Queen Victoria is the second ship Cunard has built since being acquired by Carnival Corp. The first was the larger flagship Queen Mary 2 in 2004.
At 90,000 tons, Queen Victoria is smaller and more intimate than Queen Mary 2 (151,000 tons). But she has all the same service amenities and more. The ship's theme is the Victorian Era in England, which began the same time as the founding of Cunard in 1837.
The vessel is also a tribute to Cunard itself. Only a few companies are so quintessentially associated with the essence of their nation, but Cunard is as representative of England as any company can be. Onboard the Queen Victoria is a museum known as Cunardia that shows how Cunard has grown through the years and served the United Kingdom.
Queen Victoria is registered in the U.K. and carries the name Southampton, her homeport, on her stern. Everything about the ship is intrinsically British from her name to food to décor.
The defining characteristic of Cunard ships, including Queen Victoria, is the separation of passengers according to their accommodations to determine where they will dine, and whether they can access a lounge with concierge and a special deck area. The top tier are the "Queen's Grill Suites" passengers, who sail in the largest suites onboard (508 to 2,130 sq. ft.) and eat in the Queen's Grill. The second tier is the "Princess' Grill Suites," with staterooms ranging from 335 to 513 sq. ft. Both sets of passengers have exclusive access to the Grill's Lounge, where they can mingle for pre-dinner cocktails and canapés. The lounge has a full-time concierge to handle special requests. Outdoors, for these guests only, is the courtyard Terrace Café for dining al fresco; and the Grills Upper Terrace, a sunbathing area with special attention like refreshments and an Evian water spritz whenever the heat becomes unbearable.
All other guests, some 1,700 of them, reside in standard category inside, oceanview and balcony staterooms. They dine in the Britannia Restaurant, a grand, two-deck affair with waves of frosted glass framed in brass. A stunning mobile statue graces the entrance with a polished brass globe that rotates constantly.
Queen Victoria tries to make the onboard experience as classically Cunard as possible. New safety-at-sea laws no longer permit the intricate wood craftsmanship seen on previous Cunard ships. This is one reason why Queen Elizabeth 2, built in 1969, will be retired in 2008. But Queen Victoria, using the new safety standard compliant materials, still looks as if it has rich wood throughout.
The predominant colors in nearly all public rooms are wood-hued beiges and browns, accented with gold and burgundy, occasionally offset by striking Victorian red or royal blue accents.
One exception is the Queens Room, based on Queen Victoria's island retreat Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The isle is known for its pink rocks and sands, and although the room incorporates faux marble (which was the style in Osborne House), the walls have a delightfully soothing pink undertone. Another exception is the Lido restaurant, an unusually generous Lido in its spaciousness and window views. The color there is predominantly white with teal fabrics.
Very traditionally English is the Royal Court Theatre, with private viewing boxes set in gilded frames. The Todd English Restaurant is a very British pub setting, with deep chestnut leather booths.
The Wintergarden on the top decks is a greenhouse garden with live tropical plants and a retractable roof. The warmth of the sun can be felt there regardless of the outside temperature by closing the glass roof in cold weather.
The lovely Britannia Restaurant delivers consistently delicious continental cuisine. The dining room has two seatings for 900 each, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The room also serves breakfast and lunch daily in open seating.
Those paying higher fares dine at a single seating in the intimate Queen's Grill and Princess Grill, two identical single-level rooms aft on Deck 11, where caviar, jumbo shrimp and smoked salmon are yours for the asking. While the Princess Grill (132 seats) features extraordinary cuisine nightly, the Queens Grill (142 seats) is the top tier. The boast there is that they will prepare any plate requested, as long as they have the ingredients on hand.
Passengers in these higher category cabins and suites have exclusive access to The Courtyard Grill, an al fresco dining spot between the Queens and Princess Grills. There is no service charge to dine here, and it is first come, first serve.
The 450-seat Lido Restaurant is likely the most spacious at sea, almost the size of those found on ships carrying half again as many passengers. Separate food stations appeal to both British and American tastes, with minimal queuing for breakfast and lunch. The four dining areas all have linen tablecloths and waiter service. The Lido Pool Bar and Grill serves a grill menu with hamburgers and pizza available most waking hours.
The Golden Lion Pub will serve up fish and chips, bangers and mash, or steak and mushroom pie. No service charge here, either.
Make a reservation the moment you board for celebrity chef Todd English's wonderful restaurant; his Mediterranean-style menu features such delights as lobster and baby corn soup, and duck breasts in ginger sauce. Todd English levies a charge of $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner.
West End-quality production shows are performed in the Royal Court Theatre. Voyages of 10 nights or longer feature five original productions. The cast of 16 performers includes 12 dancers and four singers.
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. The UK's Belinda King, who produced the shows, was awarded 'Best On-Board ' at the Cruise Awards in 2006. The five unique shows were produced and will be shown only on Queen Victoria.
The show I saw was a tribute to 19th-century British music halls. It was as English and as tea and crumpets. This show was not exactly the most dazzling ever created though it was pleasant enough in the old style of shipboard entertainment. Some of the other titles offered sound a bit more promising for dazzle.
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.
This ship's superstructure is a Vista-class model which is in use by several other ships designed by the parent company. So the "standard" Britannia staterooms will look familiar to many cruisers. They come with a refrigerator, safe, hair dryer, robe and slippers, and 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. Inside Britannia staterooms range from 152 to 243 sq. ft.
These standard staterooms are a little short on shelf space, while there is almost too much closet space. There is a desk, small coffee table and couch. The bed comes with six pillows and an ultra fluffy duvét. The flat-screened television is conveniently tucked away in the corner of the room. The bathroom is smallish with one sink, a shower and not much storage. Complimentary shampoos, bars of soap and all other standard amenitis are provided. The shower is sadly lacking is shelf space, barely enough for the soap.
