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An Introduction to Cruising on the Queen Victoria
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The Queen Victoria was added to the Cunard fleet and named by the Duchess of Cornwall on 10 December 2007. We had been great fans of the Cunard QE2, arguably the greatest ship of all time. We eagerly booked onto the start of the new Queen Victoria's first world cruise shortly before the news broke that the QE2 was leaving the fleet and going to Dubai. For this our First Cruise on the Queen Victoria we went from Southampton to Los Angeles as part of Her Maiden World Cruise. The world cruise started with an Atlantic crossing in tandem with the QE2 and the three current Cunard Queens met in New York and left to a spectacular firework display. The QE2 and Queen Victoria continued to sail alongside as far as Fort Lauderdale where we gathered up the last of the world cruise passengers after which we went our separate ways although the two ships would meet again in Sydney. We have to admit we had very mixed feelings as we battered our way across the Atlantic whilst watching the QE2 alongside running on only 4 of her 9 engines to keep down to our speed. Once we got into better weather and down into the tropics we began to appreciate the large public areas reminiscent of a movie set and extensive deck areas at the top of the ship.
Our Second Cruise on the Queen Victoria was in 2009 and called 'Autumn Colours' and was from Southampton across the Atlantic to New York, where we spent two nights. We then worked our way up the Atlantic coast of the USA and Canada before crossing back from Newfoundland to Southampton - 24 days in total. By now the ship had settled down and we had a gloriously smooth Atlantic crossing despite it being at the end of September. Most importantly there were far more of the experienced Cunard staff off the QE2 and there was a subtly different atmosphere onboard.
Our Third Cruise in 2010 was actually made up from two consecutive but separate cruises namely the Baltic Explorer and Jewels of the Mediterranean Cruises. We had wanted to go to Tallin and St Petersburg for a long time so we started by booking the Baltic Explorer Cruise whilst we were on the Queen Victoria on the cruise to Canada a year before. But it seemed very short compared to the cruise we were on so we looked at the cruises either side and decided it would be nice to continue for another 12 nights round the Mediterranean on the Mediterranean Jewels Cruise which included three ports we had not visited before, Barcelona, Monte-Carlo and Livorno which gave access to Florence which Pete had never been too. This gave us an overall cruise of 26 nights with tremendous contrasts within an overall theme of historic cities, diverse cultures and opulent buildings.
Our Fifth Cruise on the Queen Victoria was titled Black Sea and Turkish Splendours 2012 and took us from Southampton to an area which we have never visited before - the Black Sea. The cruise took us to Palma in Mallorca, through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits into the Black sea to visit Yalta and Odessa in the Ukraine, Constanta in Romania and two days at Istanbul in Turkey before returning via Catania in Sicily and Vigo in Spain. We had plenty of days at sea to soak up the sunshine during the 20 day cruise.
This was followed by A Magical Mystery Tour - a cruise on the Cunard Queen Victoria in 2012 taking us from Southampton to see the Ancient Wonders of the World. The itinery was changed several times both due to bad weather and the problems in Egypt so we did not go to Port Said or Alexandria in Egypt for the Pyramids and gales prevented use entering Rhodes but we did go to Cyprus where we met up with a college friend and to Ephesus which was the highlight of the trip. Other ports were Vigo in Spain, Palma in Mallorca, Valletta in Malta, Piraeus for Athens in Greece,Katakolon (for Olympia) in Greece and Malaga in Spain. It was the Queen Victoria's 5 th birthday at the end of the 21 day cruise
We decided to do another cruise to the far end of the Mediterranean the following year which had the best of our last three Mediterranian cruises. It was again called Black Sea and Turkish Splendours 2013 but had a rather different set of ports. The routing took us first to Lisbon which we had not visited for many years then a long passage to a favourite of ours, Malta. It was then on to Ephesus which had been an unexpected highlight of the Ancient Wonders Cruise in 2012 followed by Istanbul, the highlight of the Black Sea and Turkish Splendours cruise in 2012. Yalta and Odessa followed and certainly Yalta merited a second visit before we went to Piraeus, the port of Athens, where we wanted to visit the nearby Corinth Canal. The return routed us through very familiar places, Palma in Mallorca and then Vigo in Spain which is good for last minute stocking up on Cheese and Wine being EU.
Whilst we were onboard the prices fell for a cruise we had wondered about doing which was only 5 weeks away from the British weather in one of our only quiet periods to warmer climes. It was called Mediterranean Discovery and was 12 days long. The main attraction however was the itinery which took us to new places (Cadiz, Valencia and La Coroba) and favourites we wanted to visit again such as Barcelona where we wanted to see Gaudi's famous Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family). A short cruise meant also meant we needed less luggage, and so could go to Southampton by train. was called Meditteranean
Our ninth cruise on the Queen Victoria was booked long in advance to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary and had to include Venice. It was called Wonders of the Mediterranean and was 17 days long taking us from Southampton to Cadiz for Seville, Catania in Sicily, Corfu the Greece Island, Dubrovnik an old favourite in Croatia, our first visit to Korcula in Croatia, the Highlight of Venice in Italy and back via Gibraltar to Southampton.
Before we say anything more about the Queen Victoria or our journeys we thought we should say a little about why Cunard and all its ships have a different ethos from many others in this competitive market and we can think of no better way than to reproduce the White Star Code which is prominently displayed throughout their ships.
At any point in every day, one of our guests will come into contact with one of us, the Cunard employee, and at that moment in time, we will be Cunard Line. Our entire reputation as a company will be in our hands and we will make a lasting impression. The impression will be either good or it will be bad, and we will have spoken to our guests more loudly than all of our community involvement, advertising and public relations put together.
The Twelve Points of White Star Service (To be known, practiced and energised by all crew memebers) :
WE RESPECT EACH OTHER AS INDIVIDUALS. We treat our guests and our fellow crew members as we would like to be treated ourselves.
WE ARE ALWAYS POSITIVE WITH OUR GUESTS AND COLLEAGUES. We speak positively and never make negative comments.
