“How was your cruise?” Everyone asks you when you get home. “Would you go again? We sailed 13 nights from Hamburg, Germany, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as part of the 75-night South America voyage on Cunard’s Queen Victoria. During the trip I wrote daily updates (see links below) that were posted to All Things Cruise. Since everyone like numerical scores, let’s summarize by looking at 20 categories that matter to most passengers. At 10 points per category, the maximum score is 200 points.
Was This a Freebie?
My wife and I booked through an online travel agent* (see Editor’s Notes at end). We booked an outside cabin (no balcony.) Cunard was nice enough to give us an extra dinner in the Verandah (alternative) restaurant and complimentary access to the onboard spa. They offered additional internet time, but we didn’t need it. Bottom line, this wasn’t a freebie.
20 Critical Categories
- Boarding. Having completed 15+ voyages, we are now Diamond tier guests, top tier in Cunard’s four tier World Club program. The top two tiers get to stand on the short line. Curiously, it was longer than the general line, but more counter agents. They took possession of our passports. Check in was pretty quick. Score: 8/10.
- Ship. Queen Victoria is a fine vessel. Built in 2007, it carries 1,800+ passengers and 981 crew. It’s well maintained. You almost never get a crowded feeling. Score: 10/10.
- Seas. January isn’t most people’s first choice for crossing the Atlantic. For about seven days, the seas were about Force 8 on the 12-point Beaufort scale. You felt some motion. I bought the seasickness tablets (10 for $ 6.40). They worked like a charm. The ship was pretty stable. Score: 9/10.
- Ports: We stopped in Southampton, England, where the majority of the 75-night voyage passengers embarked and the weekend getaway folks left the ship. Free shuttle to an excellent mall. Rough seas delayed our arrival into Bermuda by a day. Short stay. Ferry to Hamilton. Port Canaveral required everyone clearing US Customs, a two-hour process. Rough seas shortened our stay. Score: 7/10.
- Food. We dined second seating in the Britannia Club restaurant dining room. Very spacious. Excellent food. No a la carte ordering, but plenty of choice. Canapes were harder to find at the Welcome Cocktail Party compared to previous voyages. Overall, the food was good. Score: 9/10.
- Alternative Dining. We had two lunches and one dinner in the Verandah Restaurant. There’s a $20/$40 surcharge. It’s elegant, like a fine restaurant in an upscale shopping mall back home. Service was good. The ship’s Britannia restaurant comes pretty close in quality, a tribute to the Britannia. Score: 8/10.
- Drink. Plenty of bars and lounges. Not overcrowded. Mixed drinks ran about $ 12-15 with automatic service charge included. Gin and fizz bar probably had 50+ gins and 10+ tonics. Service was very good. Score: 10/10.
- Wine. Good selection of wines by the glass. Plenty of choice on the wine list in the $ 30-45/bottle range. Excellent selection of wines from all over the world, including hard to find ones at good prices. Score: 10/10.
- Television in cabin. There are about 25 channels, including five besides English. News and sports seem like live broadcasts. Other programs run on a loop. This could be improved. Score: 5/10.
- Internet. Although you buy a plan (or get one with your World Club status), Internet access is effectively bought by the minute. It’s expensive, but in US ports we were back in the Verizon network. At sea, you sign on and off the ship’s WIFI, with a counter showing how many minutes on your plan are left. I primarily used my iPad and iPhone. Service was a lot faster than in previous years. The Connextions lounge with Internet terminals seemed slower than the iPad. Score: 10/10.
- Activities. They have lectures. Trivia. Service club meetings. Ship tours. Demonstrations. Evening shows. Galas. Movies. I’m guessing there must be 50+ choices. However, there were times I felt bored. The colder weather meant outdoor activities weren’t available. Score: 9/10.
- Gym. It’s big, on a high deck overlooking the bow. Machines. Free weights. Trainers who start conversations and engage with you. Lots of cardio equipment. For an extra charge you can do spin class or Pilates. Score: 10/10.
- Spa. You pay to join. Services are on two tiers. Basic membership gets you into the hydro pool (great), sauna, steam room, heated tile loungers and regular loungers. The a la carte menu includes massages and other services. Score: 10/10.
- Shopping. Is shopping at sea ever great? There’s a big jewelry and watch shop. Clothing shop where the Ralph Lauren shirts actually sell at the $ 168.00 suggested retail price. Good selection of Cunard logoed clothing. Some clothing was attractively priced. I bought a belt and almost bought a Barbour jacket. Score: 5/10.
- Duty Free Shopping. I’m thinking liquor. Some good prices, brands we can’t get at home. Grant scotch at $ 11/liter. Liquor strength slightly higher than stateside. On these longer voyages, they let you buy a bottle for use in your cabin vs. holding delivery until the end of the voyage. Score: 10/10.
- Unexpected extras. We asked about caviar in a lounge. 50 grams of caviar, served with all the trimmings was $ 69.00 inclusive of service. The single malt scotch tasting was a steal at $ 30.50. The wine themed lunch and learn was $ 80.00 well spent. Score: 10/10.
- Fellow Passengers (dress). Most people who sail with Cunard like to dress up in the evening. Those that don’t have the Lido restaurant as an option. By and large, everyone dressed well, keeping up the tone of the formal nights and galas. Score: 10/10.
- Fellow Passengers (attitude). We found people were outgoing and friendly. We had great tablemates. Everyone tended to be polite. I would want to invite everyone we met home for dinner. Score: 10/10.
- Staff attitude. Cunard does this well. Everyone is treated as a king or queen, regardless of your level of booked accommodation. They smile as you approach. They learn your name and preferences. They are attentive. Score: 10/10.
- Debarkation. Getting lots of people on and off is always a challenge. Cunard does this well. They tag your bags by group. They call your group number. You walk off. Your luggage is there. Help’s available if you need it. We sailed through US Customs and Immigration. They didn’t even want to see passports. We booked the shuttle bus to the airport. They were careful to account for every booked passenger before departing. Score: 10/10.
The overall score is 180 out of 200 or 90 on a 100-point scale. Would we sail Cunard again? Absolutely. I think the seven-night transatlantic on Queen Mary 2 is their flagship product. That being said, many passengers we met prefer Queen Victoria. We realize about 13% of the ship is the “Grill level” accommodations with their own deck space, lounges and dining rooms. These are off limits to Britannia Class passengers. Access to those decks is by keycard only. I don’t know how much Cunard can improve on its Britannia class experience to justify the additional cost. Maybe someday we will take the plunge and find out.
For more information and to book a Queen Victoria sailing, click here https://www.cruisecompete.com/ships/queen_victoria_cruises.html
For more information about Cunard Line and Cunard ships Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, click here https://www.cruisecompete.com/lines/cunard_cruises.html
Bryce’s diary / daily posts from this Queen Victoria voyage