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Queen Victoria
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Queen Victoria
Reviewed by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
A cruise review of Cunard Line Queen Victoria in Mediterranean
 
 
 
Cunard Line Review  
Pearls of the Adriatic  

 
by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
October 2010
 
How I Rate This Review Rate Now!
 
 
   
Itinerary: 12-Nights "Pearls of the Adriatic"
Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Livorno, Naples, LaGoulette (Tunis), Valletta, At Sea, Piraeus (Athens), Katakolon, Dubrovnik, Venice


For the past ten years there has been a gaping hole in our journalistic portfolio. With close to 700 combined days cruising on more than 22 cruise lines, we had never sailed on a Cunard ship! Can you believe it? No other cruise line in operation today has the rich cruise history of Cunard Line. After all, they have been doing this since the 19th century! However, we can no longer say that we have not sailed on Cunard.

When presented with an opportunity to spend 12 nights aboard Cunard Line's Queen Victoria, we were excited that we would finally be experiencing one of the legends of the cruise industry.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria's inaugural voyage was in December of 2007, and she is sister to the newly launched Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary 2 is the largest ship in the Cunard fleet and has the distinction of being an ocean liner, not a "cruise ship." At 90,000 tons, Queen Victoria is capable of accommodating up to 2,014 guests.

Queen Victoria's ride is eerily smooth. We have sailed on many ships similar in size, and perhaps even sharing the same hull design. However, this is one of the smoothest and quietest sailing ships we have been on. Even in moderately rough seas, the ship is rock-solid. There is virtually none of the resonance vibration, you know -- the kind that makes your water glass shake when it is sitting on a table.

Queen Victoria's designers have put a lot of attention in the area of guest comfort, and it did not go unnoticed. The stateroom and balcony doors resist slamming shut to reduce noise. Even the busy door across from our suite leading to the crew elevator/stairway was an electric sliding door that was whisper quiet. You would think by now that every cruise line would build these common sense comforts into their ships, but they don't. Someone at Cunard is very attuned to creature comfort.

Embarkation

Getting onboard Queen Victoria was extremely smooth and efficient, partly because of our late arrival to the cruise terminal. We did not board the ship until around 5:00pm on the day of embarkation. There were only two other couples checking in at the terminal when we arrived. Once we received our room key/security cards, we were directed to board the vessel. As with most large ships, we were asked to stop for the obligatory photo op before boarding. Just what everyone wants to do after being up all night on an airplane: have their picture taken!

After the forced-smile photograph, we boarded the ship on Deck 3. I suspect that our late arrival is the main reason there was nobody available to show us to our suite. We found our way to Deck 6 where our suite door was open and waiting for us. The luggage arrived about 30 minutes later and we immediately started unpacking and getting ready for dinner.

The Grills

Back in "the day" of Transatlantic crossings, ocean liners were the main form of transportation from Europe to the USA and vice-versa. Before airplanes reduced a 6-day crossing into a matter of hours, if you wanted to travel overseas, you had to do so by ship. Just as airlines today offer different classes of service (economy, business class, first class), ocean liners did the same. In fact, the whole concept of service "classes" on modern airlines most likely was a carry-over from the ocean liner tradition.

One thing that distinguishes Cunard Line from other cruise lines is the "Grills" concept. Basically, guests are assigned to one of three dining venues, according to the type of stateroom or suite booked. The largest suites on board a Cunard Line ship (484 sq. ft. to 2,131 sq. ft.) are invited to dine in the Queens Grill . A somewhat larger group of guests who occupy smaller suites (335 sq. ft. to 513 sq. ft.) are invited to dine in the Princess Grill, while the remainder of the guests are invited to dine in the Britannia Restaurant. The Grills concept is a throwback to the old days when ocean liners offered different "classes" of service. Grills guests benefit from being able to dine in a more intimate dining room and have no set dinner service times (as long as they arrive at their assigned Grill between 6:30pm to 9:00pm). The Britannia Restaurant is a more traditional cruise dining room with two seatings at 6:30 and 8:30.

Grills guests also benefit from a special Grills Lounge, located between the two Grills restaurants on Deck 11. The lounge is a quiet place to enjoy a before or after-dinner drink and Afternoon Tea is also served there each day. Another perk of being a Grills guest is that Deck 12 is reserved for Grills guests exclusively. Nice loungers with cushions are placed around the perimeter of the deck and ice water and sunscreen are available for the taking. One day during the voyage at Afternoon Tea time, a waiter brought a tray of small sandwiches which he offered to everyone lounging on Deck 12. This was a nice place to read, nap or enjoy the scenery.

Dress Code

There is a prescribed dress code aboard Queen Victoria which applies every evening after 6:00pm. Cunard feels that "adhering to the dress code helps us to maintain that unique and special ambiance which our guests enjoy on board a Cunard liner." On our 12-night voyage, we had three formal nights which requires a black tie or formal dark suit for gentlemen and evening dress or other formal attire for ladies. There were three semi-formal nights when men are asked to wear a jacket and tie and women could wear a cocktail dress or trouser suit. No jeans. There were five elegant casual nights which means men must wear a jacket but tie is not required and women can wear a dress, skirt or trousers.  Shorts or jeans are not permitted. If you wanted to be more casual than the dress code called for, you could always have dinner in the Lido. However, shorts are not permitted in the Lido for dinner. During the day, everyone dresses casually.

Accommodations

Our Princess Suite (6100) is located virtually in the "sweet spot" on the ship amidships on Deck 6. For those of you new to cruising, the "sweet spot" is the center of the ship, both horizontally and vertically. It is preferred since that location experiences the least motion, should rough seas occur. On any other cruise line, our Princess Suite would be considered a "mini-suite". At 335 sq. ft., including a 50 sq. ft. (approx.) balcony, the room is well designed and quite comfortable.