WE ARE KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT OUR SHIPS AND SERVICES. We recommend shipboard services.
WE EXCEED OUR GUESTS EXPECTATIONS. We find a way to get it done. We never give up and we go the extra mile to please our guests.WE MAINTAIN FORMALITY IN OUR SERVICE STYLE. We embody the legend and elegance that is Cunard.
WE SMILE; WE ARE ALWAYS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. We maintain positive eye contact and we use our service vocabulary. We greet our guests. We tell them “Certainly”, “I will be happy to do so” and “It will be a pleasure”.
WE USE CORRECT BODY LANGUAGE. We are pleasant, energetic and welcoming.
WE ARE IMMACULATE IN OUR APPEARANCE. We wear proper, safe footwear that is clean and polished. We wear our name tags. We take pride in our personal grooming.
WE SUPPORT AND ASSIST COLLEAGUES. We do everything possible to please our guests and help our colleagues do so as well.
WE USE PROPER TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE. We answer in three rings and we have a smile in our voice. If necessary, we ask if we may put our customers on hold. We eliminate transfer calls whenever possible.
WE ALWAYS SPEAK ENGLISH IN GUEST AREAS. Whether there are guests nearby or not, we always speak English.
WE NEVER SAY “NO”; WE OFFER ALTERNATIVES. We say “I will be pleased to check”. We suggest alternatives. We call our supervisor or manager if we feel we cannot satisfy our guest’s needs.
It was against this background, and these core values, that we judge our cruise and because we have been delighted with the service on our previous cruises we are enthusiastic and regular Cunard passengers. We have accumulated over 500 days on Cunard ships, of which over 300 days were on board the QE2.
The Queen Victoria cannot use Cunards QEII terminal in Southampton because of her completely different shape so she uses the various other terminals in the centre of Southampton. In 2008 it was our first experience of the City Centre cruise terminal in Southampton; all our previous trips had been on the QE2 and from the QEII Terminal. To our surprise we joined a long queue. Normally our Diamond Cunard World Club card gives us a fast track on check-in. The reason was that the x-ray process was before the ticket check-in, whereas in the QEII terminal it is in the other order. When we embarked from the Mayflower Terminal on a different cruise the ticket check-in was done first and then the x-rays.
Leaving the cruise terminal one enters straight into the Grand Lobby. This is a spectacular central area, extending over 3 decks, and reminiscent of a film set of the impressive staircases of the old Ocean Liners. These days there are no staff to show us to our cabin and help us with our hand luggage. We were directed to the lifts and told to find our own way to our cabins.
Baggage handling is a continuing problem. On our first cruise from the City Centre Terminal, when our luggage arrived one suitcase had lost its wheel so it went off to the carpenters to see if they had a spare. On our second cruise, from the Mayflower Terminal, one suitcase had been crushed like an egg, and the ABS shell was cracked. The luggage strap had also disappeared but surfaced later in the Lost Property Office. On board the crew found grey tape as a temporary repair to cover the cracks; we hope it is not raining when we disembark.
Queen Victoria is simple to find ones way around, she has just three sets of lifts and stairs, labelled A, B and C. The rooms are numbered as if in a traditional hotel, with cabins on Decks 1,4,5,6,7, and 8. Deck A, with the medical centre, is below Deck 1, and then the decks continue upwards until the highest cabins on Deck 8 and the public areas on Decks 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 and 11.
The best staterooms are large suites, their restaurant is the Queen's Grill, and there are special restricted lounge and outdoor areas. There are also a number of cheaper Princess Grill staterooms, with access to their own restaurant and to the common Grill lounges. Queen Victoria and QE2 are therefore very similar. On the Queen Victoria it is only the Grill cabins which have baths; all the rest have only showers. Towards the end of our first trip we met a couple who had one of the Q2 Master Suites and we were able to visit their stateroom.
After a second cruise on the Queen Victoria we are now better prepared for comparing between an inside cabin and a balcony cabin, both linked to the Britannia restaurant. Each standard inside cabin, grades D8 to D3, is exactly the same size at 156 sq ft, and comprises twin beds which are convertible to a king size, two bedside drawers, desk and chair with fridge and drawer, small table and one small armchair. On our first cruise in 2008 we had an inside cabin, 6021 and grade D6 on 6 Deck. We had two good size wardrobes, with a shelf on top containing our life-jackets. We used the space for all our woollies and T-shirts, and stored the life-jackets on the floor under our little coffee table. There was another, shallower cupboard, with space for a row of shirts, three deep shelves and an adequate size safe. Pauline's handbag fitted inside with space to spare. There is a nice fridge, but it is small and the bottle of Pol Acker to welcome us had to be stored inside flat. 5o small bottles of Benecol fitted too but all the Cunard water and soft drinks had to be ejected. The desk has a drawer for keeping papers, and there is another small drawer above the fridge, as well as two bedside cabinets. Seating is either on a chair or a small armchair.
The larger bedroom space was at the expense of the bathroom and this is a standard shape for all Britannia grade cabins. The basin is too small for hair washing and there is no bathroom cabinet, just an open shelf under the basin unit. Fortunately we brought a lot of 4 litre plastic tubs which fitted on the shelf. Beneath there is space for a row of shoes. A simple cotton bathrobe and cotton slippers are provided, as on the better QE2 cabins. The toilet system is a vacuum system and easily gets blocked. We had one morning when it did not work at all, and we were told that the entire front of the ship was in the same situation. We met passengers on our first cruise who said their toilet had not worked for 5 days, so we were lucky. On our second cruise this all seemed to have been sorted out and we heard no complaints at all. The shower itself is exceptionally small with a curtain instead of a proper door and only a narrow rim prevents flooding the bathroom floor which has no visible drain. The shower area is smaller than on our boat and is less than 80cms by 70cms, but we can manage. The bathroom doorway is very narrow too, just 55cms. Fortunately we are slim.
