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Cunard Line: Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Review

Queen Victoria, which is very similar to her fleetmate Queen Elizabeth, sails primarily in Europe on Easter and Western Mediterranean, Baltic, British Isles, and Norwegian coast itineraries. If you're looking for a class-conscious, traditional cruise, then

this may be the ship for you.

Designers drew upon the history of previous Cunard ocean liners to conceive Queen Victoria’s elegant interiors. From the ship’s double- and triple-height spaces—design features of grand liners of the past—to rooms imbued with an elegant yet understated British charm, the overall effect is contemporary and historically classic. The impact of the Grand Lobby’s triple-height ceiling, sweeping staircase, and sculpted balconies is immediate and unmistakable.

Queen Victoria herself might well feel at home on entering the double-height Queens Room, a loggia-style venue designed in the manner of the grand ballrooms found in large English country estates, such as Her Majesty’s own Osborne House. The ballroom has cantilevered balconies overlooking an inlaid-wood dance floor; the staircase is detailed with classically ornate, curved railings.

In addition to the intimate dining spaces and a lounge reserved for occupants of Queens and Princess Grill accommodations, an outdoor terrace is devoted to their exclusive use. All other public rooms are accessible to everyone on board.

One of the world's most distinguished names in ocean travel since 1840, the Cunard Line has a long history of deluxe transatlantic crossings and worldwide cruising. The line's ships are legendary for their comfortable accommodations, excellent cuisine, and personal service. After a series of owners tried with little success to revive the company's flagging passenger shipping business, Carnival Corporation offered an infusion of ready cash and the know-how to turn the line around in 1998. Exciting new ships have followed.

Delightful daily events include afternoon tea and the maritime tradition of sounding the ship's bell at noon. The line offers North Atlantic crossings and seasonal shorter cruises, including Northern European and Mediterranean itineraries.

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What You Should Know

Pros

  • The promenade deck that encircles the ship is ideal for casual strolls or jogging
  • The shops on board are well-stocked
  • The Winter Garden with a glass roof that opens is a pleasing spot to relax with a cup of tea

Cons

  • The first Cunardia museum exhibit at sea is disappointingly small
  • Standard accommodations don't have enough drawer space
  • Private box seating for shows in the Royal Court Theater requires a reservation and fee
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 981
  • Entered Service 2007
  • Gross Tons 90,000
  • Length 965 feet
  • Number of Cabins 985
  • Passenger Capacity 1,990
  • Width 106 feet
  • New

Feb 14, 2012

panama round trip

Up to now, we've always done the QM2. With that ship doing less trips to the Caribbean, we decided to try the Queen Victoria. This ship has a more luxurious feel(at least on the surface)It unfortunatly is NOT an ocean liner, so even minor seas really upsets it's balance. That all being said it was a more laid back feel than QM2. Food was very good. We recommend paying the $10 fee to dine in the Lido at night. Bamboo/Coriandor/Prime were better & less

hurried than the Britannia dining room. Entertainment is not as good as QM2..the budgets seem lower & it shows. Theater is a nice place, either way. Genrally very good. We did the " Grills" the last 2 trips & it really IS much better than the main dining room. I recommend paying the $10 to dine in the Lido at night,as you get a more relaxed & unhurried feel. We had a wheelchair room. If you like a stateroom that's 75% larger for the same price..well that's the way to go. Do remember that if they need that room for an actual wheelchair pax, you may get "bumped" with no upgrade. Pretty good. The theater is nice, but the shows don't have the budget of the QM2... Smaller showband, not as polished performances. Not too bad, mind you. Good lecturers with varied topic matter. Great library, better than the one on QM2. Excursions are pretty much the same for all Cunard ships. Most are pretty good. Always a good idea to read reviews. Overall a very nice trip. My partner got quite ill. Not from pax, but from an earlier bug that he had trouble getting over.We still recommend doing the Grills if you can. The extra service & attention to detail are definatly worth it.

