Over the last 175 years Cunard have built a reputation that is the envy of many and equalled by few. Is it deserved, I was about to find out as I boarded Queen Victoria in Athens. Built in Italy and christened by the Duchess of Cornwall, Queen Victoria entered service in December 2007. 90,000 tonnes, 106 feet wide and 964.5 feet long Queen Victoria is in the large ship category and, carrying 1,997 guests attended by 981 crew, creates a very good guest/crew ratio.
Step on board into the Grand Lobby, the lower level of a 3 deck high atrium with double sweeping staircase, dominated by artwork depicting a ships bow upon a globe. Beautifully polished wood, richly carpeted floors and sculptured balconies cannot fail to impress giving the boarding passenger a taste of what lays ahead.
Cabin 5166, an unobstructed view balcony, double bed configuration, two good size wardrobes plus drawers, shelves and dressing table. All cabins have hair dryers, safe, mini bar, bathrobes, slippers, television with a great choice of programmes and electrical sockets for plugs from USA, UK and the continent. The bathroom whilst small by modern standards is functional with containers of body lotion, bath & shower gel, conditioner and shampoo from Penhaligon’s Quercus range together with cotton wool balls, soaps and cosseting soft fluffy towels. The balcony is of good size, glass fronted, equipped with table and two recliner chairs.
Dinner was taken each evening in the Britannia Restaurant where food like the waiters could not be faulted. Choices of soups, salads, lamb, steak, fish, pasta, vegetarian dishes, with a selection of deserts to satisfy the most discerning diner. Try the Pina Colada chilled soup, an absolute delight. Breakfast in the Britannia Restaurant for me was the place to be with one of the most varied breakfast menus I have witnessed at sea. In the unlikely event that your favourite is not on the menu, just ask, it will probably be available as the people on this ship have a ‘Can Do’ attitude. Lunch varied between the Britannia Restaurant, Lido Buffet and restaurants ashore depending on the port of call.
I saw for the first time a comedian, impressionist, musician, singer who made me laugh from the start of his act to the end, Allan Stewart, an act during which his impersonation of famous singers and personalities were excellent, definitely an act not to be missed. The second show has him arriving on stage as his ‘Aunty May’, a performance that earned a standing ovation. Tribute acts are not my favourite form of entertainment but with ‘Walk Like a Man’, I make an exception, a tribute act to Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons, which had people dancing in the aisles such was the excellence of their performance.
One cannot travel with Cunard and not sample afternoon tea in the Queens Room at 3.30pm prompt, served by white gloved waiters this is something to savour and put into the memory banks. Sandwiches of cucumber, prawn, tomato, and cheese, warm scones, dishes with lashings of cream and jam, Battenberg, fruit tarts, Swiss Roll, macaroons it just keeps coming and washed down by a delightful tea poured by the waiters. All this whilst a string quartet plays for the participant’s enjoyment.
Ports of call were some of my favourites. Santorini created by a volcanic eruption in 1650BC, the old port of Skala with its cable car scaling the Caldera Cliffs 220 metres to the town of Fira above, €5pp each way, ride on the back of a mule for €8 or if you are feeling fit, climb the 580 steps. Fira with its maze of alley ways and narrow streets home to shops selling designer clothing, jewellery, locally made goods and souvenirs. Bars and restaurants have views out to whitewashed blue domed houses perched on top of 300 metre high cliffs and magnificent views across the blue Aegean. This is an island of myths and legends where dreams come true and memories are made.
Katakolon, gateway to Olympia, birth place of the Olympic Games in 776BC. Don’t bother with arranged tours take the Katakolon Tourist Train and tour Korakhori Village, visit Mercury Winery, taste some of their wines before travelling onto St. Andreas Beach all for €6 pp. As an alternative take the train to Olympia, the station is a 5-10 minute stroll from the port. If it’s to be a lazy day, explore the shops in the main street before relaxing in a comfortable chair at one of the colourful waterside bars and restaurants, sip a cool drink and gaze out over the blue Ionian Sea.
Kotor with that wonderful 19 mile sail in through fjord like scenery, mountains forming a back drop to high cliffs, small hamlets and islands before arrival in the small port area of this beautiful Montenegrin town dating back to 535AD. Visit the old town and St. Tryphon’s Cathedral, the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, climb the steep pathway, 1,200 feet, to the ‘Upper Town’ walls passing the Church of Our Lady of Health half way up dating back to the 15th century, before reaching St Johns Fortress at the summit. Return to the old town and enjoy one on the many cafes, bars and restaurants or relax in the small park by the water’s edge where trees give shelter from the hot sun.
Venice, what can be said that has not already been said. One of the most famous and beautiful sail in’s in the world. Passing St. Mark’s Square, the Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs and much, more before reaching your final berth. The sights of Venice are numerous, Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge, the Santa Maria dell Salute and then the various islands dotted about the lagoon that can be visited on the Hop On, Hop Off water bus. At €15 the Hop On, Hop Off is an excellent and inexpensive way to see those parts of Venice that are often over looked. Vaporetto’s, the water buses are quite inexpensive and it’s best to purchase a ticket that will cover 24, 48 or 72 hours. Private water taxis are however quite expensive with a trip from the airport to the centre of Venice for up to 4 people costing anything up to €250 in the height of the season.
Queen Victoria has much to offer the cruiser who expects that little bit more. Luxurious fittings of polished wood, thick carpets and works of art give an aura of elegance from the moment you step on board. Many venues I have not mentioned, Hemispheres the ships night club, Commodore Club with panoramic views over the bow, walls boasting pictures and models of Cunard ships, Golden Lion Pub, the magnificent library with wooden spiral staircase, Winter Garden with retractable roof. For something a little more sophisticated try the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar, select from 7 different Veuve Clicquot Champagnes, ordered by the glass or bottle, and of course, the Royal Court Theatre with tiered seating and private boxes.
Add to this the varied dining venues, spa, gym, self-service laundrettes on 5 of the accommodation decks, magnificent ballroom, attentive service and much, much more it surely cannot fail to please even the most discerning passenger. So did Queen Victoria live up to Cunard’s reputation, yes it did.
more information at www.cunard.co.uk
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
Copyright Your Holiday TV, all rights reserved
View Alans video of his Cruise
Please share this feature