Queen Victoria Tour Index

On the 26th September 2009 I received a letter from Cunard regarding a visit on the 7th November to Queen Victoria, including a donation to the Prince's Trust.  You had to enclose the cheque and they would either cash or return it after the closing date of the 23rd October.  Well the week went on and I heard nothing so fully expected my cheque to be stuck in the post on its way back due to postal strikes. But while at Town Quay on the 30th waiting before watching Saga Rose's farewell cruise departure, I received a phone call from Cristina at Cunard.  I had a place.  In fact, everyone who applied got one. Makes you wonder how many bothered.  Anyway due to the strikes they were phoning everyone in case the letters, posted on the 27th, didn't arrive.  Great stuff!  Now I am no fan of this ship and have made no secret of the fact.  I think Carnival are wasting great opportunities by being so cheap having the same classes of ships spread across the brands making them interchangable rather than be original and keep each brand identity separate.  However the ship nut in me was curious, especially since I had already visited the original Queen Victoria, P&O's Arcadia in October 2005 and would be cruising on her in May 2010.  Were all the 'Mrs Brown' remarks since entering service in December 2007 on various forums deserved?  Soon find out!

It was a nice day for the visit.  Little nippy but dry and sunny.  The ship was docked in Ocean Terminal so it would be my first visit to both.  I got a taxi and headed for the place.  It's massive, modern and on two floors.  There was nothing to direct anyone on this visit so I asked one of the ground staff who sent me to the CREW pass area.  They then told me to go upstairs.  There was check in as well as the waiting area.  The check in was divided into three depending on surname.  Many were there already, including some fresh from their cruise with luggage.  At check in they take your passports.  Since I haven't visited a ship since 2007 I don't know when they brought that in.  Perhaps people really did try and stowaway.  Refreshments were laid on such as tea, coffee, orange and some cakes.  There's a window running along the side so you could see the ship and I noticed some palletts destined for the new Queen Elizabeth on the dockside, including a vacuum cleaner.  At 11am the first colour card was called (red).  This was followed by yellow and finally green (mine).  At the entrance to security there was someone offering to take your coat which is an excellent idea.  There's nothing worse than carrying it around on the ship for several hours.  I can't remember the name of our guide but she roped her friend in to help out and keep an eye on stragglers so they didn't lose the group.  Boarding was a gangway worthy of the one at Zeebrugge!  It took ages to actually get to the ship.  

We boarded on Deck 2 where some carpet shampooing was going on and everyone had been right about the brown.  The Grand Lobby was quite nice and a definite improvement on the Atriums on the Vistas.  But it really needs a splash of colour so it stands out from the rest of the decor.  Up to Deck 3 and it's nice they have the little nook called The Alcove for jigsaws like on QE2 which was between the Card Room and Library.   However it's easy to miss it if you went on the outside of the QV model there.  The two-deck library with spiral staircase wasn't a disappointment, though it was far smaller than the photos and renderings, the staircase taking up much of the space.  We weren't shown either of these rooms on this deck.  There was also a QV bell in the area akin to QM2's.  We walked through the Midships Bar and stopped briefly in Images.  By this time I had already warned the guide's friend I was a straggler, taking photos when people weren't in the way.  Then we headed up in two lots to Deck 9 in rather small lifts.  Everyone in it with me sailed on either just QE2 or QE2 and QM2, the majority preferring QE2.

It was time to brave the cold as we went to look at the Lido pool.  The stern overlooks balconies below, just like the other Vistas.  I wonder how long it will be before they add some,making it squared like the new Queen Elizabeth will have?  Lack of teak decking was right.  We didn't have a lot of time outside before being shown the Lido buffet.  Plenty of space in this.  Bright, airy and barely any brown!  It was really nicely decorated.  Next it was up to Deck 11 to see the Grills.  Queens Grill and Princess Grill are pretty similar, especially decor, unlike how they'd been on QE2.  I noticed in the QG menu it had the American 'Omelet'.  Since it's SUPPOSED to be a British ship and experience, can you please spell in English????  Both restaurants led to the Courtyard, a place not open during bad weather and also filled with obvious plastic shrubbery.  Just behind is the funnel.  Better hope for no spurts of black stuff as you're dining!  We weren't taken up the steps but instead went to see the Grills Lounge.  Considering it's for two grades I was surprised at how small it was.  There's a door which leads to The Terrace, which is private deck area for the Grill passengers.  A shame we didn't go outside to see what they do.  Then it was back down to Deck 9 and the Winter Garden.  This is like a solarium (felt that way!) and has a retractable roof common on many cruise ships.  Next to it was the Pavilion Pool.  We continued forward to the Cunard Royal Spa.  Boy that WAS hot.  Made the Winter Garden seem like the Arctic.  They have the same thermal suite as on Arcadia as well as similar treatment rooms. The gymnasium was pretty much the same as on every ship.  Bit of a crap view forward though.