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Dec 7, 2010

Med

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 time listed 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. The food was good, but not excellant. It was well presented. Portions tend to be small. Soem entrees carried names not even the waiter coudl explain. Tended to be a lot of "show and tell" for food items rather than basics such as steak, etc. Excellant and elegant. Very clean and well appointed. Space was adequate for a balcony room. Balcony tended to be on the smal side. More for the older person. Not a lot of activity for younger passengers. Excursions are expensive however one muct rememebr this i a Cunard ship and they do not cater to the inexpensive side. The ports were the highlight even though we missed the first one (Split, Crotia) due to weather. Corfu, Istanbul, and Rhodes were the best.We had been to the others several times.

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Aug 8, 2010

Med

Unfortunately, due to Spa staff treatment it spoiled our cruise completely. Also, the "service costs" were extreme and were added to everything. I booked a detox class and could not relax as the staff try to sell things to you constantly. The ship itself was beautiful but apart from our cabin service, which was excellent the overall service in the restaurants, bars and poolside was poor. There was a good choice of food in the main dining room but

in the Lido (relaxed dining) the choice was minimal and was not set up very well as parts of it were closed and this meant crowds queueing for the food and bumping into each other with trays of food. The food in the main dining room was good but service was not especially if you wanted a glass of wine as the wine/drinks waiter had so many tables to cover I was almost finished my meal by the time I got my wine. Our stateroom was excellent and bigge than the cabins on previous ships and we did appreciate the space. On board activities were geared mainly for "older" passengers. The activities that were in the "Daily Programme" were repeated every few days. We went on 3 excursions and they were very good especially the Herculaneam Ruins in Naples and Toar Mina in Scicily. I would say my partner and I were expecting the "WOW"!! factor from Cunard but it was just average. Both my partner and I did not like the "class" system and think it is discrimenatory and speaking with some of the other passengers they felt this way too. We believe that Cunard is more for "older" people and the activities, entertainment etc reflects this. The wave machine in the swimming pool was on only once and there were so many complaints from older people that it was switched off for the duration of the cruise.

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Sep 3, 2009

Scandinavia Baltic

A long awaited consort to the Queen Mary 2 - five stars all around. In short, Cunard at its very best The children's program looked to be first-rate; we can't wait to take our grandson! Compared to other cruises and cruise lines, Cunards shore excursions were priced well and were a good value overall. We set out for our 73rd cruise, and flew to Southampton via United Airlines. United did a superb job, we have no complaints at all with

