1. EMBARKATION and TOUR.
My first sight of Cunard’s Queen Victoria was from the Queen Mary 2 as she returned to Southampton. QV was moored with her “blunt end” (in her case, literally) towards me as I gazed across the harbour from the forward observation area on Deck 11. Some ladies are not seen at their best from behind and so it proved that morning, hardly the most flattering angle for an introduction. After enjoying the cascade of six decks down to the wonderful rounded stern of QM2, the square, inelegant transom of QV lacked all the grace that a “queen” should possess. It is small wonder that Cunard show her “bow on” in publicity shots. The strong horizontal lines of QV’s design meant it was easy to mistake this modified “Vista Class” ship for a city centre hotel, only the funnel reminding me that this block was floating. QM2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 have painted sheer lines towards their bows, where the dark hull meets the white superstructure, designed to fool the eye. However, on QV, because of the five, ruler straight, rows of balconies above her low set lifeboats, and the short bow, her sheer line is innocent of deception.
When QM2 entered service, it was announced that she would be joined by another Cunard vessel in 2005, it turned out, in many ways, that this next ship would be the “let’s have another go and get it right this time” Queen Victoria. I understand that the first hull, originally destined to go to HAL, was allocated to Cunard during the planning stage. Then, very late in construction, it was re-allocated to P&O. Cunard’s “spin doctors” indicated this was so that they could turn the next attempt into a quasi-liner, stronger than a standard Vista (hasn‘t stopped HAL or P&O sending their clones out and about however…). These delays meant that QV was two years late entering service.
Although I had seen QM2 many times before taking my first voyage on her, for some reason I had not felt the need to visit Southampton and watch QV come and go. Nevertheless, when I studied the sailing dates for 2009, I noted a short voyage at the end of October, Gallic Getaway II, which would serve as an excellent introduction to QV. I have enjoyed almost all types of cabin and have no issues with “inside staterooms”. Therefore, I asked for, and got, 4072. This is centrally located, accessed from the port side passageway, immediately astern of the deck 4 laundry room.
Previously, when intending to board QE2 or QM2, I have arrived at the terminal late morning. Therefore, I booked a seat on a train to arrive at Southampton at 1130. On the day, upon arrival at my “home” railway station, I made my way to the platform indicated. There were several people around me with Cunard tags on their luggage. A few of us nodded a greeting to each other, like fellow members of a club. At the scheduled departure time, an announcement, instead of platform 13 our train would go from number 3. A mad scramble ensued as people dashed (as well as they could with suitcases) across where, as I arrived, a train pulled in. People started to board. Then emerged back outside, it had just been announced that the train for Southampton would now depart from Platform 1. We all struggled again, trailing our cases, to yet another platform. How kind of the train operators to arrange a scenic tour of this vast station for their passengers.
Twelve minutes late, we were on our way. Some time later, and twelve minutes late, we arrived at Southampton Station. I got a cab straight away, no waiting. Whilst I like Southampton’s Queen Elizabeth II Terminal very much, the new “Ocean Terminal” is, with one major exception, far superior in most aspects. Upon arrival, I dropped off my luggage (there should have been more conveyor belts open, there was quite a backlog of cases blocking the pavement), received a friendly greeting and was shown to an area of seating. Within a very few minutes I was called forward for ticket and passport check and issued with my all purpose card for use on board. I then joined other passengers in another section of seating and waited.
The first group of passengers were called forward a short while later, these were, I believe, some of the “grill” and a few of the “priority boarding” passengers, all given the opportunity to have the truly dreadful boarding photo taken (this gets further and further from the actual boarding point. I imagine that, once upon a time, they placed the ornamental white rings to either side of the gangplank with the ship as a background. In the QEII terminal, they are set up beyond the security point, when you are moments away from stepping onto the ship. In the Ocean Terminal, these pictures, taken in the middle of the lounge, have other passengers awaiting their turn in front of the camera as a backdrop, lovely).