Princess Grill Suites include:

  • Complimentary 24-hour room service
  • Interactive TV with multi-language film and music channels
  • Direct-Dial telephone
  • Refrigerator, safe and hair dryer
  • Soft Terry Robes and slippers
  • Nightly turndown service with pillow chocolate
  • Daily shipboard newspaper
  • 220V 3-pin and 110V 2-pin sockets
  • Priority embarkation and luggage delivery
  • Bon Voyage bottle of sparkling wine and strawberries on embarkation
  • Concierge service
  • Personalized stationery, atlas and books
  • Daily fresh fruit
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Access to Queens Grill Lounge
  • Single-seating dining in the Princess Grill
  • In-suite dining
  • Gilchrist & Soames amenities
  • Cotton swabs and cotton balls
  • Pillow concierge (a selection of pillows and duvets to suit your preference)

Let's start with the stateroom door. Cunard has done an excellent job of implementing a door that does not slam shut when left unattended, a real annoyance on most cruise ships. The door can be slammed, but you almost have to intentionally put some muscle into it to get it to do so. Entering the room, there is a short hallway leading to the bedroom. The bathroom is small, by mini-suite standards, but has a surprising amount of storage space. There are three glass shelves on each side of the one-sink marble vanity and a large storage shelf under the vanity. A full-size bathtub/shower may be part of the reason the bathroom appears small, since most ships install a small shower stall. The bathtub/shower also has two glass shelves to hold shampoo, razor, conditioner, soap, etc. I was a little surprised to see glass used in a bathtub shower. Nevertheless, the bathroom is functional and excellent Gilchrist & Soames® bath amenities are provided. The only thing overlooked in the bathroom is a lighted makeup mirror.

Just outside the bathroom is the closet. While not a "walk-in", it is sufficient to hold enough clothing for our 12-night journey, although we did have to ask for more hangers. There is a floor-to-ceiling "dresser"located behind double doors; however, there are no drawers, only shelves and one shelf is mostly occupied by the digital safe. At first, Rickee was a little annoyed by the lack of drawers, but I reminded her that no drawers means no slamming drawers. In fact, the only drawers in the entire suite are in the nightstands on either side of the bed.

The bedroom area includes a king-sized bed (in our setup) with six pillows and a down comforter. The bed is extremely comfortable. The two aforementioned nightstands are large and have two spacious drawers in each. Each nightstand has a permanently secured reading light with a rheostat secured to the wall above it. Stateroom light switches are conveniently located next to the bed. A small work desk next to the bed benefits from several AC outlets in both 110-volt US plug and 220-volt European plug configurations. There are four outlets in all. Very nice. Apparently, the ship's designers had planned for ladies to apply makeup at the desk since there is a large mirror mounted to the wall above the desk and the hair dryer is permanently affixed inside the desk drawer.

 
Whisper-quiet sliding crew doors indicate the attention to detail that helps make Queen Victoria's staterooms peaceful.
On the opposite side of the room from the desk and the bed is a semi-circular mini-bar/storage/refrigerator area with a large marble top. Underneath is more shelf storage and above are two flat screen TVs, one facing the bed and the other facing the "living room". I was able to store all of my camera/video gear beneath this bar and the top was used for our fruit basket, bottled water, etc.

The "living room" consists of a full-sized sofa, coffee table and chair. In our suite, the sofa could be made into a bed to accommodate a third guest, or perhaps two children. The balcony is at the far end of the suite and features a swing-style door (as opposed to a sliding door). Again, the door has been designed to be very hard to slam shut. The balcony includes two chairs and a small table. For some reason, the teak railing on the balcony has been left raw with no varnish, something I have never seen before. The balcony deck is a synthetic "wood look-alike" material with a non-skid surface, identical to what is used on the open deck areas around the ship.

The Good

  • The suite is extremely quiet. The insulation between the suites is top-notch. We rarely heard anyone next door or in the hallways.
  • Earth tone colors are soothing and classy.
  • The AC unit worked flawlessly and was easy to adjust.
  • The bed is very comfortable.
  • Doors are designed to minimize slamming and noise.
  • Lots of AC outlets are available at the desk.
  • Complimentary bottled water is provided and replenished.
  • Launderettes are located on every floor where there are staterooms and are complimentary.

The Bad
There really is nothing "bad" about the suite. But, there are a few things we would like to note:

  • No lighted makeup mirror in bathroom or on desk where hair dryer is stored
  • No hooks on the wall (nice for hanging jackets, hats, bags, etc.)
  • There is no curtain to divide the living room from the bedroom. A curtain divider would give the room more of a "suite" feel and would allow one guest to watch TV in the living room without bothering a sleeping guest in the bedroom.
  • The Cunard website mentions (see above) that the Princess Grill Suites include a Pillow Concierge; however, we found no information in the suite regarding a selection of pillows nor did our room steward ever mention it.

Dining

We suspected that dining on Cunard would be above average, but we also tempered our expectations with the understanding that Queen Victoria is a large ship with over 2,000 guests. Generally speaking, as the number of people served goes up, the quality tends to suffer. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the consistent quality of food served throughout the voyage in nearly every venue.

Britannia Restaurant

The Britannia Restaurant is the ship's main dining room and is virtually indistinguishable from other cruise ship dining rooms in functionality. The decor is elegant and traditional assigned seating with two dining times (6:30 and 8:30) is still adhered to. Even though we were in the Princess Grill, we had the opportunity to dine in Britannia one evening as a guest of the ship's Doctor. Naturally, The Britannia is somewhat noisier than Princess Grill, which is to be expected due to the increased number of diners. However, the noise levels were not intrusive. Live music was provided as background for dining.

The service was crisp and professional and the food quality seemed to be comparable to what we received in Princess Grill. We did not have the opportunity to have breakfast or lunch in The Britannia.

