Previewing Cunard's New Queen Victoria: Part 2

In this second part of our series, we'll examine dining options and staterooms on Cunard Line's new Queen Victoria.

The Cunard Concept for Queen Victoria

Memorabilia of the Victorian Era of the Queen herself have been incorporated into the design of the new Queen Victoria. A large museum-like art gallery and exhibition area called Cunardia features items from both. The Queen was fascinated by photography, a new technology in her day, and she was the first monarch ever to be photographed. Several photographs and portraits of the Queen are on display. There are also original paintings of every Cunard ship that ever sailed, each commissioned by Cunard to a different British artist. The talented Robert Lloyd did the official Queen Victoria portrait.

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Exhibit from the Cunardia Museum onboard   One of several original murals of Cunard Ships commissioned from British Artists   More Exhibits
Queens Grill and Princess Grill - Restaurants and Staterooms

One part of that Cunard Line's White Star tradition that still surprises many people is the system of separating passengers into distinctly different levels of service accomodations, similar to what was called the "class system" on ocean liners, although today's Cunard prefers to avoid using that term. Queen Victoria carries on with this tradition, as found on Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2. A limited number of passengers in the top two service levels have exclusive access to certain areas of the ship, with service enhancements.

Each level is based on the passenger's stateroom category; referring to the top level as simply the "Queen's Grill" passengers (142 members), and the second level as the "Princess Grill" passengers (132 members). The service accomodations are similar for both of these levels. Both sets will reside on deck eight, with access to their respective dining rooms affiliated with the type of suite they occupy by a single private elevator on that deck. Queen's Grill Suites are the largest and passengers eat in the Queen's Grill. Princess Grill Suites are significantly smaller than the top tier, though still similar in amenities. Dinner in both restaurants is served from 7 to 9 p.m., open seating.

One of the common areas for these two top tier classes -- the Grill's Lounge, which serves High Tea every afternoon as well as cordials and other spirits around the clock. A concierge is on duty there to assist these passengers with any special requests. Pre-dinner cocktails and canapes are served in this lounge every night, which makes it the perfect spot for mingling with other guests in similar suites. This kind of planned impromptu get-together adds a distinct social flavor to sea voyages, and a sort of Cunard club has grown up around them.

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Queens Grill now   Queens Grill rendering

Both the Queens and Princess Grill menus boast lobster and Chateaubriand, but in the Queens Grill the staff will attempt any dinner the guest can dream up as long as the ingredients are on hand. Service comes on Wedgewood bone china with Waterford Crystal, sterling silverware and Fili d' Oro Italian linens.

Both restaurants, situated side by side on deck 11 but not connected, are accessible only by private elevator from deck eight below. Another nearby dining option for these guests is the al fresco, Tuscan inspired, Grills Courtyard of only 40 seats on a first-come, first serve basis.

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Grills Courtyard   Grills Courtyard rendering   Grills Courtyard

Another common areas for these guests is the exclusive Grills Upper Terrace, an outside sunning area on deck 12 where guests are provided with cooled towels, Evian spritzes, fresh fruits, sorbets and tea sandwiches.

Staterooms for both Queen's Grill and Princess Grill suites receive an abundance of amenities, but one of our favorites is the butler for the Q1 - Q7 suites. Not only will he unpack for you, but he will also repack your bags when it is time to disembark, including using the Guild of Professional Butlers approved method of folding tissue paper between each item in order to keep it wrinkle-free. Too bad they can't come to your house and do that for you before the cruise! Baggage pickup and transfer directly from your home to the ship can be arranged by Cunard, however.

The Britannia

Below the top tier accommodations are the other 80 percent of guests. These 1,500+ people are known as the Britannia Restaurant passengers. The passenger experience for this class would be considered normal on any modern passenger ship. Certainly several steps above "steerage," as in the old days, but for today's Cunard they are the passengers who eat in the large, common dining room, apart from the suite guests, and they do not have access to certain exclusive restaurants and lounges. The dining room is the Britannia Restaurant, ornate in Victorian elegance, with a touch of art deco a la Queen Mary, it has two levels and two seatings with assigned tables.

In the old days there was a considerable difference between first class and steerage, but it is nothing like that now. Everyone sees the same entertainment and visits the same public rooms, spa facilities and swimming pools as the top tier guests. The Cunard difference is that it has added unique areas of private access available only to certain passengers.

  • The Queens Grill Grand Suites and Master Suites are the top tier. These suites vary from 1,920 to 2,130 sq. ft. They come with a refrigerator, safe, hair dryer, robe and slippers, personalized stationary, books, an Atlas, daily shipboard newspaper, fresh fruit, champagne at embarkation, fresh flowers, a bar stocked with spirits, pre-dinner canapés and a butler and concierge services.
  • The Queens Grill Suites and Penthouse Suites vary from 508 to 771 sq. ft. and come with nearly all of the above except for the bar and refrigerator stocked with wine and spirits.
  • The Princess Grill Suites range from 335 to 513 sq. ft. They come with the same exclusive access and amenities as the Queens Grill Suites except the champagne is replaced with a bottle of wine. Dinner in the Princess Grill, adjacent to the Queens Grill, is also from 7 to 9 p.m. and open seating.
  • All of the above suites are given exclusive access to The Grills Lounge, the Courtyard, the Grill's Terrace and the Grill's upper terrace.
  • The Britannia Staterooms come with a refrigerator, safe, hair dryer, robe and slippers, daily shipboard newspaper. Balcony cabins range from 242 to 472 sq. ft. There is no access to any of the exclusive access rooms described above. Dinner is served in the Britannia Restaurant with assigned seating for early (6 p.m.) or late ( 8:30 p.m.) dinners.

