Saturday 5th December 2009
I awoke early, as usual for a Southampton morning, and could see Aurora gliding past the hotel quietly, all light up, as she headed for Mayflower terminal. She was followed close behind by Queen Victoria which turned and reversed into the Ocean Terminal. She looked magnificent and larger than Aurora. Amongst the lights I was trying to work out which was our suite. Ooh I need time to hurry now. I tried laying in bed, but couldn’t get back to sleep, so opted for a nice big bubbly bath instead. As the daybreaks the sun rises over Queen Victoria. Its not the best of days but I just want to get across and get onboard. We have soon had breakfast. Couldn’t fault the service again at the Holiday Inn, we always feel welcomed and the staff seem to remember us, restaurant manager was very chatty this morning!
11.00am was late enough for us to head for the Terminal, so the car was packed and off we went. Arrival at Ocean Terminal was effortless, the car was checked in with CPS and taken away, the porter that assisted with my cases at the end of the July cruise came and took our cases away, and we were greeted at the foot of the escalator and guided to checkin upstairs. We were recognised as Princess Grill guests and before we knew it we were checking in. a new computer and check in system was in use for the first time today and it took a while to get to the end of the process, but there was no rush. I looked behind and realised how many people had arrived before us and were sat waiting to check in. the lounge was practically full and I commented it was going to take a while to get all of those checked in if they all took as long as us to process. From checkin we were guided to be seated at the far end of the building and before long we were amongst the first to check in.
Once onboard we were greeted and ask to walk along to the forward lifts for our suite. I knew better and new we had just embarked midship so stuck to my guns and we headed up in the lift.
Our Princess Grill accomodation was faultless. Im going to be very comfy in here. Huge bed, walkin wardrobe, bathroom with bath and shower, plenty of shelving in the bathroom, selection of towels in varying sizes, walkin wardrobe, tall cupboard and safe area, bedside tables with lovely deep drawers, bedside lights with dimmer switches, desk/dressing table area, two flat screen tvs, large 3 seater sofa with a painting of Venice hanging above just to make me feel at home, and a lovely big balcony. Oh yes, I like it very much. A full bottle of champagne is on ice to greet us, and a bowl of fresh fruit sits above the fridge stocked with fresh fruit.
I quickly unpack the hand luggage and we are off to explore. I will be honest, we didn’t get very far, and the obvious place for us to head to was the Grill lounge. It was far nicer than I had imagined and than any pictures had portrayed. We settled into some nice comfy armchairs and the bar tender came a cross to greet us. I asked for her recommendation for a champagne cocktail. She knew exactly what we should have and she explained about the one with Hibiscus flower in the bottom with just a hint of mint. Kath and I settled for one of those and it was divine. However the lads caught site of the price and nearly choked on their beer, but hey, what the heck we are on holiday. It was soon announced that lunch was served in the Queens and Princess Grill, well we hadn’t expected that so we decided to partake.
We had table 103 and were shown to our table by the Matre D and the waiters greeted us warmly. The choices on the menu all looked excellent, but I opted for a light lunch of shrimps followed by poached salmon, both of which were to die for. The wine waiter had recommended the wine so it was the perfect lunch. Service was very attentive, waiters gave recommendations throughout and it was the perfect start to our introduction to Queen Victoria.
After lunch we nipped back into the lounge to book our theatre boxes for the Victorian show tomorrow evening. It’s a good job we did as only 3 or 4 boxes remained. All of the boxes for 4 had gone but Nel the Concierge gave her recommendations for those that were available and asked us to go and check to make sure we were happy with our choices. We were very happy so now it was time for a proper explore. But where was everyone? We had been onboard for hours and the place was deserted. Maybe they were unpacking? Well, it later transpired that the computers at check in failed and there were waits of over two hours to check in. lucky we came when we did then.
You cannot fail to be impressed by Queen Victoria. Even though she is the same structure as Arcadia she cannot be compared to her. She is leagues above Arcadia and even though a couple fo her public rooms are in the same location, all are totally different and the ship offers a whole different ambience. I just love it! In my opinion even nicer than Queen Mary 2.
Back to the suite and we quickly unpack, placing all of my dresses on the white satin padded hangers of course. There is no shortage of places to store things and more than enough room for all my belongings on a longer voyage.
But that big bed is calling me. It looks like I should just test it out and oh boy it has some magic sleeping powers. I went into the deepest sleep and had no idea where I was when I woke up. But it didn’t take long to come to my sense and realise it was time for a wash and brush up.
We headed for the shops for a spot of retail therapy. Retail therapy completed and they agreed to deliver it to our suite for us while we headed for the Grill lounge. There was no hesitation in choice for our pre dinner cocktail and it was one of those champagne cocktails again with the hibiscus flower. A square platter of hor d’uerves was delivered consisting of steak and onion on sticks, prawns in breadcrumbs and vegetables and dip. We could have had more drinks but knew we had to eat at some point. The bartender placed Kaths remaining champagne onto a silver tray and escorted us into dinner. Now that’s service, not being even allowed to carry ones own glass. The Maitre d seats us and the waiters are greeting us and offering their recommendations. I have no idea what these tablecloths are made of but it is like having a soft rug laid across your legs. They are so thick and luxurious. The whole service of dinner was smooth and faultless. The wine waiters recommendation of wine was perfect, the medallion of beef apparently was to die for and I must admit it looked like velvet when they cut into it. I had tiger prawns on a bed of rice and couldn’t have wished for better. The apple strudel for sweet was possibly the lightest and most divine I have ever tasted. The waiter had recommended it so I will be going with his recommendations in future.
Rat Pack night in the theatre so we headed for there with the intention of viewing from the back, so we could make an exit to a bar at some point but we were too high up, and spotted that ‘our’ boxes below were available so trecked across to those, good job we knew the route via the little back stairs. The theatre company did and excellent performance of songs and that was follwed by a very talented female caberet artist, who we watched almost to the end before Mr Hellon came and tapped me on the shoulder and I nearly jumped out of my skin. Time for a wander and a beverage. But where was every one? The ballroom that had been buzzing earlier with couples waltzing was deserted, the champagne bar was closed, oh dear, what to do? We headed for the Commodore Club but the pianist seemed to me in a different key to the piano so we turned back and went to Hemisphere nightclub. That was better! It was very busy but we managed to get seated and the waiter was straight across to take the drinks order. The dance floor was buzzing and the DJ excellent., later a live band came on, Serious Sounds, and you could hardly tell the difference from record tracks. Absolutely superb! We stayed until 3.00am and the place was still buzzing, but one does reach a stage when sleep is needed. But of course the lads had other ideas, they had curry on their mind. So at just gone 3.00am we manage to locate the Lido buffet for the first time. Curry, pizza, various sandwiches and wraps are on offer and while the lads select their meals to feed their starving bellies me and Kath head for hot chocolate and cookies. I was surprised to also see Horlicks and Bournvita on offer, but hot chocolate it was. We even needed assistance and guidance with that task and it was a good job there was a steward on hand to assist. Sadly the cookies weren’t upto QM2 standard and had to be dunked to soften them up. Bed was miles away and once through the door I had to go through all that rigmarole of removing makeup, cleansing, moisurising etc. Mr C attempted to complete a breakfast order menu but Mr C had a few too many drinkies, and was long gone before my head hit the pillow.
Sunday 6th December 2009 – Should have been Cherbourg but ended up a day at sea.
Oh dear this morning hasn’t got off to good start. I heard mumblings on the tanoy outside from the Captain saying that it wasn’t going to be into Cherbourg due to the weather conditions, but I just rolled over and slipped into another level of sleep. Next thing I knew (It was about and hour or so later) Mr entertainment was coing through the in suite system loud and clear telling us what we could do instead of visiting Cherbourg. Personally, I‘d have been happy with just sleeping. Eventually I managed to focus my eyes for long enough to see the time. 9.30am?! but what happened to Mr C’s wonderful breakfast her ordered in bed? I broke the news to him that I didn’t think it was going to arrive and he was not a happy bunny, but I had to smile. Of course it was everybody elses fault but his own. I knew I should have double checked he had ordered it properly, but I didn’t so it was no breakfast for us. We could have eaten a full breakfast up in Princess Grill, but it was too late. So it was either the Lido or nothing. I decided tea toast and pastries in bed would be far better than a bun fight with the masses, so that was what we did.
The toast was fresh and warm when it arrived and the pasties light and fluffy. It was enough for me but I could tell that Mr C was still grumpy, no doubt he is planning his lunch already.
The ship has just taken an almighty lurch and I watched the horizon rise and rise above the railings. Oh dear are we going under, what hit us. Mr C risked the high winds out on the balcony but couldn’t make sense of it. Soon the Captain was on the tanoy to explain and apparently there was a technical hitch in the engine room and we lost propulsion but its all been corrected now and the ship is heading back on course to Rotterdam. Bet the air was blue down in the control room for a few minutes!
So what to do next? I think I will nip up and see my concierge, get a few things sorted.
We have a good wander round and as noon is approaching we try to decide whether to watch the clock at the bottom of the lobby stairs strike 12 noon or go to see the ringing of the bell in the atrium. We chose the donging of the big brass bell but nothing happened at noon, so that was a bit of a let down. We had a good wander round but everywhere was packed. There was no chance of a seat in the Golden Lion for a pub lunch so we headed for the tranquillity of the Grill lounge. This is more like it, big comfy sofa, personal service and stunning views across the length of the ship on a glorious sunny December day. I asked the bartender where we could order the wine for this evenings meal and she disappeared, presumably to get me the wine menu. But no, she came back with Kevin our wine sommelier who gave me the full run down on his recommendations again. He is very knowledgeable, which is good as I have very limited knowledge of wines. We go with his recommendation as he has been spot on with all the others so far and he has took the time to note our likes and dislikes etc.
We were just wondering what to do about lunch when Dave & Kath appeared, and were about to dine in the Princess Grill so we joined them. As always a varied selection was on offer and a lovely potato and Puccini soup was followed by Sole Gorgons and salad which were delicious. Mr C chose the club sandwich and fries. Sweet once again was to die for but I really should learn to resist!
As it was a lovely day we left the restaurant and ventured up onto our private sun deck via the courtyard. Oh yes I could see me sunning myself up there. Lovely luxurious sunbeds with deep soft covered mattresses all spaced well apart. Again the views forward of the ship were spectacular. What a shame the hot temperature wasn’t there to match the sunshine as I would have liked to spend more time up there.
We had a wander through decks 3 and 2 and its still quite busy. We settled for a drink in the Golden Lion, but Im ready for my bed.
Im awoken by a call from the Concierge (luckily right on time for when I needed to be thinking about waking up) she has come back to me with progress reports re my querries earlier, so I was impressed with her service.
A big hot bubbly bath was called for, and I did think about sipping some champagne in there, but then remembered I had quite a bit to come later.
After a little wander round the ship and through the shops etc we headed for the Grill lounge and pre dinner drinks. Ooh it was busy, but out attentive Bartender was soon on hand for a bit of furniture moving to make sure we were seated comfortably. Out special hibiscus flower champagne cocktails have become a bit of a pre dinner habit now, but they are oh so delicious.
Dinner was as always a highlight of the evening. We were greeted by the Maitre D in his full tailed morning suit and white rose button hole, escorted to the table and greeted by our waiters, whom are always on hand. It was hard making a choice from the menu again, and I admit to being a little overwhelmed by the huge slab of rib eye beef that I ordered for my main. But it might as well have been velvet, it just melted effortlessly in the mouth, and I could see Mr C eyeing it up in the hope that he could finish it for me after he had finished with his prawn stuffed chicken. I didn’t let him down and he finished off the remaining two thirds of it for me. For desert I had some sort of baked banana and Barbados rum cake, mmm mmmmm delicious!
This evening we have each booked a box at the Royal Theatre and are looking forward to yet another new experience. It didn’t disappoint! We are greeted at the theatre door by the red uniformed Bell Boys then escorted to the select lounge at the back of the theatre and shown to our table. We have programmes for the evening, flags and white cotton hankies to wave (nice flags too, not those cheap plastic P&O ones!) we were immediately served champagne and then a silver cake stand of chocolate ice cream mini deserts and dipped strawberries in chocolate dinner jackets arrived. We were advised when it was 10 minutes before curtain up and the Bell Boy escorted us to our reserved boxes, where a bottle of Verve Cliquot was on ice and served to us with another plate of chocolate truffles. This evenings production is Victoriana, which opened with Victorian Christmas carols and snow etc, went through the music hall and finished off with a good old sing song and knees up. Very enjoyable and highly recommended! Before we left our box we were greeted ne more time bu the Bellboy with a signed photo of the theatre company.
