We sailed for nine nights on the first leg of Queen Victoria’s world cruise comprising 98 nights in total. With a capacity of about 2,000 passengers 1,200 are booked for the full 98 nights. Wow! We paid for our cabin and airfare to London. Cunard upgraded us from Britannia class to Princess Grill accommodations. They provided free internet, a dinner in the specialty restaurant and spa passes. How did they score?
Overall Score: 95/100
Although we were upgraded to Princess Grill, which has its own dedicated dining room and access to benefits like the Grills Lounge, we frequently dined in the Britannia Restaurant, the Lido buffet restaurant and visited the bars and lounges frequented by the majority of the ship’s passengers. Our evaluation is of the entire ship experience.
Evaluating the Cruise
Scoring is done across ten categories with a maximum of ten points per category. Simple enough.
- Boarding and disembarking. Boarding took about an hour. Boarding involved standing on four lines: Covid documentation, registration, security and boarding the ship. The ticket we printed off before arrival was stamped, stickered and checked at least a dozen times. Immigration upon entering NYC took time, because everyone must leave the ship before anyone is allowed back onboard. When we disembarked, claiming luggage and going through Customs took mere minutes. 8/10.
- Health. This was done well. Every passenger needed to show proof of vaccination plus boosters along with proof of a negative Covid test before boarding. Once onboard, life returned to pre pandemic behavior as much as possible, but passengers seemed responsible and careful. 10/10.
- Ship design. It’s easy to say “It’s not the Queen Mary 2” There is only one Once the ocean gets rough, you do feel it. The captain did a good job steering towards smoother waters. There is some vibration at the rear of the ship. The ship did not feel crowded at any time, even with 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew. 9/10.
- Stateroom. We had a Princess Grill category stateroom, which is about 50% larger than a Brittania category cabin. The extra space is in the length, meaning a larger bathroom, walk-in closet and a longer sofa. The Britannia category staterooms are well designed. We have sailed about 17 times previously. All those cruises have been in Britannia staterooms. 10/10.
- Shopping. I have yet to experience spectacular shopping onboard a cruise ship. To their credit, Cunard showcases iconic British brands like Barbour, Floris and Mulberry. They have reasonably priced articles in the shops. Some of the duty free liquor is a spectacular buy. 8/10.
- Food. We have found the food consistently good over the years. You can expect the showstopper dishes like Beef Wellington, lobster and souffles regardless of your dining room. For premium dining, the Verandah restaurant does a good job, with a $45 per person supplement at dinner. 10/10.
- Drink. I am impressed by the wine list. A lot of thought has gone into it. You can find plenty of bottles of wine below $50 or even below $40. Cocktails are reasonably priced. They have drinks packages and wine bottle assortments that make sense. 10/10.
- Entertainment. The Insights lectures are one of Cunard’s crown jewels. They had excellent speakers. There are abundant activities where you can meet and socialize with fellow passengers. They had an excellent singer who performed Edith Piaf songs. The military band sending us off and the fireworks leaving the harbor were spectacular. 10/10.
- Ports. The sole ports on our voyage were Southampton (departure) and New York City (arrival). We docked in midtown Manhattan, which is a great advantage because you are within walking distance of all the action in New York. Thinking ahead to other ports on the world cruise, they have many good ones on the itinerary. 10/10.
- Staff attitude. I would like to say our cabin steward could have been more attentive. He did the job, but there wasn’t as much interaction as I would expect as part of the Princess Grill experience. Everyone else was great. The assistant manager in the Princess Grill dining room was very attentive. The Grills concierge got everything done that I requested. The staff at the Purser’s Office treated every passenger with respect. People smiled. Service was prompt. Considering the big picture, I give it the top score. 10/10.
- The wine themed events. As a wine fan, I appreciate the wine and food pairing lunch. I asked about it and signed up the day we boarded! The scotch tasting was excellent.
- The Insights lectures. We had a former British diplomat who served in Moscow lecturing on the KGB. We had a famous authoress and BBC Radio 4 presenter talking about her book and telling funny stories. There are always at least one or two great speakers.
- The social activities. There was a Masons meeting and a Rotary Club meeting. There was a Women’s Institute and Christian Fellowship meeting. There was a solo travelers gathering twice a day. There are many opportunities to make friends.
- The trivia sessions. This is a big deal in England. The Golden Lion Pub has four trivia sessions every day! It is difficult to find a seat, even though the room is very large. These are very popular. It’s easy to make friends because everyone knows something and no one knows everything.
- The Queen Victoria choir. I am amazed about 60 people could board a ship as strangers and seven days later be performing spectacularly as a group, singing together. It is very moving.
- Afternoon tea in the Queens Room. This is so elegant. It always draws a crowd. You meet new people because you are often seated with or near another couple. They serve scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Areas for Improvement:
- The boarding process. A large amount of the registration process is now done from your home. You enter your credit card details. You upload photos for your shipboard keycards. It should really not take an hour. The ticket we printed at home that was stamped “OK to board” and stickered was checked about a dozen times before we boarded.
- Internet access. Yes, there are no cell towers in the middle of the ocean. Internet access is not good. I do not know if there is a solution for this problem. If you are paying for internet access, you expect connectivity.
- Vibration. The stern of the ship has a vibration problem. The propeller was replaced in drydock a couple of weeks earlier, but the problem has not gone away. It is very noticeable at the back of the Britannia dining room.
- Bring back the pre formal night parties. Yes, it’s logical Covid protocols discourage bringing large groups of people together. Most Cunard voyages would feature a Captain’s Welcome Cocktail party, open to everyone. On another evening there would be the World Club party, for people who have sailed multiple times. There was also the Senior Officer’s Party for higher tier World Club members. At these events you learned about the latest Cunard news, who the top sailors were and the many nationalities represented among the passengers.
- Bring back the third formal night. Transatlantic crossings typically featured three formal nights. These were often aligned to the cocktail parties and the gala evening themes like the Ascot Ball and the Venetian Masked Ball. These represent some of the magic of Cunard.
As you can tell, we had an overall excellent experience and are looking forward to our next voyage.
Many thanks to Cunard Line and thanks to the All Things Cruise team as well. Photos credit Bryce Sanders
Queen Mary 2
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See Bryce’s previous posts:
9 Great Days Crossing the Atlantic on Cunard’s Queen Victoria
Restaurant Review – Britannia Dining Room on the Cunard Queens
Cover photo: Queen Victoria Royal Court Theatre