CRUISE REVIEW -- CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA -- SOUTHAMPTON TO VENICE,
AUGUST 1 -- 13, 2008, Stateroom 5054 Cat A5
This was a much-anticipated cruise for me and my two children
age 20 (son) and 15 (daughter). It was our 8th cruise, with
previous voyages having been onboard Holland America (old
Westerdam, new Westerdam, Zuiderdam), Royal Caribbean (Enchantment,
Adventure), Carnival (Destiny), and Celebrity (Galaxy).
My daughter was attending a 4 week program in the UK to obtain a
high school credit. Our selection of Queen Victoria depended
heavily upon the following criteria: embarkation in England, timing
coincided with the end of my daughter's course, and the itinerary
included Florence, Rome, and Venice among other ports.
In other words, we weren't specifically looking at Queen
Victoria or Cunard cruises. But I will admit we were far from
disappointed when we realized the ship and itinerary that best
suited our criteria was the newly commissioned Queen Victoria. I
still remember the tone of reverence in my son's voice when he
realized I was giving serious consideration to this ship -- just
the way he said, "ooooh, Cunard!" told me he hoped I would pony up
and get us onboard.
Our enjoyment of this cruise proved to be predominantly a
function of the quality and variety of the ports we visited. Sadly,
I cannot say that Cunard or Queen Victoria met our expectations.
These expectations, courtesy of Cunard's own intense, frequent
(and, based on our experience, excessive) marketing of its
"legendary White Star Service" were set quite high before we even
boarded the ship.
A few days following our return home at the end of the cruise, I
read an extremely well-written, painfully accurate, and somewhat
humourous member review of a Queen Victoria voyage. I recall the
writer, a gentleman, referring to Queen Victoria as
I beg to differ; Cunard would have benefited from that process
had it occurred.
We sailed with Carnival onboard Destiny several years ago. Our
expectations of that cruise were actually rather low in terms of
food and service quality but we booked it because a premium cabin
was available, the itinerary was perfect, the timing was right, and
the price was reasonable. Our expectations were handily exceeded by
Carnival in virtually every respect. There is no question we got at
least what we paid for, and considerably more than we expected in
We do not feel that way about our experience onboard Queen
Victoria. Every element of their marketing, before and after you
board, focuses on the concept that their service is a cut above.
They never forego an opportunity to point this out. This focus on
their superb service is merely wishful thinking on their part.
Cunard has many inherent weaknesses in their systems and
procedures (or lack thereof) that prevent them from delivering on
their promise of legendary White Star service. Our experience and
my observations of other passengers suggest they need significant
improvement and better coordination in the delivery of their
Embarkation Embarkation went fairly smoothly. We took the Cunard
transfer from the Victoria coach station and it was a fairly
lengthy drive (almost 3 hours) to the cruise terminal owing to
heavy traffic and lane closures. There was virtually no line-up for
check-in. Once invited to the check-in counter, I was asked (among
other things) for the credit card I would use to pay my on-board
I had already set up a prepaid onboard credit in a significant
amount prior to my departure from home. I had received confirmation
from Cunard that this amount was received and credited to our
stateroom onboard account. I knew it was unlikely we would exceed
the amount of this credit so I declined at check-in to provide a
"But I cannot see ANY credit set up under your stateroom
account", the check-in agent said. Little did she know how
accurately she was defining one of Cunard's greatest administrative
weaknesses. Quite simply, the left hand rarely knows what the right
hand is doing.
Repeatedly during our 13 day voyage it became clear that
information in the Cunard database was seldom available to the
departments that could benefit from access to it.
In any event, I provided details to the check-in agent regarding
the timing and the magnitude of the onboard credit I had set up.
Eventually she sought the advice of a manager who indicated I
should proceed to the Purser's Desk once onboard the ship in order
to determine whether the credit was properly allocated to my
stateroom. We were issued our ship's ID cards and carried on.
Our Stateroom Our stateroom was ready when we embarked and in
fact our suitcases arrived very promptly. Our stateroom attendant,
Helen, introduced herself to us very soon after we crossed our
Other reviewers have already commented about the lack of drawer
space in the staterooms. We had a balcony stateroom and in fact
ours was the largest square footage offered in this category (472
sq. ft). Throughout the stateroom it was easy to see the missed
opportunities for more efficient storage. Each night table had one
very small shallow drawer -- they could each have had 2 or 3 larger
drawers and that would have been very useful.
The flatscreen television on the writing desk could easily have
been wall-mounted. Inexplicably, a few feet of its electrical cord
sat on the desk tangled up with our laptop cord throughout the
cruise. Neither the TV nor its cord should have been allowed to
take up space on this already miniscule surface.
There was one each of US, British, and European electrical
outlets. Since we had a supply of electrical adapters with us, we
were able to take advantage of all three styles for digital camera
and cell phone and laptop charging.
The water closet (and I use this term quite literally in terms
of the size of the facility) could have had a mirrored medicine
cabinet configuration with sliding doors or glass shelving as we've
seen on other ships to accommodate personal care items, toothpaste,
lotions and potions, etc. Instead there was literally no room for
these items except a shelf below the counter about 6" above the
floor. A far from convenient location. Regardless of the class of
stateroom we've booked, we have never had a smaller bathroom
onboard a cruise ship.
Our cabin had the advantage of an unusually large balcony which
we enjoyed many times during our cruise. It was a triple cabin, and
occupied by 3 people, so a third chair would have been appreciated.
The balcony was more than large enough to accommodate 3 (and indeed
even 4) chairs. Bear in mind that most balcony staterooms had
substantially smaller balconies than ours.
We found the beds to be very comfortable, with premium
mattresses, linens, and pillows. Temperature control of the
stateroom was easily accomplished.
The Ship We all felt that Queen Victoria was quite elegant,
understated, and comfortable. We had previous Vista Class
experience and so found our way around quite easily from the start.
Even during the sea days, of which we experienced 3, the ship never
seemed crowded. We were always able to find a table at the Lido
Deck and there were always places to sit in lounges to enjoy music
or a drink.
I didn't go into the Library as it was almost claustrophobically
small despite the spiral staircase to a second floor. The internet
lounge was generously sized and well laid out but the satellite
signal was among the slowest I've experienced and for at least 2
days there was no service at all. Strangely, Queen Victoria
separated the charges for access within the internet lounge vs.
wireless service available on the ship if one brought a wireless
device. I purchased a substantial package of minutes for our cruise
knowing that I would need to keep up with email. Those minutes
could only be used by me personally and only in the lounge. We have
never before seen this requirement on a cruise ship. Ordinarily we
can purchase a package as a family and share the minutes and use
them in the internet lounge OR on our own wireless laptop.
