Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Foodies.
Regions:Sydney, Cape Town,Southhampton
Regions:Southampton, Hamburg,, Palermo, Korcula, Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Valencia
This past October I cruised on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 from NYC round trip to Quebec City. I have cruised about 20 times on other lines, but this was my first cruise with Cunard. I was looking forward to this cruise, especially being on such a great ship as the Queen Mary 2. As a consumer, I think it is important to provide feedback, both positive and negative, to the service provider as to the experience of any cruise. No one can view the total cruise experience from the eyes of a traveler better than the traveler himself.
In preparation for this cruise I packed one suit with dress shirt and tie for any formal night that might be in the schedule (on all of my previous experiences cruising, there were no more than 2 nights where formal attire was suggested). Once onboard, to my surprise a jacket was required for every evening meal in the main dining room. When this became known to me, I was disappointed that I could not dine in slacks and a dress shirt anywhere except the cafeteria. Further, after a couple of days on thecruise, a notice was included in the daily bulletin that a jacket was required after six in the evening for ALL (capitalized as was shown in the bulletin) facilities, and that if I was not dressed in a jacket, I should not utilize any of the facilities so as not to negatively affect the experience of other passengers.
I have included the dress code(s) below as a reference: the codes appear to assume that you will either be dressed "to the nines" after 6 pm or you will be in shorts, tank tops, and sandals. I don't dress that casually at home, so I would most certainly not dress that way in a public space. What this dress code effectively meant was that after 6 in the evening, I could only eat in the cafeteria, sit in the Winter Garden, or go to my room. Without a dress jacket, I was not welcomed in the library, the computer room, the evening's entertainment, the main lobby, bars, shops, coffee shop, or the casino. I was left with little choice as to how I might spend my evenings. (The TV reception in the room was about as bad as I have ever experienced).
Needless to say, I felt like a second-class passenger, which I guess I actually was but did not realize it until I boarded the ship. This class distinction may be exactly what Cunard strives to maintain; however, I found the entire experience degrading, such that I shall respond by using other carriers for my future cruises. I had really wanted to experience all three ships Cunard offers.
I would like to end my feedback on a positive note. Our cabin steward was excellent: efficient, friendly, and offered advice on shore excursions. She was the brightest spot in our days.
Below are direct quote from Daily Programme: "Dress requirement: Informal- Jacket required, tie optional for gentlemen, cocktail dress, stylish separates or equivalent for ladies. Please note that after 6.00 pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship. Any guests wishing to dress more casually are welcome to dine in the Kings Court buffet on deck 7 and relax in the Winter Garden, but should not use other areas within the ship, including our Alternative Dining Restaurants, out of respect for their fellow guests."
"Dress requirement: Formal- Dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen. A range of gentlemen's formal wear is available to hire on board ship. Evening or cocktail dress for ladies. Please note that after 6.00 pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship. Any guests wishing to dress more casually are welcome to dine in the Kings Court buffet on deck 7 and relax in the Winter Garden, but should not use other areas within the ship, including our Alternative Dining Restaurants, out of respect for their fellow guests."
The noon report said that we had cleared the Grand Banks of Newfoundland at 8:00 AM this morning. We were skirting the Flemish Cap and were 100 miles E of the Grand Banks. It was Monday, July 9 and we were on West Greenland Summer Time.
But the night before had been like nothing I'd ever experienced in my life. I wrote in my trip journal: "The noise in this cabin is incredible. The wind is howling outside, rattling the glass, and whistling. It's enough to drive you crazy. I wasn't anticipating something like this in July at all. I thought this was the best weather of the year. If it isn't, when is?"
The whole experience of being out in the North Atlantic with fog closing in on you can't be compared to land. Neither can being thrown forward on your toes when the ship rolls. But for us it was transportation to Europe since we don't like jets. That single consideration made it well worth it, especially the Cunard shore excursion in Southampton to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and the New Forest which turned out to be the most Gothic placeon earth (the ship itself sounded a little Gothic and spooky, didn't it?)
We went on a short 5-night cruise out of Southampton round Europe on the newest of the Cunard Fleet, the Queen Elizabeth. The trip went to Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Le Havre, and was one of a series of identical trips that they did to let people try out and see the new ship.
I had mixed views about the ship before going on her, as we had been on the Queen Victoria and this ship is pretty much the same ship and layout - and we had thought the Queen Victoria was okay - but had not blown us away.
I had also read very mixed reviews about the Queen Elizabeth, mostly related to the food and the service. It is always exciting though to go on a new ship, and of course even more so when one of the famous Cunard ones.
In the end, we loved the ship. It has great looking decor, very stylish and very Cunard. The service was outstanding across all areas of the ship. The food we had in Queens Grill was amazing. The ship, although has a stern like a block of apartments ratherthan the staggered back of the Queen Victoria and looks a bit blocky, looks great overall. Though, of course, it is a Vista Class style ship and so looks like many other ships. This is such a pity that no longer Cunard ships are one off and unique.
The ship was launched in October 2010, and has 1034 cabins and takes 2068 passengers in total, with a crew of 1005. On our trip there were 2009 passengers, and almost all from the UK as one would expect.
Here are my other observations and thoughts on the ship:
1: As mentioned, the design and look of the ship is very classy. It has an art deco feel, and is classy and rich looking. It is done with style. The grand lobby, for example, is very grand and has a "wow" factor. The Royal Arcade with the shops, grand staircase and casino is also grand. The carpets through out are very striking and worth paying some attention to! I do not usually note carpets but these are worth checking out!
2: Some of the other rooms and areas that were good include:
The Royal Court Theatre. This is a large room on 2 levels, and they have boxes along the side that for the production shows can be booked for $50 and you get finger desserts, champagne and a signed photograph of the cast.
Royal Arcade Shops. There is a good selection and the addition of a Fortnum and Masons is a nice touch. You can make and order hampers that they will deliver to your home address if you want. There is a large art shop and exhibition ares run by Claredon Art. There is a large casino with machines, including popular 1c and 2c ones.
Garden Lounge. This was not one of the areas I was impressed with, but the large room with glass roof was popular with many and was always busy. I thought it lacked some class and style, but clearly others liked it!
Apple iRange/ iStudy. Throughout the ship they use Apple, and they have a shop where they sell various Apple PCs, iPads and iPods and all the internet computers are Apple.
Commodore Lounge. This is a great bar and room right at the front of the ship with panoramic views. This is a great place to sit during the day, and great for evening drinks. In here are also the old QE2 bell and the bell from the original QE, as well as models of the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. Opposite is also the Yacht Club where they have a disco and band at night.
We made a video of much of the interior rooms, and another one of the exterior and decks, both of which can be watched below or on my YouTube Channel.
3: Queens Grill. We stayed in Queens Grill. On Cunard the type of cabin you stay in determines the restaurant that you eat in. There is the Brittannia Grill, the largest and on 2 levels. There there are the "Grills" with Princess and Queens. For those in Grills, the 2 restaurants are on 11 deck which is accessed via a card in the elevator. On the Grills area there is a lounge, the 2 restaurants and then an alfresco dining area and 2 large decks with very comfortable loungers.
We were in a very nice suite which was a Q3 Penthouse Suite. It is an unusual shape, as the video I made shows. It had a very comfortable Sealey bed, seating area, bar area, bathroom and shower and separate basin and toilet. There are huge amounts of storage space. You get canapes each evening and a bar with soft drinks, and the choice of 2 bottles of spirits.
As mentioned, the food in Queens Grill is excellent and there is huge choice, including both a set menu choice and an a la carte at dinner.
See all my photos of the ship: http://www.bembridge.co.uk/a/My_Albums/Pages/1105_Queen_Elizabeth_May_2011.html
I have just returned from the Christmas Canaries cruise onboard The Victoria- what a shambles. Deck 2 and 3 were cold for much of the time, adjacent to the ballroom when you walk through that area the smell of sewage was diabolical. If you want to exchange sterling for dollars Cunard would give you .70 to the pound- hows that for a rip off! I paid by credit card and the exchange rate on my statement said £1.51- their duty free shop was asking 81 dollars for an Estee Laudea product that can be purchased in any Boots in Bristol!
