also one could find in the bathroom a hair-cup, cotton in little balls and ear-cottonettes. Some other companies provide all these only in suites - as happens also with the slippers, which Cunard provides free and you can take them home (bathrobes are free for the duration of the cruise, and can be purchased after). A fruit basket also can be provided daily, after request. I must add that our cabin was kept in immaculate condition by our stewardess, Marian.
Immediately after inspecting the cabin, we embarked on (re-) exploring and marveling at the ship. The Queen Victoria belongs to the Vista class of cruise liners, a successful ship design within the Carnival conglomerate, and she also combines elements from (at least) the Spirit class and the Princess Cruises ships.
However, her designers took special care to differentiate her from the other ‘Vistas’ with magnificent interior innovations, creating unique and brilliant spaces, decorated in a fine Edwardian style, that bring you in mind the famous ocean liners of the past. It was the beauty of these spaces, combined with the classic cruise experience that Cunard offers to modern passengers, that has prompted us spontaneously to acclaim the ship 'a classical masterpiece of modern cruising'.
So, her designers endowed this Queen with a three-deck Lobby (based on Princess Cruises ships), which may lack the huge spaces of other liners. but is full of grace. Another nice innovation is the Winter Garden (next to the Lido casual restaurant at the top), with its nice retractable glass dome, suitable for every weather conditions.
However, the most brilliant innovations are the library and the ballroom. The two-story library, with rich 'wood' paneling and a central spiral staircase, contains 7,000 volumes and is one of the largest at sea (second only to QM2's). Accordingly, it had something to everyone's tastes and it reflected nicely Cunard's more cerebral ambiance.
As to the two-deck high grand ballroom, the Queens Room, it is inspired by Osborn House (Queen Victoria's summer palace in the Isle of Wight), and Carolyn Spencer Brown, the Editor of Cruise Critic, has acclaimed it one of the finest rooms at sea. During the day this magnificent venue was host mainly to the elegant afternoon tea, served by waiters with white gloves, under the accompaniment of strings, harp or piano.
At night dancing found here an ideal place - the stage is one of the largest at sea. The grand balls is a tradition that 175-years veteran Cunard knows perhaps better than any other cruise line. Actually, a special ball was held to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the company. I should add that contrary to some other lines, dancing in the ballroom and disco continued until late every night.
Beyond formal tea and dancing, entertainment in Cunard is refined and more cerebral, as said, than in other lines. If you expect hairy chest contests and drunken passengers shouting in the cabin corridors, it is difficult to feel at home. On the contrary one can expect, as said again, strings, harp or piano. Cunard offers classic cruising, and it does it well. Classical restraint is part of both internal decoration and on board atmosphere.
As to the shows, they were generally first rate. We enjoyed especially the
Opera Boys and found the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers charismatic, even if their shows 'Victoriana' and 'A stroke of genius', although brilliantly executed, left something to be missed. It must be added that the shows are complemented greatly by the magnificent West End-style theatre, the most beautiful we have ever seen afloat.
The beauty of the nights on board is enhanced by the elegant dress code, unique to Cunard as far as we know, which takes place after 6:00 pm. Two nights of every week are formal, with tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen, and evening or cocktail dress for ladies. The rest of the nights are informal, with jacket required, tie optional, for gentlemen, and cocktail dress, stylish separates etc for ladies. People not wishing to adhere, can eat at the Lido casual restaurant and relax in the Winter Garden. But it is a pity not to be part of this wonderful elegant and festive atmosphere, which reminds of the Golden Age of ocean liners. Elegant dressing complements beautifully the marvelous surroundings of the ship, making every night special, and if you are romantic and nostalgic then search no longer.
As to everyday activities, we found them plenty and enough to keep one entertained. Special mention should be made to the lecturer, Sir Simon Mayall, who also did a live commentary as the ship was passing through the Dardanelles to Anzac Cove.
Dining was of the usual Cunard standard. In our recent cruises with Cunard we have found that desserts have improved considerably. Service in the Britannia restaurant, table 350B, was impeccable. Our waiters really surpassed themselves to accommodate our wishes. We had sometimes breakfast and lunch in the Lido casual restaurant, which we found very good in terms of variety and quality. The only things to be missed were fresh squeezed orange juice and chocolate milk in the morning, which we enjoyed much in our last Holland America cruise.
We could not help to compare the ship to her younger sister, the Queen Elizabeth, on board of which we had the pleasure to travel relatively recently, some months ago. Both ships are virtually identical in terms of beauty and comfort, but in our humble opinion the Queen Victoria has the edge. The main reason for that is that the Queen Victoria offers the magnificent Chart Room (which her sister lacks), a beautiful piano lounge adjacent to the Britannia restaurant, an ideal place for pre-dinner drinks and canapes (as well as people-watching), one of the best places on board. Moreover, as said above her Winter Garden has a retractable glass dome (QE has a fixed glass ceiling), which during our cruise opened to the glorious Aegean sun and breeze. Last, Queen Victoria's Lido casual restaurant is brighter and feels more airy than that of her sister. So, thumbs up for gorgeous Vicky.
It should be also noted that the ship was well maintained and clean, and one could see continuously members of the crew taking care of her.
The itinerary was great. A splendid and sophisticated mix of Greek and Turkish 'delights'. Two full days in Istanbul gave one plenty of time to explore this fascinating city. Shopping in so many places, especially in the Grand Bazaar or the Spices Bazaar, or visiting the monuments of two great Empires (the Byzantine and the Ottoman) can keep one continuously occupied and delighted. Just be prepared for extended, Oriental bargaining. We had, for example, a taxi ride from port to the Sultanahmet historic centre for 5 euros, when the driver was initially asking 15.
Next morning was dedicated to the one-hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign during WWI. Under live commentary, as said above, we travelled through the Dardanelles to Anzac Cove, There, a little ceremony took place to commemorate the heroes who fought in those battles.
The ship then turned to Greece. Volos was a nice port and a convenient entrance to picturesque mount Pelion, known from ancient Greek mythology as the place of the centaurs, and perhaps more importantly to unique Meteora. These are huge, high rocks, crowned at their top by monasteries built since the Middle Ages. According to ancient Greek legend, too, Jason began the Argonautic expedition near Volos, in order to fetch the Golden Fleece.
Last port was the island of Myconos, which I think needs no comment. An absolute 'must' for every visitor of the Aegean sea.
In all our ports we preferred to do our own thing, as all cruise lines offer overpriced shore excursions - so we cannot comment on them. However, I have to say that whenever we booked Cunard shore excursions in the past, we have generally been satisfied with their organization and overall quality.
Disembarkation in Piraeus was, like embarkation, smooth and swift.
Overall a great cruise on a great ship. I have really tried to find something really negative to mention in this review, just to justify the word 'cruise critic', but could hardly find something. It is ten years now that we have cruised on Cunard, and contrary to other reviewers here, we have found the standards to be generally well kept and high, both in software and hardware. Now we are planning our next cruise on them. Read Less