During the 2 days when the internet lounge was closed
(literally, locked, due to lack of signal), the wireless system
performed very well. I was charged 50 cents per minute to check my
email on my own laptop using the Queen Victoria wireless system.
Meanwhile, I disembarked at the end of our cruise having about 100
unused minutes left in my "internet package". This makes no
The Cunardia displays were interesting and I spent some time
reading about the role of the Queens in carrying troops during
The theatre was truly beautiful, the largest and the nicest
we've seen on any ship. The seating was very comfortable. The
theatre was truly designed to be a theatre, not a lounge, and so
there were no tables for drinks and no drinks offered prior to the
performance. Not an issue for me. The private boxes were well
utilized during the gala nights but otherwise were easily accessed
on a first-come basis. However, the clear acrylic in front of each
box somewhat distorted the view of the performance.
The shops on board were not especially interesting. Their window
displays were attractive but the merchandise was just not that
enticing. They had their daily sidewalk sales of a variety of
kitsch (inexpensive watches, the usual assortment of sparkly
costume jewelry, colognes) which I really hadn't expected to see
The absence of constant announcements was welcome; Celebrity
does the same thing, with only a brief morning announcement and
everything else to be seen on the "Cunard channel" or in the daily
printed program. The lack of constant calls to Bingo and other
activities means I can pretend I have nothing to do and hunker down
with a book instead.
The sleeping decks of the ship each feature a Laundrette which
is free to use. We used it on our first sea day as we arrived
onboard Queen Victoria after a week spent exploring Glasgow and
London and so our laundry needed attention. It was the only
opportunity we had, and we were only a half dozen doors away from
After the 2nd day, the laundry room became the protected
territory of a group of laundry vigilantes (I kid you not, everyone
was talking about it) and they were pretty much camping in there
full time. Who does that? Why pay for a cruise and live in the
laundrette? The same people were in there all day every day, and
fighting would break out over use of the washers, the dryers, the
ironing board, just ridiculous! I don't know how these folks even
managed to get their clothing dirty enough to launder in the short
intervals between visits.
Occasionally we'd see them going in and out of the laundry room
in their Cunard robe, as presumably they'd exhausted their supply
of dirty clothes and could only clean what they were already
wearing. It was the weirdest thing! I kept an eye on the laundry
room thinking we could do a quick load at some point but after
about 4 days of keeping an eye on it, I realized the laundry
vigilantes were never going to leave until the doors were locked at
night. When we needed additional laundry services, we simply filled
out the laundry slip in the room and let Cunard handle it. I gather
the laundry vigilante situation is a common experience onboard as
other reviewers have mentioned it. We never have seen this onboard
Service Overall, we were disappointed in this area partially
because our expectations were elevated based on Cunard's constant
references to their renowned White Star Service. My comment to that
would be if you are going to keep drawing everyone's attention to
your service, you had better deliver it in an exemplary manner.
They fall short of their own marketing and consequently fell
short of our expectations. They also fall short of the service
experience we've enjoyed when cruising with Carnival, Royal
Caribbean, Holland America, and Celebrity. I would have expected
service to be on par with Celebrity but it wasn't on par with any
of our past experiences.
I spent more time at the front desk (purser's desk and
excursions desk) on this cruise than on our preceding 7 cruises
combined. (See, "our adventure" later in this review for
Our cabin steward frankly did not seem to enjoy her job at all
nor was she particularly friendly. She rarely greeted us if we
passed her in the hallways, kept her eyes down and never smiled.
We've had great cabin stewards and poor ones and a couple in
between; she was probably the worst of the bunch.
She also didn't take advantage of opportunities to show us she
was paying attention to our habits. Usually after one or two days
at sea, a capable cabin steward will have noted the preferences of
a stateroom's occupants and will organize the room accordingly. In
our case, my daughter slept with an extra blanket on her bed every
night of the cruise. Not once was that blanket placed on or near
her bed when beds were prepared for the night. It wasn't lack of
time, clearly, as our cabin steward attempted to do something
artistic in arranging my pajamas each night. (This, quite frankly,
I found rather weird as it's not exactly a "towel animal" -- it's
my personal nightwear!)
We fared somewhat better in the dining room as our waiter
(Zaldy) and his assistant were friendly and reasonably capable;
however, our waiter's command of English was limited which
sometimes hampered the process of ordering our meals. He did always
manage to get it right in the end and on the one occasion when my
daughter's meal arrived undercooked (gnocchi, almost raw in the
centre) he quickly had the meal replaced and the head waiter for
our section checked soon after to make sure she was happy with the
Interestingly, neither of my children were ever offered a
beverage other than water in the dining room. This is unique in our
Usually my son would have a daiquiri (virgin daiquiri when he
was younger, regular now that he's 20) and my daughter might do
likewise. At the very least, my son would probably consume a diet
soft drink with his meal. None was offered at any time. I have no
idea why this would be the case. With the automatic gratuity
applied to every order from the bar, be it soft drink, mixed drink,
or wine, the bar steward could have earned some revenue from two
kids who routinely order at least a daiquiri each at dinner.
Front desk staff were for the most part professional and
courteous and attempted to be helpful but it seemed they often were
in the dark about policies and procedures. I spent a lot of time at
the purser's desk on this cruise and had the opportunity to observe
literally dozens and dozens of passengers raising a variety of what
seemed reasonable and common issues without deriving much
satisfaction from the experience. If not for my determination and
persistence in resolving our issue with Cunard, I would have ended
the cruise feeling equally frustrated.
Dining On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being excellent and 1 being
inedible, I would rate the food onboard Queen Victoria somewhere in
the vicinity of 3.
I would give approximately the same ranking to food onboard
Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I would give a ranking of 4 to
Holland America and 4.5 to Celebrity.
That said, our voyage on Cunard was more expensive than any of
the afore-mentioned cruise lines. I would have expected more
quality, variety and capability from the kitchens and particularly
in a dining room that requires gentlemen to wear a jacket every
single night of their cruise.
We dined in the Britannia restaurant every night with only one
exception, which was an evening spent in the reservations-only
(surcharged) restaurant "Todd English". The food in the Brittannia
ranged from "OK to good" according to my son. Fair comment.