The food was served luke warm for most of the time and as this is supposed to be a 5 star ship why was the vegetables served on the plate with the meal, lastly on two sperate ocassions, once when the menu said stilton and there was none on the plate when we asked for some we were served danish blue and on another ocassion when the menu said Roquefort the waiter pointed to a fromage and said that was it- when we pointed out that this was not thecase the waiter dissappeared and came back to say that there was not any Roquefort on board this was a "Peinting Error"- sorry this is not and should not be classed as a 5 star liner.
Review of Cunard Queen Victoria
This is our first cruise on a Cunard ship. We have always been hesitate to make a reservation due to the "class distinction" that we have read about. We will discuss this later in the review. This is approximately our 30th cruise in the last thirty years. We are in no way connected with the cruise or travel industry and make all of our travel arrangements independently.
The Ship - The Cunard Queen Victoria is relatively new ( first voyage December 2007) and one will find it modern and elegant. The exterior may look like many other ships one has cruised on however the interior is very tastefully done. The company brags that this is part of the youngest fleet on the seas and this is certainly reflected with the interior. The ship the day we boarded was spotless and appeared well maintained. Later we will discuss individual; aspects of the ship. There are 990 cabins that can accommodate 1980 passengers. During our cruise of 12 days the cruise was very smooth.
EMBARKATION — We embarked in Venice. In the booklet we received there was check in timelisted as 1400, 1430 and 1500. The weather was bad and we had to check out of our hotel by 1200 so we proceeded to the ship by private water taxi. Believe me that is the way to arrive at your ship when in Venice. Luggage is taken at the hotel by the taxi operator and unloaded at the pier without you having to handle the baggage even once. The next time you will see the baggage is outside your stateroom. Now about check in. You have no doubt traveled enough by cruise ship to realize that check in time given you is not always precise. In our case we arrived at the check in pier around 1230 and after filling out a health form we were immediately ushered to a check in counter. The clerk could have cared less about the form we had completed earlier and in fact did not even look at the "e-ticket". He only wanted our name. After checking our passports and signed out credit card form we were given a number to wait to be called for boarding. We waited approximately 20 minutes and went aboard. The process was quick and professional. We went directly to our cabin on deck 5. The cabin was ready however our luggage had not arrived so the four of us headed for Lido for a lunch. Lunch time was uncrowded and was more than adequate. After an hour of so we proceeded to our cabin and to our delight our bags were waiting in the hallway. This has been an extremely good embarkation.
You will be ask to surrender your passport which you will not receive back until a day or two before the end of the cruise. Retaining your passport is nothing new as the British were doing this at their hotels decades ago. Is it necessary now - I seriously doubt it however it does provide the cruise line with a sense of control over its passengers. You may encounter some problems in certain ports that you visit. For example in some situations when you exchange currency you will need your passport, otherwise they will not exchange money with you. This is also true in some case where the purchase is large such as the purchase of an expensive watch of jewelry. You may find the lines long on a ship of this size when they decide to return the passport and you pick it up. For almost 2000 passengers there was one line and two clerks.TIP—When boarding a ship always proceed as you know exactly where you are going. If you get lost , ask someone, just don't stop on the gangplank and ask a dozen questions, as there are others behind you waiting to board. It seems that everyone wants to be the first on board and naturally the first to disembark. It just isn't going to happen that way, so build in some patience into your schedule.
THE CABIN - I could not believe the staff that referred to your stateroom or cabin as a room. They also must have considered this ship a boat. We were on deck five—mid ship. This is a large ship so sailing should be smooth, however we play the game as some others will and tried to be a cabin in mid-ship to make the ride as smooth as possible. If you travel agent tries to give you an alternate cabin he/she may not be doing their job very well. In this day and time of the internet you can often find out exactly which cabins are available and if you study the ship's layout, ship size, etc. you can come out a winner.
Remember I wrote this is a fairly new ship, well the cabin we had certainly reflected this. The cabin was spotless. Nice towels, plenty of amenities in the bath, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe - you know the usual you fine aboard ship. The electrical outlets are particular nice. Recall when you had to carry a lot of adapters to get that charge battery charged or to use the electric razor. This cabin had lots of 100 and 220 volt outlets making recharging very easy.
The carpet was very clean thus you don't mind walking around the cabin in your socks. The bedding was very good, however I still have problems with the single beds being pushed together to make a single king size bed. Seems like I always end up sliding toward the middle where the two beds join. The sheets were very good as was the duvet. The cabin took on an air of elegance. Not really large however with the balcony there was a reported 220sq ft. (I did not measure).
Excellent lighting in the cabin and one actually had enough light to read by. Everything worked as it should in the bath. We had a small (perhaps 21 inch) flat screen TV. The TV set itself was of poor quality and thus the picture was not very good. The telephone has all those numbers on it such as programming in your own wake up calls automatically.
The refrigerator is stocked with soft drinks and water. The prices are very reasonable with Cokes being only $1.95 per can. Our room had a complimentarily half bottle of Champagne waiting for us upon arrival.
TIP - I provided a little extra touch for both my spouse and the couple traveling with us by ordering a dozen carnations before the start of the cruise. They were absolutely beautiful and even after a week looked great. When ordering through the ship be sure to remember it takes time to complete the orders thus it is never too early to order. I try to do this a couple of months in advance of the cruise date.
LAUNDRY - Why so early to provide a write up on the laundry. Just because it was across the hallway from our cabin. There were three washers and three dryers, open from around 0730 to 2100. Use of the machines was free and the soap was also free. Getting a machine was a challenge as they were always busy with lots of passengers waiting. Remember—I said FREE - so that helps with the wait time. There was also a iron which appeared to be on continually throughout the day. Laundry service is next day after pick up un less you want to pay extra. $5 for a shirt unless expedited then it $7.50. Shorts and socks are $2. We have had better deals on laundry on other cruise lines. The service quality of the clothing upon return was about what you would receive at a laundry in the US. Nothing special.
DINING - This is a two class society ship thus if the class distinction disturbs you because you are in the middle class you might want to consider another cruise line. While we discussed this subject often, after getting aboard it no longer mattered. There are some "snoots" in a group no matter when one travels. The aristocrats and the Sultans, the Kings/Queens and those other nobles apparently would naturally be entitled to dine at the Queens Grill and Princess Grill. Since I am not of Royalty I really don't know what they ate as it took a special elevator key to reach their deck. Oh well - I had to settle for the Britannia Restaurant. The four of us had an excellent table located at the far rear of the ship just in front of a large window. This early seating location was excellent. Our waiter and his helper were both very good. They worked hard to please us each evening. The food was okay however I would not be ordering such entrees back in Texas. Too much emphasis put on the name of the entrée and the presentation rather than the actual quality of the food. On two different nights the fish entrees was soft and mushy, not exactly a reflection of quality. The beef dishes was hard to cut and even harder to chew. Don't get me wrong, the presentation looked great. For dinner you had to order all your courses including desert at one time. Portions are small however always well presented. One tomato and one avocado could serve 50 guests the way the cuts and presentation were may. Now some folks really like this type meal - me I like a steak and baked potatoes - now isn't that gross?
On deck two there is Todd English's place where one can have dinner. The place looked nice and generally empty most nights. The cost was $30.00 per person to dine there. We were not optimistic that we would get any better food that what was being served at the Britannica, thus we did not dine any at Todd English's place - perhaps next time old chap!
Most passengers have breakfast and lunch at the Lido. The area is broken down into numerous serving areas each with its own kind of food. There was a great pizza and pasta bar at midship. Always plenty of fresh fruit for both lunch and breakfast. Omelets, waffles and eggs cooked to order. The area was always very clean and service was excellent. These young menu and women all seemed to work hard to accommodate the passengers.