We headed for Hemispheres but it was rammed, full to capacity without even any standing room, so after standing on the edge of the dancefloor for 5 minutes or so and realising there was no chance of anyone departing anytime soon we headed into the Commodore Club to sample some of the Martini Cocktails, both of my selections were very nice. Before we know it its getting on for 2.00am again and decide to call it a night. As we wait for the lift Hemispheres is still buzzing and I guess its going to be a late one in there tonight!
Monday 7th December 2009 – Rotterdam
I think it was a bit bumpy in the night but I don’t know why as we were practically at a standstill and land was in sight as it had been all evening. I had left the curtains slightly open and I could see Rotterdam port slowly gliding by, but the effort involved n fully opening my eyes and taking a proper look was all too much. Next thing I knew breakfast had arrived. I didn’t let Mr C do the ordering last night and I completed the form and left it outside. Mr C waded his way through full English, toast,pastries and muesli, but one slice of toast and a cup of tea and I was done
I suppose I should think about getting up and maybe heading into town? But that involves effort so I might just put my head on the pillow again.
It was afternoon when we finally got ashore today. Im told that the first shuttle bus wasn’t booked until 10.45 today as were weren’t due to arrive until 10.30, and when I looked over the balcony at about 10.45 the queue for the shuttle buses was wrapping all around the car park. When we disembarked we didn’t even bother to check the bus queue and instead opted to walk across the bridge and into town, it didn’t take long and it was nice to stretch my legs with a nice brisk walk. Im not a huge lover of Rotterdam, at the end of the day its just a city, and maybe we should have taken the train to Delph or something but we didn’t. We just had a wander and then warmed up with our first gluitwein of the voyage in a cosy little street café, sat outside next to the warm fires. We took the shuttle bus back to the ship and were given a guided tour back. We were taken the very long way round back to the dock and the guide made it quite clear that he wanted a tip at the end of it forcing us all to exit by the forward door.
Back onboard I had work to do and as we hadn’t eaten we decided to g upto café Corinthia for a sandwich and nice coffee but it turned out we were about 3 minutes too late so that didn’t help my mood. We moved onto Grill lounge and waited for white gloved afternoon tea. Now that was special. No queues to be seated while they prepared the room etc. the service was as attentive as we had began to expect it to be, and I had the lot. Ive decided that only Cunard can make cucumber sandwiches because Ive tried at home and they adre just not the same. We had delicate little sanwiches, open crusty finger rolls, selection of cakes and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. It was very naughty of me to have some of everything but I felt I had too.
It turns out we had a fireboat escort and singing clog dancers to welcome us a shore this morning, but I missed all that. And to think I spent every waking morning of the Ventura Maiden cruise hanging over the rails looking for a fireboat escort!
Darkness was starting to close in and Mr C went back ashore onto the bridge to capture some stunning pictures of Queen Victoria all light up, while I continued with my work. Its so handy for me when the staterooms are wifi and I don’t have to go off around the ship finding an internet connection.
I worked up until it was time for pre dinner drinks and in the end we were a little later than usual. But Lucia was still there to prepare our very special champagne cocktails. We were the latest we had ever been arriving for dinner at 8.45 but that’s the beauty of Grill class, go when you are ready and you know that your table and your waiters will be waiting for you.
Château Breean was on the menu this evening oh and was it just a delight to eat?! Although we all felt a little cheated tonight as I dared to turn the page in the big leather bound menu and found a whole a la carte menu sitting there. Had that really been there all week? More food to investigate next time. The deserts were to die for again and Mr C couldn’t choose so he had two. Kevin our personal sommelier was a hoot tonight and its clear he has us sussed, he obviously likes a challenge and we are fast becoming wine experts of the world.
After dinner we head straight for Hemispheres as we were disappointed we couldn’t get in last night. It was Abba night and it wasn’t very busy at all for a long while, but once it fills it really does fill. The Dancing Grandad was in again and clearly loves to dance with any lady that will let him. We stayed until around 2.00am again, before heading for bed.