Because many walls (internal and external) of this building are glass, I could see these passengers going through the security checks. Then a curious thing happened. One after another, they stopped dead at the far end of the conveyor belt and did a full bow from the waist. What was happening? I could not quite see… Why, they are putting their shoes back on! After this, they walked into the glass walled nautical equivalent of a sky bridge connecting the terminal with the ship. Rapidly, all five sections of this aerial walkway filled with slowly shuffling or stationary passengers; there was a traffic jam of people. The next set of passengers (including me) were now invited to board, instead of remaining comfortably seated, many hundreds of people now found themselves in a stationary line, waiting to go through security. We shuffled forward, very, very slowly. I declined the boarding photo. Eventually I reached security where, for the first time on boarding a ship, I was asked to remove my shoes.
I am a firm supporter of all security measures that ensure our mutual safety, no question. But, in the Ocean Terminal, unlike in the QEII Terminal, there are no chairs for people to sit and put shoes on (and no space for them), no room to replace belts, put on coats and sort out carry-on luggage without getting in another passenger’s way. Truly dreadful chaos ensued. What a welcome to White Star Service. As soon as this indignity was over, I rejoined the stationary queue waiting to board… and waited.
Both the terminal and Cunard were to blame for this fiasco. The people in the terminal could see as well as I that there was little or no movement in the queue to board yet still called people from the seats to stand in a long snaking line. In addition, Cunard had only to ask people to remain seated until they were able to process passengers at the entry to the ship proper; neither happened. This treatment was not reserved for me (as a steerage passenger), the two American ladies in front in the sky bridge, both Queens Grill passengers and platinum cardholders, the passengers behind, Princess Grill and diamond members. So much for priority boarding, we were all together in the queue (and with plenty of time to chat…).
When I finally got to the ship (after two ice ages had come and gone), both embarkation machines were working. Passengers were invited, regardless of status, to present themselves at either. Why the hold up? Who knows? No apology, no explanation. Nevertheless, as a “welcome to Cunard” it was a shambles. So far, the day had not gone well, but I was on board QV at last.
On QE2, I had entered a dramatic, circular lobby with a sunken central section. Despite the low ceiling, it said, “you’ve arrived somewhere special”. QM2’s Grand Lobby is a five deck high space that soars above passengers. What a welcome. Marble floors, sweeping stairs, glass walled “scenic” lifts gliding past, a feeling of infinite space. Many of the crew lined up, all smiles and “welcome, welcome”. What did QV have in store for me?
As she was berthed with her bow towards the open sea, boarding was onto the starboard side of deck 2, straight into a stairs and lift area. The “Grand Lobby” is elsewhere, astern of the way onto the ship. It is not an entrance lobby; it is an atrium, it connects three decks. Would it have been too much too ask for an entrance lobby at the boarding point? To me, this was the first sign of how much smaller than QM2 the Queen Victoria truly is. Because of QM2’s greater beam (135ft against QV at 106ft), there is room to access the Grand Lobby directly from the sides of the ship. On QV, passengers could miss seeing the lobby on arrival, moreover, no crew lined up to greet passengers… in a stair lobby there is little space for them.
However, from here I could climb the stairs to my cabin (the soon to be familiar sight of people-waiting-for-lifts encouraged me get my first workout on QV’s stairs). On reaching Deck 4 I noticed a touch that would be most welcome on QM2, the corridors on each of the “cabin decks” (1,4,5,6,7,8) have different colour carpets port and starboard. This must help passengers who, on arrival at a lobby, have no idea which side is which and, therefore, which way is forward and which aft. Introduce on QM2 a.s.a.p. please. This was the first example of the design of QV being more passenger friendly in several ways when compared to QM2.
I went port side and turned forward, towards my cabin. My suitcase was waiting for me, well-done QV. I entered and was pleasantly surprised. A quick tour of inspection and a few things noted, loads of hangers in several wardrobes, the safe, and the usual bathrobes already hung up (on some voyages on QM2 they have not been in my cabin until later in the day), slippers. There are two coat hooks on the cabin wall, a welcome feature, missing on QM2. The desk area is identical to the one I had in my inside cabin on QM2 except here the desk is placed across the cabin width rather than running along one wall, this meant there is room for two wall lights rather than the one I’d noted before. Flat screen TV (QM2 please note). The ‘fridge was stocked with soft drinks I had no intention of buying but there was room for me to place things I’d brought with me (in many hotel room ‘fridges there is not). There is a desk chair and a table but no other chair, is this usual? There is certainly room for one and it appears on cabin plans. Have they removed the second chair from “inside” cabins or just from mine? Under both beds, there are storage drawers. These, in addition to the small cupboards in the wardrobes, the drawers in the desk and both bedside tables, equates to generous storage for a small cabin. There is still some room under the beds for cases although I placed mine in a wardrobe.