our flights or baggage handling. (NOTE: in the past we paid for over-weight luggage, but not any more, lessons well learned. We pack less now as compared to our overindulgant packing of the past, weigh our lugagge before leaving home, and use Travel Space Bags, the ones that you crush the air out of, or, in my case, sit on, to expell the air in the bags, and this arrangement has worked well on the last couple of cruises. Soft clothing items like underwear, jerseys, shorts and socks work best. Don't use dry cleaned or formal clothes, which would be wrinkled.) We had plenty of clothes options for this cruise, and we do send laundry out during our cruises. Still, 4 huge cases and two carry ons did the trick, at least for us. We had two concerns before leaving for this cruise. One: the weather, which we tracked almost daily before travelling. The other: swine flu, or H1N1 virus. We had had upper 90's, as is the norm, hear in Virginia, for weeks, and looked forward to cooler weather in the Baltic area, and that is what we had, with only one day of drizzle during the 14 days of the cruise. Swine flu? The news media was hyping the flu for weeks before we left, and the Wall Street Journal put a near fear for travel to England. Nothing seemed wrong during the trip, and nothing seemed wrong, flu wise, when we we returned home. Cunard forced the hand sanitizer application to all passengers, in dining rooms, at Captains parties, you had to use it, and there were sanitizer stations EVERYWHERE on the ship. This was an excellent idea. It was funny seeing passengers lined up to get their dose of sanitizer, but oh so necesssary. Cunard met our flight at Heathrow, and after an hour of waiting for other flights, took us to the Sheraton Heathrow for refreshments, while other flights arrived with passengers for the cruise. Refreshments were light, to say the least, cookies and cofffee or tea, canned juices - who cared, we were all jet-lagged. After an hours wait, off to Southampton, which was a sleepy ride, on a highway. The Victorias huge stack loomed ahead, resplendent in Cunard Red and black. We passed an old friend we knew as the Royal Viking Star, today Fred Olsens Black Watch. Grill passengers waited to board in a private area, and we shortly had express boarding, and express baggage delivery to our stateroom. We also had lunch in the Princess Grill, and had three hours on the ship before non-Grill passengers could board the ship. - We have sailed with Cunard Line since 1969, and have thoroughly enjoyed numerous sailings on the Queen Elizabeth 2, Cunard Ambassador, Cunard Countess, Sagafjord and Vistafjord, Cunard Dynasty. Our recognition with Cunard Line is one of Diamond, tops for the Cunard World Club, for repeat passengers. Now, here we were on the newest Cunarder, with fond memories of the spectacular Queen Mary 2 from which to compare to the Victoria. To give a size comparison, the Mary, at over 150,000 tonnes, and the Victoria, at 90,000 tonnes, the QE2 at about 60,000 tonnes, was the size diffferential, which I find fascinating. Almost like a tee shirt" extra, XX large, X large and large. Where the Mary is sleek and gorgeous, boasting her true ocean liner profile and superstructure, the Victoria is not as handsome on the outside, save for the gorgeous stack. Carnival has built many ships from the same blue print as the Victoria, with ships for Holland America, Costa and P & O, as well as for Carnival itself. The plan is a good one, and very adaptable to cabin and spaces inside, and is not at all cookie cutter. Being Cunard stands for pure luxury, and the Victorias layout and interior hold up to the Mary, which is unlike any other ship at sea. To say the Victoria is a smaller version of the Mary would be an unfair comparison, in my opinion, as both ships are divine in their own luxurious ways. Our Penthouse was typical of most staterooms found on the new cruise ships today. Not as ga-ga fancy as the ones on the Mary, yet, comfortable and elegant. The usual L shape, with a bath on one side as you enter the stateroom, closet alcove (superb closet space), then king bed, two flat screen TV's, sofa, easy chair and coffee table, large balcony with real chaises, excelent sound proofing - elegant decor, fine linens and towels - granite topped mini-bar,with fridge, bath with tub/shower, granite counter and tiled floor, and luxury toiletries. I had made appointments with the Cunard Royal Spa weeks before the cruise, with a toll free number Cunard gave me, directly to the ship - how impressive is that?! We checked out the spa, and were given the grand tour. What a beautiful spa it is. We met the masseurs, and all spa personnel. We had signed up for three massages each, and added a fourth each while on board. We also used the salons stylist. (Note: during our cruise at least, there were no half-price massages offered, or two for ones, which kept the spa experience