The Deluxe inside cabins, grade D2 on 1 Deck and grade D1 on 6 Deck are 203 square feet and have a two seater settee replacing the single armchair. There are also some special cabins for disabled passengers marked with a wheelchair symbol in the Cunard brochure, which have wider doors, larger walk-in bathrooms, and often larger overall floor areas. Since the feedback from the World Cruise in 2008 the bedside cabinets are now sets of drawers and there are also two enormous drawers underneath the beds. There is still ample space for storage of four suitcases as well. These small changes mean it is much more practical for a long cruise - no longer will one find passengers buying flat pack furniture and taking it onboard as we understand happened in the early days! The Queen Victoria, unlike the QE2, does not have a baggage room.
On our second cruise our cabin was a Deluxe balcony grade A1 on 8 Deck (8095). Two months before departure we had paid a supplement to upgrade from our inside cabin D8 guarantee. All the D8 cabins were on 4 Deck. 8 Deck is four decks higher and is well situated because it is just below the Lido self-service restaurant and the gym, both on 9 Deck. We were close to Staircase B, so were just aft of the centre of the ship. Most cabins on the Queen Victoria have balconies and it was a feature we had never been able to afford on the QE2. Even the standard balcony staterooms are large, and the brochure states it is 248 sq ft which includes the balcony. Entering our stateroom for the first time it was obvious that it was larger. Curiosity provoked us to get out a tape measure and assess exactly what we had. The balcony is 9.3 feet wide and a useable 6.5 feet deep within an overall depth of 7.25 feet. It has a small round table and two comfortable armchairs. The cabin, including the bathroom, is 9 feet wide and 20.5 feet long. The extra space compared with a standard inside cabin means there is a two seater settee, in our case it is a sofabed, replacing the one armchair. All standard balcony cabins are exactly the same size and the price differences are about Deck and location; 8 Deck is more expensive than lower decks, and cabins in the centre where the motion of the ship is less are more expensive than in the bow or the stern. Down on 4 Deck it is different, with the balcony cabins in the bow having obstructed views and there are no balcony cabins in the centre only outside cabins with obstructed views of lifeboats. The cheapest balcony cabin with a clear ocean view is grade A5.
We liked our A1 on 8 Deck instantly, and as our cruise progressed we began to appreciate the balcony as a good place to sit and sometimes sip a glass of wine before dinner. Our balcony is very sheltered; there is a large canopy above because we are directly below the Lido restaurant which is wider and its floor extends beyond the line of balconies, and the adjacent wheelchair accessible cabin 8093 is larger and the separating bulkhead gives us extra shelter. The first evening we raised a glass to Richard Curtis, the Marketing Director at Cunard Line in Southampton, who wrote to us offering the chance to upgrade.
During our first transatlantic crossing on the Queen Victoria in tandem with the QE2 in January 2008 there were a lot of loud bangs and 'oil can' noises as we pitched through the waves. Somewhere on the ship below us there was a problem. Other passengers had much more noise and there were lots of complaints. Queen Victoria is a cruise ship; she is not a liner designed for the North Atlantic in January and fortunately the weather was comparatively reasonable and she did very well. Her best cruising speed is much slower than the QE2, and the crossing takes much longer when it is limited to 20 knots. From Southampton to New York on her maiden crossing took 6 full days at sea, departing on Sunday evening and arriving on Sunday morning. Throughout the trip QE2 travelled alongside, on the port side on one day and then moving to the starboard side for the next. We heard she was running on just four of her nine engines for us to keep up! This meant that everyone with balconies had a good view of the beautiful ship as she kept an eye on us. She kept us company until Fort Lauderdale, then went her separate way. We miss her.
On our second cruise the weather both ways across the North Atlantic was also kind, and the crossing still took 6 full days at sea from Southampton to New York. There were two days of bad weather going up the east coast but the Queen Victoria handled it all very well. In our cabin up on 8 Deck we were hardly aware that we were moving on the ocean, and the only noise was the gentle hiss of the air conditioning.
Britannia Restaurant: The main Dining Room, the Britannia Restaurant, seating 878 guests is one of the most remarkable rooms at sea, spanning two desks at the stern on Decks 2 and 3 at Stairway C. It evokes memories of classic ocean liner restaurants with sweeping staircases and art deco pillars and arches. The design was inspired by the dining car of the Golden Arrow train that linked London to Paris. The restaurant's Art Deco design is captured in its original artwork, wall sconces, and a combination of authentic finishes including polished wood, bronze, mirror and gold leaf. The room's focal point, an illuminated world globe 10 feet tall, is a sizeable yet elegant reference to Cunard's rich history plying the world's oceans.
We were allocated to the Britannia Restaurant, and always express a preference for eating at the second sitting at 2030, and ask for a table for 2. There are very few tables for 2 and they are allocated in the order of having booked the cruise. We try and book our table for the next cruise while we are still onboard. On our first cruise we remarked that the waiters did not speak very good English, and they often spoke their own language even when they were with passengers. Cunard White Star service guidelines forbid use of a foreign language, but it is not yet enforced on Queen Victoria. Now there are many more waiters who have joined the Queen Victoria from the QE2 and the proper standard is in place.
Todd English restaurant: NOTE: The Todd English Restaurant was been replaced by the Verandah in 2013. This section will be updated shortly!
Having cruised for more than 150 days with Cunard we are Diamond World Club members and one of the benefits is that we can have one lunch in the Todd English restaurant at no additional charge. The standard supplement per person for lunch is $20 and for dinner is $30. The lunch menu is a subset of the dinner menu, and neither changed during our trip, although the menu in January 2008 was different to that in September 2009. The wines are off the standard restaurant list. Only the Waterford wine glasses and gold decorated plates and coffee cups were distinctive.