I noted that everything was thoughtfully provided. On the table: One ice bucket. One bottle of Pol. Two champagne glasses. One long hair in one of the glasses…
The bathroom is similar to QM2’s Britannia grade examples but with a different layout. The shower is smaller but the curtain allows light in, very welcome after the darkness in QM2’s showers. It was all very, very clean. My steward, welcome-hair-in-glass excepted, kept my cabin spotless at all times. Indeed, one evening I forgot to clear my bed of clothes and other mess. I returned from dinner to find she had hung my clothes on hangers, moved other items to the desk and turned down the bed.
After putting a few things away, I went up to Deck 9 and the lido restaurant for lunch. Afterwards I set off for a look around as I had limited time before lifeboat drill. Over the next few days, I retraced my steps many times, photographing as I went.
Below is a rough guide to the Queen Victoria, bottom to top. The theatre, gym and spa I visited very quickly after boarding, aware that access to take photographs, once we sailed, might be more difficult. I did not see the “Grill Guests Only” area, and ignored a few small sections. My apologies for any errors or omissions, I am talking about the public sections of the ship in all cases, please remember; these are only my thoughts and experiences.
There are thirteen decks although the lowest, Deck A, has only the Medical Centre and Tender Embarkation points and Deck 12 only the “Grills Upper Terrace” sundeck, leaving eleven decks in regular use by the majority of passengers. There are three stair towers (QM2 has four), named from front to back A, B, C. Each has four lifts nearby i.e. twelve in total (QM2 has twenty-two including four serving selected decks only). These lifts reach all Decks 1 to 10, the B stairs/lifts going higher to reach the “Grill” area. Frequently there were many people waiting for spaces in the lifts, as a result, I walked up and down whenever possible.
This is largely a “cabin deck” with the lowest level of the Grand Lobby at its midpoint. Of course, decks with only cabins on them usually have lower deckheads/ceilings than would be found on those with public rooms and this certainly seemed to be the case here. As soon as I entered the Grand Lobby I noted the ceiling seemed very low indeed (except, of course, under the three-deck high atrium section). The Purser’s Desk, Future Cruise/Tour Desk and “ConneXions” (the computer/internet rooms) are located here, and all seemingly squeezed under that oppressively low ceiling. Unlike QM2, which has a self contained internet centre, on QV these popular rooms are scattered around the ship, two on Deck 1 and another (sometimes called the Conference Centre) on Deck 3. A string quartet play on this, the lowest level of the lobby, as passengers board; this is a lovely touch though I doubt many hear it. I hope, as on QM2, that they play here regularly during longer voyages. At the rear of the lobby is a wide staircase up to Deck 2 with a sculpture on the bulkhead above of the Queen Victoria.
This is full of public rooms, walking from bow to stern, I found, at the forward end, possibly the most impressive space on QV, the
ROYAL COURT THEATRE.
This stunning room is far better than many theatres in London’s “west end”. It was very hard, sitting in a “box” (yes, this theatre on a ship has sixteen “boxes”), when the ship was stationary, this far forward from the gentle vibrations induced by the engines, to believe that I was on a ship at all. Below me, there were tiers of seats in the “stalls”. To my right, the “balcony” had further rows. This extraordinary room, quite superb, seats well over 800 passengers. Over the coming days, I would visit repeatedly, during an evening “show“, to see a film one afternoon and to attend a service one morning. My high opinion of this theatre increased with every visit. Although the one on QM2 is far larger, with seats for over 1100 passengers, it is nothing compared with this. QM2’s theatre looks as if “this is where the money ran out” during construction. This was not the case on QV, and from next year, the Queen Elizabeth will have an almost identical example. There is wheelchair access to some of the boxes (just as well, the narrow, twisting steps that passengers need to negotiate to gain access to many would defeat anyone but a mountain goat). Each box has a curved glass front, because of these curves, the view from the boxes is superb, no reflections at all. However, I also sat in the upper stalls one evening, and, on another occasion, very close to the stage. The acoustics and sight lines were, in every case, beyond praise. Thank you, Cunard.
