Fresh out of the shipyard following a £34m refit in spring 2017, Cunard’s Queen Victoria is looking stunning, sporting redesigned staterooms and suites, a beautiful new restaurant, new bars and a vast expanse of enlarged teak deck. Yet the ship retains a real traditional elegance with a plush Victoriana theme throughout – glittering chandeliers, a dramatic, three-deck atrium with sweeping staircases and a grand theatre swagged in red velvet, complete with private boxes.
Choose Queen Victoria if you like the idea of the golden age of cruising, evoked in the dainty afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters, black tie dinners, ballroom dancing and shuffleboard on deck. This isn’t to say the ship is stuffy in any way. She has contemporary features, too, not least a luxurious spa, a bar with the coolest gin menu at sea and a cosy pub, the Golden Lion, famed for its riotous pub quizzes and karaoke nights.
Where to sleep
As with the other two Cunard Queens, the cabin grade you book determines where you eat every day. Cabins range from Inside, through the standard Britannia grades with or without balcony, to the very posh Princess and Queens Grills. Queens Grill, the top grade, has some of the most lavishly appointed accommodation at sea.
New in the refit were 43 highly covetable Britannia Club cabins with gorgeous navy blue and gold décor, private balconies and their own restaurant, the Britannia Club. All cabins, though, received new flat screen TVs and tea and coffee making facilities, something regular guests had long campaigned for.
The redesigned Grand and Penthouse Suites are spectacular, retaining a really traditional feel but reminiscent, perhaps, of a chic private apartment, all gleaming wood, chandeliers and smart, geometric carpet designs. The top suites have stunning black marble bathrooms with a window and vast, wraparound balconies.
Where to eat
Passengers in Britannia class cabins dine in the elegant, two-deck Britannia restaurant, which has two sittings for dinner and assigned tables. On formal nights there is a real sense of occasion in here. Or there is the buffet in the casual Lido, or the popular Golden Lion pub, which does a fine line in fish and chips and ploughman’s. I absolutely love the new Britannia Club restaurant on Deck 2 – with dark blue, gold and grey tones, glass panels separating some of the tables and an art deco feel.
The top cabin grades dine in the very smart Princess Grill and Queens Grill, with a much broader menu and, in Queens Grill, dishes like Chateaubriand or Crepes Suzette, made by your table, on tap. These two Grills share a pretty outside space, the Grills Courtyard, perfect for dinner al fresco on a balmy night.
Queen Victoria also boasts a formal French restaurant, The Verandah, on Deck 2, with a hefty cover charge of $49.95. Go if you like elaborate, high-class French cuisine but bear in mind there is little here for vegetarians.
You can also pay extra for themed nights in the Lido, which has a bistro-style area roped off every night. Themes include South American, steakhouse, Indian and Asian fusion and it costs $17.50. We are more excited, though, about the new outdoor dining on the extended Lido deck, where a three-course Mediterranean-themed menu will be served by the pool on warm nights.
Afternoon tea is a big event on Queen Victoria, served in the Queens Room (the ship’s elegant ballroom): all white-gloved waiters, finger sandwiches and dainty cakes. And scones with cream, of course.
What to do
There is music and entertainment all over the ship, from ballroom dancing classes to bridge or watercolour painting and pub quizzes. The Winter Garden on Deck Nine, refreshed in the refit and reminiscent of an airy, bright conservatory (it is themed after Kew Gardens), is a great place to relax on a cooler day, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass screen opening to the Pavilion Pool. Our favourite outdoor spot is the renovated Lido Pool, aft on the same deck, surrounded by comfy new sunloungers and double cabanas with dreamy views over the ship’s wake.
After dark, we love the new Midships Bar with more than 40 gins on the menu, and the intimate Commodore Club on Deck 10, a popular spot on all three Cunard Queens with cocktails, live music, nautical décor and plush leather sofas.
What I loved
Queen Victoria has one of the most beautiful libraries at sea. Spanning two decks connected by a wood-effect spiral staircase, it is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. I love the theatre, too, which has a real sense of grandeur with its red velvet curtains and 16 private boxes. One of these will cost you $55 for two but include a glass of champagne, canapes and chocolates, while a uniformed bellboy to escort you to your seat gives the whole thing a sense of occasion.
What I didn’t
You might have thought that £34m could cover a few shower screens but no; all but the top cabins still have clingy curtains and the bathrooms in the lowest grades are small and poky. Watch out for the extras, too; despite its Britishness, Queen Victoria uses the American tipping system on-board, so every drink has a 15 per cent service charge attached.
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