My wife and I just returned from a 12-day cruise on Cunard’s Queen Victoria. It was a trip around the UK with stops in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Guernsey. We really had a great trip.
This was our second trip with Cunard, the first being a crossing from London to New York on Queen Mary 2 back in October 2014. This was our 21stcruise trip, and we have sailed on a large variety of lines. We had tried to get back to Cunard a couple of times in the past, but our schedule and their schedule never seemed to work out together. So I was happy when this trip fit right into our plans.
We traveled to Southampton and stayed in the Pig in the Wall hotel the day before the cruise. We had a nice time walking around the old city part of Southampton, trying to adjust to the time differences before our cruise started. A beautiful port with tons of history.
It was unusual that all three of Cunard’s ships were in port and departing that same Sunday. We thought that there might be a big celebration, but that did not happen. But we still a great departure. The Queen Victoria was the first of the three out, and as we passed by the other two ships, our foghorn was sounded. They in turn sounded back to us and then of course, we had to have the last “honk of the horn”. After we got out of the river, we slowed down and allowed the other two Cunard ships to pass in front of us, with many horn soundings in the process. I don’t know how to do it now, but if I can figure it out, I will post a video of the QM2 passing us by.
We were in Cabin 4054, with a very large balcony. It was close to lifeboat, but because of the large balcony size, the lifeboat did not impact our expansive view. In fact, it was just a little bit comforting being so near-by.
We had dinner at late setting. We were seated at a large table. Unlike many of the cruises we have been on recently, dinner was well attended throughout the trip. We had two American parties, and three British parties at the table. By and large we were able to converse nicely with little or no interpreter involvement.
Certainly we are not gourmet foodies, but we thought the food at dinner was very good and exceeded our expectations. There were the very small exceptions of some small “Tiger Prawns” and an over-cooked Lobster tail, which was noticed by the waiter and promptly replaced. Other than that we thoroughly enjoyed our food and thought the selection more than ample. Service was good – my wife ordered iced tea and extra vegetables the first night, and subsequently was served the same each and every night without the need for request. We did not eat in the specialty restaurant, or the pub, but others who we met that had dined at those places and reported good food and service.
Activities on board were numerous and were very well done. I credit this to a sufficient number of entertainment staff, an area where we have seen recent large cutbacks on lines such as Celebrity and HAL. Having a sufficient staff that was very enthusiastic and talented made a huge difference.
We attended many quizzes on sea days (we had four sea days) and these were great. Laura, of the entertainment staff, was a real sparkler and hilarious as the quizmaster in the Golden Lion. My wife enjoyed the Zumba and line dance classes, and we both even took fencing lessons from Zoe, which culminated in actual sword fights, Great Fun!
The Gala night cocktail parties, including the Meet the Captain event and the lovely Dragana’s World Club Party, were very fun and glamorous events. There was a nice mix of dancing in the Queen’s room for this trip, with a lot of very good ballroom dancers onboard (we love to ballroom dance but are not in the “very good” category). They also sponsored a Motown night dance, and a retro-60’s live band dance in the Queen’s room as well. We had a lot of fun at these events. We enjoyed watching several sequence dances in the Queen’s Room, and wish they would teach that in the States, but so far we have never seen it taught here.
We enjoyed the shows quite a bit – good comedians and singers. Also a wonderful show by two piano players playing at the same time on one piano. Sounds odd, but they were great showmen and pulled it off in wonderful fashion.
Regarding the show’s company of singers and dancers; just like a good actor can’t save a badly written play, good singers and dancers can’t save bad choreography and poorly chosen songs. We felt the first production show was a good example of this, as we did not enjoy it very much. But the second show we saw from the production company was thoroughly enjoyable and I think really showed what they were capable of doing. We thought the difference was in the less frenetic choreography and much better chosen songs.
Our port days were wonderful, and we basically avoided pretty much all rain for the entire trip. Very good luck there. I had basically booked all our excursions independently, so I cannot really comment Cunard’s performance in the excursion area. I won’t go into details of all our stops but I will mention a couple.
Our stop at Newcastle was the first for the Queen Victoria and it was fun seeing many people waving to us, lining our route up the river to the port. We went to the Beamish Museum, which was excellent, and visited the Angel Of the North as well. I think it was a good stop for the ship.
We were extremely lucky in Belfast, having booked a tour on a 16-person mini-bus. But when we arrived in port, the tour guide told us that we were the only two people on the ship on the tour. So he said we were “upgraded” and took us to a regular van and gave the two of us a private tour. He showed us all over Northern Ireland, which was as amazing and beautiful a place as we have seen. We saw waterfall’s, cliffs, old Castle ruins on outcrops into the sea, sweeping vistas’ of beautiful glens and many other lovely sights. Our driver and tour guide, named “ Wee Jim” was a great guide and got us back to the ship on time after packing in as much tour as humanly possible.
On departure day we saw a wonderful example of the level of service we had experienced throughout our trip. We were doing self-departure in order to ensure we could make our flight. We followed a elderly single passenger from Australia who was also departing the ship. We saw the Cunard social hostess escort this woman all the way off the ship, through the terminal and out to her awaiting hired vehicle. After putting her in the vehicle, she stood and waved good-bye to her as the car departed. I just do not see how it can get any better than that.
This was easily one of our best-ever cruises and we are looking forward to traveling with Cunard again in the future!