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Cruise Ship Information

MS Queen Victoria (QV) is a cruise ship operated by the Cunard Line, and is named after the late British monarch, Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria is the running mate to Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth. Until November 2008, she also operated alongside Queen Elizabeth 2. Queen Victoria is of the same basic design as other Vista-class cruise ships, though slightly longer and more in keeping with Cunard's interior style. At 90,000 GT, she is the smallest of Cunard's ships in operation.

QV's facilities include seven restaurants, thirteen bars, three swimming pools, a ballroom, and a theatre.

Atmosphere on board

Queen Victoria, which debuted in 2007, lacks some of the high profile glitz of Queen Mary 2, its much larger sibling -- but never mind. The ship is large enough to feature plenty of space, but also cosy enough to foster a sense of intimacy, and is actually the most beautiful ship Cunard has built (at least in my day).

The ship's interior pays many tributes to Cunard's venerable history (the British line dates back to 1840) as well as to England. These celebratory nods range from black and white photos of the rich and famous as they travelled on various Cunard steamers to an homage to Queen Victoria herself in the design of the two-deck high Queen's Room, meant to replicate the general ambience of Osborne House, the monarch's favourite residence.

Polished veneer on the walls in staircases also harks back to the age of liners; trumpet light fixtures in the Chart Room Bar remind us of those that graced the First Class Observation Lounge on the first Queen Mary (1936).

As important as history is in creating a certain elegant ambience onboard, what makes it all work is that Cunard has successfully fused heritage with modernity. Cabins are relatively state of the art while the Golden Lion pub boasts an antique-ish pressed tin pub ceiling.

Ultimately, Queen Victoria doesn't awe passengers with breathtaking extravaganzas as does Queen Mary 2 (which it must be admitted I admire even so). It's grand -- yet with warm colours, familiar and competent service and plenty of smallish-sized public rooms, it's built on a human scale. This is a much more British ship in the sense that it's overall ambience is understated rather than stunning. Ultimately, it's worthy of note that while there's a museum on the ship, by no means is Queen Victoria a mere museum itself.

Family with Kids/Teens

Queen Victoria is perfectly family-friendly in terms of facilities, but it does have the look and feel of a really "grown up" ship, and families might be happier on lines like P&O or Princess. Having said that, there's a colourful children's playroom with toys on the starboard side of Deck 10. The Zone, a teenagers' room with computer games, Wii, Xbox and air hockey, is on the opposite side of the youngsters' domain. Both areas feature outdoor deck space, as well. The facility operates on port days, but you have to book for younger kids in advance. The few youngsters spotted on our cruise seemed perfectly happy and at ease in the surroundings and clearly loved dressing up on the formal nights, but you get the impression that if any children started letting off steam and running around, there'd be "looks" and tut-tutting from old-school cruisers.

Past Passenger Programs

The principal public rooms are located on Decks 2 and 3. A library with some 6,000 volumes on the port side of Decks 2 and 3 is highlighted by an elegant spiral staircase and comfortable seating. It features titles in French, Spanish and German in addition to English. The book selection, while of course not on a par with the much larger Queen Mary 2, is excellent, with plenty of new titles along with standard favourites. Adjacent to the library on Deck 3 is the card room.

Featuring four large street lantern-style light fixtures and a clock that chimes to the tune of the Big Ben in London (the chime runs seven minutes late), the Royal Arcade is the shopping heart of the ship. It provides the traditional offerings like clothing and accessories, but there's also an art gallery, where works coming up for auction can be inspected. A jewellery shop sells, among other things, copies of works by Faberge & Cie, jewellers to the Imperial Russian Court. An Easter egg can set you back $20,000. Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Russian tsarina and wife of Nicholas II, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Cunardia, an interactive museum, tells the story of Cunard Line since it was created as the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company in 1840 by Samuel Cunard. Touch-screen programmes feature stories about Cunard's links with British royalty, as well as the wartime efforts of the company, e.g. the Cunard Yanks and young Brits who served on Cunard ships after World War II.