Tuesday 8th December 2009 _ Zeebrugge for Bruges
I feel like I was awake in the middle of the night but I think it was about 6.00am when I did wake up. At 7.30 our tea and toasted muffin arrived as our wake up call. It was our cue to be awake and ready for breakfast up in the Grill Restaurant. Im very much liking this Grill lark, especially the restaurant and meal times. As long as you are there before the cut off time, your table and waiters are always waiting. Mr C had just about everything available on the menu. Blueberry pancakes, full English with double sunny side up, toast, pastries, coffee. I really don’t know where he puts it. I had the full English but it was huge and I couldn’t finish it.
We disembark and are on one of the first shuttle buses into Blankenburge. The weathers not good and it’s a mxture of showers and heavy down pours. Mr C walks ahead and gets to the train station to buy our first class rail tickets into Bruges. The train isn’t due until 10 past 10 (they depart Blankenburge at 10 past the hour and for the return trip from Bruges back to Blankenburge they depart at 38 minutes past the hour) but it arrives early so at least we can get onboard and sit in comfort in the warm. The journey into Bruges takes approximately 11 minutes and is then about a 15 minute walk into the Main Square. Just like last year it isn’t very busy, but to be fair we are early and many of the Christmas Market stalls are not yet open. The ice rink is open and many of the local children are already enjoying the skating. We usually go for a drink in one of the lovely bars but im so stuffed after that breakfast I need to do some walking first. we walked into town using more or less the same route that the horse and cart rides take, in an effort to try and find the shop that was pointed out to us last time as being famous for its hot chocolate, but it was a failed mission. It was nice to take a different route for a change though.
We decided to visit Dumon our very favourite choclatier before she gets too busy. She recognises us every time and always welcomes us back. We thought we knew exactly what we wanted to buy but her delicious chocolates are so tempting that we ended up with almost €90 worth! I asked where we could go for some of this famous hot chocolate and although she confessed to not knowing the place we were trying to find, she did suggest we trey her sons newly opened shop in the little square off the main shopping street. Stephens shop is a lot more contempory than the traditional quaint little Dumon that we always visit, and it reminded me very much of Hotel Chocolat type shop. Her recommendation was excellent and the hot chocolate did not disappoint. You choose from a variety of flavours and then you are served a glass of warm milk and a falvoured chocolate block moulded onto the end of a trendy spoon. You then stir the chocolate into the milk and drink with the four chocolates that come with it. Excellent! We have a little browse around the Christmas Market in the same little square and then decide, we should perhaps head back to the ship as we have got what we came for. We decided we had enough time to get back for the 1238 train. Well we would have done if I hadn’t spotted a Swarovski shop! I very nearly didn’t go in as they all seem to have exactly the same stock and I had been in one yesterday in Rotterdam. But then I spotted a pearlised white pen with Swarovski crystal barrel. Oh I had to have one! But that had eaten into our time allowed for getting the next train. Mr C insisted that we march through town in an attempt to try and make it back to the train station, but as we approached the edge of town I gave up and declared it an impossible mission. Never mind there another Christmas market to look around. We wandered acoss to the little street where the horse and carts stop for a drink and decided we needed to rest our kegs with a guitwein. Everywhere was pretty busy and then I spotted a cheap and cheerful little café serving yummy looking waffles and sandwiches. It was by far the cheapest place we have ever found in Bruges. Mr C had a Leffe, tuna salad baguette and some fries. I had a ham, cheese and pineapple toastie and some glutwein and it only came to €16!! Bargain!!
We took the scenic route back to the train station through the park and at the last minute found ourselves running for the train. I had heard the whistle blow as we approached the foot of the stairs and then I realised that our watches were 4 minutes different to the station clocks. But we managed it and jumped in the one open door we could find. We were in second class and it was completely full with many people standing so we had to try and push our way through to first class, where we found a seat and were on our way. We were straight onto a waiting baus in Blankenburge and sooon back onboard, and it was only 2.15pm. We chose to have a relaxing Cappuccino in Café Corinth and then have another wander around the ship taking some photographs of all the places we had missed. It really is a very interesting ship to just wander around. The attention to detail with the interior design and furnishings is exceptional. I also love all the bits of memorabilia that are around the ship and many of them fascinate me. We could have gone upto the Grill lounge for afternoon tea but the trouble is I want some of all of it, so decided to resist temptation.