Sometimes we engaged in serious contemplation of the possible
presentation of a particular food. That resulted from an early
dessert in which a "parfait" arrived as a pyramid-shaped jelly-like
mousse. Desserts were generally not terrific; my kids took to
ordering the ice cream with every dessert as a no-fail backup
Unlike other cruise lines we've experienced, Cunard did not
mention "alternative" options in the event that no menu items
appealed. Celebrity, for example, offers Caesar salad, grilled
salmon or steak in addition to the menu items and this is noted on
the menu on a nightly basis. If Cunard offers something similar, it
was not mentioned at any time by our waiter nor was there any
indication printed on the dining room menu.
One evening my daughter ordered pasta from the menu, asking that
mushrooms be omitted. It arrived without any discernible sauce
whatsoever. As it was the only item that appealed to her at all on
the evening's menu, she soldiered through about ¼ of it. If
alternatives to the printed menu had been offered it would have
After the 3rd or 4th dinner in the Britannia dining room, we
came to think of the meal as more of a refueling stop than "fine
dining" because the food quite simply wasn't of that calibre. This
was the first voyage of 8 cruises that my son was required to wear
a jacket each and every night. (Cunard's "elegant casual" dress
code requires jackets for the men.) My son commented that this
restaurant was simply "not good enough" to require men to wear a
jacket every night. He's right.
We made reservations for dinner one evening at the Todd English
restaurant onboard. We had visited Olives at Bellagio in Las Vegas
and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal, and prior to embarkation
onboard Queen Victoria had enjoyed Zuma and Gordon Ramsay in
London, so we were hopeful of another taste treat.
Todd English onboard Queen Victoria is decidedly a step up from
the Britannia experience, but in no way a match for its land-based
sister, Olives. The food was much better than anything the
Britannia was serving but the service seemed impersonal, almost
We felt that the Lido restaurant did a very capable job at
breakfast and in fact was probably the best organized breakfast
buffet we've seen on any cruise ship. Some ships scatter the
necessities for breakfast across so large an area that the pancakes
are long chilled before syrup can be found. If you started at the
beginning and proceeded to the end (which not every passenger did),
you would systematically have assembled on your tray absolutely
everything needed for breakfast including the appropriate
condiments. I have never seen a more logically put together buffet.
The food was generally good and the "cooked to order" omelettes,
pancakes, and waffles were very tasty.
Lunch was much less predictable. The sandwich station had the
same boring sandwiches day in and day out. On most cruise ships I
am easily satisfied with a good sandwich but these were just plain
uninspired. They could have prepared them in advance; there was no
advantage to having the sandwiches made to order as they lacked
interesting fillings and variety and basically just kept making the
same things again and again for days on end.
The pasta and pizza stations were a better bet, with some
customization possible. The pasta chef had fun one day with my
daughter and I making a "pink sauce" out of his alfredo and
arrabiata sauces and adding an array of chopped vegetables. The
resulting creation, which we shared, was absolutely delicious.
Generally I restricted my lunch time visit to the Lido to a salad
and soup as these were fairly no-fail options. Sometimes it was
tricky to find a table at lunch time but perseverance always paid
The room service menu was probably the most limited and boring
we've seen on a cruise. It went virtually unused by us.
The Golden Lion Pub provided a welcome change at lunch from time
to time. Generally it wasn't busy if one arrived fairly promptly at
noon and the meals, although limited in variety, were delivered
piping hot and were reasonably tasty. I'm a serious fish and chip
lover and the Golden Lion Pub didn't disappoint in this area! It
was nice to sit down and have a simple meal with my kids a couple
of times during our cruise and not have to face the lines and the
trays in the Lido.
Entertainment My son plans a career in live theatre production
so he of course had a very high level of interest in seeing the
shows and seeing the production values of these shows in such a
beautiful venue as Queen Victoria's theatre.
They have apparently invested considerably in absolutely
first-rate equipment for sound and lighting and a great deal of it!
He was very impressed by the investment made to ensure that every
show could be lit to perfection.
However, the cast of the production shows seems uninspired much
of the time. There was no strong female singer and no strong male
voice. They had 4 "decent" vocalists but no one who could really
put out a powerful vocal. Usually we find that there is one
particularly powerful voice for each of the male and female
performers and there are usually ways to showcase those voices
within the production shows.
As I said to my son after the first production show, "I am
having a lot of trouble connecting with the show, the performers,
with any of it". I felt the shows had no real story
(beginning/middle/end), lacked energy, seemed more than a little
disorganized, and the lighting was sometimes all over the place. In
one instance the lights were aimed straight at the audience,
forcing many people to cover their eyes. Not a smart idea.
We later learned that this was a changeover cruise for the cast
which had been onboard since the maiden voyage. Their contracts
were finally coming to an end and their replacements embarked when
we did and were frantically in rehearsal every hour of the day.
That probably explains the lack of energy of the departing cast!
The final production did seem more put together and the cast must
have felt inspired to go out with a bang because it was a far
higher energy performance than any of the preceding shows. They
should have begun the cruise with an equally strong show and put
the less organized, weaker shows in the middle with the powerhouse
at the end.
The walk-on entertainers were all musicians or vocalists. One
gentleman played a wide range of instruments, had a very pleasant
singing voice, and the audience responded very enthusiastically to
him. His show was my favourite of the cruise. There was a female
vocalist who almost managed to put the audience to sleep; many
people got up and left mid-song (which I personally think is
offensively rude) and she performed two shows (one too many). There
wasn't enough variety in the walk-on performances; they were all
vocalists and musicians, with no illusionist, comedy, magician,
On non-production show nights the late show was poorly attended,
in fact I don't think more than 20% of the seats were occupied for
most of the shows. I don't think I've been on a ship previously
where the late seating of dinner had an after-dinner show. Usually
the late diners see an early show, the early diners get the later
show but both shows are usually finished by about 10 p.m. Our show
didn't start until 10:45 p.m., and generally wrapped up about an
hour later. With port arrivals at 7 and excursions at 8 a.m.,
that's just plain too late!! I missed at least 4 or 5 shows as a
Walking around the ship, I heard and enjoyed some very competent
pianists and a harpist who was very good.
Spa The spa was truly "state of the art" and absolutely lovely.
I had several excellent treatments in the spa, particularly on the
sea days. My favourite treatments were the stones massage and two
sessions of reflexology.
I always talk with staff members about life on board the ship
because both of my kids are studying for careers that will likely
take them onto a cruise ship after they graduate (technical theatre
production, and hotel management).