On Deck 9 at the aft of the ship one will find the Lido Bar & Grill where you can get hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. You may find this an excellent change from the meals offered in the Britannica and on the Lido cafeteria style dining. The food was actually very good.
SHOPPING - Like most cruise ships this ship has shopping at the Royal Arcade. There were some very competitive buys in perfume, leather goods and liquors. Sales are a common occurrence.
BEAUTY SHOP - My spouse seems to always locate and use the beauty shop. Service was good and the price reasonable. In addition she used the nail service in the same area. We did not use the spa service - an area where one can spend a lot of money in a short time.
EMPIRE CASINO - This has to be one of the smallest casinos on the seas. Located on Deck two, there are enough slots, roulette and card games to keep one busy. They even have one cent slots. Remember this is an entertainment venue and not an area where one can make money.
ROYAL ARCADE - This is shopping and as with most ships there is a small retail outlet where one can purchase from a limited selection of cloths, watches, jewelry, etc. There was a store selling drug items along with candy and a book store. They were nice - expect to pay full retail for most items. Just remember these purchases add to your weight for you place return back home and with that additional cost you may end up paying quite a bit for those extra items. Might I also mention those "duty free stores" you find at the departure of your flight at some ports. These are for the most part becoming high cost liquor and cigarette stores as the prices may be higher than your home town prices. For example the cost of perfume at duty free stores is much more than the cost of the same product aboard ship and in many cases that same product when on sale in the US is actually found at a better price.
THE ROYAL THEATER - What a beautiful theater designed for the passenger's viewing without all the small cocktail tables that normally litter the theater area. The productions are what one can find at the college or back street venues. Singers are those that have in the past preformed at clubs or on other ships. Don't expect anything spectacular and you won't be disappointed. Surprisingly there was not one evening where the theater was completely full as there were always seats available at the start of each show.
EARLY SEATING OR LATE SEATING - We normally opt for early seating however on this cruise we were rushed after shore tours, thus we noted many passengers had late seating reservations. In fact the late seating filled and there were no additional reservations. We suggest you check the times of your shore tours, decide if you would like to stay up late or retire early. All these should be factors, along with other facts, about your choice of dinner seating. DECK CHAIRS & SEATING - -Really nice deck chairs on the cruise. Each has padded inserts and we never found an inadequate supply although we were on one of the last of the season sailings.
INTERNET - The pricing on the internet services is very reasonable compared to other cruise we have been on. Expect the service to be about the same - good on some days and not so many of the days. The internet manager was not found to be helpful thus if you have an issue plan on resolving it yourself. When I advised his I was having difficulty downloading even the New York Times front page, he remarked that I should just keep trying as it would eventually load. The bandwidth for this ship is apparently very narrow. The downloading of attachments has been blocked and the use of such service such as SKYPE has been blocked. I was able to connect from my stateroom on only one day with the rest of the time I had to go to the Internet room for a connection. The service at sea was very slow, sometimes taking 20 minutes to send an e-mail. There are several ship PCs and we always were able to use one when we tried. Many ports where we stopped had cafes with FREE internet service. The only problem was getting there before other passengers arrived.
POOLS - One on the aft of deck nine and one in the mid section of the ship on deck 9. They were never full possibly due to the weather, temperature and the fact this is definitely a cruise composed of seniors. In side the stateroom was a couple of beach towels that could be used for the pool or deck chairs. Deck chairs were always available.
YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS - This ship had about a third of the passengers from the United States followed by the UK and Australia. The remainder was truly a global mix. Many were seniors. Very few (perhaps less than a dozen) children were aboard. The ship's policies stress appropriate dress all over the ship. There write about "strict enforcement". Well maybe—maybe not. We saw many people that certainly did not have formal wear on during formal wear evenings. Even saw tennis shoes which according to the policy is strictly forbidden. Very few men had true formal wear and most had n ice suits or casual formal were such as a white jacket with dark trousers. Even the females tended not to be all that formal on formal nights. The trend away from such dress is everywhere and Cunard has failed to escape that march to a more relaxed and informal attire. I personally think the cruise line has gone somewhat overboard on their so called dress code. Too many formal nights and too many "elegant nights". While some are certainly in order there are too many on this cruise. I realize this just fits the personality of those aboard who believe most of us are "peasants" from another planet. Some might say "good morning" however looking in your direction must be forbidden. I have to put my two feet into the legs of my trousers to get them on - wonder how "they" do it?
Suggestions - Say Good Morning or Good Day to everyone you meet on this ship. It will disgust the aristocrat however at the end of the day you will feel really good about all those "stuffed shirts" you met.
TOURS ON SHORE - Cunard need to quickly resolve their shore tours issues. This was an area we found totally unacceptable and we will explain. Many tours originated from the Royal Theater where a Cunard person was to have been to pass out tour bus stickers and get the passengers to their bus. The person in charged was always late, floated around the area and frankly got little accomplished in his disorganized manor. He lover the microphone and made every attempt to be out early morning comedian which none of us found amusing. He just could not get an handle on organizations. Once the group ending up in the infirmary as they attempted to get off the ship and he was no where to be found although he was the one directly the group. We found some tours have lunch with them with lunches being all the way from excellent to very poor. There is really no way to know unless you have been on the exact tour before. One could find the exact opposite if the tour originated in the Queen's Room as they was well planned, orderly managed and the groups were all together. So you see Cunard can get it right!
Shore tours in general are usually a "rip off" and I don't apologize for the statement. It is a money making operation for the cruise industry in general and the paying customers are treated no more than a herd of cattle. There are much better tours available on shore including private tours. The problem here though is the risk that is involved. Go with a ship's tours and the ship will wait if something unfortunate happens. Go with a private tour and you miss the ship's departure , then get ready to shell out some big dollars for the flight to the next port and even then you may not get out of town since more than likely the ship is holding your passport. On a private tour you can avoid the crowds, have personal attention, learn a lot more and dine for lunch at the restaurant of your choice. Just remember the risk involved.
PURSER - We are among the very lucky passengers as we seem never to have problems with our last bill. TIP - Check on a regular basis to see if your charges are up to date and correct. Just ask the purser's office for a current copy. Usually the charges are very current and up to date.
DAILY NEWS OR EVENTS - The ship provides both a daily news summary and daily events bulletin to your stateroom. The printing quality on the Queen Victoria is very poor. Some pages of our news was totally unreadable as the ink was too light. Watch for smeared ink on the slick paper daily bulletin as it was get on your hands and clothes. The English language in the bulletin is about as poor as my writing and language. Read carefully as we had two different times to arrive in port and the name of the port was listed as different locations. One never knows!!These were delivered nightly to your cabin.
ORGANIZED SPORTS - The day of the real organized sports is fading from the cruise industry. Remember the days when you could go to the aft of the ship and skeet shoot. Those days are gone. There is now paddle tennis, ping pong and cards. Just kidding—there are no cards.
SHIP TOURS - Like organized sports the tours of the ship including the bridge and galley have but all disappeared in this day and time
PHOTO GALLERY - I have written in the past and once again write in this review that the photo section of the ship a big money maker selling SNAPSHOTS. These are not professional portrait makers although they may try to sell you a large photo they label as a portrait. These are being shot with a camera like you and I carry on board and are being printed on printers like you and I have at home. The difference is they are may production people and wants they take and print is what they try to sell you. Forget the touch ups, the quality enhancement, they are just too busy to do this extra done by hand work. We noted the price of snapshots were $24.95 for what is actually a 5 X 7 photos on a slightly larger piece of photo paper. If you wasn't to pay those price , go ahead, however you are paying a lot for very little. Ay Ephesus there are young boys that have set up their own snapshot photo business. They take your photo while you are on tour, rush the memory card to a van where a printer waits to prints the images. These are taken back to the entrance of your bus and offered to you for approximately $5 per 5 X 7. In reality these pictures are worthless to these young men after you board the bus thus negotiations are always in order. I purchased my set for $2.50 each and got as good or better quality than those on the ship.