Off the Grand Lobby on Deck 1 is the purser's office and the tour office, as well as the ship's Internet Centre.

Self-service launderettes can be found on passenger Decks 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Fitness And Spa

The Cunard Royal Spa is located forward on Deck 9. Facing forward is a gym that may not be the largest on the high seas, but still offers a good range of equipment both for cardiovascular and resistance training. It has staff that runs classes such as pilates, indoor cycling or salsa aerobics for a fee.

The treatment rooms are all on the port side and feature a shower and a window. Operated by Steiner Leisure, the spa offers a good range of treatments, provided by a friendly and professional staff in a pleasant atmosphere.

Adjacent to the spa reception area is a thermal suite with four different kinds of steam rooms, plus beds with heated ceramic tiles. A thermal pool without water jets is nearby. A day pass to the thermal suite and hydro pool costs between $35 and $300 for one- to 20-day passes.

The ship has two swimming pools, the Pavilion Pool amidships and the Lido pool aft, both on Deck 9. While the latter is of normal depth, the Pavilion pool is only some 4 feet deep on the shallow end and a foot or so more in the deep end. There are two Jacuzzis adjacent to each pool. Towels are provided at each sunbed. On nice days the sun deck was unpleasantly cluttered and crowded.

The Winter Garden, located amidship and adjacent to a pool area, is the place for table tennis. The room has cushioned, wicker-style furniture and art auctions are held here. It also features a bar that serves fresh-squeezed drinks, smoothies and coffee along with traditional cocktails (although on my visit the coffee machine broke first followed by the fruit squeezer). A sliding glass roof was never opened on a 10-night Atlantic Islands cruise in April, and while doors open to the pool area forward, wind conditions mean that only those on the starboard side are kept open. The wind still reaches the forward part of the lido further aft.

Passengers in the Grills accommodation can enjoy the privilege of their own sun deck, which delivers them from the plight of trying to find a place on the pool decks below. The Courtyard is an elegant outdoor space that has a water feature and lanterns. It too is a Grill-only option and offers al fresco dining during good weather.

The outer decks are a weak point of Queen Victoria, and this hurts those with a sporty lifestyle. The promenade deck (Deck 3) does not run around the vessel as the forward part is marked crew only. The best you can do is a U-shaped walk. There is no jogging track at all. A jogging track and a wrap-around promenade deck would warrant a half point rise in the rating of these facilities.

On a positive note, those who like the fresh sea air, but can do with a little bit less exercise will find the reclining seats on the promenade deck very pleasant -- and even more so thanks to the fact that each one has a warm steamer blanket placed on it. A chilly wind is no threat to the idea of a snooze in the fresh sea air!

For the sports enthusiast, the ship does provide you with outdoor games on Deck 11, such as shuffle board and paddle tennis. You can practise your golf as well. And as Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, loved fencing, the ship offers classes in this noble sport, held in the Queens Room. It's the first time that fencing has been featured on a modern cruise liner.

Food & Dining

Queen Victoria has three "main" dining venues. Passengers occupying the most expensive cabins (cabin grades Q1 to Q7) dine at the intimate Queens Grill. Those booked into the next most luxurious accommodations (P1 to P4 grades) are assigned to the Princess Grill, which is just as cosy. And for the majority of passengers, residing in everything from inside staterooms to cabins with balconies, the Britannia Grill, a more traditional big-ship restaurant, is the eatery of choice.

All three are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Britannia is open seating for breakfast and lunch and then goes to a set-seating scenario at dinnertime (6 and 8:30 p.m.). Oddly, and this is a Cunard tradition, those dining at either of the Grills have assigned tables for breakfast, lunch and dinner, though can dine at any time during the restaurants' opening hours.

As an occupant of a Britannia-class cabin, I dined there. The Britannia Restaurant is located in the stern of the ship and windows on the lower level offer a good view of the sea, while on the upper level you will mainly see the promenade deck. The setting is rather elegant, with a work of art depicting Western Europe fronted by a huge globe on a black marble plinth as centrepieces.