professional, not "cut rate".) We had booked our shore excursions before leaving home, and were not charged for them until we were on board the ship, with ample time to change any before hand while on board. English and French were widely spoken in the ports, and while some ports took Euros, or Kroner, credit and debit cards were accepted. The Victoria set for Zeebrugge, Belgium. We like Belgium, and enjoyed Zeebrugge. Swans glide majestically on the many canals in this pretty town. Many of the buildings are gilded, and the architecture is unique on the old buildings. We had a canal tour and walking tour, the excursion booked with Cunard. Don't take a taxi from ship to town, was $100.00 ONE WAY! There was no free shuttle. There were several excursions from which to choose. We wish we had more time in beautiful Zeebrugge. Chocolates, linens and lace and mussels were all there to buy, and we had no time. That was a pity for us. The first production show was held the night of Zeebrugge. The Royal Court Theatre seats 830 with no support columns to block any view of the stage. It is a two level affair, similar to a Broadway theatre, complete with side boxes for two each. I have not seen a theatre at sea set up so professionally since the SS France, whose theatre in her day, held 650. I will dare to say, the Victorias theatre has it all over the Marys. This show, making good use of the rising platform in the stages floor, and the wide spanse for the ships large orchestra, lent itself well to the talented and beautifully costumed ships ensemble. Such talent, especially the dancers. The show was almost a combination of Celtic meets West Side Story. More on the theatres boxes later. Bremerhaven ws bombed out severly during WWII. The city today is rather blah, a few moderate-low rise modern buildings making up a sparse skyline. The tides are amazing here, massive clam flats at low tide, as we entered, led way for a full tide upon sailing out. We toured the maritime museaum, which was nice, and had a snack on a 1919 coastal steamer, built in Mississippi! Some of the sandwiches were herrring, with a large pickled whole fish hanging out of the roll (not our cup of tea), with other options, more to our taste available. Other exhibits included a warship and U-boat, oddly, without Hitlers markings. The inside exhibits were quite interesting, mainly, passenger and cargo ships models. We have been to Hamburg, and there were excursions available from the ship. One city we love is Copenhagen. We have stayed in Copenhagen, and have rainy cruises that called there. This visit was on a very warm summer day, and we once again enjoyed the city. We took a canal boat trip, and then spent thje balance of the day at Tivoli Garden, having a long lunch in the best restaurant there. Note: the excursion includes admission to Tivoli, no amusement rides are included. Stockholm is a big city, and a beauty. The city itself, however large, is well planned for sightseeing, with time on our own after to canal, we had a fine half day, our first of two calls in Sweden. There are hop-on-hop-off buses at the dock and a free Cunard shuttle to the city, as well as many excursions. We took the shuttle, booked our own canal ride while ashore, and toured on our own. Sailing into and out of Stockholm is a delight, with beautiful homes, islands and friedndly people waving as the ship glides by. As beautuful a sail as we had into Stockholm, Helsinkis approach was less so. We had Helsinki canceled as a port on a previous cruise, on cruise line that is no longer around, and we booked this cruise with Helsinki as our prime objective. The scenery was colorful, dotted with camps and fishing villages. Urban living was not as spread out as it is in Stockholm. Oh what a city Helsinki proved to be, in fact, the city was the highlight for us over the others on this cruise. We toured, sailed, shopped and delighted in the city, and felt unusually at home there. One thing, in fact the only purchase of substance during the cruise, was the iitalla china we bought in the iitalla store in Helsinki. The main shopping street is called Esplanade, with a treelined boulevard, and shops and cafes dotting each side of the long street. The better stores refund the duty and vat tax on the spot. As wonderful and summery the day was there, winter was around the corner, as we noted in the winter clothes being sold. There were many excursions available, and we enjoyed the one we took. The Finns were delightful, eagrer to show off their beautiful capital city with pride. We booked the Sedestal Railroad trip in Krisiansand, Norway, an old vintage, well preserved train, with steamcoal engine, and a nice, restful trip. It is one way, either up, or back, with one way on a motor coach. There is really nothing but the train and the scenery, no shopping. Lovers of trains will enjoy this peaceful trip. I left the ship after lunch and