Princess Grill/Queens Grill

Each of the Grill restaurants, located on Deck 11, is for the exclusive enjoyment of Princess Grill and Queens Grill guests. These smaller restaurants offer more intimate dining and the flexibility of no set seating times although you do have an assigned table. In the evenings, you can dine at your leisure from 6:30pm till 9:00pm. The Grills serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Princess Grill is elegantly decorated and guests enjoy expansive views of the ocean from one of the highest points on the ship. Seating is comfortable and service is what you would expect from Cunard: excellent. Our waiter, Francis, and his assistant, Ryan, tended to our every desire. It was nice to see an assistant waiter again as many cruise lines have almost done away with them. Maitre d' David Chambers always greeted us by name with a smile and was helpful in making reservations at other onboard restaurants.

Breakfast in Princess Grill is excellent, as good as any you will find anywhere. The banana pancakes with warm caramel drizzled on them received a big thumbs up from Rickee. Even scrambled eggs receive special attention and are obviously made with butter and perfectly seasoned. The eggs are fluffy, soft and delicious. Of course, there are many other breakfast offerings including favorites like Eggs Benedict, lamb chops, steak and eggs and a variety of cereals, yogurts, juices and pastries.

Lunch in the Princess/Queens Grill is usually served from 12:30 to 2:00 and offers the option of al fresco dining in the Courtyard when the weather permits. Lunch menus, like dinner menus, change each day. A copy of the day's lunch menu is left in your stateroom the night before during turndown service. Lunch selections can also be customized. I had no problem ordering a cheeseburger one day, even though it was not on the menu. Francis took care of everything.

The Lido Buffet


The Lido Buffet is unquestionably the most popular place on the ship for breakfast and lunch. We did not try breakfast here, but we did make a couple of lunch runs to the Lido Buffet. Like many Lido buffets on many cruise ships, this Lido Buffet suffers from a poorly thought-out design when it comes to traffic control. There are two self-serve lines in parallel, one for salads and breads, the other for hot dishes, meats and main courses. Both serving lines have the same starting and ending points and to make matters even more confusing, guests could start at either end of the salad line since items were the same regardless of where you started. My guess is that the designer assumed that people would get their salad course on one trip, then after reaching the end of the serving line, go find a seat and eat their salad, then make a second journey for their main course and side dishes. However, what happens in reality is, after filling their salad dishes and reaching the end of the line, most people turn around, have to walk back toward the beginning of the line to get into the main course serving line. This walk, carrying a tray in between two rows of hungry guests going the opposite way can create a chaotic traffic nightmare during peak dining periods. On one particular visit to Lido Buffet, it was so busy that there was no place to sit once we cleared the serving line. We ended up taking our trays to the Winter Garden where we found an open table to enjoy our lunch.

There are two identical serving lines, one on each side of the ship. There is also a pizza and pasta station located beyond the main buffet serving stations. There are plenty of drink stations for water, lemonade, iced tea, coffee and water. Soft drinks or wine are available for order at an additional cost from bar waiters circulating throughout the dining areas. You could purchase a Soft Drinks Package where a one-time payment allows you to enjoy unlimited fountain sodas for the entire voyage. The price per day is $3.95 per person with a 15% service charge. This package is only available for purchase on the first or second day of the cruise and must be bought for the full duration of the cruise. It does not include bottled water or any other non-alcoholic beverages.

Where the Lido Buffet redeems itself is in the quality of the food being served. Rickee and I tend to shy away from buffets simply due to the lack of quality in the food. However, the Lido Buffet on Queen Victoria far exceeded our expectations. Hot dishes were actually served hot, the salads were fresh and everything was well seasoned. Pizzas are made fresh to order in the Pizzeria and are hands-down the best pizzas we have had on any cruise ship, and better than most on land. The crust is thin and crisp and the toppings fresh and delicious. Pasta dishes are also prepared fresh to order with a variety of sauces.

Golden Lion Pub

The Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2 is primarily a sports bar. This is a great place to hang out, order a beer and watch football (or soccer) on one of the flat-screen televisions. However, from noon until 2:30 each day, the Golden Lion serves a "pub lunch" that just happens to include one of my favorite dishes served on Queen Victoria. The Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish that is served each day along with basmati rice. The rich, aromatic tomato sauce is ladled over tender chunks of white meat chicken. The Tikka has just the right touch of sweetness to offset the Indian spices. It is delicious, and I enjoyed it on at least three different visits! The fish and chips, however, were somewhat of a disappointment. Rickee tried them twice and both times the texture of the fish was chewy and sort of spongy, perhaps from the meat having been frozen and thawed.

The Golden Lion also offers Fish and Chips, Cottage Pie (sort of like Shepherds Pie), Ploughman's Lunch, Bangers and Mash (you have to be British to know what that is), and Steak and Mushroom pie.

Lido Grill

The Lido Grill is the closest thing you will find on Queen Victoria to a burger joint. Located aft on Deck 9, with a view of the aft pool, the Lido Grill offers lunch items from 11am until 4pm each day. Unlike on some cruise ships, here the hamburgers, fries and other items are cooked fresh to order. This makes a huge difference in the quality of the food delivered here. Even though you may have to wait a few minutes for your food, it is well worth the wait. We had an early lunch in Lido Grill one day. My cheeseburger was hot, juicy and cooked to order. Rickee's hot dog was enormous and was decorated with sauerkraut, mustard and ketchup, just the way she likes it. Onion rings and French fries were also cooked to order and were hot and fresh. However, we were unable to locate any napkins anywhere and we had to resort to using a pool towel to wipe our hands! Maybe it was just a little too early and they were not fully set up for service at 11am.

