Travel: a cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 February 2016
A cruise liner is perhaps the ultimate indulgence for a holiday and Cunard's Queen Victoria is more floating palace than boat. Rebecca Underwood packed her ball-gowns and headed aboard
Cunard’ first ship, Britannia, set sail on July 4, 1840 from Liverpool for Canada and the United States. Samuel Cunard accompanied by his daughter, 115 first class passengers and 89 crew members, embarked on a transatlantic voyage that his company has continued to the present day. Thing were a little less salubrious on the maiden voyage. The small paddle steamer’s cargo included 600 tons of coal, the Atlantic mail, a cow for the provision of fresh milk, a brood of chickens and three feisty cats to deal with any stowaway rats.
Today, Cunard’s three giant vessels, Queen Mary II, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are renowned for providing the highest level of comfort and service, reflected in the company’s success in achieving the Daily Telegraph Ultra Travel Awards favourite cruise line for seven successive years.
Launched in December 2007 and officially named by the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen Victoria accommodates 2,014 passengers, served by a whopping 900 crew members.
My mother and I and our bulging suitcases embarked on the Queen Victoria, sailing from Istanbul to Rome for a fourteen night voyage visiting the ports of Marmaris, Athens, Heraklion, Kusadasi, Santorini, Katakolon and Salerno and we were more than keen to indulge in the cruise experience.
Our large Princess Grill suite, included a comfortable seating area with sofa and a tub chair, twin beds, a double open wardrobe (to house our extensive collection of gowns) and a spacious bathroom with bath and shower and a generous collection of Penhaligon toiletries. On arrival, and flagging a little, due to the hair-raising Istanbul traffic, we were delighted to discover in our suite a chilled bottle of champagne and a tempting selection of fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate. We sat on our balcony, admired the views across the Bosphorus and savoured the moment.
Princess Grill guests receive priority luggage delivery, embarkation and disembarkation, and are provided with a concierge service and 24-hour room service. Dining options include in suite dining from the Princess Grill menu or a reserved table in the Princess Grill Restaurant, which is first class.
Other accommodation includes the lavishly furnished, and even larger, Queens Grill Suites. Each with a sumptuous living area, luxurious bedroom and balcony. Benefits for Queens Grill guests include priority embarkation, disembarkation and luggage delivery, a butler, concierge assistance and 24-hour room service. Dining options include in suite dining from the Queens Grill menu or a reserved table in the Queens Grill Restaurant.
Other dining venues onboard include the Verandah, serving a wide range of French dishes or for a more casual affair, the self-service Lido has a selection of buffets.
All Grill guests can take advantage of exclusive access to the opulent Grill Lounge and Terrace; a private deck area furnished with ultra comfortable sun loungers, which was the ideal spot for my afternoon snooze prior to sampling the scrumptious mango and pistachio ice creams and tropical fruit selections served on deck.
Cunard’s traditional afternoon tea is a highlight and is served daily in the Lounge and in the Queens Room, a magnificent ballroom. Flurries of white-gloved waiters serve a choice of teas, selections of dainty sandwiches and delicious fresh scones with clotted cream and fruity jam, while the delightful strains of the orchestra entices couples on to the dance floor. It could be the 1920s.
We were spoilt for choice when considering evening entertainment. The Royal Court Theatre presents an extensive repertoire of extravagant musical shows performed by the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers, and there was an assortment of guest entertainers and musicians.
After the entertainment we headed to the Queens Room where sophisticated gala balls are held. The ballroom was awash with glamorous ladies in flowing gowns and gentlemen dressed in their finest. Here couples show off their best Strictly dance steps accompanied by live bands.
For a more laid back experience, visit the Commodore Club at the front of the ship where the view across the bow and the ocean is breathtaking. Here, sink into a leather armchair or sofa and enjoy a pre or post dinner tipple.
The liner even has a pub, the Golden Lion, which serves beers, cider and wines and tasty gastro dishes. Guests are encouraged to take part in enthusiastic quizzes, karaoke and sing-a-longs. And if you can’t be torn away from the latest fixture, sports fans can watch events on enormous flat-screen TVs. Satellite channels are also available in rooms.
For those of us giving in to the sweet trolleys there was the chance to work off the calories with a dip in one of two swimming pools on Deck 9 or to join the early morning joggers on the Promenade Deck. There are also yoga or Pilates classes.
Reward yourself for your good behaviour with a visit the Royal Spa where you can indulge in an aromatherapy massage followed by a manicure and pedicure or choose from a wide range of spa therapies and beauty treatments.
Need to keep connected? There’s an onboard internet centre. Holiday reading? Visit the library, which houses an impressive collection.
When you’ve chosen a book head on deck to one of the traditional steamer chairs and take in the sunset. As Francis Drake said, ‘It isn’t that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better’.
For more information on Cunard cruises visit cunard.co.uk or call 0843 374 0000.
Tip: Visit goairportshuttle.com for airport and/or port transfers. Book in advance and take advantage of a reliable and punctual service with comfortable vehicles and helpful drivers.