Walking aft out of the theatre I entered the lower level of the
This has the feel of a small village square; marble floors, tall clock, pub, casino, double staircase connecting the two decks at its forward end, shops on the upper level, people coming and going, a very useful and rightly popular area.
To port is the
This is a mere shadow of it’s namesake on QM2 and, from what I saw over several nights, pathetic. A one games machine arcade compared with Monte-Carlo. Avoid; I did.
To starboard is the
I am a big fan of the one on QM2. I have had some great lunches there and a few pints over the years. However, the Golden Lion on QV is far better. Almost feels like a real pub. There are faux sash windows and an imitation fireplace. The chairs are much more comfortable than the examples on QM2. It has a great layout, a low ceiling, etched glass panels, solid wood and it feels intimate. I really liked it, as did many other passengers; anyone wanting a table should get there early.
On QM2, thanks to her axial centreline plan and divided funnel uptakes (similar to Normandie and a handful of other liners); there are broad promenades, with high ceilings, along a great length of the centre of the two decks with the principal public rooms on. To each side are doorways giving access to the various bars and shops, eventually culminating in the main entrance to the Britannia Restaurant.
QV, however, has her funnel uptake on the centreline of the ship (behind the sculpture in the Grand Lobby). This means that the passageways on Decks 2 and 3 that allow passengers into the public rooms are placed over to the starboard side along much of the length of these decks. In practice, this meant three quarters of the next room I visited was on my right (to port) and one quarter to my left (starboard). Or, put another way, the principal lounge on board has the main corridor running through it.
This next room is the
This is the largest lounge on QV and contains the huge dance floor so popular with many passengers once the band starts to play in the evening. It is also one setting for the ritual of afternoon tea. It rises up through two decks although the seating is only on Deck 2. Each night huge drapes are drawn back to reveal a stage. There are excellent sea views to port and, above the windows; I could see painted glass panels with Victorian motifs in their centres. To Starboard, facing these, are balconies, part of the Deck 3 main passageway. Above my head were two huge chandeliers. The room has cream walls with faux marble pilasters, very cool and elegant. There are small raised seating areas that give good views of the dance floor, one of the largest at sea.
However, all that I have described is on the port side of the main walkway. To starboard, there is a smaller section of seating, remote and cut off from the rest with no view of the dancing. Decorated and furnished as if it is part of the main room, which clearly it is not. Are passengers sent to this gulag if their Paso-Doble is poor or their partner sheds too many sequins during the Fox Trot? I think we should be told.
Onwards I went into the museum called
As Cunard have sold all their real treasures (most recently to Dubai), I did not linger here. However, every time I passed through I swear I could hear a strange sound… it took me days trying to work out what it was. Finally, I identified it. It was the sound of a barrel being scraped.
Immediately to starboard, a small shop, open almost all day, every day, sells the practical items you might have forgotten to pack, a small selection of Harrods products and much chocolate and confectionary, it’s nicely laid out and a very useful place.
This brought me back to my embarkation point. In front of me stretched the passageway to one set of doors into the lower Britannia Restaurant. I walked aft and the middle level of the Grand Lobby came into view to my right. Four public areas open onto the lobby here. To port I could see the Todd English Restaurant and the entrance to the lower floor of the two deck high library and to starboard, the Champagne Bar and Café Carinthia.
TODD ENGLISH RESTAURANT.
This restaurant, furnished differently than the one on QM2, is not as attractive, a little too fussy for my taste. I did not eat there on this voyage, so cannot comment about the food or service. There are several “diner” style booths, arranged down the port side of the ship, each with its own adjacent window. If I were intending to dine here, I would certainly try to reserve one. They looked very inviting.