DANCE - The Queen's Room is very nice with a very large dance floor open every evening for your dance pleasure. There is also harp music and violin music in other venues aboard the ship. It's always interesting from a novice's standpoi8nt to be the Fred ASTAIR AND Ginger Roger's "want to be's". Even laughable at times and this dance floor was no exception. Look for the bright shiny dresses that are designed to get your attention as some couple no doubt want to be on Dancing With The Stars. For a great view there is the club on Deck 10 forward.
BARS - There is the Queens Room, the Champagne Bar and the Chart Room - all elegant and a nice place to relax with a drink. The service was excellent. Then you will find the Golden Lion Pub and Dixieland jazz. At the Hemispheres there was DJ Graham & Changez. You can also find the Commodore Club, the Midship's Lounge and Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar.
The PLAY ZONE - This is the children's area located on Deck 10. Although we never saw any children in this playa re it is very nice. The Zone is in the same immediate area and is for the pre-teen. There were computers and other such items for entertainment.
CARD ROOM - One of the nicest card room on any ship. Very adequate for this ship and used by a large host of passengers. The pale is well lighted and elegance that matches others rooms in that area. An area that most passengers try to avoid is the MEDICAL CENTER located on Deck A. The area was clearly marked and very clean. We did not accommodate them with a visit however.
ART Gallery - Like many large cruise ships there is an art gallery which sells , although they call it an auction, "pictures" and "paintings". Cunard's Fine Arts located deck 3 B stairway.
FLORIST - Forgot to order those special flowers for a special passengers. Don't worry –just dial the florist or visit the Purser's Office to place an on board order.
LIBRARY - This ship has the best library we have ever encountered aboard a cruise ship. Located on Decks 2 & 3, there are hundreds and hundreds of books that can be checked out. Even if you are not a reader visit this library. It is one of a kind.
TELEPHONE SERVICE - As you are aware the telephone service aboard a cruise ship is very expensive. In order to avoid these expensive charges make arrangements with your carrier before you leave home by purchasing the international roaming service where the per minute calls can be reduced substantially. This calling will only work in port and then not at all hours. For example the ship turned their service on about an hour before we left the post at Santorini, this our phone no longer connected with our provider but rather with the more expensive ship service. Almost forgot the Cigar Room. The reason we never saw it open but could smell the smoke. Located on Deck 10.
DISEMBARKATION - Well we just learned we are assigned to disembark at 0945. We have a tour guide meeting us in Rome at 0900. Looks like we will be late. We were assigned cream baggage tags and according to the purser's office cannot change this unless we agree to carry off all our baggage ourselves. That is not going to happen—thus we need to call Bruno and advise his we will be a little late.
SUMMARY - This is a very nice and elegant ship. Would we travel on the Queen Victoria again? There is far too much formality for us. We are beyond the "dress up" and "tuxedo" status every night. Done that for years and now find since we retired, we would have a relaxed cruise. While the ship is really nice and most elegant, we more than likely will drop down a notch and go with a cruise line with less formality, less rigidness with a little more friendliness from the staff. This might very well be the exact cruise for you or perhaps you might want to try Cunard at least once. Expect to pay a little more as bargain cruise rates may be difficult to find.
We have just returned from the autumn getaway aboard the Queen Mary 2. What a magnificent liner she is. We loved everything about her. The food was wonderful, the service impeccable. We appreciated the smaller servings at meals which allowed us to try many dishes and still not feel stuffed. Our cabin in the Britannia Club class was very comfortable. We've had NYC hotels rooms smaller than this! People who have complaints about this liner probably shouldn't be on her. It's not for people looking for all night parties and swinging singles. It's more sedate and formal and that is part of the charm. It was the most relaxed vacation we have ever had!
Queen Victoria Mediterranean cruises Sept 25-October 7 Rome to Venice.
Pre-cruising. We left NYC JFK on Sept 23rd, 2010 by Air France to Paris and got our connecting flight to Rome. At Rome we stayed 2 blocks from Vatican a nice little hotel Quality Inn Nova Domas. Most of the lands tour company like Globus and Grand Circle Tours choose this 4 star hotel due to its proximity to Vatican.
After some rest and a shower, we walked to Vatican city and saw St. Peter's Square and Basilica of St. Peter designed built by Michelangelo from where the Pope bless his audience during religious holidays. Fortunately being Friday, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel were opened, hardly any crowd. We were able to see the most important exhibits in 2 hr time and by 10 PM we reached our room.
Saturday 25th morning we woke up and took a shower, had delicious Italian hot and cold breakfast including freshly squeezed blood orange juice, Danishes, breads, cheese for our breakfast. The Roma Limo driver met us at the hotel, for our drive to Civitavecchia, Port. We also had 2 hr tour booked through them.He took us Pantheon, a "Temple for all Gods built in 1st Century AD probably by Emperor Hadrian. Afterwards the Limo took us around Piazza Navona with the Fontana del More. Our driver also stopped at the Roman Coliseum, the greatest amphitheater was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in SD 72 where Gladiators combated deadly wild animal fights. The coliseum could hold up to 55,000 people and were seated according their ranks. After that visit we drove to the Port of Civitavecchia, to board our ship Queen Victoria. She was docked majestically next to Queen Mary 2 a sight to see.
Having not cruised the Mediterranean for the past 15 years, this cruise and the Queen Victoria re-awakened our longing to cruise this region. The first glimpse of this magnificent vessel is quite overwhelming, for she is truly most beautiful, traditional smaller sister of colossal big sister Queen Mary 2. QV to some extend reminded me the Vista class ships of Holland America's Amsterdam, Euro Dam. We also saw the brand new HAL Niue-Amsterdam (another name NYC) docked in front of QV in Istanbul and in Venice.
Embarkation was a breeze with minimal fuss, and we were soon in a delightful, with our elegant, comfortable A-1 balcony cabin where a chilled bottle of bubbly welcomed us (being a teetotaler Sharon had the fun off consuming the Champaign in 2 days), and while we looked in the ample storage spaces and compact bathroom with its good toiletries and soft robes, our luggage was swiftly delivered. I was informed the extra closets under bed and shelf in the bathrooms were added as afterthought.
During its maiden voyage the Queen Victoria received some of the appalling criticism due to lack of space, poor service, we were hesitant to book and sail on her. When we boarded the ship we realized what a beautiful ship she is with dark paneled woods everywhere. Unlike QM-2 she is user friendly. All the public rooms like dinning, library (2 floors with winding stair case, 6000 books), Royal Theater, Queens' ball room, Royal Arcades are located in Deck 1-3 and are easy to locate. The Lido restaurant ,the Pools, Spas, Gym facility, Winter Garden are located on Deck All the Bars and lounges are also located within reach of each other. The public rooms and rest rooms are spotlessly clean.
Dining Experience. We ate at the Britannia dining room, our head waiter Mr. D' Sousa was from Goa, India. I informed him that I am a universal Vegetarian but preferred Indian food over certain other Vegetarian food like Turkish Cuss-Cuss or Hungarian vegetable Goulash. He was very happy to fulfill my needs. He also made reservation for an Elegant Indian Night at Lido white glove service. The whole ambiance is Indian with fresh herbs imported from India, the waiters were dressed in Indian clothes, food were served on Indian (Katoris) serving dishes. We ate there on October 3rd, our wedding anniversary. We had a table for 4, our table mates are remarkable couple from Wollongong, Australia just outside of Sydney.
Dinner and the Waiters service in The Britannia (upper tier - table for 4) across the 12 day period were simply outstanding. The vegetarian choice was excellent across all courses. Also we enjoyed the fact that although its "open seating" for lunch, they have a maitre d` at a station that aims to fulfill your request regarding table size. A table for two was never a problem but we preferred a table of 6 or more this way we had a chance to meet fellow cruisers from other part of the world! We ate most of our breakfast at Lido Café due to morning shore tours. We also ordered coffee, tea Juices and Danishes in some morning, enjoyed them while watching the beautiful Mediterranean Sun rise
Shows and entertainments. On the whole we thought the production shows are excellent and we felt that QV certainly had the very best singers dancers compared to QM-2 the Victoriana is a very interesting and innovative production on Victorian periods. The Irish Comedian Walsh's show is excellent and people rolling over the floor with laughs as the jokes are very funny. The Queens Ball room is compact compared to QM-2 nevertheless the bands and Paul Ritchie singing are also excellent.
Shore tours. Normally we did our own tours in past cruises. However, due to my painful arthritic knee, we took ship organized tours in all the ports including the tender port of Santarini. The tours were impressive conducted by knowledgeable tour guides and excellent tour buses.
Disembarkation. We took the ship arranged bus. We disembarked just to find out that our luggage were already transported to Air France terminal and was waiting to be picked up at the, absolutely faultless, certainly following the "White Star Service" credo. Negative side, on sea days the chair hogs reserved chair near the pools with beach towels early in the morning and most of the times they were not there.
Air France was on time and reached NYC JFK by 9 PM. Our Limo driver was waiting for us and we reached home at 10:30 PM A perfect finish to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on a beautiful voyage
INTRODUCTION Due to an impending redundancy, my partner and I booked an A7 cabin, which, through an offer by our travel agent gave us an automatic 2-grade upgrade to A5. This was in April 2008 (we always book early). In July of that year we had our final cruise on QE2 for which we booked a Britannia Grill cabin, but were upgraded to a Q2 Queens Grill penthouse suite. Whether or not it was Cunard's intention to encourage us to book higher grade cabins in the future, we upgraded our Queen Victoria cabin to a P1 Princess Grill suite. More about that later.
EMBARKATION As usual, we drove the 150 miles from home to Southampton, to the new Ocean Terminal for the first time. In front of the terminal, there are three parallel lanes to allow luggage to be unloaded. We were directed into the outermost one. This unloading area is partly roofed over and the barrel roofing stops over the last lane and has no guttering, so that water pours on to the people below when it rains. Beware being directed into that lane on a wet day, at leastuntil the problem is rectified.
We arrived at the terminal at about 11.00am and although there were a lot of people wearing high visibility jackets saying "Supervisor", there appeared to be no porters. We therefore had to find trolleys and wheel our suitcases to the baggage gate. It was only when we started to put our cases on the conveyor belt did a porter appear and take over.
We were directed to the first floor and were checked in immediately. Britannia passengers were given coloured cards and asked to remain seated until their colour was called, whilst we were directed to a seating area near the boarding gates. We were there perhaps 45 minutes before being boarded, and went directly to our suite, 7066 Deck 7 port side in the off-chance that our luggage might already have arrived. No such luck. Our steward introduced himself and said that we could get lunch in the Lido. However, after exploring the Grills upper terrace and the courtyard, we stumbled in to the Princess Grill to be told that it was serving lunch, so that is where we lunched. We never did use the Lido.
CABIN As mentioned, we were in 7066 Deck 7 on the port side, just forward of the B staircase and hence approximately midships. Entering the suite down a short "corridor", there was a walk-in wardrobe on the left with several feet of hanging space with a large shelf above. The wardrobe also contained a shelved cupboard with safe. The bathroom was entered off this walk-in area and had a full bath with shower, washbasin with marble surround the length of the bathroom, large shelf below and six glass shelves above. Comment has been made about lack of storage on Queen Victoria, but there was more than enough for this 14-night cruise.
Past the wardrobe area was the sleeping area with the very comfortable bed made up as a king-size. Under the bed were two large drawers, but still leaving space for suitcase. The bedside tables had two drawers each and the desk to the left of the bed also had drawers. The desk was halfway down the cabin at a 45 degree angle to the bed and on the opposite wall, there was a semi-circular unit containing the fridge and bookshelves below and two televisions above, one angled towards the bed and the other into the seating area.
The positioning of these two units effectively separated the lounge area from the sleeping area. The lounge area consisted of an armchair and a very long and comfortable sofa which could be made into another bed. There was a small and low coffee table, which was, unfortunately, a little too low and too small to be able to comfortable eat from if you ordered room service. The same could be said for the table on the balcony, which also sported two very comfortable chairs with adjustable backs.
DINING & FOOD One of the reasons we decided to book a Princess Grill cabin was to be able to have the same table and table companions for all meals. As it was, we had a table for two, but close enough to adjacent tables to be able to talk to them or not. The Princess Grill on Queen Victoria is on Deck 11 starboard side (the Queens Grill is a mirror image on the port side) and with floor to ceiling windows in a curve from end to end. The 180º views from all tables are spectacular. The Grills restaurants on Queen Victoria must be among the finest locations at sea, especially with the courtyard between. The Orchid Restaurant on Arcadia runs very close, although I admit I don't what the situation is on other Vista class ships in the Carnival fleets.
The food in Princess Grill was excellent, with a wide range of choices and if they don't appeal for any reason, there is an accompanying à la carte dinner menu. Service was impeccable. Our waiter, Warren (who was our waiter on QE2 last year) provided prompt and efficient service, ably assisted by Pamela. Another advantage of having the same table for all meals is the staff soon learn your likes and dislikes and you don't have to repeatedly say what you want and don't want.
The same applies to our sommelier, Philip. Firstly, he was knowledgeable, soon discovered our tastes, explained about the wines we chose and offered suggestions without extending our budget too far.
SERVICE Already mentioned above, the service in the Princess Grill was impeccable. Our cabin steward, Romilo, kept our cabin immaculate, although sometimes he was a little quick off the mark. We would return after our usually short breakfast to find him making up the bed or cleaning the bathroom. However, much rather that than the opposite. Service in the only two bars we use, the Grills Lounge and the Commodore Club was fast and efficient. We could enter half an hour before lunch or dinner and have a drink on our table within a couple of minutes. Not so on a sister line we have cruised on recently. It could take fully 25 minutes to get a drink.
ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT We normally don't take part in on board activities unless there is perhaps a well-known speaker. Unfortunately, there were none on this voyage. However, we were more than happy in the Commodore Club or on the Grills Upper Terrace with a good book.
We attended two shows in the Royal Court Theatre and both were excellent – Victoriana, a selection of Victorian song and dance, and Celtic Heartbeat with Irish song and dance. For both of these, we booked a box. The $50 surcharge may seem expensive, but with the champagne and chocolates before the performance, a half bottle of champagne during the performance and a souvenir photograph at the end, the cost is not as high as it seems.
The boxes made the shows a more comfortable experience – obviously the champagne, but more room to move about and comfortable chairs. The sight lines are not so good if you are towards the front. However, well worth doing for the experience.
The only other entertainment we experienced was the excellent pianist in the Commodore Club in the evenings – Martin Orbidans.
PORTS OF CALL Our choice of cruises is dictated by school holidays in the UK. Our choice of this cruise, however, was because we wanted to sail on Queen Victoria, although it wasn't our first time on the ship – we were lucky enough to have a preview visit when the ship first arrived in Southampton in December 2007. Most of the ports of call we had visited before, in 2002 on Caronia, but fortunately with so many shore excursions available, it was possible to do something completely different. In the past, we have taken all day excursions, but found these quite tiring, so for this cruise, we opted for short excursions of 3 to 4 hours. This enabled us to have a guided tour, go ashore on our own, stay on board or do all three. We made great use of the Grills Upper Terrace as the weather was excellent most of the way.