Instead there is that horrible thing called packing the cases to do. I hate that job, and of course its made worse by the fact that I bring far too much stuff with me. But it is soon more or less sorted and I have time for one long relaxing soak in the bath before pre dinner drinks in the Grill Lounge.
We are early tonight and I manage to slip in one extra champagne cocktail before Dave and Kath join us. Another nice thing about this evening is that there is no tention building about the giving of tips. Usually we would be in the cabin discussing who deserves what and that trying to get the correct combinations of money into envelopes. All the tips are taken automatically and added to the onboard account. $11 per day for Britannia Class, and $13 per day for Grill. I would question whether these amounts are a little over the top, certainly for a longer cruise, but for us the service has been faultless, so we don’t begrudge any of it.
It has been so pleasant to sit and relax in the Grill lounge pre dinner every evening, always a comfy chair and always first class service with a smile. And long walk or lifts to catch for dinner, as it is just across the foyer.
We arrive at dinner possibly the latest we have ever arrived at around 8.50pm but the service is as it would be if we had arrived two hours earlier. Kevin is on hand with his final recommendation of wine and it doesn’t disappoint. I wish I could remember all he has tried to teach us, but I couldn’t even tell you the name of any of them let alone what USP’s of them were. He has been an absolute star and I hope he enjoyed serving us and much as we enjoyed him serving us. Both Kath and Dave decided to go for main courses from the a la carte menu this evening. You should have seen Daves thick New York strip as it arrived. Or should I say heard it! You could here it coming from the other side of the restaurant as it sizzled its way to him on the silver skillet. It looked amazing and his reaction to every mouthful was that it was amazing!!
It was a truly wonderful meal, as had every meal that we had had in Princess Grill, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Service was the most attentive I have ever experienced, food always hot, tender and tasty, far far removed from mass catering of any description.
But we could leave the dinner table without another high. The Maitre de, our waiters and kevin all arrived with a Wedding Anniversary cake to celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary.
I was so overwhelmed and didn’t even see it coming. It was the lightest perfect cake I have ever tasted and was even worth missing the crepes for, which of course we could have had but there just wasn’t the room. It might not be our official wedding anniversary until Christmas eve, but as we had our big Wedding Blessing at sea on 30th December 2004 on Oriana, we have at least managed to keep the tradition of celebrating our wedding anniversary at sea every year since.
Kevin knew we needed liqueurs to finish off the evening and I left my selection to him. He surprised me with a lovely raspberry liqueur which of course was the perfect choice.
We really were the very last to leave the restaurant this evening, it had been so wonderful we obviously just did not want to go.
As we were late leaving we decided if we were to get a seat in Hemispheres night club we should head straight there. As we are midship and we needed to be forward we have selected a different deck to walk along every evening. Tonight we chose deck 7. we got out of the lift and turned the corner to be greeted b big double doors of a very grand looking suite. I don’t know why but that sent us into fits of giggles (I blame Kevin and his wine) I need to investigate behind those doors at some point and a mental note is made. The rest of the journey to the nightclub is pretty uneventful and we are no sooner seated than we are greeted by a waiter wanting to take our order.
Our entertainment this evening is provided by one of the male dance hosts, who to be honest I couldn’t quite work out. He was doing some pretty raunchy dancing with the ladies, was that his idea of making them feel special or did he have other things on his mind? Whatever it was Kath and I made sure he never got near to us. Just like every other night there had been a real party atmosphere in the nightclub n dim sure it was going to continue until the wee small hours. I think it was about 2.00am when we heard the hot chocolate calling and that was another treck, but oh so worth it.
Back at the suite I have to get the last few things into the cases before they are stacked outside the door for collection. Last nights are not good, but its been an amazing 4 days.
Wednesday 9th December 2009 – Southampton
We gained an hour last night but it wasn’t much use as I felt we were up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast. Breakfast was being served until 8.00am in the Grills so hence the early start. Of course we could have chosen to have breakfast later and eat in the Lido Buffet but, really, was that going to happen? Ive never been a lover of any self serve restaurant on any ship and I was not about to bring myself back down to earth with such a huge bump by having breakfast in the Lido. Every meal in the Grill has been perfect and this morning was no exception, hot first class breakfast. The weather outside was grim and we watched as the mist rolled in around the ship and soon we coud see nothing but grey, which kind of reflected our grey.