Queen Victoria has replaced Canyon Ranch with the Harding Brothers to operate the Spa, noting their willingness to venture into more "eastern" forms of treatment than the Canyon Ranch Spa on Queen Mary 2.
The spa offers Pilates and yoga classes for a daily fee or a cruise-long pass, as well as regular aerobics classes at no charge; a large thelassotherapy pool is enclosed within the spa area to make it available in all kinds of weather.
The fitness center is similar to those on most modern ships, with a gym, weight room, juice bar, whirlpool, Finnish sauna, herbal sauna, and steam room. Appointments are taken; charges include gratuities. The therapists don't try to talk you into buying expensive body care products after your treatment, and you're not required to fill out a health questionnaire beforehand.
A Spirit-class ship built in the classic ocean liner style of Cunard. Offers Queen's Grill and Princess Grill-class staterooms.
Best For People Who Want
The all-British style and tradition that is Cunard, the stately style and service of a classic ocean liner.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Budget cruising; pool-side games; a party atmosphere, lots of singles dancing late into the night.
Decks two and three are the heart of the ship, where one can stroll from one public room to the next, including the Royal Court Theatre, the Grand Lobby, the Queens Room, the Royal Arcade and the Britannia Restaurant.
Closest to the bow is the Royal Court Theater, three decks tall with raked seating from the front of the stage clear to the top. The best seats can be found by entering through labyrinthine curving tunnels that lead to the front of the stage on deck one. Entrances to the private boxes are on deck three, where ushers will check to see that you have paid the $50 reservation fee. That fee gets you a fantastic view, plus champagne and chocolate truffles during the show. The room itself is based on Victorian-era West End London theaters with plush red velvet chairs and gilding throughout.
Moving toward the stern, there is a consistent view between the top and bottom decks (two and three) so the public rooms seem to come in pairs. The upper deck (three) comprises the Royal Arcade shops, which is like a stroll along High Street, the shopping street in London. Shops include Harrods, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. The Cunardia Museum Shop sells Cunard memorabilia made by Waterford, Swarovski, Faberge and Staffordshire. Especially fun are the Cunard ship replicas.
The Art Gallery and the Cunardia Gallery, mostly dedicated to artifacts of Victorian England and the history of Cunard, are next in line along deck three. The view from the stroll outside these shops looks down upon the Golden Lion Pub and the casino.
Below the Royal Arcade on deck two is the Golden Lion Pub, a typically English bar serving ales on draught. Next comes the Empire Casino and Queen's Arcade, two rooms with games of chance in a Victorian décor. Strolling aft, one enters the lower level of the two-story, regal Queens Room ballroom.
In the tradition of older Cunard liners, the Queens Room is a dedicated ballroom, with a stage for live music at night and a magnificent dance floor. There is ballroom dancing at night to the ship's orchestra, and during the day it hosts horse racing and afternoon teas. The room is two decks tall with magnificent windows on one side and a commanding view of the room from the top deck looking down on the opposite side.
Next in line is the two-deck Library with more than 8,000 titles. A circular wooden staircase dominates the center of the room, with books within reach along the full length. Next one the lower deck comes the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar with champagne available by the glass. Like Queen Mary 2, the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar serves seven Veuve Clicquot labels, with prices from $7 per glass. Deck three has the Book Shoppe
The Grand Lobby reaches from deck three down to deck one. A grand staircase with a Dent Clock in the center (the same company that built Big Ben) dominates the fore end. The aft wall sports a magnificent three-dimensional brass mural of Queen Victoria emerging from the sun. The Grand Lobby is where embarking guests first board; it has desks for guest services and shore excursions. It has commanding staircases between each of the three decks, and a stage for quiet classical musicians on the lowest level.
Todd English Restaurant and the Chart Room fill out deck two; above them are the photography displays and the card room. The final room, filling both decks two and three, is the Britannia Restaurant, the main dining venue for those not staying in Queen's Grill or Princess Grill Suites.
Other public rooms Hemispheres, a lounge for live music and dancing at night. Churchill's Cigar Lounge and the Admirals Lounge are grouped together on deck 10 forward with the Commodore Club -- the best place to enjoy the horizon and/or sunset.
The international cuisine gets very high marks for variety, and high quality of preparation and presentation. Because most cruises are 12 to 18 days, the menus have a much longer cycle than on most ships. At lunch time, there are fresh prepared pastas in the main dining room, and special item stations in the lido offering, for example, smoked herring in the Baltic or fresh tuna in the Mediterranean. At breakfast and lunch, there is ample fresh fruit either cut up for a salad or sliced in the case of mango, paw paw and melon. A chef prepares omelets to order. The wine list is extensive with prices beginning in the low $20 range.
Queen Victoria has proper wine service in all the dining rooms with sommeliers to open and pour, and to make sure white wines and champagnes remain properly chilled in ice-buckets.
Many stewards have years of service aboard the ship, and a European style prevails. It is professional and attentive. The cabin staff is European, mostly Scandinavian, women. Cunard is renowned for its white-gloved "White Star ," named after the line Cunard acquired in the 1930s, the White Star Line of Titanic fame. is impeccable in the restaurants, including expert sommeliers. The menus are well rounded with meat, fish and vegetarian selections.
During a six-night Atlantic crossing or a week's cruise, two formal nights will be the norm. Most men, especially on a crossing, will wear tuxedos rather than dark suits; other nights are designated either informal (jacket but no tie for men) or casual; casual is always appropriate during the day. On a two-week cruise, there are four formal nights, and most men to wear tuxedos or dinner jackets. Informal nights require jacket and tie, and most comply.