This is a peaceful space split, as I indicated above, over two decks. On this, the lower level, there are many comfortable seats, a vast choice of books, an “antique” globe and, tucked away, several quiet study areas with views of the ocean through the windows immediately beyond the desks; excellent. In the centre of the room, a wide spiral staircase gives access to the upper level on Deck 3 where there is another entrance. At the top of these stairs are more books and a seating area that looks out onto the promenade. It reminded me of QE2. She also had a promenade beyond the windows of her library. Repeatedly, as I walked around this ship, I kept seeing elements of QE2. Not of QM2, as I had expected.
The long narrow bars to starboard, the Champagne Bar, Café Carinthia and, further aft, The Chart Room, are divided from the main passageway by a waist high partition or railing. If they were separate rooms then the adjacent corridor would seem very enclosed. However, the result of opening them up to the main walkway is regrettable. In any of these areas, I felt as if seated IN the passageway, part of it, on display with no sense of privacy. This was especially true of the “Chart Corridor” as I soon called the Chart Room.
Moreover, that is another similarity between QE2 and QV. On QE2 the Chart Room, Golden Lion, Grand Lounge, Queens Room and the casino were all equally on display to people walking past along her main passageways. However, it had not bothered me on QE2 and yet it felt wrong here.
This is very similar to the one on QM2. A lovely looking space (I cannot call it a “room”) but, nearly always empty. One of the most attractive bars on board and yet seemingly underused.
A great place, almost a smaller version of QM2’s Chart Room, and very popular every time I walked past. During the day, there are cakes and pastries pilled high on platters on the bar, all very tempting. I stopped for coffee (the best on board) several times. Excellent staff, wonderful service, views out to sea, great cakes. Why did I ever leave?
The Britannia Club Restaurant on the Queen Elizabeth will replace this (slightly over-decorated) space. I can only hope they separate it from the passageway better than the Chart Room is on QV. I would not want to be sitting there eating with half the passengers on board walking past my table. This bar has an Art Deco theme (on an otherwise largely Victorian style ship?). It is not nearly as nice, because of the constant noise of people passing, as the Chart Room on QM2; pity. Displayed here there is an excellent model of the Cunard Countess and a much poorer one of the Queen Mary. On the wall opposite the windows of this bar there are more display cases containing Cunard “memorabilia“. A “job lot” bought for £1.50 in a Southampton junk-shop. Where is the Piano from the Queen Mary or the treasures from the Officer’s Ward Room on QE2?
Oh, I remember, Dubai.
On QM2, I dined in a huge, two-level room surrounding a large, impressive, open space or well. Soaring above this central area is a huge, back lit, glass vault almost the equivalent of four decks in height above the tables far below. Tall graceful double pillars to each side lead the eye to the huge tapestry behind the Captain’s Table. Two, elegantly twisting stairs permit ladies la grandes descente to show off their gowns to the diners below. Almost everyone who sees this breathtaking room admires its size, majesty and grandeur.
What of QV? Well, something different...
She has, in fact, two Britannia Restaurants (although Cunard may try to convince passengers there is only one) located at the stern of the ship, one above the other, the lower one on Deck 2 being larger than the one on Deck 3. Two staircases and a narrow open area that pierces the deck between, join them. Unlike the well on QM2 this small “slot” is located “off centre” (to starboard) with a revolving, stylised, metal globe as a centrepiece at one end. Both restaurants have superb sea views including out over the wake. There are two sets of doors on both decks; to starboard the entrance doors are in line with the main passageway and, on the centre line of the ship, another set serve the C stairs/lifts. After the grand entrances to the Caronia Restaurant on QE2 and the Britannia Restaurant on QM2, these small doors seemed like an afterthought “well, I suppose we could put them over there”. The restaurants themselves are well laid out and spacious, lots of room between tables, quite attractive. Maybe the ceilings feel a little low; there is a vast expanse of ceiling, especially on Deck 2. Nevertheless, overall, they are elegant. However, neither approached the outstanding Britannia Restaurant on QM2.
Near the bow is the upper level of the Royal Court theatre. Passengers booking a box for an evening can enjoy champagne, served in a private lounge, before the show, and champagne and chocolates are available whilst they watch the entertainment. Afterwards, a “cast” photograph is presented.