Lido Alternative

The Lido Alternative is basically a section of the Lido Buffet that is sectioned off each evening and transformed into a themed restaurant. The "theme" changes every four nights during the cruise. During our cruise, we enjoyed Italian, The Carvery (basically, a steakhouse theme), and Indian themed dinners. The atmosphere in the Lido Alternative is much more intimate and sophisticated than the Lido Buffet. Dress codes are strictly adhered to in this venue, as well. Table settings are elegant with tablecloths, colored runners and charger plates to match the theme. Lighting is dimmed and electric candles are used on each table. The setting is so romantic and quiet you would never suspect it to be part of the Lido buffet area at all.

Photo at right: We prepare to enjoy a lavish Indian dinner presented in the Lido Alternative restaurant.

There is no cover charge to dine in Lido Alternative but advance reservations are highly recommended. However, we were able to walk in and get a table on the second night of the cruise. We were warned that we may not be so lucky on future visits unless we had a reservation. The Lido Alternative offers an excellent alternative, as the name implies, to the traditional cruise dining experience. We never had a problem getting a table for two and the setting is much quieter and more intimate than any of the dining rooms, mostly because of the small number of guests accommodated.

Several of the guests with whom we spoke during the cruise were either unaware of the Lido Alternative, or did not understand the concept. I think the Lido Alternative could benefit from better branding. After all, the name "Lido Alternative" does not really lead one to think, "Mmmm, that sounds delicious, let's go there." Perhaps a brand such as "Bistro 9" or "Bistro Noir" could provide an identity that would inspire guests to investigate further. Another improvement would be to offer signage outside the elevators on Deck 9 pointing the way to Lido Alternative. We walked around the entire Lido buffet area one evening trying to find it. If you find yourself on Queen Victoria, you owe it to yourself to try the Lido Alternative on at least one evening.

Todd English

Dining on cruise ships has taken a giant leap forward in the past decade. An industry that, for decades, offered only a single huge dining room with two assigned seatings, now offers guests a choice of restaurants, pubs and dining rooms appealing to any preference. In fact, cruise lines seem to be engaged in a battle of "one-upsmanship" to see just how far they can push the culinary envelope. Not to be outdone, Cunard Line has introduced Todd English to each of its new ships.

Just in case there is one person out there who has never heard of Todd English, he is an award-winning American celebrity chef and one of the culinary world's brightest stars. He is responsible for one of the most recognizable restaurant brands in America (Olives), has published three critically acclaimed cookbooks, and has been featured on many television programs including his own show, "Food Trip with Todd English". When Cunard began developing the culinary programs for Queen Mary 2, the goal was to create an alternative dining experience that would surprise and delight guests ranging from first-time cruisers to savvy world travelers.

We had the opportunity to dine in Todd English onboard Queen Victoria. The atmosphere in Todd English is contemporary, classy and inviting. It certainly feels like a 5-star restaurant from the moment you step inside. After being seated at a booth next to a large window with a view of the ocean passing by, we were presented with menus. The menu is divided into three courses: Starters, Main Courses and Desserts. The menu can best be described as a fusion of California and Mediterranean cuisines.

The experience began with a nice basket of various breads delivered to our table accompanied by a duo of olive tapenades, one green and one black…both delicious. The shaved brussel sprout salad had been recommended by the ship's Doctor with whom we dined earlier in the cruise, so I decided to order that as my starter. Rickee chose the blood orange and fennel salad and we both decided we had to try the garlic shrimp on polenta-crusted tomato. My shaved brussel sprout salad served atop a chestnut polenta with parmesan truffle vinaigrette was the consistency and texture of cole slaw, but that is where the similarity ends. The dressing was light and creamy with a delicate flavor that is hard to describe. Oh wait, I can describe it. Delicious. Rickee's caramelized blood orange salad with fennel chiffonade was a wonderful combination of sweet and savory drizzled with a pomegranate seed vinaigrette. The garlic shrimp were not exactly what I would call "jumbo", but were perfectly cooked and seasoned without being overwhelmed by garlic. Even more notable was the polenta-crusted tomato upon which the three shrimp rested. It was noteworthy.

By the time our main courses arrived, we were more than halfway into a bottle of Reisling and were satisfied by the two starters. We both ordered the same main course, a beef tenderloin topped with lobster ragout. Each filet was at least three inches thick and beautifully charred. Large chunks of lobster were heaped on top and sides included potato gratin and some green vegetables. The lobster was perfectly cooked with a subtle cream sauce that was a perfect match. Both of our steaks were undercooked. We ordered Medium and what we got was closer to Rare. Nevertheless, we are flexible enough in our tastes so a return to the kitchen was not necessary. However, if you truly want Medium, you may want to order Medium Well, or request that your steak be butterflied (sliced in half before cooking). Nevertheless, the meat was extremely tender and delicious. I personally did not want the accompanying bernaise sauce (served on the side) to get in the way of the excellent beef flavor.

Needless to say, after two starters, a steak the size of Mike Tyson's fist, and a bottle of wine, we were in no shape for dessert. I am not a dessert eater anyway and Rickee was already crying "Uncle" on her side of the booth. In the spirit of good journalism, Rickee dug deep and found the courage to order the banana creme brulee. The ramekin was filled with a creamy banana-flavored custard topped with the traditional crisp sugar caramelization. It was the perfect ending to an excellent meal. I enjoyed a cup of decaf as Rickee forged ahead on her sweet indulgence. A plate of homemade cookies and biscotti was also delivered to the table, but it was just too much at that point.

Todd English is a gem in the emerging market of fine cruise ship dining venues. The celebrity chef has laid out an impressive menu and the galley's execution of his recipes is something he can be proud of. Service in the dining room was extremely polished. Wait staff were professional and prompt without being overly attentive. Service was on par with any 5-star restaurant. There is a $30 cover charge per person to dine in Todd English for dinner. On sea days, they also serve lunch for $20 per person. The cover charge is a bargain, not even covering the cost of the main course in a restaurant on land. Anyone sailing aboard a Cunard ship should treat themselves to at least one evening in Todd English. A return visit will be at the top of our to-do list on our next Cunard cruise.

