On July 4th, 1840 Cunard Line’s first ship, RMS Brittania, left Liverpool on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic bound for Boston, Massachusetts setting the standard for today’s cruise industry. 175 years later, Cunard’s reputation of formal elegance is alive and well amongst her three ships: the Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and the flagship Queen Mary 2.
I recently had the pleasure of sailing with Cunard for the first time—a 12 night itinerary to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands onboard the HMS Queen Victoria.
To call Cunard’s Queen Victoria a “nice ship” would be a massive understatement. While she’s far more understated in terms of size at just under 2,000 passengers compared to larger counterparts aiming for the 5,000+ capacity, she retains a regal presence at the dock that just based on appearance makes you believe you are in for something special. This anticipation is quickly realized as you embark and begin exploring everything she has to offer. Our first impression was that of stylish elegance; earth tone colours accentuated by a sleek contemporary look making you feel both spoiled and comfortable at the same time. Other than right beside the pool, you will not find plastic chairs. The seating areas on all decks are comfortable and cushioned with plenty to spare meaning a welcome respite from early morning races to find a lounger before they’re all occupied.
We were equally impressed with our stateroom which was well appointed, comfortable and reasonably spacious by cruise ship terms. We were lucky enough to have a balcony which afforded even more space along with some terrific views while in Port. And while unexpected, we were more than appreciative of the complimentary half bottle of sparkling wine that greeted us upon our arrival (a standard gift for first-time cruisers). A full bottle awaits returning Cunard passengers so we already have some incentive to plan another trip!
Cruisers love to eat and drink and the Queen Victoria is happy to oblige with 11 dining rooms, bars and lounges to choose from. This doesn’t include Verandah (VIDEO), the French specialty restaurant or the 3 other specialty restaurants (Prime Steakhouse, Coriander & Bamboo) limited to certain nights on a rotation basis. While we were extremely satisfied with our dining room experience in the Brittania, the Verandah was an absolute highlight that I would definitely recommend. Depending on your mood and time of day or night, you can sip a glass of bubbles in the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar, have a pint of ale in the Golden Lion Pub, savour a cocktail while taking in the panoramic views in Hemispheres or relax with a cognac in the nautical themed Chart Room. During the day, the Winter Garden lounge features a retractable glass roof allowing for maximum natural light regardless of the weather and a very comfortable place to read a book with your favourite glass of wine.
In order to keep up this challenging regimen of imbibing, a trip to the gym may be required. Equipment includes several treadmills and bikes, 2 rowers, a variety of nautilus machines as well as enough free weights (dumbbells only) to get a decent workout. If uncertain in the area of working out, the onboard personal trainer can be hired for one-on-one coaching or you can attend classes including yoga, pilates and spin that are available for a small supplementary fee.
If the thought of going to the gym is just too stressful, fear not, the Royal Spa has a list of services to rival many mainland spas and features their signature Royal Bath House, a social relaxation area that includes a Thermal Suite, Hydrotherapy Pool and relaxation area. The Spa also has a full list of services one would expect such as massage, facials, manicures/pedicures, body wraps, along with those you might not such as acupuncture, Ayurveda, and Ionithermie treatments.
A variety of entertainment is presented each evening in the Royal Court Theatre, the first theatre at sea to offer private boxes. Having cruised on several different lines prior to Cunard, I can say with confidence that they spared no expense with the entertainment bringing on top quality performers including a comedian, vocal group, multi instrumentalist, dancers and acrobats. The quality extends to the musicians in the bars and lounges which included a 4 string quartet, live bands and individual singers and musicians. During the day the entertainment continues in the Theatre via Cunard’s Speaker Series. On this particular voyage we had a choice between a code breaker from World War 2, a former BBC journalist and a former Member of British Parliament—all excellent lecturers sharing terrific insight on their topics.
Still starved for some literary stimulation? The Queen Victoria’s two-storey library with connecting staircase should suffice. Books from all genres can be borrowed for reading in your stateroom or in public areas, or you may just wish to make yourself at home in their quiet, comfortable seating areas within the library. The librarian also leads a book club where anyone wanting to discuss particular books in a structured but social format is welcome.
Underpinning the quality amenities and activities onboard Queen Victoria is the exceptional service. We were beyond impressed by the service provided by each and every crew member we came in contact with from the Commodore through to our stateroom attendant. No request was too small and each employee embodied elegance and a formality in service coupled with genuine warmth and friendliness. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Cunard has formalized their service as “White Star Service” which is committed upholding a certain standard that includes training for each crew member and a list of philosophies. According to their mantra: “Your experience onboard this Cunard vessel will be legendary, elegant & memorable.” And from our experience they succeeded on all fronts.