Written by on Friday October 3, 2014
Now I get it. Now I understand why Cunard ships are held in such high esteem.
Every cruise line claims that one or two aspects of their product are unique, special, ground-breaking or industry leading. In the main it is true, every cruise-line is individual and every ship has its special highlights. For forty years I had listened from an ignorant distance at what people had to say about ‘The Queens’ resulting in me having such a high expectation that would probably never be matched. I needed sail on board one of these global icons of travel in order to prove or disprove the myth.
My time came this summer and Queen Victoria was my ‘Queen’ of choice. As I checked in and boarded, the key memories of past conversations with lifelong Cunard fan club members circled around the front of my thoughts.
“Will it be as grand as they said”?
“Will it be just another beautiful ship”?
“Will it be as polished and refined as they all said”?
“Will I feel as special as they said”?
“What will be the wow factor if any”?
Within one hour of being aboard I’d completed my habitual ‘grab a quick coffee and go for an unguided tour of the ship carrying only the coffee cup and a deck plan’. I stood on deck and collated my first impressions to my mental notebook, uncontrollably comparing Queen Victoria to all the other great ships I had travelled on in the past forty years. Uncharacteristically, I had toured with a positively cynical frame of mind in order to find the faults to ensure I did not delude myself and get carried away as the ‘fan club’ seemed to.
I only took an hour, probably less. It probably happened within the first fifteen minutes. I was a member of the fan club. This was the best ship I had been on. This ship was grand, special, splendidly different, iconic and historic without being stuffy and old fashioned.
I went through the evening and well into the next day before I gathered the objectivity to work out whether this ship just happened to suit me or whether it was deserving of all the hype. I took me only 24 hours to agree with myself that this ship truly deserved a five star or first-class tag.
I was fascinated by the Cunard ability to separate themselves from the rest just by what they put out on their deck spaces. Standard sunbeds and chairs? Not on Queen Victoria. The furniture is wood, real dark quality wood, beautifully crafted and topped with cushioned pads that gave a feeling of refined privilege.
I love to swim
Everyone has their number one, must have item in any hotel and on board any ship. For me a swim or two per day reminds me I am on holiday. Queen Victoria has a wonderful outdoor exercise pool complete with unlimited luxury quality body sized towels. In addition there are numerous Jacuzzis and a spa treatment pool situated within the Royal Spa. All are spotless and all are heated to just the right temperature.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two lectures that I attended. It appears that this daytime entertainment offering is also regarded as vital to many fellow guests. The diversity was intriguing. Unlike many ships I have travelled on board the talks were not an ‘excursion sales presentation’, very refreshing and educationally stimulating.
I am not a night owl so my review of shows and dances should not be regarded. Though I can share the feedback from other keener participants. The fellow passengers I talked to were gushingly praising of their nightly fill of contemporary and classical music, cabaret and dancing.
The historically famous afternoon tea served at The Reid’s Palace Hotel in Madeira is the one reason for passing visitors to call in and spend an hour having a treat.
On Queen Victoria, if you find that you have time and are passing by and if you are seduced by the idea of spoiling yourself for an hour chatting in an environment that can only be described as classically elegant whilst tasting light morsels of home baked produce fit for a king, make your way to the Queens Room at around 4pm. The gentle sounds of chatter and china crockery are an accompaniment to the musicians that perform harp solos and string quartet classics.
It would be stating the very obvious to say that the food on board was excellent. What will surprise many though is that the delivery and presentation hit the right notes at the right time, mixing dignity with relaxed social banter from world class restaurant staff.
Queen Victoria sets the benchmark.
Leigh Collis, Head of Cruise