The Good

  • Overall food quality and preparation is above-average
  • Dishes are properly seasoned
  • Food in Lido Buffet was better than we expected
  • Todd English
  • Lido Alternative
  • Chicken Tikka in Golden Lion Pub
  • Burgers cooked fresh to order in Lido Grill
  • Princess/Queens Grill
  • Hand sanitizers can be found at every entrance to every dining venue and they even have staff members to "squirt" your hands when you enter the Lido Buffet area.

The Bad

  • Congestion in Lido Buffet at lunch and not enough seating
  • Fish and Chips in Golden Lion Pub had a chewy texture one might associate with frozen fish

Entertainment and Activities


Lounges

Beefeater Gin   $4.95
Bombay Sapphire
 $5.50
Jack Daniels
 $6.75
Smirnoff  $4.95
Grey Goose
 $6.95
Heineken (bottle)   $4.95
Budweiser (bottle)
 $4.75
Grolsch
 $5.95
Soft Drinks (can)
 $1.95
Perrier 200ml  $2.50
Wine by the glass (house) 150ml
 $5.95
Proseco (sparkling wine)
 $9.25
Mimosa
 $6.75
Bellini
 $9.75
Martini - Beefeater
 $7.50
Martini - Tanqueray
 $8.50
Martini - Bombay Sapphire
 $8.25
Mojito   $6.75
Daquiri  $5.95
Margarita
 $5.95
There is no shortage of locations on Queen Victoria to quench your thirst. A number of bars and lounges that range from casual to elegant offer a wide variety of concoctions sure to please. Our favorite before dinner spot was the Grills Lounge on Deck 11 which is reserved for Princess Grill and Queens Grill guests. The Commodore Club located on Deck 10 Forward was another popular evening watering hole with panoramic ocean views and a selection of stuffed olives served as an appetizer in the evenings. On Deck 2, the Chart Room is a large lounge with piano entertainment and is located next to Cafe Carinthia, a casual lounge that also doubles as a morning coffee bar. The Winter Garden Bar offers indoor/outdoor seating next to the pool on Deck 9 and is a great casual spot for diners who plan to go casual and have dinner in the Lido Buffet. The Winter Garden also features a retractable glass "greenhouse-style" roof that offers lots of sunlight during the day. This is a great place to sit comfortably, read a book and enjoy your favorite drink during the day. Hemispheres is Queen Victoria's disco located on Deck 10 forward, just behind the Commodore Club. The aforementioned Gold Lion Pub is the spot to grab your favorite brew and enjoy watching sports in a true English pub setting. If a glass of the "bubbly" is what you are looking for, look no farther than the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar overlooking the Grand Lobby. Here Veuve Clicquot is available either by the glass of by the bottle. In Churchill's, savor a rich worldwide selection of fine cigars and cognacs. Also on offer is a wonderful choice of Single Malt Whiskys, Plantation Rums and Ports.

Music was available daily in various lounges performed by Changez; piano entertainer, Mike Hatchard; the Sunrise String Quartet; pianist Mark Russell; pianist Paul Madden; pianist David Neil Jones; and harpist Chiara Capobianco. Gary Sanders directed the Queen's Room Orchestra featuring vocalist Paul Ritchie and an occasional appearance by dance couple, Dimitri and Nadiya.

Drink prices were consistent throughout the ship. See table:

Daytime Activities

There is no lack of things to do aboard Queen Victoria! Activities are varied and include fitness classes, computer training classes, Bingo, deck sports, trivia, art auctions, culinary demonstrations, enrichment lectures, dance classes, art classes, golf putting, "mixology" classes, jewelry seminars, Bridge classes, lectures about health and fitness, fashion shows, gaming lessons, and on and on. There is something for everyone! You can keep up with everything that is happening on the ship by using the Daily Programme which is delivered to your stateroom each evening at turndown. In addition to the schedule of activities, this small newspaper is full of useful information about the next port, restaurant and bar hours, and much more.

Library

The library on Queen Victoria is beautiful, ornate and impressive. It has a spiral staircase leading from one floor to the next. There is a huge selection of books available, some in large print. Books must be checked out and must be returned when the library is staffed. The library is open 24 hours but is only staffed during certain hours of the day.

Empire Casino

While not as prominent as on other ships of comparable size, the Casino, located on Deck 2 just across from the Golden Lion Pub, offers guests several choices of table games and a few dozen slot machines.

Internet Cafe & ConneXions 1

Queen Victoria has a very large Internet Cafe located on Deck 1 across from the Reception Desk. There are lots of computer terminals for guest use and Wi-Fi is accessible throughout many parts of the ship. I was able to access Wi-Fi from our suite on Deck 6, but Cunard warns that reception may not be available in your stateroom. It just depends on where your stateroom is located. The best Wi-Fi was on Deck 1 just outside of the Internet Cafe, but there are other locations on the ship as well. I had no luck accessing Wi-Fi in the Lido Buffet where I would work every morning.

ConneXions 1 is a computer training center with lots of computer terminals and is used to conduct classes on a variety of computer software programs. The training center is located next to the Internet Cafe.

The Internet system is provided through MTN (Maritime Telecommunications Network) and Internet pricing is competitive with other major cruise lines, which means it is expensive. There are three different packages that are available offering discounted per-minute rates.

120 minutes - $47.95 (.40 per minute)
240 minutes - $89.95 (.38 per minute)
480 minutes - $167.95 (.35 per minute)

You can also "pay as you go" for .75 cents per minute. We typically use a lot of Internet access on a cruise since we have to maintain our blog, upload photos to our website and check our email. We were able to manage with 480 minutes for the 12 days. The service was available most of the time with only a couple of periods where we could not get a connection. Speeds were comparable to other ships and actually decent considering there are potentially hundreds of guests trying access at any one time.

Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Court Theatre is Queen Victoria's main show lounge and is the location for the ship's production shows and headliner acts. The theater is very well designed with great sight lines. Only a few seats at the very rear of the theater have support structures that could impede the view of the stage. The stage itself is wide and quite deep, allowing for elaborate stage decorations and sophisticated dance routines. There is even enough room for the orchestra to sit behind the performers on stage.

The dark red seating is comfortable and there are no annoying waiters circling the theatre attempting to sell drinks before, during or after the show. What really sets this theater apart from those on other ships are the theater boxes in the balcony on either side, the only private boxes at sea. Guests can reserve a box for up to four people to enjoy the show. There is a fee for this privacy, however, but it does include champagne service during the show. A nice touch and something unique to Cunard.

On our cruise, the Royal Cunard Singers & Dancers consisted of four vocalists and twelve dancers. We attended three of the four production shows and found all to be entertaining. The only show that was lacking energy suffered from the use of pre-recorded music. When the orchestra was used to back up the music in the shows, it made all the difference.

Entertainment Director, Sally Sagoe, lined up some impressive acts including vocalist Lorraine Brown; musician Kenny Martyn; and international vocalist Paul Emmanuel. Other shows during the cruise included British comedian John Evans, who kept the crowd in stitches. Even though his humor was admittedly British, we "got it" and thoroughly enjoyed his act.

On this voyage, there was an enrichment historian, Adrian Tinniswood and a destination speaker, Gwen Weekes, who lectured about topics pertaining to the upcoming ports.

The Queen's Room

Here cantilevered balconies, ornate frescos and backlit glass panels rise to the height of two decks. This large lounge located on Deck 2 is where guests who love to dance come every evening to "cut a rug". A few members of the ship's orchestra seemed to be playing each evening and there were large crowds on the huge dance floor strutting their stuff. This appears to be one of the most popular venues on Queen Victoria before and after the evening show.

The Queen's Lounge is also used as a staging area for shore excursions. Guests with tickets are asked to meet in the Queen's Lounge where they are given a motorcoach number/sticker before being escorted off the ship and onto the waiting coach.

Cunard Royal Spa

What cruise aboard a fine cruise ship would be complete without a relaxing day at the ship's spa? With Queen Victoria docked in Livorno, Italy, an area we have visited many times, today was a perfect opportunity for some personal indulgence. So, while most of the Queen's guests were off visiting Florence or Pisa, I was sleeping a little later today in preparation for my 9:30 spa appointment.

The Cunard ROYAL SPA is located forward on Deck 9, just forward of the ship's pool and Winter Garden area. Operated by Onboard Spa, ROYAL SPA features 14 treatment rooms and a staff of 21 people to deliver a wide variety of spa and salon treatments. There is also a fully-equipped gym with locker rooms, and a "thermal sanctuary" consisting of sauna, steam and hydrotherapy (whirlpools).

I showed up at the spa a few minutes early and was directed to a waiting room and asked to complete a short medical history form before my treatment. Within a few minutes my therapist arrived and we discussed my selected treatment. The Shirodosha Massage is a 90-minute treatment described as:

"Ideal for restless minds and the very stressed. Experience the continuous flow of warm dosha oils on the 3rd eye followed by a flowing massage."

After being led into the treatment room by the sound of relaxing music, I soon found myself face up on the table covered with towels and having warm oil poured on my forehead. After a brief, but effective, head massage, the therapist began artfully tending to my left arm and leg, then the right, then the back until virtually every muscle in my body had been skillfully massaged to a relaxed state. After 90 minutes, I left refreshed and completely relaxed. Definitely, the Shirodosha delivered on its promise. The 90-minute Shirodosha costs $165 and a 12.5% gratuity is added to each treatment. Nevertheless, it is well worth the cost and competitively priced with other spas.

In addition to Shirodosha, ROYAL SPA offers several other massage treatments, a few of which are shown below:

Reflexology 60 min - $129
Sports Massage (deep tissue) 60 min - $129
Thai Yoga Massage 75 min - $149
Physiotherapy 60 min - $129
Ancient Hot Stone 90 min - $165
Pinadosha Massage 90 min - $165
O Spa Swedish Massage 60 min - $119
O Spa back, neck, shoulder massage 30 min - $69

A full-service beauty salon offers a complete selection of hair and nail treatments. They even offer acupuncture and teeth whitening!

A cruise aboard Queen Victoria just would not be complete without at least one visit to the Cunard ROYAL SPA. After all, this is what a vacation is all about!

Fitness Center

O Spa is also responsible for the Queen Victoria fitness center which is all the way forward on Deck 9. The fitness center is a fully- equipped gym with stationary bikes, treadmills, weight machines, free weights and other card machines. Everything looked to be the newest and the best. There is also a small area for stretching and fitness classes. Use of the fitness center, changing rooms and lockers are complimentary. Some of the instructor-led classes, such as Zumba and Spinning, are available at an additional cost. Queen Victoria is the first to offer foil-fencing lessons at sea!

Thermal Sanctuary

O Spa offers a very nice Thermal Suite and Hydrotherapy pool consisting of an array of steam rooms, heated lounges and a super-jetted whirlpool. Jets of water massage your neck and head, and plush padded loungers are available for relaxing in the dimly lit, soothing environment. They even provide fresh fruit and ice water in this area. The adjacent "wet area" with dry sauna, steam room and aromatherapy room has large tile loungers available to cool off from the steam and sauna treatments. There is a $35 daily fee for using the Thermal Sanctuary. Packages are available for $55 (3 days) or $85 (5 days).