Todd English is an award winning celebrity chef with a number of respected restaurants in America and he is the author of several cookbooks. His first venture at sea was in 2004 on the QM2, and the alternative dining restaurant on the Queen Victoria is his second Todd English restaurant at sea. He has a contemporary and innovative approach to Mediterranean-inspired fare that combines comfort-food with a deliberate sense of style. When the Queen Victoria made her maiden visit to Boston he came on board; unfortunately we were off sightseeing so did not see him. One of his restaurants is at the Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Lunch is a simple three course meal. It began well, with a few olives, dips and breads. As starter we enjoyed the signature Maine crab cake with fiery sweet and sour tomato sauce. In 2008 we had been recommended the lobster salad for main course, which comprised pieces of lobster served inside a croissant on a bed of lettuce, acompanied by a bowl of homemade crisps. The other main was swordfish, which was good and accompanied with large shrimps, but it sat on a pile of soggy greasy chips. The combination was not a success. For dessert, the mandarin orange creme brulee was pleasant, and compared to eating in the restaurant it had the additional decoration of a few berries. Overall we were not impressed, and based on that experience we decided we would not pay the supplement to eat there again during that cruise.
Like many other features there had been a dramatic improvement when we returned to Todd English in 2009 for our 'free lunch'. Service is always good on Cunard ships but this time it reached a new level, probably better than we had even experienced in our cruise in the Queens grill on the QE2. The lady sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and spent a long time talking to us and we found to our delight that there was still some Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc on board and we had a bottle as it was Pauline's birthday. The food was similar but different. The breads, olives and dips were good and the signature Maine crab cake was again an excellent starter. The choice of main courses was different. Pauline had the Mediterranean paella which was full of mussels, clams, giant prawns, a little lobster tail and a chicken leg, all on top of spicey rice with chorizo sausage. Pete chose the Braised Oxtail Pappardelle which was a pasta dish with oxtail off the bone. Having swapped forkfulls we unanimously decided to book lunch later and swap main courses then. Pauline was looking forward to a nice solid desert when the staff approached with a birthday cake covered with strawberries and a little candle. On our second lunch the follwoing week we swapped mains and Pauline got her dessert - the white chocolate fallen cake with bitter chocolate mousse and raspberry ice cream. Delicious.
The Lido is an airy self-service restaurant which extends between Staircases B and C across Deck 9. It is open 24 hours, serving breakfast from 0400, followed by lunch from 1130, then afternoon snacks, dinner from 1800 until 2300 and finally evening snacks until breakfast begins. One consequence of the 24 hour opening is that there is no Midnight Buffet, more specifically there is no celebration Gala Midnight buffet with all the ice carvings and the carved fruits and vegetables. At breakfast there is the usual cereals, fruit including an endless supply of strawberries and fresh pineapple, cold meats and cheese and traditional cooked breakfast with omelettes cooked to order. It has slightly better choice than on QE2, but there is no waiter service for carrying trays or bringing water and coffee. There is only orange and apple juice and anything else has to be requested and it is then brought to the table. The coffee is almost undrinkable and comes from a tap like you find in a pub. This is one of our two criticisms of the Lido Buffet. We believe it is made from a coffee concentrate to which hot water is added as required, and it is not related to proper coffee. We drink our coffee strong and black so we can taste the difference. The Queen Victoria does offer proper coffee for sale in the Cafe Carinthia, but our only option in the early morning is to make our own and we brought our two Smartcafe insulated mugs with us, and a supply of decaf and regular ground coffee.
Overall the Lido is very good and we often choose to eat lunch there; the variety is good and being self-service it is quick on the days in port. It is always possible to find a seat, yet it is very busy. When we embarked in Southampton lunch was being served and there was a pizza and pasta station, as well as a carvery, several different hot dishes including meat, fish, vegetarian and spicey/oriental options, rice, noodles, potatoes, steamed vegetables and steak cooked to order. There is a good selection of cold meat and salads. The cheese is always good, and there is Stilton with a spoon for scooping as well as interesting french cheeses. The choice is similar to that available in the Queens Grill and much better than the other restaurants on the QE2. The icecream machine was initially a problem but is now better behaved. There is no commercial ice-cream and that served in the main restaurant is excellent and home made. Service is very different from the Lido on the QE2 and the waiters only clear tables. They do not offer to carry your tray and they do not provide a service of hot and cold drinks.The actual food is however the equal or better than on the QE2 and the surroundings even more light and airy.
The Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2 also does food. It is styled as a typical British pub with classic pub grub: fish and chips, chicken korma, steak and ale pie etc. Here and in the bars the draught beer is Bass and the lager is Stella Artois. We were pleased to find that all restaurants are completely non-smoking, although the area outside the Golden Lion and near the Casino is the only public indoor area where smoking is allowed. When we remember we avoid the area. There is also an enclosed Cigar Lounge on Deck 10.
Our first sight of the Roayal Court Theatre was shortly after we left Southampton on our first cruise as our muster station from Deck 6 was in the theatre. This gave us the chance to look around the theatre which we had only seen on the TV at the naming ceremony. The theatre is where all the lectures, films and many of the demonstrations take place as well as the shows in the evening. It is a combination of the Grand Lounge and the Theatre on QE2. It is very large, with capacity for over 800 people. The gallery and the two rows of private boxes on each side, 16 in all, give the impression of a nice traditional theatre on shore. Most of the private boxes are for two although there are some for four.
We did not try the boxes for the shows on our first cruise as we thought they were an expensive addition with little value but we were wrong. Pete booked one for Pauline's Birthday on our second cruise and we were pleasantly surprised at what we got for the supplement. We checked in half an hour before the performance started and were led to seats in a private lounge by a White Star Bell Boy in classic Cunard red complete with pillbox hat. We were quickly served a glass of champagne, and we mean champagne unlike so many functions these days that economise with cheap bubbles from who knows where. A big silver three level stand of finger desserts topped by tiny ice-creams was placed in front of us and the evenings delights had commenced.
At performance time we were led to our seats in the box where there was a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne waiting in an ice bucket and more chocolates were laid out to await us. We had chosen Box 16 which could seat four thinking it would give more room but in practice you get more space in a box for two as it does not have ramped seats. We, of course, got an excellent close up view of the performances, the first being 'A stroke of Genius' and at the end we were presented with a souvenir present of a picture of the cast. The boxes can only be booked for the 'Production Shows' by the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers who are very good, a complete contrast to the shows on the QE2. We were so impressed we booked again for their production of 'Celtic Heartbeat', choosing Box 3 which was a box for 2 people and closer to the stage as you can see from the picture.