By chatting with the spa staff, I learned a few things onboard
Queen Victoria that were of interest. First, the staff on this ship
lacks deck privileges. They are not permitted on passenger decks
when they are off duty, not even to sit and have a coffee in a
lounge and interact with passengers.
Other ships we have sailed (Holland America, Celebrity, Royal
Caribbean) definitely had staff members circulating. They are
required not to drink on passenger decks, to comply with the dress
code, and to act professionally as the representatives of the
cruise line, but they are up there on passenger levels. I gather
the restriction of deck privileges was recent and there were staff
members who had come onboard when deck privileges were extended.
Many were not planning to renew their contracts now that these
privileges were revoked.
In fact, none of the staff members with whom I spoke expected to
renew their contracts on the same ship again.
Ports Southampton: We spent 3 days prior to embarkation enjoying
London, our second visit in 3 years. We had a wonderful dinner at
Gordon Ramsay's at Claridges, an even more amazing meal at Zuma
(Japanese), and saw Les Miserables which is probably my all-time
favourite show. My daughter and I enjoyed browsing at Camden
Market; my son opted for relaxation that afternoon instead. We had
beautiful weather (much nicer than folks at home were having) and
our hotel, Flemings Mayfair, was terrific and beautifully located 5
minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace.
Gibraltar: We took the ship's excursion "Walking Tour of the
Rock" and were carefully briefed by our guide about the Barbary
Apes. They are very precocious and especially the teenagers will
try and snatch anything they can, particularly food! There is a 500
pound sterling fine for feeding the apes but the apes are not fined
for stealing YOUR food! However, it can get a little tricky so it's
best not to rustle wrappers, reach into bags, etc. because they
associate those movements/sounds with food.
One young boy came out of a souvenir/snack shop with a
newly-purchased ice cream bar on a stick. The wrapper was no sooner
removed than an ape grabbed the ice cream bar out of the boy's
hand, climbed onto a roof, and demonstrated a good working
knowledge of how to thoroughly savour an ice cream bar. He licked
the stick on both sides, then climbed down. Very cute, we took
Many of the mini-vans used for the tours had apes climbing onto
and into them. The apes seemed to be particularly fond of the horn
and would reach in and press and hold it for minutes at a time. It
sounded like rush hour at a gridlocked intersection but it really
was just the apes having fun with their own version of an
The same excursion includes a visit to the caves and this was
worthwhile also. From one vantage point we were able to see the
Gibraltar airport which is of interest because there is a major
road running right across the runway!!! There are only a handful of
take-offs and landings each day and automated arms (like at a
railway crossing) have been installed to prevent movement of
vehicles and pedestrians across the runway for a few minutes
before, during, and after it is in use. We were fortunate to see
the road closed at one point for an inbound aircraft, watched the
landing, and then a few minutes later the road re-opened and
traffic was transiting the runway once again. A very unusual setup,
but it seems to work.
Cannes: We were fortunate to be able to book the services of a
fantastic and highly recommended private guide. I had read of this
gentleman in numerous cruise reviews and bulletin boards, Michel of
Revelation Tours, and we were not disappointed. He really hit the
ground running, with wonderful commentary that brought to life the
history of the area, and helped us understand and appreciate
everything we were seeing. He had a very comfortable Mercedes van,
soft drinks and bottled water on board, and did everything to make
our day enjoyable, educational, and we really crammed a lot in! We
visited Monte Carlo/Monaco, Eze (charming!), St. Paul de Vence
(have to go back there some day!!), and lunch in Nice. The three of
us agreed that he is our all-time best private tour guide providing
superbly paced and interesting commentary. If I find myself in the
south of France again, I will be in touch with Michel.
Florence/Pisa: We booked a private tour with Rome in Limo and
had requested Carlo for both Florence and Rome tours. However,
their local driver Gianmarie met us at the ship at the port of
Livorno. He quickly got us away from what must be the ugliest port
area I've ever seen. I'm sure the town is pretty but Livorno's
economy is all about shipping so anything within a mile of the pier
is strictly related to that and very unattractive as Gianmarie
He was a terrific tour guide, young, personable, interesting,
with lots of good information to share with us, a good sense of
humour, and he kept the commentary moving so we were never bored.
Gianmarie was an excellent choice of guide for the dynamics of our
We started with a visit to Pisa and really you only need about
an hour for this. It's mainly a photo opportunity and as we drove
through Pisa, Gianmarie pointed out that it wasn't exactly the only
"leaning tower". Pisa just doesn't have the substrate needed to
keep a tower standing straight!
Gianmarie had made a reservation for us at the Accademia so I
finally met the famous "David" who is every bit as good-looking a
man now as he was when Michaelangelo discovered him!
Best of all, he took us to a fantastic restaurant in Florence
for lunch -- "La Posta" -- we had the most wonderful pasta, the
owner looked after us personally and told us all kinds of cute
stories of comical customers. My son says he would go back to
Florence specifically to dine at that restaurant again. Me too.
Rome: We spent 3 days exploring Rome before our last
Mediterranean cruise onboard Celebrity Galaxy in August 2006. This
time we elected to have a private driver and we had a specific list
of places we wanted to go. Again our booking was with Rome in Limo
and this time we had Marco as our driver. Marco was driving a
Mercedes minivan with half of the rear seats facing backward. These
were not useful for our purpose so we sat in the back row of seats
which were facing forward; unfortunately that made it difficult for
us to hear his commentary, which I'm sure he noticed since I needed
him to repeat almost everything he said. I later learned he could
easily have turned the rear-facing seats to a forward-facing
position and I'm not sure why that wasn't done, considering how far
back we ended up sitting in a half-full minivan.
Marco did not offer a great deal of commentary; that may have
been because we told him it wasn't our first visit to Rome. Having
said that, he was interesting and with good English skills, and he
paid attention to our comment that we would like the opportunity
for a really nice lunch, and to take some interesting and different
photos. Unfortunately, that second statement of preference ended up
costing us $2,000 before we were even halfway into the tour.
He took us first to the Colosseum as this was our number one
request (we only saw the exterior on our last visit to Rome). Then
he embarked on a mission to "surprise us" with hidden gems and
Unfortunately at one such stop, a panoramic view of a large part
of the city taken from the Aventine Hill area, we were out of the
vehicle for about 10 minutes and returned to find items we had left
inside the car, gone. The vehicle was locked, parked on the street
outside a church in a quiet residential area, but the vehicle's
security had been defeated, probably by a screwdriver inserted
under the covering of the driver's door handle to short the
electronic locking system.