went in to the town, which was clean, full of parks and gardens but not much else. One city we love is Copenhagen. We have stayed in Copenhagen, and have rainy cruises that called there. This visit was on a very warm summer day, and we once again enjoyed the city. We took a canal boat trip, and then spent thje balance of the day at Tivoli Garden, having a long lunch in the best restaurant there. Note: the excursion includes admission to Tivoli, no amusement rides are included. I will only review the Lido once, for breakfast and for lunch. The Lido on the Victoria ia a vast space, occupyng port and starboard sides, with more than ample seating and a more than generous selection of food items. We prefer to have all of our meals in our assigned dining room, however, with shore excursions often early, we used the Lido for breakfast, and with some that interfered with Princess Grill times for lunch, we had lunch in the Lido. Breakfast was wonderful, as was lunch. The pizza deserves extra special attention here, as it was perfectly suited to our tastes. Made with real fresh, soft dough, cooked in a genuine pizza oven, and most importantly, made to order, either the special of the day, or a conconction of ones own, this was the best pizza on any ship we have ever had, bar none. Another area, one I have found fault with on many a ships Lido breakfast, smoked salmon, which was abundant and another, the regional cuisine areas, such as "pasta" or "Asian" et al, whereby the food is usually precooked and sitting under heat lamps, not so on this cruise - again, these foods were cooked to our order. We had three gala cocktail parties during the cruise, the first the Captains Welcome. Sure, the line to meet the captain, the photographers, and the migling of passengers in the vast Queens Room. The drinks were pre-made, with wine and so forth, however, I ordered what I wanted from the bar without any problem. The second party was invitation only, for Grill passengers, and was open bar, the third, ivitation only, for Diamond, Platinum and gold repeaters, with open bar and very lavish hors 'd ourves. Not here, nor anywhere, were the photographers in your face, a plus. The second big show, and our "night in the box". The show was 'A stroke of Genius', and we booked a Royal Box for the evening. The box costs $50.00 per couple, provides cocktails, pre-show, with desserts, and chocolates and a half of Veuve Cliquot, in the privacy of the box. How decadent! As for the show, it was truly a stroke of genius, with characters from the famous patings by the masters come to life in song, dance and dazzling costumes. The sight line to the stage is awesome. Cunard has three spectacles: Apassionatta, that debuted on the Mary, Dance Passion, that debuted on the Victoria, which we saw and loved, and a third to debut on the new Queen Elizabeth, the show is yet unnamed. The the "passion" themed shows, along with the lavish shows we enjoyed on our cruise, are truly professional. No canned music, or "click-track" and no worn costumes. The kids are top rate dancers and singers, Some ships have what some call a "soul". Many ships we have sailed certainly exude a warmth, and feels comfortable, however, a ship with a "soul" is not that common. The Mary has that feeling of a "soul" and boy does the Victoria. It is a welcoming feeling, a sense of comfort and overall contentment. The ship seems to wrap you in a security blanket of wel being. Of course, the crew and captain have a lot to do with this, as does the passenger that sails on the ship. It is earned by the ship, not something that can be bought or copied. Crazy as it may seem, passengers that know what I am refering to, they know what a ship with "soul" is. We had three days at sea during this cruise, less than we like, but three welcome ones to explore the ship in depth and enjoy our massages as well as the hydro pool. The ship offered seemingly endlless activites and enrichment lectures. Cunard has long been associated with providing a series of heralded guest speakers during cruises. We have long avaided the casinos during a cruise, and we nerver even looked inside the casino on the Victoria. We did admire the Golden Lion Pub, a hallmark on a Cunarder, although time did not allow for lunch there. One of the priviledges of Diamond status is a complimentary lunch at the only reservations dining venue aboard, Todd English, which we had no time for as well. We have always enjoyed Todd English on our Mary sailings. Todd English had an exquisite menu and the room is beautifully decorated. Two days in St. Petersburg Russia were enough fo me. We had been there before, and I have a gray feeling for the place. The Hermitage and Peter Hof museums are painted and well maintained, however, the city in general is drab, to put it mildly, lacks the little things that we in the western world enjoy, like restaurants and stores, and an atmosphere