We saw one final show from Box 14, a box for 4. It was called Victoriana which was written especially for The Queen Victoria and the Royal Court Theatre. The Royal Court Theatre was inspired by the grand theatres and playhouses built during the Victorian era. In keeping with this theme, Cunard specially sponsored Victoriana, a spectacular show taking guests back to the apex of the British Empire and paying tribute to the milestones of the era. It captures Music Hall memories with authentic character performances, the elegance of Victorian fashion and a tongue in cheek look at the Gothic Revival and inventions such as the light bulb. Cunard's team reputedly spent two years developing the show. The results were memorable with contemporary choreography, elaborate period costumes and a grand finale based on the last night of the Proms with Land of hope anf Glory. The German guests behind us walked out but everyone else was waving flags and loving every moment. The fireworks which brought the show to its climax were both unexpected and effective. We will treasure the souvenir brochure along with all our other Cunard memorabilia.
Cookery demonstartions have always been a popular feature of Cunard cruises and we have been to many on the QE2. The difficulty has always been arranging for a good view with the inevitably large audience. The approach on the QE2 in the Grand Lounge used to be a large mirror above the cooks pointing down so one could look down on their work, that is if you were seated in a small area near the front. The Royal Court Theatre is superb for cooking demonstrations with a custom work area on the stage, like a gigantic kitchen unit with hot plates and preparation areas for two chefs to work simultaneously. The chefs are videoed and front of the unit has two screens where the work is projected and it is also projected onto a huge screen behind them so everyone can see wherever they are seated. The views are switched and zoomed as required and it is simultaneously recorded so it can be viewed on the stateroom television for the next 24 hours.
A typical example was when Bernard Strumpfel Executive Chef and Eric Yoong the Chef de Cuisine in the Britannia restaurant gave a cooking demonstration on our second cruise. In this case we were seated in Box 1 and were looking directly down as the chefs worked and could also take some pictures to show the set up - the lights are so bright that there is no need for flash. The recipe sheets were brought round and we even had one hand delivered to the box we had bagged.
Bernard does not believe that cooking should be taken entirely seriously and his presentation was excellent with a lot of amusing banter with the other chef as well as being extremely instructive. When he looked at the recipes that had been printed for us he said that would never do and screwed them up and threw them away. He rapidly exchanged his chefs hat for a tartan hat/wig which played the bagpipes when squeezed. We were not sure whether that was his contribution to the German Re-unification Day celebrations on board or whether it was a coincidence. He briefly changed to a set of Nordic style horns but was disappointed to find there were no Scandinavians present.
Bernards first dish was a stuffed quail which turned out to be a very small and scrawny looking example more like a sparrow when boned but he assured us that after all his preparation it would turn out like the loaves and fishes and easily feed a full dinner party. He then proceeded to show us how to make the mushroom and onion duxelle properly. When finally finished it went into the usual magic oven under the work surface and in due course it appeared looking just like a well stuffed Turkey clearly capable of feeding more than the 15 he had promised! He later showed us how to plate and present a more normal sized quail. The troubles started however when we got to the Pan Fried Sweet Bread in Puff pastry as the recipe included white wine for the chef as well as Dry Vermouth for cooking and his assistant had forgotten to bring the white wine - it seems even an Executive Chef needs a glass or two before starting! At the end both chefs showed how to improvise and turn any leftovers in ones fridge into interesting and memorable dishes.
Afternoon tea is served in the Queen's Room, and this is the typical Cunard White Star and white gloved service. The area is closed while the tables are set and a queue forms at the only entrance. The room has a gallery on the starboard side, and stained glass windows on the port side. It is therefore similar to the Grand Lounge on QE2, but with only one corridor and one upstairs gallery on the starboard side. The port side of the room can only be accessed from the starboard corridor. During the day the room is used for a variety of activities. On our cruise there were fencing classes, lunchtime concerts, dancing classes and Bingo. These can be a distraction because of the very loud amplification system. We presume this is so that the older and deafer passengers can still join in. When the music for line dancing started we had to leave, or else get ear defenders. In the evening there is an orchestra for dancing, and it is lively and busy on the special themed evenings.
On the occasional day at sea special teas are laid on in the Queen's Room, the most notable being the Viennese tea. This has a huge selection of Viennese style cakes laid out beneath a giant ice carving in the centre of the room with lots of additional showpieces. Whilst indulging string quartet plays appropriate music in the background. The tea starts earlier than usual at 1500 and continues until 1630 due to the high level of demand. You should get there even earlier and request access to take some pictures. Those of you who were used to the gala midnight buffets and chocolate fantasias on the QE2 will not be disappointed and it is all at a much more sensible time of day! Seating starts a little before 1500 and you can always set your watch by the start time of a Cunard function - the string quartet strikes up and dozens of waiters start pouring tea simultaneously. We disappoint them by asking for a pot of coffee. There is the normal white glove service but in addition one can partake of the cakes displayed in the centre, or sample the crepe suzettes flambed in a rich Grand Marnier 'sauce' by two Maitre d' stationed to either side.
The day we went the service was, as usual, exemplary and as additional people arrived they were seated and immediately offered tea or coffee. Sandwiches, cakes, scones and additional drinks were never more than a minute or two away. As soon as a gap appeared the tables were cleared and relaid in seconds as the next customers were being brought across. The whole flow was being effortlessly 'conducted' by Satish by the slightest wave of a hand or more often just the movement of a finger or change of expression was all that was needed. It was fascinating to watch. We spoke with him afterwards and were told the Queens room seats 266 and there were 43 waiters on the floor as well as the other Head Waiters. We also saw that the Senior Maitre d' Andrew Nelder who we knew from the QE2 was at various times keeping a discrete eye on this important function in the background. It is easy to forget that none of this would run so smoothly without the leadership of the longer serving senior staff. By the time we left after 40 minutes 500 people had been served and he expected the numbers to rise to 800 by the end of the tea.