My camera bag (with an SLR lens, spare battery, charger, and
assorted camera accessories), my daughter's bag (with a digital
camera and a digital video) and our driver's jacket (with his
wallet, all ID, driver's license, and credit cards) were all gone!
About a $2,000 loss for our family which I have since learned is
not substantial enough to merit an insurance claim so we have to
write this off to experience.
We spent about an hour at the police station to file a report
before declaring a lunch break. Marco was very upset to have such
an event occur on his shift, but we did all recover somewhat after
a nice glass of wine and wonderful lunch, consumed at a restaurant
he indicated was his favourite in the city.
Our afternoon stop was at Vatican City, primarily to see the
Sistine Chapel. Earlier I had been asked by Rome in Limo if I
wanted a private guide to take us into Vatican City and I had
declined because the cost was 150 euro and I didn't think my kids
would be sufficiently interested in the Vatican Museum's art to
warrant a detailed explanation of it. In fact, given their
"druthers" they would probably elect to get through the Vatican
Museum as quickly as they decently could!
However, the owner of Rome in Limo was waiting for us at the
entrance to Vatican City to express his condolences on the loss of
our items earlier in the day, and to offer us the complementary
services of one of his private guides, Catherine. She was terrific!
Young, knowledgeable, interesting, funny, quick paced, kept things
moving, and we benefited hugely by having her accompany us.
We especially appreciated the time she spent familiarizing us
with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel so that when we stepped
inside (where silence is required and photography is banned) we
knew what we were looking at and had a better ability to appreciate
and understand the nuances. Catherine's tour and commentary was
definitely a highlight of our day in Rome.
We enjoyed our day in Rome and we realize that a theft can and
does occur in any place in the world. We travel frequently and we
bring some expensive toys (cameras) with us, and electronics are
always tempting targets. We arrived in Rome already in love with
the city and nothing has changed that.
However, we do offer this caution: Do not assume a locked
vehicle is safe even for 5 minutes. Apparently Rome in Limo
requires their drivers to remain with their vehicle but in our case
this requirement was ignored and really in only a very few minutes
in a quiet residential area, the vehicle was emptied.
I did notice in Florence/Pisa that no matter where we went or
how long we were gone, anytime we glanced back at the Mercedes
minivan we could see Gianmarie standing right beside the driver's
door. We thought it a bit comical, actually, but we now understand
exactly why he was doing this. Our driver in the South of France,
Michel, did exactly the same thing at all times. Clearly they know
there is a risk of a Mercedes minivan being spotted as a "private
tour vehicle" with perhaps some personal effects or cameras
Messina: Our home has been under renovation for about 10 years,
one room after another, and the imaginative, talented contractor
with whom I've worked on all of this is originally from Sicily. I
showed him our options for our day in port and he said "Go to
Taormina". It was terrific advice. Taormina is beautiful!
We had about a 45 minute ride in a very nice coach with a
wonderful tour guide whose name I've forgotten but I could pick her
out in a crowd by her voice. She had a very distinctive manner of
speech, a bit slow paced and very theatrical. This served her well
as it seemed to keep everyone quite engaged and listening to her
commentary. We had ample time to wander around Taormina that day;
sadly, it was extremely hot but she had great advice for
refreshment: granita, a kind of lemon slush that is eaten with a
We found a sidewalk restaurant that offered granita, enjoyed it
thoroughly, and searched for it every hour of every day for the
balance of the cruise, with no success. I guess we will be going
back to Sicily if we get desperate enough for granita.
I bought a painting from an artist in Taormina, very reasonably
priced at 300 euro. The painting is very detailed and whenever I
look at it, it reminds me of the beautiful views that were
literally around every corner in this town. Our guide referred to
Taormina as "magical" and I think that's a fair comment.
Corfu: We took the ship's excursion to Acheillion Palace, a
Monastery, and Corfu town. The Palace is a complete waste of time.
There are a few sculptures and paintings but after FLORENCE???? No
comparison. Much of the Palace appeared to be closed to the public
and what was open was just not that beautiful. I found it small,
sparsely furnished and with a few interesting pieces but having
just come from Italy and its treasures there was little here to
impress the observer. Visiting the palace necessitated a lot of
driving on very narrow congested streets for no good reason. For
this tour we had such a pedantic, boring tour guide that many of
the passengers actually fell asleep in the bus on the way to the
The Monastery was situated in a beautiful area on the coast with
stunning beaches and beautiful scenery. Although it wasn't all that
interesting in itself, the drive to and from the Monastery was
beautiful and we took some lovely photos of the ocean and
When we got back to Corfu town, many people (including my son)
opted to go straight back to the ship, but my daughter and I stayed
in town, feeling thirsty and in the mood for a snack and
people-watching. We sat on the sidewalk at a restaurant for
refreshment, and had delicious greek salad and moussaka and wine
served very promptly and at a reasonable cost. We did a little
souvenir shopping and then it was time to get back to the ship.
Dubrovnik: We did a ship's excursion primarily of the Croatian
Riviera. This is a port I had under-estimated and frankly wasn't
all that terribly interested in when I made the booking. However,
the Croatian Riviera is stunning. Beautiful, peaceful, no big
crowds, we went to Cavtat with its population of 2,000 and as soon
as we were one block from the waterfront, we were enveloped in
peace and serenity. I could definitely enjoy a vacation here!
The excursion continued inland to a restaurant where we were
served a glass of wine (choice of red or white, the white was
delicious) and a small snack of local home-made bread, cheese,
sliced cured meat, and freshly sliced tomato. It was an extremely
pretty location and well worth walking around to enjoy the
From there we stopped in Dubrovnik, the old town, where we
wandered around for a couple of hours, had some very tasty pizza
(and a very un-tasty glass of rose wine that I couldn't drink), and
then were taken back to the ship. Others who came into town without
an excursion had to queue for the ship's shuttle and it was clearly
pandemonium as the shuttle arrived and was set upon by many more
Cunard guests than could possibly fit on the coach. We were glad to
be able to take the excursion coach back to the ship and not have
to contend with the line-up for the shuttle as Dubrovnik was very
hot the day we were in port.
Venice: Venice was the #1 reason we booked this cruise. I'd been
warned a few times about a funky smell but didn't notice it. What I
did notice was the beauty, the romance, the history, the water..
water .. water everywhere! It takes a few minutes to assimilate
that really there are no roads. All the usual types of
transportation -- limos, taxis, buses -- are available, but all of
it involves water!
