October 31, 2010
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.