Our itinerary was Southampton, Zeebrugge, Bremerhaven, Kristiansand, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg (overnight), Tallinn, Gothenburg and back to Southampton. We took excursions at all of these ports except Bremerhaven where we met up with friends. Ten excursions for two people worked out to be very expensive, but we though they were all good value, especially an evening of Russian Folklore at the Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg. We were welcomed with a substantial shot of vodka, very welcome, as most of us had got drenched getting from the coach to the palace entrance in a downpour that had started earlier in the evening. During the interval, we had caviar canapés and champagne. The performances were absolutely superb and put on solely for Cunard passengers. We had originally booked an evening concert at the Yusopov Palace, but this was cancelled at the last moment.
GRATUITIES As Grill passengers, there was $13 per person per day automatically added to the stateroom account and for drinks ordered around the ship, an automatic 15% added to the bill for gratuities. We chose, however, to give our waiters, sommelier and room steward extra for the exemplary levels of service they gave us.
DISEMBARKATION We were asked to vacate our suite by 8.30am and assemble in the Grills Lounge or the Commodore Club. Disembarkation was by coloured baggage tags issued the evening before and according to the schedule, we were due to disembark at 8.40, immediately after the Queens grill passengers. They were called just after 8.00 and then followed by people going on Cunard arranged coaches to various airports, city centres, etc. However, we were called on time at 8.40 and in the car and driving away at 9.00. That was despite having to walk down from Deck 11 to Deck 1 (we thought waiting for the two lifts that served the Grills area would take too long), and finding one suitcase that had gone astray.
CONCLUSION The timing of the cruise was dictated by school holidays and the itinerary by the choice of ship. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time, helped by the excellent weather most of the way and the interesting and not so interesting places we visited. The ship was comfortable and quiet and this has been the most relaxing and enjoyable cruise to date. Certainly, being in Grill class helped.
Cunard's QM2 is one of the last bastions of civilized travel. Elegant and then some. Big? You bet! The corridor on our deck 10 went on forever, a golf cart would be helpful for us seniors. Be prepared for extensive walking to enjoy all the ship has to offer.
We booked Princess Grill. The Jr. Suite was extremely comfortable and had tons of storage space, a walk-in closet and a very adequate bath -- no jacuzzi though. A convertible sofa, chair, desk and bar with a selection of glasses and refrigerator. A large balcony with two comfortable lounge chairs. The Princess Grill class allows you access to the Queens Lounge and private deck area and, of course, the Princess Grill restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We did not have to carry a tray the whole trip, again a plus for seniors.
Expedited embarkation and debarkation is also included in Princess Grill class.
Princess Grill service is superb. Ladies are escorted to their table and seated by the Maitre'd. Food for the most part is very good. A nice touch on the Princess Grill menu is an ala carte section for those who wishsomething other than what is offered on the regular menu. The beef filet was awesome! Food presentation was exceptional. The sommelier is very sharp with an extensive list of excellent wines.
The public areas and various lounges offer something for everyone and are elegantly extravagant.
We did not attend any of the shows. At our age we were content to repair to our suite after dinner and relax, but we did hear from others that the shows were quite good. The Planetarium is a must see, and also the glass elevators in the Grand Lobby.
The weather was good and at no time was there noticable ship movement even at higher speeds, and this ship can move! Tender service at the anchoring ports was efficient but the tenders are hot. Typical of Cunard ships are several decks that do not allow through traffic fore to aft without going up or down a deck. A compact deck guide is in each cabin and is a must for traversing the ship.
Dress codes dictate a jacket each evening for gentlemen, some with tie, some without, and we appreciate this requirement.
Anyone looking for an elegant way to cruise will be truly impressed and satisfied with Cunard's QM2.
This cruise was the 1st year anniversary for the Queen Victoria and the last sailing in her inaugural season.
Ship's Log Passenger Capacity -- 2,014 Crew -- 900
We heard conflicting information as to if the voyage was sold out or not. Some crew said it wasn't and some said it was. The ship did not feel overcrowded and there was plenty of space for everyone.
Ports of Call Azores; Antigua; St Kitts; St Lucia; Grenada; Barbados; Madeira; Vigo.
Pre-Cruise Stay at Chewton Glen We were very fortunate to start our holidays with a one night pre-cruise stay at the Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa in Hampshire, England (wish it had been longer). The service, accommodation, facilities and ambience at Chewton was absolutely faultless, fantastic and utterly indulgent. The ambience was further enhanced by a large number of traditionally decorated real fir trees scattered about the grounds and the interior and gave the whole place a Christmassy feel. The trees were complimented by tasteful Christmas decorations in the grand entrance hall and lounges. The overall effect is of a grand mansion with a contemporary country feel about it.
As we drove up the sweeping driveto the entrance/reception a gentleman and a lady came out to greet us at the car; the gentleman took care of parking the car and seeing to our luggage whilst the lady escorted us inside.
As our room was not quite ready we were escorted to the gentleman's bar where there was a real flame fire in a grand open fireplace. Cruising the Caribbean couldn't have been further from our minds. Just to sit and allow oneself to be enveloped with the warmth of the fire and the coolness of a glass of Gossett Champagne was utterly heavenly. My husband said it was the quickest route to complete relaxation he has ever had after a hectic year at work!!
As we had been travelling for many hours we were quite ravenous so we partook in Afternoon Tea (well, we thought we would get some practice in for the White Star Service on board ship). This was absolutely delicious; freshly brewed tea, dainty sandwiches, fondant fancies, mince pies, Christmas cake and chocolates.
Further surprises were in store when we arrived in our room. It was absolutely huge, with a king size bed (heavenly), state of the art Bang & Olufson CD Player and a TV. The bathroom had a bath, double shower, large fluffy towels and a selection of Molton Brown toiletries (very nice). The facilities were further enhanced by a large dressing room.
In the late afternoon we enjoyed a couple of hours in the spa, which was definitely an enjoyable and relaxing experience -- so much so that my husband declared that once on board the Queen Victoria he wished to purcahase a spa pass (and he did, times two!!). I also visited the beauty salon and had a wonderful manicure by an attentive nail technician named Claire (Claire also gave me a bottle of polish to take away with me for touch ups, which was thoughtful).
We had a pre-booked dinner reservation for 8.30pm and yet again we found the unobtrusive service, fine food and beverages of the highest standard and quality and we would say the restaurant is well worth a visit for couples as well as groups.
We awoke on embarkation day to a bright, sunny and frosty morning. The grounds looked so neat, clean and crisp in the morning frost and we enjoyed a leisurely walk after breakfast. Chewton even provides racing green wellington boots for the guests to use if their own footwear doesn't fit the bill!
Also included in the price was parking for our car for the duration of the cruise and transfers to and from the port. The transfer was provided by a chauffeur driven Mercedes (John was our driver, who again provided a service that was unobtrusive yet attentive) along a scenic route through the New Forest (saw many wild horses and deer). All in all, a fantastic start to our holiday and we utterly recommend it.
Embarkation Thanks to good planning by the hotel representatives, we arrived at the port at 11.50am. When we first set eyes on the Queen Victoria she looked so majestic and beautiful. John told us to go straight through to the check-in desk as he would see to our bags (we have not touched our main luggage since we left home yesterday). After a speedy check-in we went through to a very calm departure lounge. We were given a card with a number on it. At intervals a number was announced and people were asked to proceed and board the ship.
I must add that there was a feeling of festive excitement provided by The Salvation Army brass band playing Christmas carols. It was beginning to feel like the start of magical experience.
By 12.30pm we were embarking the Queen Victoria for the first time via the majestic Grand Lobby. Words fail me in trying to describe the understated opulence of the 3 tier Grand Lobby. An absolutely awe-inspiring architectural wonder! We were both 'punch drunk' with the pure excitement of embarking such a beautiful ship and we could not wait to explore further.
Stateroom We next went to see our stateroom -- 5148 on deck five. On the occasional table there were 2 champagne flutes and a full sized bottle of Pol Acker sparkling wine in an ice bucket waiting for us. There was also a fridge filled with soft drinks and water (we drank these over the length of the cruise and we were not charged).