We did the ship's excursion of the Doges Palace and St. Mark's,
both of which were interesting although I suspect my kids would
have happily done without both. From there we proceeded to the
gondola and were seated with a family of 3 and off we went!
There was much jockeying for position as initially the gondola
embarkation area was very congested; the canals were almost equally
busy with the gondolas proceeding in a "nose to tail trailride"
formation for the entire length of the trip. Meanwhile, the
gondoliers shouted and laughed back and forth between themselves in
Italian (probably commenting on their hapless guests who were
taking pictures of every brick along the way) but it was
nonetheless interesting and I wouldn't have wanted to forego the
experience. (Possibly the attractiveness of the gondoliers is at
least partly responsible for this.)
Later we set off on our own to buy some tourist tat (sorry,
couldn't help it!) including a beautiful Venetian mask for 25 euro
(seemed very reasonable). We sat down at a sidewalk restaurant for
wine and snacks and people-watching. However, we couldn't stay in
town too late because it was "packing night" (that very dreaded
event) and we had a great deal of luggage to sort.
The following morning we again stepped off the ship to spend
some time sight-seeing in Venice. I had it in mind that we would go
to Murano and perhaps buy a piece of glass. Finding ourselves again
in St. Marks Square, we were almost immediately approached by a
gentleman who indicated that we could have a free water taxi ride
to Murano if we would visit a specific glass factory. I didn't have
any problem with this, asked how long it would take, and we hopped
into the taxi.
This gave us an interesting ride and it was about 20 minutes to
Murano as I recall. We were greeted as we stepped off the boat by
one of the representatives of the factory, welcomed, told we could
feel free to take pictures of the demonstration we would see, and
in we went.
The demonstration was a glass master first blowing a glass vase
and then sculpting a glass horse by pulling on a ball of molten
glass to create a head, body, legs, and tail. It was amazing, just
a few pulls with something that looked like pliers and there was a
horse! "Master" is definitely the word!
The tour of the showroom (where photos were not allowed) was
equally amazing; we had lots of questions and our factory
representative explained the various processes used to create such
intricate, amazing glass pieces of art. Some were absolutely huge,
others very small, some of the chandeliers were indescribable, and
it was definitely a very worthwhile morning.
There was no chance I'd leave without purchasing something, the
only problem was narrowing down the choice, but in the end we
arranged a piece that will be shipped. It's a crystal branch with 3
birds on it (we are a family of 3) and we each chose a colour for
"our" bird. It will be a beautiful and a wonderful memory of our
time in Venice when it arrives in about six weeks' time.
Overall There were some things we really enjoyed about this
cruise and I would be remiss if I didn't highlight them. First, it
was the dressiest cruise we've experienced. The dress code was
respected by 99% of the passengers each and every night. Even on
the 'elegant casual' nights some of the ladies really were dressed,
leading my daughter to question whether they might turn up in
wedding gowns on the formal nights.
We saw gentlemen being turned away from the Britannia restaurant
because of the lack of a jacket or tie. I've always disliked seeing
people in the dining room on a formal night who refuse to even try
to conform to the evening dress code. This didn't happen on Queen
We requested a "small table" but were seated at a table for 6
with a delightful couple (Pam & Nick) from the south of
England. We never asked them but it's possible they had requested a
table for two. There weren't very many such tables in the Britannia
and I know that many passengers who requested a table for two did
not have that request accommodated. We have a lovely photograph
taken of the 5 of us at dinner to remind us how much we enjoyed
Our past experiences with large tables were not always
favourable, with table companions who dined at the Lido on all the
formal nights, leaving us in the awkward position of being only 3
at a large table half of the time. This time our dining companions
attended dinner every evening as we did. (excepting our one meal at
Todd English). They were delightful and we had some great
conversations, sometimes lingering at the table well after coffee
I enjoyed the music broadcast over the ship each time we sailed
from a port but I wish it had been themed a little more closely for
some of the ports (sometimes I really couldn't understand the
choice of songs) and it was a little too loud. Anyone out on deck
or on their balcony to enjoy the departure would be hard-pressed to
have a conversation.
At one port there was a bit of a whistle competition between our
ship and Ocean Village. Each ship blasted away numerous times with
Queen Victoria the clear and impressive winner.
The half bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin for sail-away was
much enjoyed but I think a small basket of fruit would also have
been welcomed; it is something we've grown accustomed to in our
cruises with Holland America, it costs the ship very little, and
it's a nice welcoming touch.
I believe Queen Victoria was in most of the ports of this
itinerary for the first time. Our tour guides in each port
commented on how beautiful the ship is, and this is true. The Queen
Victoria looks stately and handsome in port, very much the ocean
liner, and the red stripe at the water line and dark livery of the
ship's hull really set her apart from all those white (almost
plastic-looking) cruise ships that shared the port facilities with
us during our itinerary.
Our Adventure Encoded into my DNA is a requirement for dotting
I's and crossing t's. I am a born organizer as anyone who knows me
will attest. This means that as soon as we book a trip, I open a
"trip file" and the amassing of information begins. I surf the
internet, clip articles, read reviews, look at travel forums, and
the process of trip planning begins. What do we need to see and do,
where should we eat, what private drivers do we want to book and
where should they take us, what excursions are the best ones to
take -- all of this becomes part of a fine, FAT file that expands
steadily for months before departure!
By the time we leave home to embark on our trip, the bookings
made as a result of all of this research are synthesized into a
spreadsheet format which provides "at a glance" information about
the commitments, reservations and plans we've made. All this
planning actually makes the trips more relaxing as it is easy to
keep track of the day's plan by consulting this chart.
This cruise had a port-intensive itinerary and that is why we
chose it. There were a lot of ports, and they were wonderful ports,
most of which we had not previously seen. Thus, we wanted to ensure
we saw everything we could. I never quite understand the people for
whom a cruise is "just a boat ride" and they either don't get off
the ship when it's in port, or they are back on again by lunch
time. I'm usually among the first off and last to return! My son
jokes that they can throw a rope over the side so I can swing back
on -- it has never come to that but I am certainly going to eat in
Rome when I'm in Rome!! In my view, there is no ship so wonderful
that it can eclipse the treasures and culture of the ports it
5 months before we sailed I had booked all of our shore plans
with the exception of Venice. For 3 ports I booked private drivers.
For 4 ports I booked a ship's excursion because I couldn't justify
the cost of hiring a driver everywhere and yet I don't just want to
walk off the ship and poke about a few shops before
The most important factor in our decision to book Queen Victoria
was the opportunity to spend the last 2 days of the cruise in
Venice. It was therefore important to us to have a good plan for
exploring this fantastic city, both on our day of arrival and the
following day after sleeping onboard the ship in port.
Queen Victoria was arriving in Venice at noon on Aug 12 and we
would not disembark until Aug 13 so that would give us about 6
hours in the city both days. I had to keep some time available the
evening of Aug 12 for packing as luggage would be picked up by
midnight, as always happens on cruises.
I booked a shore excursion for the afternoon of August 12, which
was "walking tour of St. Mark's and Doges Palace and gondola ride",
leaving several hours free afterwards for wandering and exploring.
For August 13, what we needed was a "tour/transfer" commonly
offered by ships on the disembarkation day. What that accomplishes
is safe storage and transportation of your luggage to the airport
while the day can be spent touring and then reuniting with the
luggage at the end of the day in order to fly home.
Cunard was offering 3 tour/transfers for Venice on their
website. One was a visit to the islands of Murano and Burano, one
was the Villas of Brenta, and the other one was of no interest and
consequently I cannot recall the description.
None of Cunard's shore excursions could be booked online. I
haven't encountered this with any previous cruise; normally they
can be booked online and paid with a credit card and confirmed many
months prior to departure.
Cunard does not offer an on-line booking facility, so the shore
excursions were booked directly with Cunard by my travel agent,
For reasons that were not explained, when we booked the other 4
shore excursions, Cunard had not yet priced the Venice
tour/transfers. Sheila was told to call back in two months' time at
which time Cunard would be able to finalize the arrangements. She
did so in March and was told to call back in May. When she called
in May, she was told that the tour/transfers for disembarkation day
in Venice could only be booked at the excursions desk after I came
onboard. I'll admit I felt this was a loose end and wasn't entirely
comfortable with it, given that on the strength of Cunard's
tour/transfer offerings I had booked an evening flight out of
Venice on August 13.
Sheila sent me copies of the tour/transfer options, which I put
in my cruise trip file and brought with me. My first day onboard
the ship, I went to the excursions desk and picked up the leaflet
of tours because the line was absolutely enormous. The leaflet made
no mention of August 13. The following day, a sea day, I went back
and took my place in line. When it was my turn to be served, I
explained that I wanted to book a tour/transfer for August 13. I
was told that these tours had not yet been uploaded to the computer
and they were therefore unable to make a booking. They expected to
see the tours within 48 hours and suggested I come back in 2 days'
I went back two days later, after we sailed from Gibraltar. Then
I was told that the tours were in the computer still BUT that all
staterooms would be receiving printed information about August 13
within the next day or two and I could make my selection when that
The next day we had a leaflet for "disembarkation" delivered to
our stateroom. It offered 4 options. No transfer arrangements at
all. Transfer to the airport. Transfer to the rail station.
Transfer to a list of hotels. None of these were tour/transfers and
I was horrified! I certainly didn't want to be transferred to the
Venice airport at 9 in the morning and spend the day there waiting
for an evening flight. Nor did I want to choose "no transfer
arrangements" and be responsible for figuring out how to get our
luggage from the ship to the airport. It certainly couldn't be
pulled around with us for a day.
Back to the excursions desk I went, to wait in the line again.
It was another long line. This time I brought with me the hard
copies provided by Cunard of the tour/transfers they were offering
in Venice. The excursions desk personnel took a look at this and
said they had NO information about these tours and that I should
speak with the purser's desk.
At the purser's desk I spoke with Nel. I showed her the hard
copies of the two tours/transfers in which we had an interest. I
told her that the Excursion Desk had no knowledge of these and that
the options being offered for transfers on August 13 were not
acceptable to us due to our booking of an evening flight based on
the offerings I held in my hand. I explained that as recently as
late May my agent was told by Cunard's office that we would be able
to book a tour/transfer once we were onboard.
Nel noted that these were clearly produced by Cunard and said
she would show them to the tour manager who was presently out of
the office. She committed that she would get back to me later in
the day to let me know what arrangements could be made.
She called our stateroom several hours later to advise that
these tour/transfers would not be offered at all on this
That left me in a quandary! How were we to get off the ship with
our 7 pieces of luggage, spend the day in Venice, and get ourselves
and the luggage to the airport at the end of the day for our
flight? Where would the luggage be stored? How would it get
physically off the ship? Suddenly it seemed I was to handle a
logistical issue with no assistance when Cunard's office had been
assuring us for months that a tour/transfer would take care of
I tried seeking information online but the ship's internet
service was so slow that it literally took 5 minutes for the google
search page to load. At that rate, I was never going to find a
I emailed my travel agent who was well aware of what Cunard had
promised, asking her to contact Cunard and see if they could
assist. She then forwarded to me the reply she received from
Cunard, essentially that they were very sorry to hear of our
situation but that they were not in a position to handle what had
become an on-board matter and that we should pursue it onboard.
In a binder in our stateroom there was a supply of stationery
including some little note cards (size of post cards) for comments
and concerns regarding "White Star Service". There wasn't much
space but the card did indicate it was for bringing to Cunard's
attention anything that would make our cruise more enjoyable. With
only a few lines to work with, it wasn't easy to outline our
situation, but I did my best and deposited the card at the front
desk. The pre-printed small text on the card indicated that these
White Star Comment cards were delivered directly to the hotel
Within hours, I received a response from the hotel manager which
basically confirmed receipt of my White Star Comment Card, thanked
me for bringing my concern to her attention, acknowledged the
sharing of my comments with the relevant departments, confirmed
that combined tour/transfers would not be offered in Venice, and
wished me an enjoyable cruise. A 3 sentence response that offered
I spent a few hours thinking about this. If Cunard had never
offered tour/transfers, I would have organized this privately as I
did with 3 other ports. I would have done that with the luxury of
time and high speed internet. Now I had no time to work with, the
slowest internet in the world, and something we had verified again
and again and again with Cunard was simply pulled off the table.
Yet on the strength of their assurances, I made flight arrangements
enabling us to enjoy Venice for as long as possible. Was I supposed
to be happy at the prospect of enjoying the hospitality of the
Venice Airport instead? NO!!!!
The same binder that contained the stationery held all manner of
ship information, room service menu, the usual details of shipboard
life. The front page was a 12 point statement of "White Star
Service". I had read this upon embarkation and thought it a rather
lofty goal but nice to see upfront what the ship expected from its
I re-read the points of White Star Service, took out a full
sized sheet of Cunard stationery and wrote to the hotel manager. I
began by saying "Point #12 of the White Star Service program, which
is detailed in the binder in every stateroom onboard, states "We
never say no -- we always offer alternatives". I am writing to you
today to ask what alternatives you are prepared to offer my
I then outlined our situation more comprehensively and
chronologically, starting with the phone calls between my travel
agent and Cunard, the hard copies of the tour/transfers for August
13 that I had brought on board and surrendered to Nel at the
purser's desk, and finally the booking of an evening flight out of
Venice on the strength of Cunard's offer of tour/transfers which
offer now appeared to be nothing more than smoke.
I clearly indicated that I understood the tour/transfer option
was gone. So be it. What I was now asking from this premium cruise
line with the vaunted and legendary White Star Service was standard
fare for any 3* hotel to offer a departing guest.
Specifically, I requested the following: Safe storage of our
luggage, the ability to leave and explore the city, return and be
reunited with our luggage, and a transfer to the airport at the end
of the day.
Literally any hotel will do this. A cruise ship is just a
floating hotel and what I was requesting was absolutely within
their capability to do.
I hand-delivered my letter to the purser's desk and it was
addressed by name to the hotel manager. I waited for a
For four days.
On the fourth day we were getting perilously close to Venice and
we still had no disembarkation plan. Back again to the purser's
desk I went, realizing that at this point I had probably invested
something like 9 or 10 hours in lining up over this one issue, more
hours spent in line in one cruise than in all of my previous 7
Fortunately, the receptionist available when it was my turn was
Nel, and she remembered me and my hard copies of the tour/transfer
options. I updated her quickly with respect to my correspondence
and indicated I was not satisfied with silence. When a customer has
a valid concern -- and I had documented mine already -- a response
is required. This is a simple Customer Service 101 protocol. The
tone of my letter was polite and my request was reasonable. Any mid
range hotel and certainly every cruise ship we've sailed would
cheerfully accommodate the same request.
The failure by the hotel manager to respond (or even to delegate
to someone else, for response) was rude and unreasonable. Frankly I
was by this time quite fed up with the legendary White Star Service
which is a lovely phrase that means absolutely nothing tangible on
board Queen Victoria.
I asked Nel if she could assist me in obtaining an appointment
with the Hotel Manager. I also indicated that I knew there were
many passengers onboard the ship with an issue similar to ours,
because I had overheard similar conversations at the purser's desk
each time I lined up to address this and I also overheard
conversations on the subject in the "relaxation room" of the Spa.
The Cunard customers discussing the Venice disembarkation and lack
of arrangements for passengers with late flights were certainly not
"relaxing" but in fact were quite hot under the collars of their
Nel returned after a few minutes to indicate that the Tour
Manager would meet with me. He introduced himself and suggested we
sit comfortably in the lobby area near the purser's desk. He was
aware of my letter and asked me to recount the situation
chronologically, which I proceeded to do. I made my request once
again for safe storage of our luggage, the opportunity to explore
Venice, and transfer at the end of the afternoon to the Venice
In conclusion, I reminded him that even the most moderately
priced hotel would cheerfully make such an arrangement for a
departing guest and I expected nothing less from the premium cruise
line that Cunard claims to be.
He thanked me for my time and indicated he would see what could
be done and would respond to me by the end of the day.
By late afternoon, I had a message from Tanya who I believe is
the purser, indicating that she would call back and provide
disembarkation details. She did call our stateroom again about an
hour later and set out for me the plan for August 13 for our
Essentially, they agreed to everything I had requested. We were
given Gold #1 luggage tags and told to put our luggage in the
hallway the night before disembarkation as is customary. It would
be taken to the airport the following morning and held in a safe
area for us to claim in the afternoon prior to checking-in for our
Our hand baggage could be brought on the morning of August 13 to
the Connexions lounge where it would be safely stored and we would
be given receipts for it. We were to be provided with visitor cards
so that we could re-board the ship on August 13. (Ordinarily on
disembarkation day the passenger cards are cancelled in the system,
making it impossible to re-board at a later time.) We were told
that we would be accommodated for our transfer to Venice Airport at
3:30 p.m. with the group of passengers who were taking the "Cunard
Charter Flight to Gatwick".
I was also specifically asked not to mention these arrangements
to any other passenger onboard the ship because an exception was
being made for us and could not be offered to anyone else.
We complied with this request. However, I know for a fact that
there were many other passengers in a situation similar to ours who
should have been properly accommodated. When we arrived at the
Venice Airport later in the day, we met people who had literally
spent their entire day at the airport following an early morning
transfer from Queen Victoria. They had not expected this and, like
us, had booked a late flight hoping to enjoy Venice for as long as
possible. They were not happy campers and I suspect gave their
travel agent an earful to relay to Cunard upon their return
I suspect the biggest difference between our fate and theirs on
August 13 in Venice was my persistence. Another contributing factor
was the fact that I remained polite and reasonable in my request
for "alternatives". It was also beneficial in supporting my
contention that Cunard got us into this mess and Cunard should get
us out of this mess, that I had brought with me hard copies of the
offered tour/transfer excursions. This made it difficult indeed for
Cunard to deny having offered such arrangements to us, and
explained our willingness to rely on these plans when making our
air arrangements to return home.
Would I cruise with Cunard again? Not likely. This cruise was
enjoyed primarily because of the quality of the ports (which has
nothing to do with Cunard).
Our cruise experience was also enhanced by those individuals
(our dining room waiter, various spa personnel, Nel at the purser's
desk, the tour manager, and the purser who provided a solution to
our disembarkation issue) who, in an otherwise nondescript service
environment, provided caring, quality service.
Many departments onboard a cruise ship report to the hotel
manager. True leadership in service excellence can only come from
the top down, and my personal experience in service with the hotel
manager gave me no comfort in this regard.
Given the hotel manager's response to our initial expression of
concern regarding disembarkation arrangements (essentially, "thanks
for your note, no we can't help you, enjoy your trip") I am not
surprised that service standards onboard Queen Victoria in
virtually every area that can impact a guest's enjoyment of a
cruise were the poorest we have experienced during our 8 cruises to
If Cunard can find a way to get the majority of their onboard
crew, staff, and officers to a level of genuine willingness to
satisfy the passenger, they will legitimize their use of the phrase
"White Star Service". Until then? Not so much.