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    Britannia Restaurant   Britannia Restaurant rendering   Britannia Restaurant
  • Inside Britannia Staterooms come with the same as above and range from 152 to 243 sq. ft.
Dining Rooms

In addition to the Queens Grill, the Princess Grill and the Britannia Restaurant, there are alternative dining spots onboard which are available to all passengers:

  • Todd English Restaurant is a 40-guest room popular on all Cunard ships. The cuisine is Mediterranean. There is a service charge ($20 lunch, $30 dinner) and reservations are required.
  • The Lido is open 24 hours. The ship features a very large Lido area for the number of passengers, as large as some mega-ships for a roomy and easy to negotiate experience. The Lido Restaurant's hours are as follows:
    Continental Breakfast 4:00-6:30am
    Breakfast 6:00-11:30am
    Lunch 11:00am-3:00pm
    Afternoon Snack 3:00-6:00pm
    Buffet Dinner 6:00-11:00pm
    Sit Down/Bistro dinner 7:00-9:00pm
    Late Evening Snack 11:00pm-4:00am

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    Lido Restaurant   Lido Restaurant
  • The Lido is transformed at night for passengers not in the mood to dress for dinner but still desiring special food and service. Waiters serve at freshly set tables. The choices of cuisine are exotic and fun, including fondue, Asian and Indian food, or Italian Trattoria-style. There is no service charge for these dinners.
  • Golden Lion Pub is another Cunard tradition featuring British pub-style cuisine. The menu is a la carte and no service charges apply.
  • The (Back Deck) Lido Grill is an extension of the Lido area and has hamburgers and pizza. Open from 11am-6pm.
Public Rooms

The interior of the ship is an homage to the Victorian era. Public rooms not mentioned above include "Cunardia," a collection of maritime memorabilia and artifacts in a museum setting, and an accompanying gift shop liner enthusiasts will find irresistible.

The Library is a two-story classic room with leather sofas and a spectacular spiral staircase that winds through towering mahogany bookshelves containing more than 6,000 titles.

And for quiet relaxation during the day there is the Winter Garden. On the top deck near the swimming pool, this conservatory-style garden area has a retractable glass dome to offer warmth and sunlight in a natural setting without having to set foot outside.

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Library rendering   Library
Winter Garden   Winter Garden rendering

Nighttime fun includes West End quality production shows in the Royal Court Theatre. As most voyages on Queen Victoria are at least 10 nights (and several much longer), there are five original productions already aboard. The cast of 16 performers includes 12 dancers and four singers. Belinda King of the U.K. produced the shows.

Video: Martin Lilly, Director of Creative Entertainment, Describes the Royal Court Theatre: Play Video

The theater is beautiful, with the tallest proscenium at sea and a fly system for quick lighting and scenery changes. You can expect the entertainment on Cunard to be extraordinary. Belinda King Creative Productions were awarded 'Best On-Board Entertainment' at the Cruise Awards in 2006. The five unique shows were produced and will be shown only on Queen Victoria.

Other entertainment venues include the Queen's Room, the site for daytime activities such as trivia games and lectures, plus High Tea every afternoon. Nighttime features ballroom dancing on one of the largest dance floors at sea. The live orchestra adds to the zest.

  • Café Carinthia is a coffeehouse offering special coffees and teas throughout the day.
  • The Chart Room is the grand entrance to the Britannia Restaurant where diners can indulge in pre-dinner cocktails. After dinner, gentlemen (and ladies, if they choose to break with tradition) may retire to the Churchill's Cigar Lounge where freshly rolled cigars are available for purchase.
  • The Golden Lion Pub, serving English ales and traditional pub-style food, is a favorite on all Cunard ships if you want to put on a few pounds.
  • The Empire Casino is the place to visit if you would like lose a few pounds. The roulette wheels and blackjack tables will give you the kind of pounding that helped Britannia rule the world.
  • The Midships Lounge allows wine connoisseurs to sample (by the glass) various vintages before selecting a bottle for dinner.
  • Hemispheres is the most contemporary room on the ship -- a dance club with a DJ and all the required lighting effects.

Shopping on Queen Victoria certainly deserves royal acclaim. Over 4,000 square meters of shopping await passengers along the Royal Arcade, inspired by London's Burlington and Royal Arcades.

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Royal Arcade   Royal Arcade rendering
Hemispheres Dance Club   Hemispheres rendering

Spa Services are offered in the Cunard Royal Spa & Fitness Centre. Cunard chose Harding Brothers of London to run the spa on Queen Victoria because of their focus on the more meditative Eastern style of health. The spa features a large thelassotherapy pool as well as massage, facials, tonsorial services and a large fitness center and aerobics room.

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Cunard Royal Spa   Spa rendering   ceramic beds from Thermal Suite

There is a thermal suite for which passengers can purchase passes by the day or for the entire voyage. Inside the suite are dry saunas and various steam rooms, each infused with different aromatherapeutic essential oils. Hot ceramic beds aid in relaxation between treatments.

Summing Up

The important thing about Cunard's Queen Victoria is not whether the superstructure is an ocean liner or a cruise ship; it is what's inside that counts. Cunard has had countless styles of hulls over the years, but the tradition of style and service are the hallmarks that have defined the company throughout its 170-year history. Queen Victoria is as true to the Cunard tradition as any ship before her, and to know her is to love her.

Link to: Previewing Cunard's New Queen Victoria - Part 1

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