Service and Staff

The one thing that can make or break a great vacation is the interaction with cruise ship staff. Cunard promotes its "White Star Service", harkening back to the days of the White Star Line. White Star was before my time, so I am not sure I fully appreciate the relevance of the reference; however, I can assume that White Star had a reputation for excellent service.

Virtually everyone working onboard Queen Victoria with whom we came in contact was pleasant, cheerful and willing to serve. Our room steward, Noe, was always smiling and very accommodating. We often do not leave our suite until after 10:30am, yet, Noe would have the suite made up by the time we returned. We have been on some very nice cruise lines that, if you are not out of your stateroom by 9:00am, your room may not get made up that day.

Our assigned waiters in Princess Grill, Francis and Ryan, were no less accommodating. They were always pleasant and willing to go out of their way to fulfill special requests. Sometimes I will make special requests just to see how the wait staff handles it. I was unable to trip them up, no matter what I asked for. One day at lunch, I was not particularly interested in any of the daily menu offerings. I asked Francis if I could just have a cheeseburger. He could have very easily said "sure, just go to the pool grill on Deck 9," but he didn't. His response? "No Problem." He had the Princess Grill chef have someone bring a burger patty up from the main galley to make me a cheeseburger. On another evening, I mentioned to Francis that I really liked Indian cuisine. He suggested that I let him know a day in advance and the chef would prepare a special Indian dinner for me in Princess Grill. You sort of expect that kind of personal attention on a smaller ship like Silversea or Seabourn. I was pleasantly surprised to see that level of individual attention offered on a larger ship.

Our Princess Grill Maitre'd, David Chambers, went out of his way to check on us when we did not show up for dinner one evening, wondering if we did not like our assigned table. We assured him that the table was fine, we just wanted to try some of the different venues on board. He also made reservations for us to dine in Lido Alternative one evening.

There were other examples of service staff with whom we interacted in the lounges and other areas of the ship who were no less accommodating. Overall, the service delivered on Queen Victoria is well above average.

Disembarkation

Getting off Queen Victoria was a little more stressful than getting on. We had to take a 6:30am transfer to the airport. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we did not get our final statement (folio) from the Purser's office as of 5:45am. So, I headed down to Deck 1 to see about getting a final copy. There were only two people working the desk and a line of about eight guests. Apparently, nobody on Deck 6 had received their folios. By the time I got my copy it was 6:20 and there was no time to review the bill and/or resolve any issues. I am sure that much of the reason for the stress was the early disembarkation/transfer. So, if you have an early transfer, you may want to request a final copy of your folio the night before you disembark so that you have time to review the bill and get resolution.


The Itinerary

The Pearls of the Adriatic is a port-intensive itinerary with only one day out of 12 at sea. This is an excellent itinerary to book for a first-time cruise to the Mediterranean as it offers a taste of many different cultures.

Barcelona
This cosmopolitan, bustling Spanish city is an excellent embarkation/disembarkation city. You may want to plan an extra day or two here before or after your cruise to overcome jet lag, or prepare for your trip home. There are some good places in Barcelona to just walk around and shop, but the city really lends itself to a guided tour.

Monte Carlo
This tiny city/state sits right on the ocean and is a famous place of residence for some of the wealthiest people in the world. Why? No income taxes! Famous for its casino and lavish hotels, this is a fun city to just walk around and sightsee. It is also the location for tours to the medieval village of Eze, perched high on top of a mountain.

Livorno
Even though there is not much to see in Livorno itself, it is a good staging area for tours to Florence and Pisa, both worthwhile destinations. If this is your first time, go to Florence and do the ship's tour. Pisa is a good alternative and worth a visit, but not as impressive as Florence.

Naples
Naples, like Livorno, does not have a lot to see in the city itself, but is a great place for the ship to dock and offer tours to places like Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi coast, Herculaneum, Mt. Vesuvius, etc. If you have never been, Pompeii is a "must see" for its historical significance. Sorrento is one of our favorite cities in Italy with lots of narrow streets filled with interesting shops and cafes. Capri is also worth a visit to see the mountain top hideaway for the rich and famous, but it is very expensive once you get there. On this trip, we went to Herculaneum and found it interesting, but nothing compared to Pompeii.

LaGoulette (Tunis)
LaGoulette is the port for the north African city of Tunis and for visiting the Carthage ruins. There is a very nice, and new, shopping village with shops and restaurants right at the pier where the ship docks. We opted for The Best of Tunis tour which included lunch at a local restaurant. We enjoyed this all-day excursion and it was interesting seeing this part of North Africa, but we would probably not do it again.

Valetta, Malta
The small island of Malta is another great stop on this itinerary. The old town is a walled city perched atop the island and can be reached on foot from the cruise ship terminal. However, it requires walking up lots of steps and steep grades. There are taxis and horse-drawn carriages everywhere offering rides to the city center, about a five-minute cab ride. We prefer to walk it for the exercise. This is a great city to walk around, do some shopping, have lunch in town if you are so inclined. Everyone in the shops and cafes speaks good English and the Euro is the currency here. There are also some very good ship tours worth considering offered in Valetta.

Piraeus (Athens)
Everyone is familiar with Athens. The ship docks in Piraeus, the port city for Athens. There is not a lot to see and do in Piraeus, so this is one place where a ship's tour is advised. If this is your first visit, you must choose a tour that includes a visit to The Acropolis. However, walking to the top of The Acropolis is very strenuous. We did it 13 years ago and it was a challenge! The marble steps can be very slippery so wear shoes with good soles. Athens is not really a city that lends itself well to walking around on your own. You are better off booking one of the ship's guided tours here.

Katakolon
This tiny portside fishing village with 600 residents is the jumping off place for tours to Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games. The little village has responded to all the cruise ship traffic with a single street lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. On our visit, there were three large ships in port and it was nearly impossible to walk through the jammed streets. A ship's tour to Olympia is highly recommended here. Olympia is a destination that should not be missed.