that lacked freedom. Only passengers with booked shore excursions are allowed off the ship, by Russian rules. There were 85 excursions offered, many in private cars. We took the Peter Hof tour, and had a wonderful guide, and enjoyed the palace and beautiful grounds. We took this on the second day of the visit, having canceled the first days excursion due to exhaustion. There were 9 cruise ships in St, Petersburg. Grim, overgrown with weeds, the Soviet spirit lives on in St. Petersburg. In the future, maybe we'll stay on board if we ever book another cruise that calls there. Another highlight for us, the third reason for booking this particular cruise, was Tallinn, Estonia. I say this was the third, because the first reason was the Queen Victoria, the second Helsinki. Tallinn was wonderful. We had P & O's Arkadia, a near twin to the Victoria, and a long missed old friend the MS Mermoz, of Paquet French Cruises fame, now sailing for Louis Cruises, and looking a fresh as when we loved her as the Mermoz, docked nearby. Rumors had the Mermoz at the scrappers in Alang India, however, that was not true. Tiring, is the word for the Tallinn tour. We walked for 4 hours, then visited a maritime museaum (no ships, no water), set in a Medievil Tower of 16 floors, no elevator. After two floors, we all voted to leave. On to the ships and boats, an hours drive away. This part of the tour was very nice, touring 1910 Baltic ice breaker, 1940's naval cruiser and got to tour the inside of a WWII submarine. Still, the day was very tiring. Tallinn itself was fascinating, and a vibrant old world city. Gothenberg, our second Swedish port, and last port, and only rainy port of the cruise, proved to be a let down. Two things, the city was all too serious, not a relaxed place, and second, our guides were duds. The motorcoach guide was stern and lacked a sense of humor, and the guide on the canal trp was a Britany Spears wannabe, and she seemed more interested in her nails. The fact that it was drizzly and he fact that this was the last port of what was a wonderful cruise also played havoc with our emotions. At least we had a day at sea before the end. The day at sea saw a sunny, cool, fall day, with a fair sea, 12 foot waves, of which the Victoria sailed like a knife through butter. We had our forth massage, last of the big parties, booked another cruise while aboard, packed, and reveled in all that is what makes us love Cunard Line and why we are so loyal to the true British cruise experience at sea. What made this cruise so special for us? The Queen Victoria, nobody calls her Vicky, not yet at least. The Princess Grill, and the two private elevators to the Grills, the Princess staff, Luciano, whom we knew as a waiter on Royal Viking Line, his charming assistant Marli, Philip, a true sommelier, Patu, maitre 'd hotel, and other staff who made our dining there so pleasurable. The staff at the spa, Chestan Michal and Miron, Daniel in the salon. Our cruise in the lands of Santa, Trolls, swans, fairytales, herring and old soviets was all too soon coming to an end. Cunard had an old slogan used in advertising in the 1960's, which I say displayed on the Victoria. I will affectionately call her Vicky. The slogan: "getting there is half the fun". How very true.

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Mar 22, 2009

World Cruise - Asia segment

Just returned from the Sydney to Singapore segment (27 nights) of the 2009 World Cruise. We booked a last-minute heavily discounted package that also included two nights post-cruise luxury accommodation in Singapore & economy airfares home to Sydney. This was our first cruise, although we have travelled extensively before. The cruise exceeded our expectations & we will certainly be cruising with Cunard again. Truly magical ...& I thought I'd be bored!

The food in all venues was of a high standard. The Britannia dining room offered a la carte gourmet dining for three meals per day, although we generally attended only for dinner. Three or more courses, a choice of vegetarian, seafood, meat, poultry or low fat for mains. Food included lobster, prawns, duck, turkey, thick steaks, snails, frogs legs etc. As we were budget travellers, we were unable to access the more elite Queens Grill & Princess Grill restaurants. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido, buffet style, with theme lunches/dinners at times eg St Patrick's Day - Irish food. The range is extensive. Made-to-order pizzas and pasta are also available there. Complimentary room service is also available, although the menu is far more limited. We enjoyed our first daily cuppa delivered to our room each morning. Specialist coffees are available at the on-board cafe, at a price. There is a Todd English restaurant on board (payment required - US$20 lunch, US$30 dinner, although this was discounted at times).

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