When I graduated from university in 2007, I had a temporary contract working for a company called Ocean Books. The company set up and maintain libraries on many of the world’s best-known cruise ships. Back in 2007, this included the soon-to-be-launched Queen Victoria (QV). I remember the excitement surrounding this exciting new addition to the Cunard fleet, at a time when the QE2 was still the most famous working ocean liner in the world. So I was very excited when I went to have a look around this sparkling new vessel, before she set sail on her maiden voyage.
Fast forward to 2017 – almost exactly a decade later – and the ship still looks as impressive as she did back then. With a gross tonnage of just over 90,000, Queen Victoria carries 2061 guests and 981 crew. My husband and I went on board for the day just before Christmas to meet our friend Tomislav Bozic, Queen Victoria’s deputy captain at the time. Although my husband has worked on board before, Tom kindly gave us a guided tour around the ship as I haven’t cruised on her before. On the day of our visit, there was a choir singing carols in the atrium. It’s taken me a while to get around to writing my review, hence all of the festive photos!
Queen Victoria had a £21.6 million refurbishment over the course of 30 days, in spring 2017. A number of changes were made, including the addition of 43 new staterooms. The staterooms were built in a block then swung into position by cranes. Their arrival created extra space on the aft pool deck, which has also been refurbished. Other changes include the addition of the Britannia Club restaurant which replaced the Chart Room, which has relocated to the Grand Lobby area.
Grand Lobby (Atrium)
With its sweeping staircase, polished marble floor and ornate balconies, Queen Victoria’s Grand Lobby is a masterpiece. Its focal point is a three-tier bronze sculpture of the ship, laid on top of an image of a globe, with the sun beating down from the sky above. There are a number of key services located in the Grand Lobby, including the Pursers Office and the Tour Office. The two-tier library opens onto the Grand Lobby. Unfortunately my photos came out very dark, but the interior features lots of wood panelling, a stunning panelled dome ceiling and an ornate spiral staircase.
Royal Arcade/Queens Arcade
If you like to shop, then you won’t be disappointed with Queen Victoria’s retail offering. From designer goods and jewellery to everyday essentials, the 4000 square foot Royal Arcade has plenty of variety.
At its forward end, a grand staircase connects the upper and lower tiers. The custom-built pillar clock and old-fashioned street light are reminiscent of times gone by. I loved the dark green décor, marble pillars and well-lit shop frontage. During out visit, Christmas decorations were on display on the arcade’s lower level.
Tom very kindly let us have a look around the bridge. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the bridge on most of the ships I have sailed on, but it’s always interesting to see how they differ. We bumped into Craig, a deck officer we sailed with on Azura a couple of years ago. I’m always slightly in awe of my husband when it comes to ‘parking’ a ship. I always like hearing him relate his manouvering experiences to me at the end of a port day. Here are a few photos from our bridge visit.
Queen Victoria boasts 2 swimming pools, a hydro-pool and numerous Jacuzzis. As part of her refit, the Lido Pool on deck 9 had a makeover which included a pool refresh, new seating areas and improvements to the teak deck. The pool area is perfect for al-fresco dining, as it is located close to the Lido buffet. The seating is comfortable and plentiful, with poolside cabanas and sunbeds. There are also sails that provide shade in the heat of the sun.
The Pavilion Pool is centrally located on deck 9 and is flanked by the Winter Garden and the spa and fitness centre. I can imagine this is a lovely place to relax with a cocktail during the day and I liked the fact there were shaded areas on deck.
Bars and Lounges
Whether you want to relax with a speciality cocktail or sample a pint in the pub, there are numerous bars on board Queen Victoria. Guests can enjoy a coffee and handmade chocolates in the newly relocated Chart Room, a nautical themed bar and lounge. Unique features include nautical themed cocktails, a Godiva chocolate discovery table and snacks throughout the day. Its central location off the Grand Lobby makes it a hive of activity and I imagine it’s a great place to read a book on a sea day. Close by, the Midships Lounge serves 40 different types of gin, along with a selection of champagne and prosecco tipples.
The Winter Garden overlooks the Pavilion Pool and this was one of my favourite bars on board. I loved the feeling of openness created by the vibrant blue, orange and green colour scheme and the natural light that floods in via the retractable glass roof. The addition of a tree and plants brings a sense of the outdoors inside, when the weather is bad. On sunny days the roof retracts, along with a moveable glass wall, allowing easy access to the pool area. There is plenty of seating and the relaxed dress code makes for an informal experience.
I remember having afternoon tea in the QE2’s Queens Room back in 2008. White-gloved waiters served us delicate sandwiches and fresh scones served from silver platters. It was very different to my usual buffet afternoon tea. Queen Victoria’s Queens Room may be more modern than the QE2’s, but it’s as equally impressive. For me, this is Cunard’s hallmark and it’s always my favourite part of a Cunard ship. For those of you who have never heard of it, the Queens Room is a traditional two-tiered ballroom inspired by Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight. Two beautiful chandeliers dangle over a magnificent handcrafted wooden dance floor, and the room drips with gold furnishings. This room demands attention and its location close to the Grand Lobby and Royal Arcade make it impossible to ignore. This is a popular venue for dance classes and, of course, afternoon tea.