Back up the stairs, this time to Deck 10 where we saw their nightclub, Hemispheres.  Again a surprise it was so small.  The view wasn't that great either, overlooking the Pavilion pool.  But at least there were some different colours!  Either side of the entrance to the Commodore Club are the port presentation plaques.  This is your average observation lounge but has a wonderful QM2 model on one side and prints of various ships, including QE2.  Before that on the starboard side is Admiral's Lounge, a tiny room with some nice prints of ships and adjacent to Churchill's Cigar Lounge.  That is for smokers and has a door to the open deck as well.  During the tour someone did complain about smoking.  However I think it's better and safer to have smokers in one place.  Anything can happen on an outside deck in the wind.  That's three rooms with a distinct lack of brown.  Next up it was some cabins at last!  Down to Deck 7 we went to find some.  We arrived at 12.05pm and walked and walked and walked and walked to try and find some open!  In the end all we got to look at were insides and basic balcony.  I noticed the balcony door is the same type as Arcadia.  Pity they couldn't alter that.  I see what they meant about lack of storage, although forgot to check under the bed.  The new Solstice class from Celebrity have masses of storage, even in the bathroom, and they don't do the type of cruising Cunard do.  This is the problem when you get off-the-peg ships and don't look at what really needs changing to suit the conditions.  The bathrooms were average but disappointingly had fixed shower heads.  Shelving was typical Fincantieri as seen on Princess.  I was quite impressed with the inside cabins.  Having seen the cramped ones on Arcadia it was a pleasant surprise this had more space.  Perhaps it's something to do with less passengers.  The passenger launderette was disappointing.  It was virtually a cupboard.

Back down to Deck 2 and several of us walked rather than take the lifts.  We made our way forward through the Chart Room, an average walk-through bar and passing Cafe Carinthia and the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar.  We had a look in Todd English, the speciality restaurant.  There was a lovely floral fragrance in the room.  Real flowers are better than air fresheners.  We were shown the lower half of the library which really showed how small it was.  Photos make it look larger, as I noted above.  Through Cunardia, a real waste of floor space, bypassing the Queens Room and Golden Lion, stopping briefly in the casino before heading to the Royal Court Theatre to see the boxes.  It was noted they have perspex in front, which was thought to be due to health and safety.  There were also gaps between the panes. It's a shame the outer decor of those don't blend in with the pinky/red tones of the rest.  Then it was back to the Queens Room for the Prince's Trust champagne reception which had already begun at 12.30pm.  I must admit I do like what they did with the space occupied on Arcadia as the cinema and Globe bar.  However it really could use some colour to bring warmth and vibrancy to it.  It's very beige (a criticism of Arcadia's decor) and cold.  People used to complain about the yellow and blue of QE2's but at least it was cosy.  After so much colour (mainly brown) around the ship with other colours used in a few rooms, this centrepiece lets it down.

Upon entering you have your hands squirted with gel then are offered champagne or mimosa.  There were a few canapes around but the waiters often walked past many people.  There was the Cunard logo and Prince's Trust carved in ice.  An official photographer was milling around looking for groups.  He photographed me even though I was on my own. Captain Ian McNaught, a passenger favourite from QE2 (we think he's a rebel so our favourite Captain), was aboard and chatting to the guests.  I had only sailed with him during my 2008 cruises and never really had a chance to chat so it was nice to finally be able to, especially since he knew my ex, Patrick Patton even though I had to remind him who he was!  But a thoroughly nice man.  Then it was time for speeches.  Someone did an introduction then Captain McNaught had his say.  Richard Curtis from the marketing department then spoke about the partnership between Cunard and the charity.  He handed over to Paul Brown, marketing director for the Prince's Trust.  He introduced a young ambassador, whose name I didn't catch.  He told everyone about his life in gang violence and drugs before his life was turned around by the Trust.  Moira Stewart also represented the Trust (and has since the 1980s) and gave her speech.

Then it was lunch in the Britannian Restaurant cooked by Todd English.  We had been assigned a card at check in with a table number.  I was on 315 which was for six people and felt very closed in.  It took an age to even get offered bread and even longer before our order was taken.  I went for the Love Letters (wild mushroom & truffle, burro fuso, madeira glaze) but didn't understand why I was given a tablespoon outside of my forks.  The main course I chose was Mediterranean sea bass, braised artichokes, confit fennel, lobster and orange.  Dessert was Panache of seasonal sorbet on a minted mango citrus salad.  Well I wouldn't pay for it if I was on a cruise!  It really was the worst lunch I've had on a visit and had nicer sea bass (fresh) in Mexico.  Todd English was sat with the main guests and Captain McNaught but, despite a few plates not emptied, I doubt anyone complained.  The wine was very nice, as was coffee.  Petit fours left a lot to be desired too.  It was meant to all end at 2.30pm when we would leave but just before 3pm Richard Curtis stood up and during his speech said we'd have to leave in fifteen minutes.  We all left together, down to Deck 1 and out via the crew gangway, along the dockside and into the baggage reclaim.  Here were had our passports returned as well as coats if we left them.  On the way out we were given a little goody bag by Cristina.

So my thoughts on the
Queen Victoria.  She is a nice ship, but all the shades of brown take some getting used to.  There are clear Vista design elements throughout the ship the same as the others but they have some nice modified public rooms.  A pity they're the ones which are smaller or blander than the rest.  Perhaps during her first refit they'll add a splash of colour.  They have tried though so I'll give them that.  The 'Mrs Brown' label isn't quite deserved since she's not ALL brown.  Perhaps Queen Elizabeth will be warmer in tone.

Thanks to everyone at Cunard and the Prince's Trust for a truly memorable and enjoyable day.

Click on the links below to see photos of this ship.

Deck 11
Deck 10
Deck 9
Deck 7
Deck 3
Deck 2
Champagne Reception

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© Patricia Dempsey 7th November 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission