by Alan Jones
December 8, 2007
The photos mentioned in this report & several others can be found at CruiseMates Gallery.
We arrived at Southampton's City Terminal just before 5pm, and although she was partially hidden behind the terminal building, Cunard's newest liner, Queen Victoria, stood proudly above it, with her name lit up (photo 1).
So come 5:30pm, with all our paperwork filled & filed, we were finally allowed on board. First impressions were very good, the entrance took us straight into the main atrium, and everywhere you looked there was wood, wood, marble & wood. Very nice.
Our first stop was the main atrium, to look at the magnificent brass picture of the Queen Victoria ship (photos 8 to 10). Unfortunately, President & Managing Director of Cunard Line, Carol Marlow, was there recording an interview so we had to change route, but looking up & down the sweeping stairways -- we thought it very reminiscent of the main stairs on the Ex-Renaissance ships (photos 6 & 7), to our right was the upper floor of a lovely 2 storey wooden panelled library (photos 29 to 32), with spiral staircase & authors names woven into the carpet. Forward of that was a well sized card room (photo 16). In order to not get into the interview video, we retreated & walked the other side, past a lounge & bar, through the photo area and into the upper level of the Britannia Restaurant (photos 12 to 15). The ceiling was dual level with inset lighting, and seemed very convivial.
After a walk around the restaurant, we took the lift (as per the route planner) to the 9th deck.
This deck houses all the spa, gym, fitness, and therapy rooms (photos 22, 23 & 55 to 57). There seemed to be enough to ensure that you wouldn't have to wait too long for an appointment. The equipment in the gym appeared tightly packed, but still easily accessible & usable.
I made the mistake of wandering into one therapy room & came across two of the staff testing a 'dry float tank.' They explained that you are wrapped in a thick plastic blanket, then lowered into warm water to float for 40 minutes -- it is supposed to be equivalent to a good 6 hour sleep. I decided to have a go & have to say that it felt really good.
Above the spa area are the Commodore Club lounge (photos 17 to 20), with it's panoramic window, Admiral side Lounge & Churchill Cigar room. Behind these you enter Hemisphere's club (photos 24 to 25), which seemed a little small, but was fine most evenings.
Making our way aft, we found the children/teens play zones, with all the adults busy checking out the air hockey games. Above these you come to the Grill bars, courtyard & lounges (photos 94 to 96 & 21). They seemed quite pleasant, although for the extra money I would have expected something more noteworthy. The most noticeable feature was the use of settees at some of the tables instead of chairs. Not sure I like that idea, sinking below the table as you eat. Finally, above the Grills you get the grill passengers exclusive deck space -- right under the ship's whistle, I can see some complaints coming there.
Anyway, we next made our way past the Pavilion Pool & into the Winter Garden (photos 39 to 42). Having seen the name I had thought it was going to be a lounge as it is on QM2, but on Queen Victoria, it is a pavilion style area (photo 58), with heavy duty deck chairs & a retractable roof. We were surprised that the roof did not cover the pool as well, making it an all season pool, especially for if it is away from the Med, which will be her main haunt.
Aft of the Winter Garden was a very well lit self-service Lido (photos 33 to 66), and beyond that a smaller pool with whirl pools. There seemed to be plenty of sun bed space around the decks.
We continued to deck 7, to look at some of the staterooms, which ranged from the "more than adequate" to the "everything you could want and more" (photos 28 & 50 to 54).
After that we returned to deck 3 to work the other end of the ship. Returning through the Grand Lobby, we were now able to stand & take in the majesty of the main atrium stairway, with it's open space, sweeping stairways, and, wrought iron railings. Very nice work. You then reach the art gallery. The gallery idea seemed far classier than having peices strewn all over the ship. The gallery led into Queen Victoria's shopping arcade. Complete with another stairwell which houses an "old fashioned" style clock, which plays the 'Big Ben' chimes, but for some reason the hands were 2 minutes behind real time, so although the chimes were spot on, the clock read at 28 or 58 minutes past the hour ??? (photos 62 to 54).