The Winter Garden is between the Lido restaurant and the Deck 9 pool area and has a roof which can be opened in good weather and has a lot of very comfortable seats and tinted picture windows the whole length on both sides. The sliding doors were under repair on our first trip.
There is a bandstand where the Caribbean band plays at various times and the area was also used for a cocktail mixing demonstation which Pete lurked on the edge of. The demonstration covered 7 popular cocktails including the Mai Tai which we discovered in Hong Kong and is about the only one we ever indulge in. The Mai Tai originated in Taihiti where Victor Bergeren (Trader Vic) created the drink for his clients who greated it with the words Mai Tai which very loosely translates as 'the greatest'.
There are two outdoor pools and the other is aft of the Lido restaurant, also on 9 Deck. Here the Caribbean band play for the Sailaway parties, and the pool is slightly deeper. This area is about the same size as the outdoor pool on QE2, so overall Queen Victoria has much more deck space for sunbathing and sitting.
There are a number of locations round the Queen Victoria where there is classical and light entertainment, often in the background. For example the Britannia restaurant usually has a quartet or harpist playing during dinner, and there is similar music in the Grand Lobby after dinner. On our cruise we had the Paradise String Quartet from the Ukraine; three young men playing violins and cello, and one lady playing the viola. The harpist, Chiara, used to play in the Chart Room on the QE2. Here she seems to be performing more sessions, and she also works in the Internet Centre during the day. From 1700 onwards a pianist plays in the Golden Lion Pub and there is another in the Chart Room; a third plays after dinner in the Commodore Club. Queen Victoria has lots of grand pianos and lots of musicians.
We always do a lot of reading on days at sea. On Queen Victoria the library and bookshop are on opposite sides of the ship and on different decks. The bookshop is on Deck 3, and has limited stock and no windows. There was a lot of space for books by on-board lecturers but no space for books by other authors on board. The librarian sent details of my book to Cunard but they refused to approve it and although I had prepared a lecture there was no opportunity to give it. It was such a contrast to QE2 where I was asked to give a lecture.
The library is a pretty two storey copy of a private library from Victorian days, with a spiral internal staircase. It is however, like much of the ships fittings, very insubstantial and poorly fitted - many plastic plugs into unnecessary holes have already fallen out. There are entries on both Deck 2 and 3 although the upstairs one is often closed off at quiet times meaning one has to use the internal stairs.
Both the bookshop and the library are organised by Ocean Books, who also set up the QE2.
Internet access is very good on the Queen Victoria, simple to set up, fast and reliable in the areas of the world we reached on this trip. There are twenty computers available in the Internet Center and there is also Wifi available over most of the ship. The whole Internet system has been updated since out last visit when it was already very good. It now covers every cabin on the ship as well as the public areas and is all centralised at provider and managed via the satellite link. We, however, had difficulties in our cabin with the Wifi although it seemed to be a good signal - I suspected that it was a bad 'access point' with a low reception sensitivity or one in an area of interference as we could get good results elsewhere with a lower apparent signal. I have had the same difficulty elsewhere, especially where boosters are employed, and it could be compounded by using a Netbook which may limit the transmit power to save batteries. I spoke with the computer manager who agreed and suggested that until they could check the access point I should keep the cabin door ajar - the access points are in the corridors and the doors have recently had extra metalic fireproofing; it worked perfectly with the door open everywhere in the cabin.
Once we could get a connection and log in (the usual way opening a browser after which any requested is directed to the login page) the connection was very fast. I downloaded some big attachments and allowed an important update to take place and the speed was a steady 65.2 kBytes/sec which is what you would have been happy to get from broadband at home a few years ago and better than I sometimes get a home in an evening even now. Without getting too technical I will add there are no restrictions on 'authenticated email' and they even make and SMPT server available at 172.31.0.2 if you need it - if you do not understand the terms you don't need them anyway! Logout is very easy - you have a popup where you can also check usuage or you can just go to address 188.8.131.52 and you are logged out instantly and given a usuage summary
The Internet charges are by the minute not data volume and are currently 50c/minute for ad hoc use reducing if you buy a package. As regular passengers we get an allocation through the Cunard World Club of 8 hours per cruise sector which covers everything we need to do. An 8 hour package would currently be $167.50. A 2 hour package is $47.95. We averaged 1 hour per week collecting email and a little web browsing. Even printing is available on the Internet Centre printer at $0.50 a page - I did not try it.
Satellite telephone calls are possible from your cabin at a price of $4.95 a minute and there is a system allowing ordinary mobile telephones to be used but you need to check the costs with your provider - Vodafone is very expensive for maritime access which is used even for internal calls and TXTs and makes the satellite calls look cheap by comparison - watch out.
We did not 'discover' gyms on ships until fairly recently when we were rather forced into using it because Peter had suffered a fractured arm and damaged shoulder following a boating accident. He was determined to continue his Physiotherapy program, and perhaps improve his general fitness which had deteriorated seriously when he was partially immobilised. QE2 had a gym and like the Queen Victoria had professional trainers there to give advice and run classes. In addition to the free group training sessions in the Cunard Gyms, there are also personal sessions. The first time it seemed important for Peter to have some professional instruction so we committed to 3 hours of Personal Training with Kristy.
This was all a bit of a shock to the system as we had never been in a gym before. On our first session we were shown the equipment, used the bike and treadmill, and Kristy promised individual training programs, which responded to Peter's shoulder problem, to be collected on the next session. The second session was much more hard work. The warming up with treadmill and bike was OK but it was followed by a cross trainer which was harder. The aim was to use up 100 calories before being allowed to stop in a target time of 7.5 mins! There was restricted work on the machines with weights for Peter, but there were lots of stretching exercises. We had 'homework' to do in the cabin, and extra material to read before appointments. We were however benefiting so much that he booked another set of 3 classes. By the end of the cruise we had a regular morning routine of cardiac work and exercises before breakfast and we subsequently bought ourselves a cross trainer for Christmas.