Astern of this I found the upper level of the
There are shops along three sides, to port the Cunard “Logo” shop, ahead and to starboard, and stretching away into the distance, a selection of perfume, jewellery and clothing outlets. I must say that the items for sale in these shops are more reasonably priced than on QM2. Put another way, where are the Hermes, Choppard and Stern etc stores that I noted on QV’s big sister? The “Art” gallery is located at the far end, if passengers want a good laugh or have far too much money and are intent on denying it to their children, they pay a visit.
Moving aft from the Royal Arcade, I found myself with a view of the Queens Room’s upper level to my right and the shops/art gallery on my left. These shops, on the balcony level of the largest lounge on board suddenly reminded me, yet again, of QE2; there were shops were arranged around the upper level of her Grand Lounge.
Beyond is a small passageway with the most extraordinary obstruction in it. In an island, in the very centre of this room, is a ladies “loo”! I kid you not. They could not have placed it to one side, discreetly. No, there it is, “in yer face”, blocking the way for the many passengers who use this main corridor: Extraordinary.
Just before I reached the top level of the Grand Lobby, I noted an entrance to “ConneXions 3” to port and, to starboard, a little gem of a room, the
This is as good as the ones on QE2 and QM2; smaller, maybe, but packed full of goodies; loads of nautical books, books on all subjects, postcards, photographs, souvenirs, posters, gifts. I have searched for a good book about the Queen Elizabeth for a long time and I found it here, I had to have it. Well done QV.
I had now reached the top level of the Grand Lobby. Looking down I could see the many graceful stairs, small balconies and various levels and landings. My opinion of this atrium improved as the voyage went on. Many people chose to take pictures of family and friends with this as a background, or requested it for their own pictures. Only one question, why the central chandelier was not illuminated once during the whole voyage. To the right is the
Although I was able to find this charming room empty on one occasion for a photograph, most other times it was full, and a very popular spot.
Next to this room, on the port side, is a small alcove with two giant jigsaw puzzles. When I was there both were approaching completion. I did my bit to help. Also located here is a highly detailed model of the Queen Victoria. I could have looked at it for hours, so much to study, so much to take in. I then passed the entrance to the upper level of the library and returned to my tour.
On the starboard side of the atrium is the
This is another bar, like the three below on Deck 2, which is part of the main passageway. Only in this case it really WAS part! The designers have placed the large bar so that it just manages to avoid the line of the corridor, in front are bar stools. At night, people pull these stools out from the bar and… there is a bottleneck in a main thoroughfare. But other than that, this is a pleasant enough space, long and narrow of course but seemingly very popular (or maybe passengers simply can’t get past?) with many people having a pre/post dinner cocktail or three.
Beyond is the photo gallery where passengers have the chance to buy the boarding photos they have always dreamed of owning.
On QM2, the outside promenade is four decks above this level, but not here, not on QV, on this ship it is on Deck 3. It is quite narrow in places as it twists and turns around safety equipment. There are many steamer chairs out here, all, on this trip, soaking wet. In good weather, this may be a popular spot, but in Northern Europe, in October, I had the place to myself almost every time I was out there. Those of you who know how busy QM2’s promenade can be will understand my surprise. There was one question I had hoped to answer on this voyage; is it possible to do a complete circuit? As the section closest to the bow was always closed the answer must be no, it is not, a great pity. By way of compensation, the stern gallery across the blunt end is magnificent! I stood there, seemingly only a few feet above the wake, it was noisy, quite exhilarating. I could feel the power of the two pods, and QV never reached her full speed on this trip. If you ever board QV, be sure to go here when she is underway, great fun. As I walked about, once again, I could see QE2. Her promenade beneath the lifeboats was also narrow in places, it also seemed to twist and turn, dart in and out. Moreover, on QE2, you could not do a complete circuit (well, not without using two sets of stairs or ducking inside past the “gents”). On QV, I could feel QE2, not what I was expecting at all!
Much has been said about the decking on the outside areas of QV. It tries hard to look like teak planking and fails completely. This very visible example of cost cutting looks even worse when wet. I have read that other Vistas have real teak decks, why not Cunard’s version. Interestingly, at every doorway, there are substantial ramps. They could have been reduced in height if teak had been laid and therefore, the decking, thicker.
