Cunard Line - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Cunard Line

Queen Victoria

by Paul Kennedy
Baltic Sea
August 2, 2009

INTRODUCTION
Due to an impending redundancy, my partner and I booked an A7 cabin, which, through an offer by our travel agent gave us an automatic 2-grade upgrade to A5. This was in April 2008 (we always book early). In July of that year we had our final cruise on QE2 for which we booked a Britannia Grill cabin, but were upgraded to a Q2 Queens Grill penthouse suite. Whether or not it was Cunard's intention to encourage us to book higher grade cabins in the future, we upgraded our Queen Victoria cabin to a P1 Princess Grill suite. More about that later.

EMBARKATION
As usual, we drove the 150 miles from home to Southampton, to the new Ocean Terminal for the first time. In front of the terminal, there are three parallel lanes to allow luggage to be unloaded. We were directed into the outermost one. This unloading area is partly roofed over and the barrel roofing stops over the last lane and has no guttering, so that water pours on to the people below when it rains. Beware being directed into that lane on a wet day, at least until the problem is rectified.

We arrived at the terminal at about 11.00am and although there were a lot of people wearing high visibility jackets saying "Supervisor", there appeared to be no porters. We therefore had to find trolleys and wheel our suitcases to the baggage gate. It was only when we started to put our cases on the conveyor belt did a porter appear and take over.

We were directed to the first floor and were checked in immediately. Britannia passengers were given coloured cards and asked to remain seated until their colour was called, whilst we were directed to a seating area near the boarding gates. We were there perhaps 45 minutes before being boarded, and went directly to our suite, 7066 Deck 7 port side in the off-chance that our luggage might already have arrived. No such luck. Our steward introduced himself and said that we could get lunch in the Lido. However, after exploring the Grills upper terrace and the courtyard, we stumbled in to the Princess Grill to be told that it was serving lunch, so that is where we lunched. We never did use the Lido.

CABIN
As mentioned, we were in 7066 Deck 7 on the port side, just forward of the B staircase and hence approximately midships. Entering the suite down a short "corridor", there was a walk-in wardrobe on the left with several feet of hanging space with a large shelf above. The wardrobe also contained a shelved cupboard with safe. The bathroom was entered off this walk-in area and had a full bath with shower, washbasin with marble surround the length of the bathroom, large shelf below and six glass shelves above. Comment has been made about lack of storage on Queen Victoria, but there was more than enough for this 14-night cruise.

Past the wardrobe area was the sleeping area with the very comfortable bed made up as a king-size. Under the bed were two large drawers, but still leaving space for suitcase. The bedside tables had two drawers each and the desk to the left of the bed also had drawers. The desk was halfway down the cabin at a 45 degree angle to the bed and on the opposite wall, there was a semi-circular unit containing the fridge and bookshelves below and two televisions above, one angled towards the bed and the other into the seating area.

The positioning of these two units effectively separated the lounge area from the sleeping area. The lounge area consisted of an armchair and a very long and comfortable sofa which could be made into another bed. There was a small and low coffee table, which was, unfortunately, a little too low and too small to be able to comfortable eat from if you ordered room service. The same could be said for the table on the balcony, which also sported two very comfortable chairs with adjustable backs.

DINING & FOOD
One of the reasons we decided to book a Princess Grill cabin was to be able to have the same table and table companions for all meals. As it was, we had a table for two, but close enough to adjacent tables to be able to talk to them or not. The Princess Grill on Queen Victoria is on Deck 11 starboard side (the Queens Grill is a mirror image on the port side) and with floor to ceiling windows in a curve from end to end. The 180º views from all tables are spectacular. The Grills restaurants on Queen Victoria must be among the finest locations at sea, especially with the courtyard between. The Orchid Restaurant on Arcadia runs very close, although I admit I don't what the situation is on other Vista class ships in the Carnival fleets.

The food in Princess Grill was excellent, with a wide range of choices and if they don't appeal for any reason, there is an accompanying à la carte dinner menu. Service was impeccable. Our waiter, Warren (who was our waiter on QE2 last year) provided prompt and efficient service, ably assisted by Pamela. Another advantage of having the same table for all meals is the staff soon learn your likes and dislikes and you don't have to repeatedly say what you want and don't want.