Pete has managed to keep up the program since November 2003 when he started on the QE2 and will always be greatful to Cunard - without the training on that cruise the chances were that he would never have got full use of the shoulder back, even so it took three years before his right arm was once more the dominent one. He still regards the cruises as a time to top up his fitness and even if he does not lose wight on board working out for an hour every morning on cardio machines (600 cals a day) and weights at least it contains the damage of all the good food - he even lost weight once! The Gym on the Queen Victoria is the best yet with plenty of machines including 4 cross trainers that we use, a dozen treadmills and countless bycycles as well as about twenty specialist machines. It is right at the front of the ship and there is a special magic in watch dolphins playing, the sun rising or a port approach as you are working on the cross trainer or treadmills before breakfast of fresh fruit in the Lido.
We have only once had the opportunity of a Galley tour these are rare because only small numbers can be taken round and there are obvious Health and Safety implecations so we were very pleased to accept. We were taken round by the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager who proved an excellent guide. We went round at 1030 so it was relatively quiet, breakfast having just ended, with mainly preparation for lunch being carried out.
The first stop was beside the giant dishwasher which takes everything through on a conveyor belt and delivering it two minutes latter clean and sterile at 170 degrees Fahrenheit so it dries almost instantly. We were shown the machines providing all the drinks, including the all important Espresso Coffee machine! We saw the starters being prepared and plated on mass before being held chilled ready for serving. Each dish has an example prepared by the executive chef to be copied - it was difficult to tell one from another. Apparently the demand for all the options is quite predictable, for example first sitting orders are predominantly fish and second sitting has far more carnivores. The demand is continuously monitored and adjusted from a command station as the meal progresses. Much of the food is cooked to order and each 'to order' dish has a station where up to 8 plates are readied simultaneously. There are separate galleys for each of the restaurants and the Britannia Galley is on two levels. At the end of the bottom level of the Britannia Galley is a separate area which currently handles Todd English on an 'on demand' basis and this will be used for the Verandah Restuarant when the change takes place.
Overall the tour took about 30 minutes with plenty of opportunities for questions by Jason who did an excellent job. The galley seemed a model of efficiency and everything seemed extremely professional, organised and under total control - a complete contrast to the impression the TV impresarios try to give - but one has to be professional to deliver 850 4 course dinners plus all the extras twice an evening every day of the year to Cunard standards.
We decided that we must go into lunch so we could actually sample the dishes we had watched being prepared and take some close up pictures. We had selected the Chilled Mediterranean vegetable and Buffalo Monzarella Terrine with Pesto Sauce as our starter, Mixed Grill and Tarte au Citrone with Vanilla Ice-cream. They were all as good as we expected.
From the sublime to the essential. There are five self-service passenger laundry rooms, near cabins 4068, 5070, 6068, 7042 and 8060. Between them there are 14 standard Maytag machines and tumble driers, and each has one iron and ironing board. The laundries are open from 0730 to 2100. Laundries can be noisy, so it is best not to have a cabin opposite. At present use is free, and detergent powder is provided.
The Queen Victoria is designed for worldwide cruising and is what is called Panamax size, ie she wil fit through the existing Panama canal and in her case is a very close fit as her length overall is 294.00 m (965 feet) and Breadth is 32.26 m (106 feet). She draws only 8 metres (26 feet). She is based on the well proven Vista hull built by Fincantieri of Italy and her Port of Registry is Southampton, the classification society is the Lloyd’s Register and her call sign is GBQV. Her absolute maximum complement (safety equipment and insurance limits) is 3200 and this is, on average, broken down to 1800 passengers (2208 max.) and 1000 crew. The Vista design has been modified for the Queen Victoria by extending the hull by 5 metres and adding an additional deck, as well as redesigning the layout of cabins and all public areas of the ship. But is the Queen Victoria a Liner or a Cruise ship? Firstly the hull of Queen Victoria has been analysed to ensure the steel structure can meet the repeated demands of the Atlantic Ocean. Detailed calculations have been carried out to identify any critical areas and strengthening has been added to the steel decks and bulkheads to meet predicted stress levels. In particular the bow strength has been analysed with respect to the dynamic loading and pounding experienced by the fore end of the ship in extreme seas. The local ‘scantlings’ or thicknesses of the steel structure have been increased on the Queen Victoria to meet these requirements. Secondly the Queen Victoria is separated from current cruise ships by the style and quality of the interior, for example the theatre is amazing. You wouldn’t get a better theatre in London or on Broadway and whatever you can do on Broadway or in London you can do in there with extremely advanced technology for the stage, lighting and sound systems. The third factor is not strictly a technical one but with a ship’s company of 1,000 to look after 2,000 passengers, so the level of service is modelled on the best the classic ocean liners had to offer. She may not have competed across the Atlantic with the classic liners of the last century on tight schedules but on the longer liner runs to, for example, Capetown or the Antipodes I know which I would prefer.
The ships power system is diesel-electric - in other words she has six large diesel engines which drive generators which provide power for driving the ship and all her auxilary services. The main propusions is by two Azipods manufactured by ABB in Finland. The Azipods are a combined drive and steering system that, like an overgrown outboard motor, allows one to turn the motor and propellor combination which are fitted in a pod below the ship. This not only gives superb manoeuvrability but also high efficiency as the propellors are mounted on the front of the pod and in clear water away from the hull. They can be rotated through 360 degrees. The Azipods, when used in combination with three powerful bow thrusters (propellors mounted in tunnels running across the ship under the bow), allow the ship to be moved sideways, for example to move out from a pier. Even in quite strong winds and tugs are rarely needed. The end result of the Azipods and Bow Thrusters is exceptional manoevrability - The Queen Victoria showed in trials that she could turn in 544 m at 21 knots (under twice her length) and can do an emergency stop from 21 knots in under 5 times her length. Her maximum speed is 24.3 knots but her cruising speed is usually 23 knots or less. She has also been tested to 16 knots in reverse.