But before QM2 regulars get all “holier than thou” and tell themselves “it would not happen on a liner” they should take a look down, next time they walk on Deck 7 near the spare propellers… on the Deck 11 observation area… around the Deck 12 Pavilion pool… (there is a yet another type of decking around the Deck 6 pool…). Before I went back inside, I noted yet another passenger friendly facility that QM2 lacks but QV has. Many of the doors around the ship, including most of the heavy wooden ones, are automatic or open at the push of a button. Please introduce on QM2 at the next re-fit. Thank you.
Decks 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are “cabin decks” so I walked up (!) to Deck 9.
At the front of the ship is the
This room, with a wall of glass at its front end, has extraordinary views. After my long climb up from Deck 3, I was too exhausted to avail myself of its undoubtedly fine facilities (and I am sticking to that). I did notice how well equipped it was however and wondered if you’re allowed access out on to the splendid terrace immediately forward of it, above the Bridge.
Walking a few paces astern I found myself in the centre of the
CUNARD ROYAL SPA.
This extensive complex has treatment and relaxation rooms, the beauty salon. I had a quick look around. All very well laid out with many areas enjoying the most amazing views out over the water. The one part I might have used was the “hydro” pool. This was closed “for maintenance” and drained during my trip. A big difference between the spa pool on QM2 and the one on QV is that you can see the one on QV from outside the spa. That could encourage people to use it… if it were open…
Moving aft, I found the first of QV’s two pools. Both of them are outdoors. Cunard must know something about the weather in northern Europe in winter that they have failed to tell the weathermen.
This first one is
This swimming pool also has two hot tubs attached and, thanks to the glass walls to port and starboard, is sheltered from most winds. Lined up to either side are many tables and chairs. This must be a very popular area on a warm water cruise. Deserted on this voyage except for one fool who insisted on sitting in a hot tub…
Truthfully, there were a few, very brave souls using this pool area. I noted that some swimmers, presumably Queens Grill passengers, had, what can only be described as terry towelling lined, cream coloured overcoats to wear to the pool; very nice.
Aft of this is the
Unlike the version on QM2 which is simply a badly decorated lounge, QV‘s Winter Garden is an attractive conservatory, with an opening central section in the glass roof. The forward glass wall opens completely on hot days and massively increases the seating area around the pavilion pool. To port and starboard are full height windows. I can imagine what the views would be like on a sunny day. There is a small bar here and a stage for a band, with many tables and comfortable chairs grouped here and there. It is a popular spot, warm on a cold day and yet, like most conservatories, giving passengers the impression of being outdoors. Later, however, it is a different story. Instead of seeing the sky overhead and maybe a glimpse of sun, as passengers might during the day, at night that vast glass roof becomes an acre of black ceiling. This makes the whole room dark, cold and uninviting.
I question the decision to put an opening glass roof above a lounge and not over one of the pools… very strange.
Walking out of this room towards the stern, I entered the buffet area on QV
This long room has self-service buffet areas arranged along the centre line. Between these stations and the full height windows to port and starboard are many tables and chairs. All have stunning views of the scene beyond the glass, breathtaking. Unlike the Kings Court on QM2, the layout of the Lido on QV becomes familiar in only a visit or two. One poor thing I noted here were the tables, unlike the wooden examples in QM2’s Kings Court, the Lido has wipe clean, plastic, McTables.
Beyond this I reached the
Like its counterpart further forward this pool also has two hot tubs attached. There is a food serving area, the Lido Grill. There is a bar and a small stage for a band. Unlike the Pavilion Pool, there are no sheltering screens to either side. Except for the superstructure containing the funnel that towers over this area, there is no protection from the wind. I hope QV finds some sheltered harbours.
I had now reached the rear of Deck 9 and the stern of QV, such as it is. The Red Duster fluttered above me. Looking over the rail, I found I was looking down onto the balconies of the most expensive suites on board. Mind you, they have fixed this problem on QE; her stern will be so upright that her Queens Grill passengers will not have steerage passengers like me invading their privacy. Quickly, before I was spotted and manacled once more to oar number 87, I retreated inside, out of the wind.