The food is generally pleasant and the same goes with the service. There is a good choice of options for each meal in general and for dinner in particular. For instance, in recognition of loyal clientele from both sides of the Atlantic, you can choose British or American bacon for breakfast -- the latter one being crispy and the former not quite so. A spa menu offers a lighter yet enjoyable option for each meal.

The Britannia is a large room, and although unobtrusive partitions have been used to create a feeling of intimacy, the lack of that particular feeling is the venue's biggest shortcoming. This restaurant is not particularly bad in this sense compared to other ships -- rather, it's the fact that the big space is hardly in tune with the otherwise cosy elegance created by the mostly small public rooms onboard. The tables at the stern on the lower level (Deck 2) are probably best if you want to feel like you're eating in a more private venue.

But for really outstanding food, it has to be The Verandah, open 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and for lunch on sea days from 12 p.m. to 2:00 p.m on Deck 2. The new alternative restaurant replaced Todd English in June 2013, and is based on the same concept as the popular and award-wining Verandah on Queen Elizabeth, with a slightly different menu with a sophisticated, contemporary and relaxed theme. The menu has been created by Jean Marie Zimmermann who is a Michelin starred chef as well as Cunard's global culinary ambassador.

Everything on the menu is individually priced at $6 or $7 for starters and desserts and around $18 for mains. Gratuities are included in the price of each dish, so there is no need to budget for an additional tip. There is a choice of seven entrees, eleven plats principaux and six dessert choices. Plats principaux include Beef and Lobster Flambéed with Cognac and Truffle with Parmesan Fries -- the most popular dish to date -- and Baked Rack of Lamb in Pastry with Morel Mushrooms and Madeira Reduction. A particular highlight of the menu is Carpaccio of Smoked Beef with Marinated Aubergine, Quail's Egg and Truffle Mayonnaise, which combines pairings of flavours with theatrical touches -- the dish is served under a glass cloche filled with scented smoke.

The Golden Lion pub on Deck 2 serves lunch from midday to 2 p.m., with British pub grub such as bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), and fish and chips on the menu. Be prepared: With lots of Brits onboard, the place gets very busy!

The Lido, the ship's buffet area, is perhaps the least successful of all dining venues. The quality of the food is fine -- if not memorable -- but what doesn't work well is the venue's layout. In an era of ship design when cruise lines have moved to buffet "stations" (separate areas for salads, hot meals, sandwiches, desserts and the like), Queen Victoria, inexplicably has retained a cafeteria mentality. As such queues develop very easily.

Open pretty much around the clock, you can begin the day with Continental breakfast from 4 until 6:30 a.m., move on to full breakfast from 6:30 until 11 a.m., return for lunch from 11:30 a.m. until after 3 p.m., and enjoy pre-dinner snacks like pizza afterward.

Dinner is served at the Lido for those passengers who want a casual, sit-down alterative to main dining; it's available from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with waiter service. A snack service is available through the wee hours.

On Queen Victoria, in-cabin food service is available 24 hours at no extra charge. The food menu on offer depends whether you travel in Grill or Britannia accommodations; if you have opted for the latter, be prepared for a limited number of choices in terms of food. The Mediterranean salad of seafood is pleasant and the hamburger substantial. Your order arrives in about 25 to 35 minutes. Continental breakfast is served to your cabin as well, with a reasonably good choice of options and prompt service.

Finally, Cunard Line prides itself on its afternoon tea service -- and for a reason. This ceremony, performed every day from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m. in the Queens Room and Grills Lounge (even when in port), reminds you of grander days of ocean travel. A big table is laid in the centre of the room, from which all white-gloved waiters leave simultaneously to serve tea first and then sandwiches and scones with jam.

Entertainment

Here Queen Victoria excels. The Royal Court Theatre and the Queens Room are the principal venues for entertainment onboard. The three-deck-high Royal Court Theatre forward is done up in traditional, elegant style, using lots of red velvet. It features 10 private boxes, a first on a cruise ship, which can be booked at $50 per couple for shows. The cost includes finger sandwiches and Champagne prior to the show and more bubbly in the box. For other events, they are open on first-in, first-served basis (and no extras are offered).