For those who are interested in the details the diesel engines are built by Wartsila and are of the Sulzer ZA40S design and are located at the lowest deck of the ship, Deck D. There are four V16 engines which have a maximum continuous rating of 11,520kW (15,449 HP) and two V12’s producing 8,640kW (11,586 HP), a total power output of 63,360 kW (84,967 HP). The engines only differ in the number of cylinders. The cylinders are aligned in a V formation and each cylinder has a capacity of 4290 cubic inches (70 litres) and the engines are run at 514 RPM.
They utilize either diesel oil or heavy fuel oil which is heated to 125ºC to reduce the viscosity and enable complete combustion to take place. The larger v16 engines consume 2.17 tons per hour at the 85% of maximum continuous power rating they normally run at. A computerised power management system automatically stops and starts engines as required to ensure the highest efficiency is maintained.
The two Azipods contain syncronous AC variable speed electric motors of 17,600 kwatts (47,000 HP) output driving fixed pitch propellors with 4 blades and 17 feet diameter. The directions of rotation are opposite on the two sides of the ship and the propellers are mounted on the front of each Azipod to allow undisturbed water flow over the propellors for maximum thrust.
The Bow Thrusters are in contrast drived by electric motors run at a constant speed and direction of rotation with variable pitch propellers run at 300 revs per minute. The thrusters are rated at 2,200kW (2,950 HP) each.
The Queen Victoria is very environmentally friendly, the exhaust gases from the engines are fed through boilers which absorb the waste heat of the gasses created by the main engines and create steam. This improves the overall efficiency and reduces the fuel consumption. Steam is used in many areas around the ship - for heating and cooking in the galley, making hot water, heating fuel and air-conditioning in the colder climates and for generating pure water. The steam generation can be augmented by two oil-fired boilers when the main engines are running at low power. She normally uses Heavy fuel oil but low sulphur fuel can be used in very sensitive areas.
Ships need a lot of fresh water and the Queen Victoria generates most of its requirements by distillation using both the waste heat from the cooling system from the diesel-electric power plant and from the exhaust gas steam generators described above. This is used to evaporate sea water under low pressure which is then condensed and pumped into storage tanks. The evaporators can, in total, produce 1700 tons of fresh water per day. The total storage capacity for pure water is 3150 tons.
Both Black and Grey Water are processed on board to standards exceeding any current requirements and even then are only discharged much further offshore than regulations demand. Her recycling and disposal set most towns to shame.
Air Conditioning is an important feature and there are four air-conditioning compressors with an installed power of 4811kW (6,452 HP) . Chilled water at 6 ºC (43 ºF) is pumped around the ship to 36 A.C. stations. The Air Conditioning is controlled by the exhaust temperature of each room.
This section has drawn heavily on information provided by the Chief Engineer of the Queen Victoria and the pictures reproduced in this section retain Cunard Copyright. The assistance of the Chief Engineer and his staff are greatfully achnowledged.
The first question we are always asked is how the various Cunard ships compare, in particular the new Queen Victoria and the QE2 that she replaced. Firstly the ships have been designed for different tasks and in the case of the QE2 and Queen Victoria there is a difference of 40 years between them so it is not an entirely fair question. The Queen Victoria is a different design to QE2 and behaves differently in the weather. She is a standard design, similar to the Holland America Vista ships, so her performance should be similar and therefore well known. She is much slower then QE2 and QM2, so spends more time at sea and less time in ports. For example, in 2009 her World Cruise segment from Los Angeles to Southampton will take 82 days in comparison to 56 days with QM2 over a similar routing of Sydney, Singapore and Dubai. QM2 is currently some 10% more expensive per day. On our very first transatlantic crossing we gradually worked up to just over 23 knots, which QE2 matched with ease. Queen Victoria was very comfortable travelling more slowly. She performs nicely at speeds of between 15 and 20 knots and one day we checked and her speed was just 12 knots. Our itinerary on the first World Cruise was obviously designed to allow a gentle 'running in'. Because she is large like QE2 she also suffers from sometimes being berthed in container ship areas, not at the cruise terminals although her lower draft reduces the chances of being at anchor over the QE2 or QM2.
In calm seas and with good weather there are lots of impressive deck areas for sitting, either in full sunshine or in the shade. two outside swimming pools are larger than on QE2 and Pauline swam for only the second time ever on board ship.As a floating hotel the deck facilities are very good. Even with almost 2000 passengers there is always somewhere to sit; on QE2 the similar deck areas are limited and always more crowded. We presume people stay in their cabins on Queen Victoria and sit on their private balconies, so do not compete for public sun lounge areas.
The food in the restaurants is consistently very good, generally better than on QE2. Seating in the Britannia restaurant at breakfast and lunch is as an open sitting, with the Maitre d' organising the allocation of tables. This is nice because it is possible to sit at a different table each day, and with different people. Dinner is always at the allocated tables. Some items are missing - for example there is no citrous sorbet as an option between courses, the cheese is only available as a plated selection of four cheeses, and the homemade petit fours do not include the chocolate truffles which we like.
A more interesting comparison will be between The Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth. They are both exactly the same size and are built in the same shipyard in Italy. They have exactly the same designs of stateroom, presumably using the same computer software for the layouts. However there appear to be slight differences in layout, with some inside staterooms being turned by 90 degrees, easy to do with software. There is a new stateroom category of Club Balcony, which are more expensive than standard Balcony cabins; they are exactly the same size but give access to a single sitting dining area, as on the QM2. That dining area is where the present Chart Room is on the Queen Victoria. We like the Chart Room very much and it is a pity the area has been removed on the Queen Elizabeth. The only other difference we have noticed is that the Cafe Carinthia and the Champagne Bar on the Queen Victoria have been merged into an enlarged Cafe Carinthia on the Queen Elizabeth. The remaining layout is identical, and the names are the same, with the exception of Hemispheres on 10 Deck which is renamed the Yacht Club.
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