What a room; outstanding, quite superb, the best room on board (except, possibly, the theatre). It has glass walls on three sides; these give unbeatable views ahead and to each side, fantastic. I watched many passengers arriving here, obviously for their first time, and saying “WOW” as they took in the panorama before them beyond the glass. I sat centrally, near the piano, looking forward; it was as if I had the world’s widest Cinerama screen spread out in front of me, stretching beyond my field of vision, and in 3D! I was gliding above the waves on a magic carpet. This large room has dozens of tables, chairs and sofas arranged in small groups. There is a raised platform around the central bar. Near the entrances there is an excellent model of QE2 early in her career and a poorer one of QM2 (sans lifeboats, why?). On the rear walls there are large indifferent paintings, I do hope Cunard did not pay for the one to starboard, The Houses of Parliament. On the other hand, maybe, like the Bas-relief of Homer Simpson on QM2, this painting is an intentional joke. There was only one real issue with this otherwise excellent room, at night, all that glass becomes a shiny black wall (they do not lower blinds as they do on QM2).
Of course, there will be comparisons made between the two Commodore Clubs, QM2’s and the one on QV. If they had called this one “The Observation Lounge” or “The Lookout” then they may have avoided this issue. So, which is better? Difficult to say, they are not similar in many ways except for their location, high up and forward on both ships. Of course, QM2 has that huge model behind the bar… but, even so, during the day the one on QV is easily preferable. You do not have to peer out of the windows as you do on QM2, but when night falls, it is a different story. Sorry QV, those black walls of glass are cold. Give me the warm, cosy seclusion and atmosphere of QM2 every time. QV has a lovely lounge in a great location, and it works well having the other late-night venue, Hemispheres, a few paces away. However, because the Commodore Club on QM2 is on a smaller, more intimate scale, at night it feels like an exclusive “members only” club. It has the most seductive lighting and there are no sofas here, just individual chairs. I imagine a commodore might join this sort of club.
Behind this lounge, on the starboard side, there are two small, almost identical, intimate rooms, The Admiral’s Lounge and Churchill’s Cigar Lounge. One serves as a meeting room, the other as a smoking room as the name implies. They both have walls of glass, floor to ceiling and are very popular. There is an emergency exit onto the open deck from Churchill’s. However, this can be opened from the outside, letting in masses of cold air and turning this room into a busy passageway. The correct entrance to the interior of Deck 10 is off to one side and not obvious, this is an annoying design flaw.
I walked further back to the nightclub on board
This circular room has glass walls seemingly, almost, all the way around. From here, I looked down on the Pavilion Pool and the sliding glass roof of the Winter Garden. There is a central circular dance floor, above, in a “dome”, an attractive chandelier. Hemispheres is quite a bit smaller than G32 on QM2 (which is on two levels). On some nights, blinds are lowered to cover the glass walls; this gives the room a different and most attractive feel.
Further astern, in a large island surrounding the funnel and beneath the Grill Passengers Only area, are two spaces reserved for younger passengers, the Play Zone and The Zone.
The A stairs and lifts, as noted before, only reach up as far as Deck 10. There are steps, close to the outside of Hemispheres, which enable passengers to reach Deck 11. There is also an ugly outside lift so that disabled passengers can reach this upper deck. Interestingly, this lift has been moved to an inside position on the Queen Elizabeth.
Here is located the sports area for shuffleboard, deck-tennis court and the like. This is very, very windy! The glass screens around the sides seem to do no more than funnel the gale, like baffles in a wind tunnel. Above Hemispheres, on top of its “dome“, there is a huge chessboard marked out and, alongside, giant chess pieces.
Astern, part of the “island” mentioned above, there is a large sun deck. Immediately adjacent are the windows of the Grills Lounge and, to each side, the Grill Restaurants, to port Queens Grill with Princess Grill to starboard. Unseen, from my lowly vantage port, located behind the lounge, is an open-air courtyard where a fountain plashes. On warm days, it must be lovely to sit there and have an al-fresco lunch or, later, dinner under the stars. Above, on Deck 12, is another sun deck, the “Grills Upper Terrace“.
My tour was over, the voyage was about to begin.
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