The shows range from a tribute to Celtic music and dance to Victoriana, which loosely traces the long reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) in a light fashion. I admired the spirit, energy and talent of the young performers. Royal Court is also the venue for concerts and lectures -- in April 2008, the young British soprano Annette Wardell -- who's performed at Glyndebourne and at the royal palaces of Kensignton and Buckingham -- sang here for an enthusiastic, full house.

The Queens Room on Deck 2 with a mezzanine on the starboard side on Deck 3 must be one of the most beautiful public rooms on any ship. With a design inspired by the ballroom at Osborne House, Queen Victoria's Italianate villa on the Isle of Wight, it is the setting for balls, cocktail receptions, concerts, afternoon tea and classes of fencing, favourite sport of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Its huge chandeliers and elegant columns give the space enormous dignity and grace that is reminiscent of great liners of the past. A string quartet also occasionally plays in the Grand Lobby. The Queens Room also features dance classes in the daytime that are very popular and in the evenings, gentleman hosts will lead single ladies to the floor to dance to the tunes of the ship's orchestra.

The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar, Cafe Carinthia and the Chart Room Bar that follow each other on the starboard side of Deck 2 are all done in warm, yellow and brown colours. The champagne bar serves strawberries with your glass of bubbly, while a cinnamon Danish with mid-morning coffee comes with a small bowl of raspberries and blackberries. The Chart Room Bar features comfy seats with cushions in true British style, while the trumpet light fixtures are copies of ones that graced the First Class cocktail bar on the first Queen Mary (1936).

A casino with a bar is located just aft of the theatre. Americans will find it small while for Brits it's likely to be just big enough.

On the upper decks, the Commodore Club observation lounge forward on Deck 10 has wall-to-ceiling windows on three sides. The windows, however, are in the form of a V that lies on its side with the edge pointing forward, which means that at strong headwinds a howl of wind accompanies the tunes of the band. The furnishing is traditional with Chesterfield-style leather seats. Next door, Churchill's Cigar Lounge is a small, clubby room for a drink and a smoke with friends.

Hemispheres, the ship's circular night club on Deck 10, is a pleasant room in itself, but does not seem to get very busy. It's best for night owls who want a place to go once the ballroom dancing is finished in the Queens Room. It holds enrichment lectures during daytime hours.

Passengers in the Grills accommodations have a lounge reserved for their sole use that's adjacent to the Queens and Princess Grill restaurants on Deck 11.

An enrichment programme called Cunard Insights features lectures on various topics. These can include ones as varied as Baroque architecture in Portugal and life as a crewmember of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on the coasts of Britain. The lectures are later made available on your cabin's television. The Cunard Book Club enables passengers to have literary discussions led by the ship's librarian, and on select voyages, members of the Royal Astronomical Society come onboard to teach about the constellations and space and lead star-gazing nights.

Queen Victoria also offers an extensive computer learning program in its Apple Learning Centre. Apple iStudy courses, taught on iMac computers, cover topics such as basic computer skills on Macs and PCs, photo editing, movie making, and using new technology such as Facebook and iPads.

Fellow Passengers

On Queen Victoria, you will be travelling mainly with quite well-traveled, well-to-do people in their 50's (and up). However, the ship does attract first-timers too, and it's not a bad choice for those who want an elegant experience that focuses on good entertainment and service.

A spring cruise from Southampton in April had some 1,500 Brits, 200 Americans and around 200 other nationalities from around 30 countries onboard. The ship caters mainly to couples -- there were quite a few gay ones too on the cruise -- but you will feel welcome if you come just on your own.

As the duration and geographical coverage of the cruises the ship takes vary greatly, from a four-night mini-cruise to circumnavigation, so too will the passenger mix.

Our recommendation

Queen Victoria is Cunard’s flagship and the most magnificent ocean liner ever built. Booking a Transatlantic Crossing to or from New York on this incredible ship is a holiday like no other and her European cruises from Southampton are also very special.  She offers so much space on board and such an array of state of the art facilities including a 3D Cinema, planetarium and a superb spa.