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Queen Victoria
Cunard Line's Newest "Royal"

by Linda Coffman

December 2007, Southampton, UK — Step aboard any passenger ship these days and you're likely to hear classical music in the atrium and see waiters lined up to serve guests in the formal dining room. While those may seem contrived or even pretentious on some ships, on Cunard Line's splendid Queen Victoria, they are authentic touches. 

As Carole Marlow, Cunard's President and managing director points out, Cunard ships are ocean liners, not cruise ships, and they sail on voyages, not cruises. What's the difference? Queen Victoria features the double- and triple-height spaces that define grand passenger liners and has a strengthened hull to withstand any type of seas.

Etching of "Eos & Carinach" signed by
Prince Albert in 1840

Cunard's long-standing tradition of excellence sets the mood for Queen Victoria, and her interior spaces reflect the grandeur of the line's history. Those dramatic double- and triple-height spaces flow easily into intimate alcoves. Artwork commissioned especially for the ship doesn't overpower the simplicity of original etchings hung in the Queens Arcade. Created by Britain's Queen Victoria and her husband and consort Prince Albert in 1840, they embody the mix of classic and modern found throughout Queen Victoria.

She's regal, yet comfortable as Chris, an outgoing Australian crewmember who has now served on all three Cunard Queens, shared with me. He describes Queen Victoria as a "condensed" version of Queen Mary 2, with more of a "feel" and the intimacy of Queen Elizabeth 2. His pride, both with his new home at sea and an invitation to attend the Naming Ceremony, were evident.

Admittedly, my two days on board weren't nearly long enough to experience the ship as a passenger would on a voyage, but let's take a look around. Welcome aboard.

Grand Spaces
There's no question that you've arrived when stepping into the Grand Lobby. Three decks in height, it falls short of being the tallest at sea, but it makes up for that in style. Anchoring the main staircase is its signature artwork—a three dimensional sculpture depicting Queen Victoria parting the sea. It's truly an impressive piece, but no more so than the sweeping staircases and curved balconies that overlook it.

A quiet corner in the Queens Arcade

No Cunard liner would be complete without a ballroom and Queen Victoria is no exception. Inspired by Queen Victoria's own Osbourne House, the Queens Room is two decks in height with a 1,000 square foot dance floor centered beneath a shimmering crystal chandelier. While it will naturally be the setting for fancy dress balls, I came across three duelists on the dance floor demonstrating the art of fencing, an activity favored by Prince Albert that will be practiced aboard Queen Victoria. Adjacent to the Queens Room is Queens Arcade, an inviting space where I could certainly enjoy afternoon tea.

Equally as grand as the ballroom is the Royal Court Theatre. Spanning three decks, it is distinguished by upper level private boxes, where—for a fee—occupants can sip champagne while watching West End-style productions and well-known entertainers.

Dining
As on other Cunard vessels, the level of accommodations you reserve determines your assigned dining room. The Grand, Master, Penthouse, and Queens Suites dine in Queens Grill, Princess Suites dine in Princess Grill, and all others in Britannia Restaurant. 

Queens Grill & Princess Grill—High atop Queen Victoria, both single-seating Grill restaurants are cantilevered over the side of the ship and offer splendid sea views. Guests also have exclusive access to a private lounge for cocktails and an adjacent Courtyard Terrace for al fresco dining.

Britannia Restaurant—Simply one of the most stunning dining rooms at sea, Britannia's two-deck height is emphasized by repeated by Art Deco "cloud" patterns and the ten-foot world globe that visually anchors the lower level (pictured at left). Dinner is served in two assigned seatings.

Todd English Restaurant—Draped columns and alcoves give Queen Victoria's specialty dining venue a faintly Moroccan atmosphere and create an other-worldly backdrop for dining on celebrity chef English's superb Mediterranean cuisine. Reservations are required and there is a fee.

Casual Options—Here's where you'll find choices as diverse as breakfast and lunch served buffet-style in the Lido Restaurant, traditional British pub lunches in the Golden Lion Pub, and pastries and tea in Café Carinthia, a stylish French patisserie. In addition, the Hamburger & Salad Bar aft on Deck 9 serves up a lunch alternative. I highly recommend the pub grub, especially the fish and chips.

Where else are you going to play, relax, and sleep?

Queen Victoria -> Part Two

Queen Victoria -> Part Three

Photographs © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

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