Dubrovnik
Dubbed "The Pearl of the Adriatic", this is one of our favorite cruise ports. The old city is surrounded by an 80-foot-tall wall that is 6,350 feet long. For €10 (about $14) you can ascend the steep stairs and walk around the wall, which is a fun way to spend the morning. The sightseeing and photo ops from the wall are fantastic. However, it is a strenuous walk. Inside the old city, there are hundreds of shops and more cafes than you can imagine. This is a great place to spend the day. We visited with others who chose the tour which visited the countryside, and they had nothing but good things to say about it. On our next visit, I think we will try that tour.

Venice
The most romantic city in the world, Venice is one port city you will want to return to time and time again. With 117 tiny islands connected by a network of canals and bridges, Venice is a great place to explore on your own. However, if this is your first visit, it is well worth taking a tour of St. Marks Cathedral, the Doge's Palace and other famous sights, just to get a feel for the history of Venice. Venice is another city where an extra day or two before or after your cruise would be advised. Check the Hotel Bauer for excellent five-star accommodations near St. Marks Square.


Summary


This was our very first cruise with Cunard and we hope it is not our last. That should pretty much sum up our impressions. The atmosphere was sophisticated without feeling stuffy. We were expecting stuffy and we were pleasantly surprised. Queen Victoria is a beautiful and extremely comfortable ship. To find fault requires one to basically pick nits. Notwithstanding the congestion in the Lido Buffet at lunchtime and the gift shop area in the evenings, the ship manages large numbers with ease and never feels overcrowded. We personally love the "Grills" concept for those who want a more intimate experience without having to give up the large ship amenities. We highly recommend Cunard Line to anyone in search of a premium cruise vacation.



Video

Below is some video we captured during our time aboard Queen Victoria...


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13 Comments
MRS OLIVE AUSTEN
Reviews have been very help full as looking forward to going on the Queen Victoria for the first 21 December 13th to January 2nd 2014
Sunday, December 01, 2013 1:07 AM  
DAVID & VALERIE
My wife and I are going next month on the Queen Vic. I will post a report upon our return.
Thursday, October 03, 2013 3:59 PM  
P. CHANT
Well, things have slipped since this critique was written. Very sloppy attitude in the Lido restaurant - dirty dishes left on tables, tables not wiped clesan because of this. Watch your security card. It might not come back with your drink and on one occasion it was not returned in the Britannia till be had finished our meal. This card is your credit card while on board and could easily have been lost or used by someone else
Monday, September 16, 2013 12:10 PM  
P. CHANT
Well, things have slipped since this critique was written. Very sloppy attitude in the Lido restaurant - dirty dishes left on tables, tables not wiped clesan because of this. Watch your security card. It might not come back with your drink and on one occasion it was not returned in the Britannia till be had finished our meal. This card is your credit card while on board and could easily have been lost or used by someone else
Monday, September 16, 2013 12:10 PM  
P. CHANT
Well, things have slipped since this critique was written. Very sloppy attitude in the Lido restaurant - dirty dishes left on tables, tables not wiped clesan because of this. Watch your security card. It might not come back with your drink and on one occasion it was not returned in the Britannia till be had finished our meal. This card is your credit card while on board and could easily have been lost or used by someone else
Monday, September 16, 2013 12:10 PM  
BRITT GILBY
Found your review very informative. My husband and I are going on our second cruise with the Cunard line. Went last year from New York to Southhampton on the QM2; this time on the QV leaving Rio late Jan 2014 sailing to Brisbane Australia. Have sailed with other cruise lines, but found Cunard to be excellent. In my opinion, going on a cruise is the only way to travel.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013 9:51 AM  
GRANT THOMAS
Nice article Chris & Rickee. We too will be sailing in Feb. 13; San Francisco to Sydney on our very 1st cruise, so this information will be very handy. Thank You
Sunday, January 20, 2013 4:42 AM  
JOHN BOWER
We are going on our first Cunard cruise on Queen Victoria in February 2013. Thanks for this revue. I found this comprehensive and well worth the read. I will recommend everyone read this, as there are little 'secrets' all over the ship the average person would not be aware of. Thank you
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 5:58 PM  
BRIAN LOVES TO CRUISE
Thank you for your review, it has made our decision to go on the Odessy cruise easier we couldn't decide wether to go Princess or Britannia class . We sailed to New York and back on QM2 in 2010 but the weather was disapointing, apparently continuous mist in June is the norm! The Ship was eous but if you can't go outside, 15 days is a long time. So thank you for your extensive information, no review can be too long in my opinion.
Monday, October 29, 2012 2:04 PM  
JOHN
Having booked our first ever (Adriatic Discovery III, October 2012) cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria, my wife and I have found this review to be really helpful. Although it is a lengthy review we found it most helpful. Any reservations we may have had about overcrowding have been quelled and we have found the review very helpful indeed. Thank you very much!
Monday, February 27, 2012 6:00 AM  
JOANNE
I enjoy reading your reviews. I certainly do not mind it being "wordy" and look forward to each and everyone.
Friday, April 01, 2011 7:30 AM  
CRUISEREPORT.COM EDITOR
@PC MAR Value for money is a tough question to address since there are so many variables in today's cruise market. It depends on the stateroom category you choose, the time of year you cruise and the promotions the cruise lines are offering at the time. You typically pay a little more for Cunard than you would for, say Holland America, but it is a little more of an upscale experience, especially if you are in The Grills.
Saturday, January 15, 2011 10:02 AM  
PC MAR
Review, while comprehensive, is too wordy. Perhaps a summary at beginning would be helpful, and reader can elect to see full report if they wish. What about value for money, as compared to other similar cruise lines or ships?
Saturday, January 15, 2011 9:58 AM  
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