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snaver

Don't ask for an upgrade onboard Cunard ships!

8 posts in this topic

We were beginning to think that we were never going to get a cabin on the cruise that fitted our needs, but, as is often said, everything happens for a reason and when the time is right, which could not have been more true in the case of this cruise. We had quite a tight timeframe to take our holiday, due to work commitments, and originally had our hearts set on a 14 night Cunard cruise, which fitted in perfectly. Just before I tried to book this cruise as a late, late deal, it sold out and we were put on a waitlist, though no cabins became available. I was kicking myself that we had left it too late to book, so we enquired about two very reasonably priced P&O cruises, departing shortly afterwards. One of these was also on waitlist (despite saying to the contrary on the website) and the other had lots of available cabins but was a very tight fit for our dates, so we decided against booking. Instead, we chose a 10 night voyage on Queen Victoria (the only Cunard ship that we had not sailed on). We were glad we did, as our original choice arrived in Turkey on the day of the massacre in Ankara and stayed for two of the days of national mourning. We also heard reports that the first P&O cruise departed late as a search was mounted for someone had jumped overboard the night before it arrived back to Southampton (not the best of atmospheres perhaps?!), and the second had an outbreak of norovirus, confining a large percentage of passengers to their cabins for the second week. I stopped kicking myself and realised that this cruise was obviously destined to be for us. 

This was our fourth cruise with Cunard. We arrived at Southampton about an hour before our allotted embarkation time, but went to the terminal anyway, where we were told that it would not be a problem to check-in there and then and given a letter card. It took 50 minutes from arriving at the terminal until we got on the ship, the longest wait we have ever had on Cunard, partially due to a nearby computer breaking down when we were in a queue for the actual desk, when other people were pushed forward before us. 

Having read an article with interest on ways of getting upgraded, we had thought about trying one of the suggestions and asking politely if there was any chance of an upgrade at reception once we had boarded. We overheard the people at the check-in desk next to ours chatting to the staff member and asking if the ship was full. The lady shook her head, responding ‘No, far from it’, yet when we got to the reception desk there were signs in front of every receptionist, stating ‘Queen Victoria is currently sailing full – we regret that upgrades are not available’. I can only assume that they had either got fed up with people asking, the situation had changed in the few minutes it took us to walk up the gangway or they didn’t need any extra revenue. The signs also remained in place throughout the voyage, so may well be a permanent deterrent regardless of passenger numbers. Who knows, but it was interesting nonetheless. 

That said, our inside cabin (sorry, stateroom) on deck 5 towards the front of the ship, was perfectly nice. The entrance door was in the middle of the wall, instead of at one end, as all our other staterooms had been, which was fine, although the layout was slightly more cramped than usual and the wardrobes and safe cupboard were not in a single line, with the safe cupboard opposite the wardrobe containing the full-length mirror on the back of the door, which made things a little difficult at times. The stateroom was kept impeccably clean at all times by Ricardo, who was very friendly and helpful throughout our stay. Queen Victoria was an excellent ship too, very similar in size and design to the Queen Elizabeth, not a spacious as the Queen Mary 2, but well laid out and we had very few criticisms (an indoor swimming pool, apart from the one in the spa which requires additional payment to use, would be lovely though, as despite being in the Mediterranean, there were only one or two days where it was warm enough to swim outdoors). 

The food was faultless throughout the voyage. All the dishes were very fresh, of high quality ingredients and excellently prepared and presented, with a fantastic choice of dishes for all tastes. We had breakfast and lunch each day in the Lido buffet and dinner in the Britannia restaurant, which was served by Jess and Mark who were absolutely charming, making sure that everything was perfect. Our dining companions were pleasant company too, although perhaps setting one or two of the larger tables for a more open dining experience, where you could chat to different people every night, might be a nice move for the future. We had afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room once (we couldn’t fit in four meals every day!) which felt very luxurious. We didn’t try any of the evening speciality menus in the Lido, but heard excellent reports, and would have happily paid to dine in the Veranda restaurant had the superb tasting menu, which we loved on board the Queen Elizabeth, still been available (we were told that it was taken off a few weeks ago – a great shame, please bring it back Cunard!). 