We had our bed made up in the Queen configuration (can be twin) and it was very comfortable. The only disappointment was that we were unable to obtain a feather duvet (this is preferable when you are a woman of a certain age who has a tendency to have 'tropical' moments). Thankfully the 6 pillows were feather and they were also very comfortable. Under the bed were 2 large drawers (again I understand that previously there was near anarchy due to the Queen having no drawers!). These were very useful for underwear, swimwear, hats, handbags and belts etc.
There was more than enough hanging space in the wardrobes for formal wear, etc. The wardrobe also contained a key coded safe (very easy to use).
As this was a Christmas cruise, we decorated our stateroom with battery operated fairy lights and Christmas cards we had been sent by family and friends. Even our room steward commented how nice it looked.
We had a stateroom that had a 'corner' balcony. The balcony was larger than what we previously have had on the Queen Mary 2 on deck eight (although that had been big enough). The cabin itself was also larger than the cabins either side, another unexpected bonus (the extra space being a bonus and not the fact that it was roomier than the others). The stateroom was tastefully decorated in muted beiges, with a red carpet and drapes. The red theme was the norm for the port side and corresponded to the port side passenger deck corridors. The starboard side is carpeted in blue (colour coded carpets is useful when exiting a lift as you know immediately which side your cabin is on). I will mention here that the stairways are also different colours so you can identify if you are forward (A -- Red), midships (B -- Green) or aft (C -- Blue).
The bathroom and shower cubicle was of an adequate size and much larger than I was expecting (I had previously read on cruising forums that they were 'tiny and too small'). My husband is 6 foot tall and weighs approximately 210 lbs and he said the shower space was large enough. There was plenty of fluffy towels and a plethora of Gilchrist and Soames toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion) in the bathroom which were replenished daily.
There is a small glass shelf either side of the sink (for toiletries) and a larger shelf the width of the bathroom under the sink (also containing a waste bin).
The only down side to our stateroom was the climate control and the toilet. Even with the setting on the coolest, the room was 'airless, stuffy and warm' during the night. We were unable to have the cabin door open at night as this caused 'whistling' down the corridor and we did not wish to disturb our fellow passengers.
We had to call maintenance 5 times during the first 8 days as the toilet would not empty after flushing. Other than these couple of issues, the room met all our needs and it always felt welcoming returning to it each day. Artem, our room steward was attentive, unobtrusive and friendly when we did see him, although that was not often. He kept our toiletries and towels freshly replenished on a daily basis and turned down our bed each evening (complete with pillow chocolate).
Sailaway Party There wasn't an embarkation sail-away party as such, not that we could find anyway. Nonetheless, that did not dampen our excitement or enthusiasm. We wrapped up warm and went up on deck; fuelled with mulled wine (provided by Martin, a very personable young man who was the lido pool deck bar person) and we listened to The Salvation Army playing Christmas carols as we set sail. Santa Claus even waved us off!
Grand Lobby As already mentioned this is a 3 tier awe inspiring architectural wonder! It never ceased to bring a feeling of 'wow' whenever we walked through it! The 'sculptured' carpets are absolutely beautiful and are complimented by marble floors. You have to see it to appreciate it as photographs just don't do it justice.
I awoke early one morning early in the voyage and went for a stroll around the ship. I arrived at the Grand Lobby to find that the 'Christmas Elves' had put up the Christmas decorations. These were absolutely wonderful and gave a magical atmosphere. They had cleverly strung Santa in his sleigh and the reindeer across the lobby atrium so that it appeared to be flying across the ship. Fabulous! Over the next couple of days they added a life size fairytale scene with Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs set in a 'village' on deck one of the lobby.
I must add that throughout the ship there were many tastefully decorated Christmas Trees and decorations. In addition all the bars and public spaces had hand made Ginger Bread Houses filled with cookies, chocolates and candies. It all helped to create a Christmassy ambience and was a joy to see.
Britannia Restaurant As we were in an A4 stateroom our allocated restaurant was the Britannia. This is two tiered in layout and located at the stern of the ship. At the time of booking 20 months previously we had asked for a table for 2 on second sitting. These requests were honoured (Thank you Cunard). The restaurant has art deco and nouveau inspired design features and is wonderfully pleasing to the eye. The main focal point of the room is a fantastic illuminated globe (signifying Cunard's ongoing ocean travel) and is at the head of the Captain's table.
Talking about the Captain's table, we had the very good fortune to dine there twice during this voyage. The first time was on Christmas day when we were invited to dine with the entertainment and cruise sale staff (Edmund, Gaynor and Rebecca) and some of the many friends we made on board (Mandy, Brian and James). A wonderful time was had by all and there was much fun and laughter. PS: Very stylish shoes Edmund!
Captain Christopher Rynd and his wife Julianne requested our company on the 28th December and we gladly RSVP'd (I also booked a facial as I wanted to look my best and feel extra groomed). My husband and I felt so privileged to have been invited as we consider ourselves unassuming northern folk, who, like a lot of people, have worked hard to achieve this lifestyle (and continue to do so) and are grateful to have been 'noticed' enough to warrant an invite.
Three other couples were also invited and everyone was very pleasant and had interesting stories to share. I was very fortunate to have been seated to the captain's immediate right. Before the meal commenced a group photograph was taken and a couple of days later a complimentary photograph was delivered to our stateroom.
Half way through dinner, Captain Rynd and Julianne swapped places, which gave me the chance to share a 'good natter' with Julianne and gain some insight into the life of a captain's wife. Again this was another fabulous evening with interesting company. A night we will never forget and as a bonus we have a fabulous photo as a memento.
The menu choice and food that was available in the restaurant throughout the cruise was of a high standard and always arrived hot. The service on occasion could be slow, although we did not mind as we often shared other tables with the friends we made on board and we were too busy chatting and having fun to notice the time. It became noticeable when we often missed events that started at 10.00pm because we were still dining. In the main, the waiters and sommeliers in the restaurant were personable and friendly.
Public Rooms Midships Lounge: This was an unexpected but nonetheless pleasant find on deck 3! Pre-cruise I had read many reviews but do not recall reading anything about the Midships Bar. It is not a very big bar, is semi-circle in design, and seemed to have a warm ambience. It was a great place to have a pre-dinner drink and to people watch as they passed by.
Chart Room: This was ideally situated to have a pre-dinner drink as it was outside the Britannia Restaurant on deck 2. As with all the public rooms on board, this is a tastefully appointed room with nautical artefacts and echoes the general Art Deco/Victoriana theme of the ship. There are some fabulous nautical paintings on display in this room. Nibbles such as nuts, and Bombay mix are offered along with your drinks.
Champagne Bar: The Champagne bar is located on deck 2 of the Grand Lobby. It echoes the one that is on the Queen Mary 2 and is tastefully decorated in the Art Deco theme that is favoured on board. You can get a selection of champagnes here including Veuve Clicquot. You are offered fresh strawberries with your drinks in this bar (I think caviar is also available). This was where we toasted in the New Year 2009 with a couple of bottles of Veuve with some of the friends we had made on board.
Café Carinthia: Again this was another tastefully decorated public space where the Art Deco theme continued. The chairs and settees are of the large soft upholstered type and are very comfortable. There are a large number of tables seating four by the large picture windows that afford wonderful views of the waves. This was a favourite place to sit on the more 'choppy' sea days. We often sat in this room enjoying a hot beverage whilst watching the turbulent waves.
You have to buy your hot beverages in this bar/café although there are a variety of free light snacks available throughout the day. The prices were reasonable, with coffee and tea from a $1.00 upwards.
Todd English: Todd English is a paid supplement restaurant -- $30.00 Dinner; $20.00 Lunch. We enjoyed two dinners here; the food was exquisite and the service was exemplary. In our opinion we felt it was worth the extra, especially on a longer voyage.