Disembarkation was by deck and grade, with Princess Grill being the second group invited to disembark. Grill guests were invited to meet in the Grill Lounge and escorted to the gangways at 8.45am. a very slick operation which took no time at all.
I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t disembark as I had a function to attend onboard later, but I used my time wisely. While Mr C sat up in the Grill lounge browsing the internet while I took the time to go off and explore the Queens Grill Suites. Now, I have seen many different top grade suites in my time but these were up there with the best of them.
My first stop was those double doored suites we had come across on deck 7 midship Q2 grade Master Suites. I was greeted by a marble entrance hall, a lovely lounge seating area with comfy sofa and arm chairs. A dining area with full dining table and chairs. The separate bedroom had a huge king size bed and off there was the full walk in wardrobe. The huge balcony could be entered via the bedroom or lounge are and the balcony furniture was deepmatress wrought iron and looked amazingly comfortable. The butler was in his kitchenette are making sure that everything was ready for the next guests.
As I trecked to the aft of the ship I passed many different grades, Wheel chair adapted balcony, Q6 Queens Grill suites, which are best described as a variation of the Arcadia Mini suites only taken up a notch or two, with central flat screen back to back TV’s. I also checked out the inside grades along the way which were all identical to the inside D grades onboard Queen Mary 2. The A grade balcony staterooms that I passed were all very nice, adain similar layout to the equivalent grade on Arcadia but the choice of colour scheme and décor made them far more welcoming. At last I head reached my destination, the Q1 Grand Suite at the aft of deck 7. there are 4 in total of this grade and have exactly half of the width of the aft of the ship. Two on deck 7 and two on deck 8. Now how much would I like to travel in one of these one day? This is what I call a suite. No cheesy gimmicks just sheer luxury and an amazing homely feel. The outside balcony was stunning. Extremely deep and as I said spreading over the entire half of the width of the ship. The balcony furniture would just mean that you never wanted to leave your suite, it was more like an apartment and terrace. There was a full dining area on the balcony, then two deep padded armchairs, to deep padded sun loungers and an pretty impressive double mattress sunlounger. Inside there was what almost appeared to be a fully fitted kitchen that I would die for at home. Dining room, lounge, entrance hall, stunning bedroom and a bathroom to die for. One day I will travel in one of these – I simply have too!
Queen Victoria is by far one of the most elegant ships I have ever been on. I would cruise onboard her again at the drop of a hat. She is undoubtedly my ‘new favourite’ and I cant wait to return to her. As much as I love Queen Mary 2 I thin its fair to say that I now look at her more as a liner compared to Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria has a timeless elegance that will see her through all the quirky changes that other cruise lines choose to introduce. Everytime we walked around her I was in oar of every corner we turned. As we came out in the evenings I loved to stand on the gallery above the Queens Ballroom and watch the elegance of the dancers below. We never actually made it into either the Champagne Lounge or the Cart room for a drink, but both were lovely rooms and it was only time that prevented us from doing so. The Grand Lobby and atrium type areas were stunning and if you took the time to just stand and look at the surroundings you could see how well designed and thought out the above decks with curved lines all were. There was not a room that I disliked or was not keen on. The Casino was just about my only no go area and that was because smoking was allowed in there and at the nearby bar area. It didn’t affect me as I never go to the casino anyway, but to a non smoker the smoke aroma was very noticeable. We loved Commodore Club, it was in a different league, design wise to all of the other Vista Class ships I have had the pleasure of sailing on or visiting. Every single staff member that we encountered (ok with the exception of one which I will tell you about in a moment) offered consistent first class service. It didn’t matter what time we turned up in a bar and how busy they were we were always greeted by a waiter almost as soon as we were seated. I often asked advise re Martini Cocktails for instance and each time they took the time to listen to my needs and recommended accordingly. If there was to be a delay because the bar was particularly busy etc an apology was always made in advance, but to be fair their idea of a delay was a couple for minutes.