There was probably the best variety of evening entertainment I’ve seen on any cruise ship, though many of the late shows, after the second dinner seating, were quite poorly attended, which was sad. There really was something for all tastes, from New Zealand opera singer Ben Makisi, former Cirque du Soleil balancing act, Duo Balskatt and female violin duo Elektra to comedy juggler Pete Matthews and the inimitable comedian Allan Stewart, who really tailors his act for on-board audiences, with brilliantly funny observations and an utterly hilarious cruisers’ version of Bohemian Rhapsody. We’d seen him once before and were delighted that he was back. Coupled with this there were the statutory singers and dancers shows. The dancers were slick but the singers only seemed to have one style – pop belt – which was put to good use in some numbers, but not so good in others (it was a shame that the Eva Cassidy version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was substituted for the Judy Garland film version in the Hollywood Rocks show, and their rendition of Amazing Grace in the Remembrance Day service, made it poppy day in every respect). Vocalists with more versatility would be a great addition. The Entertainments Manager, former actress Sally Sagoe, was my least favourite so far of any ship. She seemed to be giving a performance throughout, always taking a bow herself, even when introducing others. She was far from the convivial host, that so many entertainment directors are, seeming more like a star or upper-class schoolmarm. The team around her, however, were far more personable and chatty and the events they organised and ran were enjoyable, especially the quizzes hosted by John, Kim and Graham. The only time the entertainments staff were less than polished was when it came to the trading of winning stamps for prizes on the final afternoon. Tempers were slightly frayed and the people behind the counter got a little stroppy at complaining winners, as they had run out of prizes. They managed to find more, although the pencil I was awarded for one of my stamps was somewhat second hand, with a blunt point and half slanting eraser, but I accepted it gracefully so as not to turn the social hostesses even more antisocial. 

The lectures were disappointing, ‘celebrity’ lecturer, Jessica Fellowes (presumably achieving her celebrity status for being the niece of Downton Abbey creator, Lord Julian Fellowes) was very upper-class, but didn’t really command her audience, often leaving sentences unfinished and merely talking about the characters of the series, rather than discussing the real-life inspiration for the show, as stated in the programme. Former Royal family police protector, Dai Davies, was better, though he listed many items, rather than imparting interesting facts, and glossed over several potentially interesting slides and subjects in order to keep to his 45 minute timeslot. I only saw a little of the third lecturer, former Cunard hostess Maureen Ryan, on the television in the cabin, as her lectures were not really of interest to me. 

The five ports that we visited were interesting and quite varied, though they came in quick succession, with the first followed by a sea day and then the other four on consecutive days. A little more spacing would have been nice and less tiring. We veered away from the organised trips, as they were expensive and started early, choosing instead to explore the ports as we had not visited any of them before. La Coruna was quite cold, but had an interesting lighthouse. Cadiz was warmer, a great shopping city with a fantastic market and again had a tower, the Torre Tavira which featured a camera obscura, showing spectacular views around the city. Malaga was nicely warm for the time of year, with a great castle and an interesting market on the quayside. We were told that there was a shuttle bus which would take 15 minutes to the centre of Malaga, as we were berthed quite a way from it. We paid $12 each for a return journey, but this was somewhat unnecessary as the walk along the quayside was lovely and not that long, only taking about 30 minutes. Next was a morning in Tangiers, again hot with streets full of people trying to sell their products and guiding services (we just kept saying no thank you and walking on regardless). This was our least favourite place and we were glad that we had such a short time there, as the weather was glorious and it meant that we could swim on the ship without feeling guilty about missing anything. In contrast, our last port of call was Lisbon, which was fantastic. We did, however, make the mistake of paying €19 for the open top tourist bus, one leg of which took two hours and wasn’t very informative. We would have done far better to spend €6.50 on a one day tram pass and explored the city that way. The Castilo San Jorge perched high over the city was lovely with fantastic views and we wished we had spent more time there, rather than sitting on a bus. The only port information was on the cabin TV channel a few days before the stop off. A live lecture about the areas would have been a godsend, especially as the tour desk staff seemed to know very little about the places we were visiting, even having difficulty in answering questions about their own tours that weren’t in the brochure. 

A first time cruiser asked if I’d noticed any corners being cut and I have to say the only thing that was noticeable, apart from no port lectures, which would have been great, was that there were no canapés at the Captain’s cocktail party (no great loss there). Everything else seemed absolutely fine. Our Captain, well Commodore, to be precise, Christopher Rynd, was superb throughout, as were his officers and crew. 

As with all cruises, the time went all too quickly and it was time to disembark. We chose to take our own luggage off the ship in our own time, after a final hearty breakfast in the Lido. Did we have a great time? Yes, despite a few gripes, it was wonderful. Would we sail with Cunard again and recommend them to others? Yes, most definitely. 

To finish, here’s an unexpected tip which may well help you… a couple of days in to the cruise, I developed a spot under my nose which was really irritating and painful. Whenever I sanitised my hands on the ship, I rubbed a little sanitiser on the spot, which stopped hurting within hours and disappeared completely in less than two days… move over Clearasil! 

All in all, a great time was had on Queen Victoria – can't wait to return!

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This is what a review should be. Really wetted my appetite to go on Cunard, thank you so much! x

 

We were pleasantly surprised When we had a 10 night cruise on QE , very spacious ship never felt crowded ,dress code a bit of a bind but nothing major to worry about .Heated pools even in winter are a nice plus.

Look for some deals this time of the year or just after New Year  .

 

And to concur with others a very enjoyable review....Davybe

snaver likes this

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A terrific review, impartiality written and full of insight and inspiration. Great tip at the end too, I can't wait to try it! Thank you.

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