Golden Lion Pub: This was a firm favourite for many passengers who like to enjoy karaoke and pub quizzes. The deco differs from the rest of the ship as it is of the traditional British Pub style. There is hot food available at lunch time and consists of traditional fish & chips (very nice), ploughman's lunch, pies etc.
Very authentic and we occasionally visited for the quiz in the afternoon or to have lunch.
Empire Casino & Bar: The casino was one of the few public spaces where passengers were allowed to smoke, so it was quite smoky. There is a seating area at the entrance to the casino and a large bar. These spaces always appeared full when we passed. We only visited a couple of times to have a go on the slots and the poker table.
Hemispheres Nightclub: This is situated on deck 10 near stairway A. It has a circular dance floor and a very ornate chandelier. It is a very attractive room, although often when we went in it was empty. Although the themed nights proved to be very popular, especially the ABBA night they had.
Commodore Club: This is one of our favourite spaces on the ship (as is the case on the QM2) and did not disappoint; we frequented it regularly. It is located at the bow of the ship on deck 10 and affords fabulous views of the waves during the day and sunsets in the evening.
We used it for coffee in the morning (after 10.00am), pre dinner cocktails and refreshments when returning 'home' on port days. Karen was one of the waiting staff and she provided a very efficient and friendly service and often greeted us by name (as other staff did during the voyage). You are given 'nibbles' with your beverages in this bar during the day and canapés with pre-dinner cocktails. A firm favourite!
Queens Room: This was a favourite for all those passengers that enjoyed dancing; we rarely were able to secure a seat in this area. I feel that being on second sitting does put you at a disadvantage for securing seats, as by the time you come out of dinner the passengers from the first sitting have already got seated. For us we still prefer to eat later, as it is less of a rush on port days. The Grill passengers would not have this problem as they have 'open' seating and eat when they choose between 6.30 -- 9.00pm. But then again they have paid a hefty premium for this privilege.
Royal Court Theatre: The theatre is the most opulent and authentically styled (traditional west end) we have seen at sea. It really is a fabulous theatre with unrestricted views from wherever you sit. There are 8 private boxes (curved perspex front) at each side of the theatre, which for the most part of the shows remained empty. We did have the opportunity to sit in one the first night as they were 'free', at other times there was a $50.00 surcharge. This included a small bottle of champagne and chocolates.
Winter Garden: This is a light and airy pleasant space on board and was popular with most of the guests. It is located between the Lido restaurant and the Pavilion pool on deck 9. My husband and I enjoyed a very nice bottle of Rose Veuve Clicquot Champagne on Christmas day in here and thoroughly enjoyed it (very civilised). I have saved the cork and cage for my memory box of the voyage.
Lido Restaurant: I must say all the food we ate from the Lido was tasty, hot and satisfying. The wait staff often asked us if we would like drinks fetched and they would assist any passenger who appeared to have their hands full.
You could also experience pre-bookable 'Alternative Dining' if you so wished. We booked the 'Asian Cuisine' and the service and food was absolutely faultless. There is no charge for this.
I was surprised to hear how some passengers spoke to the staff and to each other. They totally allowed what appeared to be 'trivialities' to spoil their experience and cause them to take their frustrations out on others (although I did not know what other frustrations they may have had). For example, two couples I saw were arguing over a table (when there were plenty of empty ones available). In another instance I witnessed a passenger really shouting at a Lido Food Manager about the fact that his coffee was cold. I was embarrassed and quite cross at the same time whilst witnessing this 'bullying' incident.
Lido Pool, Deck & Bar: We generally favoured this deck to sun bathe or enjoy an afternoon cocktail (weather permitting). From the second time the deck attendant Warren and the bar man Martin saw us they would greet us by name and ensure that we had everything we needed. They both really went the extra mile to provide an efficient and attentive service. 'Thank you' warren and Martin!
Library: The focal point of this 2 tiered library is the magnificent mahogany spiral staircase. The library is reported to have 6000+ books and contains something for everyone from autobiographies, true crime, history, fiction and non-fiction. There is also a selection of daily papers and magazines for passengers to read whilst visiting the library.
You can also pick up a daily quiz and crossword sheet.
Cunarder Museum: This was something we passed everyday as we walked around the ship but we did not find the time to really study what was in the display cases. Yes really, on a 3 week voyage we found there were things we still had not managed to fit in. The museum carries memorabilia from previous Cunard ships. We intend to peruse more thoroughly when we revisit the ship in August 2009.
Royal Arcade: The main focal point of the Royal Arcade is the 'Pillar' clock, which has been made by Dent & Co (who is credited with making Big Ben in London). The clock casing is black with gold leaf and the clock face is white with black roman numerals. It stands in the centre of an illuminated double staircase and looks very grand. This was a favourite spot for the ship photographers to take pictures of the passengers on formal nights. On the starboard side of the staircase is the Golden Lion and the Casino is on the port side.
The shops on board are of the upmarket variety where you can buy Faberge Eggs, Fine Art and branded watches and jewellery. The shops were supplemented by $10.00 stalls that sold toiletry sets, belts, bags, ties, jewellery, watches etc. These were ideal as affordable gifts for either people back home or the cruise staff.
There is also a shop that carries a range of everyday toiletries, over the counter medications and plasters etc.
Spa: We purchased '5 day' spa passes ($85.00 each) and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the spa after a day's sight seeing. The passes do not need to be used on consecutive days, which was a pleasant surprise as previously I had read on forums that they had to be.
The spa is a wonderful tranquil space and the hydra-therapy pool is excellent. It is furnished with wooden steamer chairs & fresh towels. There is a water cooler and fresh fruit platters for the passengers' replenishment. However, I did feel the water in the pool looked a little murky towards the end of the voyage.
Grills: We were not able to frequent any of the Grill areas and on this ship they are cleverly segregated from the rest of the ship and the public areas. The Grill facilities are located at the top of the ship on the upper decks 11 & 12. I think the way they have been located is very appropriate and diplomatic of Cunard as the Grill Passengers do pay a hefty premium for the privilege of having the extra attention, space and open sitting dining.
Ports of Call Azores; Antigua; St Kitts; St Lucia; Grenada; Barbados; Madeira; Vigo.
I will only mention Barbados as it is a favourite of ours; we married there in year 2000. We visited where we got married in the morning (which brought back very fond memories) and then we went on an excursion in the afternoon.
Excursions As we have been fortunate enough to have visited the Caribbean several times before, we only did a couple of the excursions.
We did the 'Caribbean Sailaway' in Antigua (full day) and can truly recommend it. We had a fabulous day that included snorkelling, swimming, sunbathing, dancing and generally having a good time (assisted by the provision of a rather tasty rum punch).
We also partook in the 'Swimming with Turtles' in Barbados (half day). This trip coincided with other ships' excursions. This resulted in the waters where the turtles were being over crowded and quite chaotic. My husband went in the water and I chose to sit on board the catamaran and view the turtles from above. They were a lot larger than I realised and were up to a meter across.
There was also time to spend at the beach at the Sandy Lane resort. This was quite bizarre as we were instructed that we were unable to use any of the sun lounges but we could lay on the sand. The resort had even posted a 'security guard' to watch over us. Nonetheless, a pleasant hour was spent here swimming, beach combing and sun bathing. The crew from the catamaran also provided drinks on the beach.
In other ports we did it 'free style' and either commissioned a taxi or went for a stroll. We always allowed plenty of time to return to the ship as we did not want to run the risk of it leaving without us!
Summary A truly enjoyable cruise that exceeded all our expectations; from dining with the Captain and his wife, to re-visiting Barbados, to the friends we made and the warm welcome afforded to us by the cruise staff, it was in the main faultless.
All in all we had a fabulous cruise onboard a truly elegant yet contemporary ship, which had a wonderful 'cosy' feel about it; that has given us many pleasant lasting memories and we have made friendships that I feel could last a lifetime.