Continuing forward from here you get to the entrances into the Theatre Boxes, which were a novelty, and I'm sure will be very busy for that reason. You can book these in advance if you are a Grill Passenger, or for us mere mortals, they can be booked on the day of any Theatre Production Show. There is a charge, but this covers the following: A bell boy, who will come to your table when you have finished your meal & escort you to the show, a glass or two of chilled Veuve Cliquot with hors d'oeuvres or canapés, with a further half bottle and chocolates in your private box, and the chance to visit with the cast of the show backstage. This last item didn't happen on our cruise as they were still trying to work out the logistics, but this in no way detracted from the value of the experience & we thoroughly reccomend it for something different (photos 67 to 70).
Coming down one deck from the boxes, we arrive at the middle level entry into the theatre. We sat at the back of this level for the show, but were surprised to find that the seats didn't appear to be offset, so many people had heads in their way. The step down isn't very great either, so if you have a normal to tall person sit in front of you, you cannot see over their heads (photos 65 to 66). There was a lot of bobbing & weaving from people trying to get a clear view of what looks like a very good stage, with excellent lighting & sound system. The dance troupe seemed tight & well organized as they performed a brand new show for their first time in front of an audience (photos 71 to 79).
As you leave the Theatre on this level, you come to the Casino and Gaming machines. These were quite busy, but the noise didn't carry too far. This bar, which was very busy, IS a smoking facility but the air conditioning seemed to handle the extraction of the smell of tobacco very well.
Off to the side of this, passing the chiming clock & stairway, you come to the non-smoking Golden Lion, which is sectioned off, although the doors were held open. The bar area was attractive, with bar stools, and comfortable chairs & settees around the room. The bar could be difficult to get to when busy, but there is also waiter service to tend the tables. When we were in there, there was a pianist playing all the usual popular "feel good" songs, which gave the bar a good ambience. Sure to be a popular haunt for many guests.
Aft of the Golden Lion & Casino, you come to the Queens Arcade & two tiered Queens Room (photos 59 to 61), which has a small stage, and large, very nicely inlaid dance floor, and chandeliers overhead. This is the area where themed Balls & dance events will be hosted, along with various reception parties and, of course, Afternoon and High Tea -- be warned this gets even busier than QE2 and seating can be hard to find. Like the QE2, the room is the full width of the ship, with walkways through it for the causal onlooker.
Continuing aft, we now come to one of the Museum areas of the liner, containing posters, memorabilia, pictures, letters, and a replica of the Blue Riband trophy (photos 26 & 27). The reason that only a replica is on board, "according to legend," is that when Cunard won the trophy, the then owner declared that liners were about elegance & not speed "Queens do not race," and that the trophy should never be taken on board -- well that's the story as we were told it.
You now enter the Grand Lobby once more, with it's sweeping stairways, and to your left you have the Veuve Clicquot champagne bar, which seemed larger than most of the champagne bars on other ships, a great place to watch the world go by with a glass or two of bubbly (that'll be the Tonic in my Gin that makes the bubbles). Directly across from this bar, you have the lower library area, and to the side of that the pay to dine Todd English restaurant (photos 89 to 93). As you enter this restaurant, you walk down an aisle of silken drapes, leading to the bar where you can relax and have a private pre-dinner drink. Most of the tables were made up as 4's, but we did see one table of 8 to the left as you enter. But they can be re-arranged for larger or more private seating.
Using the stairs as a shortcut to return to the starboard side of the ship, you come into what will be the specialty coffee bar. Then we come to the Chart Room & bar, which was the busiest bar for pre-dinner drinks, as it runs up to the lower level entry into the Britannia Restaurant.
Returning to the Grand Lobby, we drop down to the final passenger deck, where the Purser's Office, Tours Desk and Internet Centre are located. If you stand at the base of the stairs & look up you have that magnificent brass picture of the Queen Victoria ship once more. Note the lighting on this changed during the day, and gives it a new aspect each time.
Thank you for taking the time to read my report. I hope it has given you some feeling for the liner & her rooms.