The Commodore Club is situated at the bow of the ship on deck 10. This wonderful piano bar reminds me of P&O’s beloved Crow’s Nest and there are many similarities between the two. Tasteful seating looks out onto magnificent windows affording spectacular panoramic views. Sadly our view that day was a cold, wet Southampton. The blue, gold and beige décor gives the bar a cosy feel, despite its size. The Commodore Club has its own signature cocktail menu and it often plays host to tasting classes.
English pubs are a common feature on Cunard ships and Queen Victoria is no different. The Golden Lion is the most authentic pub I have seen on a ship, since I sailed on the QE2. I loved the fact that it served traditional pub lunches daily and there’s also the option of afternoon tea with a beer flight!
The Yacht Club is small but perfectly formed. The comfortable lounge chairs are spread out and it doesn’t feel overcrowded. A piano stands to one side and in the evening this is a popular live music and dancing venue. An impressive chandelier and windows in the ceiling add to the refinement of this room.
Other bars and lounges include Hemispheres nightclub, Churchill’s Cigar Lounge, poolside bars and the Grills Lounge.
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre holds over 800 people and it’s three decks high. Guests can see one of two performances per night from either a guest entertainer or the ship’s theatre company. The plush red seating might be comfortable enough for most, but the 16 private boxes offer that something extra. The decor reminded me very much of a traditional West End theatre.
There are numerous dining options on board Queen Victoria, although where you eat depends on what type of stateroom you have booked. Guests in the top suites dine at the Queens Grill, an exclusive world-renowned dining venue. In its heyday, the Queens Grill on the QE2 was voted the best restaurant in the world. Guests in the next level of suites dine at the Princess Grill, a classic wood-panelled dining venue with no set dining time for dinner. I had a sneaky look inside the Queens Grill, but I didn’t take any photos as people were eating. The stunning floor-to-ceiling windows allow a wall of light to fall on the elegant restaurant, which features dark wood and gold furnishings throughout. Guests dining at the grills also have the option of booking an outdoor table at the outdoor Grills Courtyard. Other features include exclusive access to a lounge and terrace area.
We ate in the Lido which is Queen Victoria’s airy, open-plan buffet area. I was really impressed with the variety of food options on offer in the buffet area. As well as your standard hot and cold food counters, Queen Victoria had different areas where chefs would prepare food from scratch for you. This included a pasta bar and – although I didn’t see it – a sushi station.
I really liked the newly opened Britannia Club restaurant, open to anyone staying in a Britannia Club stateroom. Guests have the option of ordering from the Britannia Restaurant menu or an a la carte alternative. It reminded me a little bit of the Epicurean restaurant on board P&O’s Britannia, and I loved the chic furnishing in muted blue, grey and beige. Britannia Club has replaced the original Chart Room, which now sits just off the Grand Lobby.
All guests can eat at the Britannia Restaurant, an impressive Art Deco inspired venue spanning two decks, linked by a sweeping staircase. At its heart stands an imposing but impressive centrepiece – a 10-foot tall globe, a nod to Cunard’s nautical history. The warm orange tones of the centrepiece tie in nicely with the rest of the décor.
There are a number of other venues that serve food during the day, including the Golden Lion pub, The Chart Room and the Queens Room (for afternoon tea). The Verandah is the main speciality restaurant, serving mouth-watering contemporary French cuisine. Al Fresco is another cover-charge option, where guests can enjoy cuisine from around the world served in a bistro-style environment.
There are 1035 staterooms on board Queen Victoria. As well as the 43 new Britannia Club balcony additions, during refit each stateroom had fresh carpet/soft furnishings and new tea and coffee making facilities. Cunard used 26,574 square metres of carpet in the staterooms alone.
There are 5 different categories of suite and 6 types of stateroom to choose from. Cunard works on a class system, so where you eat depends on which suite or stateroom you book. Guests staying in the top suites ultimately eat in the best restaurant.
The majority of staterooms have a balcony, although it is possible to have an oceanview room without a balcony. There are nine single staterooms for solo travellers situated on deck 2.
In conclusion Queen Victoria has elegance and class, she is easy to navigate with a friendly atmosphere. Her high quality finish oozes luxury and she maintains a British feel, despite attracting an international audience. Back in 2007, her décor appeared dark and oppressive in places, but she felt completely different this time around. The interiors seemed lighter, which is testament to the work carried out during her previous refurbishments. Although Cunard is more formal than other cruise lines, the passengers who were on board during our visit were dressed casually and they came across as very relaxed. I will certainly be adding Queen Victoria to my cruise ship bucket list!
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