The same applies to our sommelier, Philip. Firstly, he was knowledgeable, soon discovered our tastes, explained about the wines we chose and offered suggestions without extending our budget too far.

SERVICE
Already mentioned above, the service in the Princess Grill was impeccable. Our cabin steward, Romilo, kept our cabin immaculate, although sometimes he was a little quick off the mark. We would return after our usually short breakfast to find him making up the bed or cleaning the bathroom. However, much rather that than the opposite. Service in the only two bars we use, the Grills Lounge and the Commodore Club was fast and efficient. We could enter half an hour before lunch or dinner and have a drink on our table within a couple of minutes. Not so on a sister line we have cruised on recently. It could take fully 25 minutes to get a drink.

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT
We normally don't take part in on board activities unless there is perhaps a well-known speaker. Unfortunately, there were none on this voyage. However, we were more than happy in the Commodore Club or on the Grills Upper Terrace with a good book.

We attended two shows in the Royal Court Theatre and both were excellent Victoriana, a selection of Victorian song and dance, and Celtic Heartbeat with Irish song and dance. For both of these, we booked a box. The $50 surcharge may seem expensive, but with the champagne and chocolates before the performance, a half bottle of champagne during the performance and a souvenir photograph at the end, the cost is not as high as it seems.

The boxes made the shows a more comfortable experience obviously the champagne, but more room to move about and comfortable chairs. The sight lines are not so good if you are towards the front. However, well worth doing for the experience.

The only other entertainment we experienced was the excellent pianist in the Commodore Club in the evenings Martin Orbidans.

PORTS OF CALL
Our choice of cruises is dictated by school holidays in the UK. Our choice of this cruise, however, was because we wanted to sail on Queen Victoria, although it wasn't our first time on the ship we were lucky enough to have a preview visit when the ship first arrived in Southampton in December 2007. Most of the ports of call we had visited before, in 2002 on Caronia, but fortunately with so many shore excursions available, it was possible to do something completely different. In the past, we have taken all day excursions, but found these quite tiring, so for this cruise, we opted for short excursions of 3 to 4 hours. This enabled us to have a guided tour, go ashore on our own, stay on board or do all three. We made great use of the Grills Upper Terrace as the weather was excellent most of the way.

Our itinerary was Southampton, Zeebrugge, Bremerhaven, Kristiansand, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg (overnight), Tallinn, Gothenburg and back to Southampton. We took excursions at all of these ports except Bremerhaven where we met up with friends. Ten excursions for two people worked out to be very expensive, but we though they were all good value, especially an evening of Russian Folklore at the Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg. We were welcomed with a substantial shot of vodka, very welcome, as most of us had got drenched getting from the coach to the palace entrance in a downpour that had started earlier in the evening. During the interval, we had caviar canapés and champagne. The performances were absolutely superb and put on solely for Cunard passengers. We had originally booked an evening concert at the Yusopov Palace, but this was cancelled at the last moment.

GRATUITIES
As Grill passengers, there was $13 per person per day automatically added to the stateroom account and for drinks ordered around the ship, an automatic 15% added to the bill for gratuities. We chose, however, to give our waiters, sommelier and room steward extra for the exemplary levels of service they gave us.

DISEMBARKATION
We were asked to vacate our suite by 8.30am and assemble in the Grills Lounge or the Commodore Club. Disembarkation was by coloured baggage tags issued the evening before and according to the schedule, we were due to disembark at 8.40, immediately after the Queens grill passengers. They were called just after 8.00 and then followed by people going on Cunard arranged coaches to various airports, city centres, etc. However, we were called on time at 8.40 and in the car and driving away at 9.00. That was despite having to walk down from Deck 11 to Deck 1 (we thought waiting for the two lifts that served the Grills area would take too long), and finding one suitcase that had gone astray.

CONCLUSION
The timing of the cruise was dictated by school holidays and the itinerary by the choice of ship. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time, helped by the excellent weather most of the way and the interesting and not so interesting places we visited. The ship was comfortable and quiet and this has been the most relaxing and enjoyable cruise to date. Certainly, being in Grill class helped.