Unfortunately my only gripe was with the ships photographers, which I can almost excuse as they are a concession and not exactly members of the ships company. But it really pains me that I do have any type of grype at all from what was an otherwise faultless voyage. Their photos were not cheap, far from it. All photos were 10 x 8 size and charge accordingly at $24.95 each. One of my gripes was that the actual photo in question was actually only about 6 x 4 in the centre surrounded by varying unrelated shots of the ship etc. I wanted to buy a photo of all four of us for my office wall and knew that only two such shots of us existed. I found the formal photo of us at the dinner table which I could have been really pleased with, as it showed all the public rooms with us four in the middle. But the ‘professional’ photographer hadn’t taken the time to get us in focus and although the men were in focus, Kath and I were a bit of a blurr. Disappointed I tried looking for our embarkation photo, but just like another lady I could not find it. I asked the photographer serving if he could show it to me on the system but he could only manage to snap at me in return and sent me back to search for it. Eventually I returned to the counter where the other lady also searching was about to be served, but he totally ignored her and moved onto a man looking to purchase a camera. I thought she was going to flip, and I wouldn’t have blamed her, he was incredibly rude. Eventually I was served by the manager who immediately found our embarkation photo on a guide sheet. Now why couldn’t the other chap have done that 20 minutes ago? He did offer to print it up for me again and I could return by 11.00pm but I honestly did not think they deserved my $24.95 so I didn’t bother. For $24.95 I would expect a pretty high quality photo, and given the fact that our photo had been taken in the Princess Grill where he didn’t have masses of people to get through I really would have expected him to ensure they were at least in focus.
But not lets end on a negative, the photog’s were a one off and to be honest are the same on any ship. Many of the staff excelled for me. Nel the Concierge definitely shone. Nothing was too much trouble and when I asked for some assistance and help with helping me make arrangements for our own late disembarkation she took everything out of my hands and dealt with every last detail. I had asked her on day one if we were supposed to have a pillow menu as I was sure I had read itsomewhere. The next day she checked with me to see if a pillow menu had appeared, as she had obviously chased it for me. Within minutes of me returning to the suite that second time I was met by the housekeeper coming to check why I hadn’t got a pillow menu and personally delivered the pillow of my choice to me five minutes later. Our two table waiters were far more discreet than any others were had in the past, but at the same time always willing to chat andk new exactly what the menu recommendations were. Kevin the Sommelier was just a one off a true professional, butk new that when he reached table 103 he could have a little bit of banter. I really do wish I had taken in all what he tried to teach us, but how does one remember after a few champagne cocktails, a bottle of wine and a round of liqueurs?
Highlights…. If Im honest the whole Voyage was a highlight. It far exceeded any expectations I had. I had already very briefly viewed Queen Victoria one day in Southampton so I knew roughly what to expect, or at least I thought I did, but I realise now in that whirlwind tour that I had not actually seen anything, I was too busy comparing and trying to work out where I was in relation to being onboard Arcadia. I now realised she is not Arcadia and could not be any further removed from her. Nothing will ever come close really based on cruise experience. But if I were to choose a highlight it would have to be the Royal Box Theatre experience. Im fully aware that I could have watched the whole show from any seat in the theatre at no extra charge, or I could have sat in the same box on any other night but a Royal night free of charge, but it was $50 well spent. The special treatment we received, the champagne, the chocolates etc it all just added to a very special night. a very memorable experience and one that I highly recommend.
So, will I return to Queen Victoria? Oh you bet I will! I would go back on her in a heartbeat. It has been a magical trip that far exceeded my expectations. But the thing is, can I travel as anything less than a Princess Grill Guest? I really hope I get the opportunity to do it all again, preferably somewhere hot and sunny, and of longer duration, but I wouldn’t turn my back on any chance to do any voyage on her again. For me she was my perfect ship, Traditional, elegant, timeless, attentive service, comfortable staterooms, cruising as it should be without any gimmicks. The new Queen Elizabeth, I’m sure, will be equally as special.
The brochure is out on my desk……now where shall I go?
Check out my full album of Queen Victoria photographs on the ‘Photos’ tab at the top of the page. Ive tried to labvel as many as I can.
If you have any questions at all about Cunard or Queen Victoria dont hesitate to email me. Now is a very good time to book for 2010 with some great offers available in the ‘Cunard Sale’ so dont hesitate to contact me to check for fares and availability!
Hope you enjoyed my insight of my most recent cunard experience and I look forward to your comments.