Our Cruise & Stay Expert Shauna recently sailed with Cunard for the first time. Here, she shares her first impressions of the cruise line after spending four nights on board Queen Victoria sailing from Southampton to Amsterdam.

Wow, what a stunning ship! From the moment I stepped on board Queen Victoria, I knew I was in for an amazing four days of being completely spoilt. The initial sight of the brilliance and grandeur of the Grand Foyer will always stand out in my memories of this trip. In addition to the surprising mixture of traditional yet modern décor, it was heartwarming to experience the luxury and tasteful Christmas decorations around the ship.

I was lucky enough to experience a Princess Grill suite on this voyage and so was eager to enter the stateroom. Upon entering the cabin, it was clear to see the comfort and indulgence that the suite entails including luxurious bedding, lavish toiletries and cosy bathrobes. Much to my delight, there was also a welcoming complimentary bottle of cold, sparkling wine to be enjoyed either in the spacious lounge area or in warmer climates, on the open terrace.

In my opinion, food is one of the most important elements on a cruise ship and so I was excited to savour the variety of dishes on board.  My first experience of the food was a visit to the Lido buffet where I sampled many of the fish dishes including smoked salmon, mussels, prawns, squid and a fantastic selection of sushi. The choice was plentiful and the quality was also excellent. For a smaller ship, I was surprised at how uncrowded the area felt and how much ample space was available with a large choice of areas to sit and enjoy your lunch comfortably. Table service was also available for any alternative beverages you may wish for.

I was able to enjoy two nights of dining in the Princess Grill Restaurant, which is only available to suite guests. I would describe this as a more intimate and personalised experience where the food was outstanding. A large range of cuisine was on offer including speciality dishes which needed to be pre-ordered before lunchtime on the day of the meal. Some of these included Dover sole and the rack of lamb. I would largely recommend the pre-ordered crepe suzette which our group enjoyed on the final night of the voyage, cooked in front of the table which made it even more special.

On the other nights, I dined in The Verandah steakhouse and Bamboo, the speciality Japanese/Oriental dining experience on board. The steakhouse is an additional cost of $39 per person plus any supplementary dishes you may choose. I chose the Wagyu steak for an additional $30 but this was well worth the money. A nice touch was being able to choose our own steak knife all with different designs, sizes and sharpness before the steak was served. The starters and desserts were also delicious – I chose the rum baba for my dessert which came out on a trolley in a solid silver dome, where our server completed the dessert in front of our table by pouring rum on top of the pudding.

In Bamboo, diners received a Bento box with a variety of starters which included a mixture of meat and fish dishes, where the raw tuna steak and tempura prawn were among the highlights. You were then able to select your main course which again had a variety of meat and fish dishes. I chose the speciality tasting menu with five different small dishes which were all incredible. Desserts were served in a similar way to the starter with a variety of sweet options – the coconut ice cream being a personal favourite!

Dessert on queen Victoria
The sailing included an overnight in Amsterdam where I was lucky enough to experience the Windmills and Cheese Factory excursion. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side but I wrapped up and still managed to have a wander around the windmills and visit the small clogg museum in the same area. After an hour at the windmills, we travelled by coach to the small village of Edam where our guide offered a choice to either stay on the coach or have a wander around the village with her. I took the opportunity to see the village which was certainly pretty and peaceful. After wandering around, the coach set off for the Cheese Factory where there was a short presentation – the lady who conducted this was great and kept it light-hearted and humorous. The coach driver and guide were positively friendly and had extensive knowledge of the area.

Even though Cunard is one of the smaller ships I have sailed on, the brand does not lack in its daytime and evening entertainment. Delivered to the cabin each evening was the next day’s program with an abundant choice of activities. During the voyage, I enjoyed a night of music with a live singer in the Queen’s Lounge, an 80s music quiz in the Yacht Club, an Irish Folk band in the Golden Lion pub (being from Irish heritage, I thoroughly enjoyed this and may have joined in with the songs!) and the cabaret act in the theatre where the quality of the singers and dancers were out of this world! The show was contemporary with a mixture of old classics to new music and also a range of dance styles including a small part dedicated to burlesque which I was surprised to see on Cunard but everyone thoroughly enjoyed it!

A nightclub named The Yacht Club was probably one of the most surprising parts of the ship for me. I didn’t expect the nightlife to be busy, but it proved me wrong. I enjoyed the variety of music (with the presence of some Christmas songs) and the setting; we were able sit and have a chat with people as well as get up to dance. The age range was also extensive which brought a feeling of unity to the ship.

In order to relax, I took two hours out of the last sea day to visit the Mareel Spa. For $35, I had pre-booked my slot on ‘My Cunard’ online and the check-in process was simple. I arrived at the spa at my time slot (which can be changed when on board) and included in my two hours was the entrance to the Aqua Therapy Centre which comprised a range of aromatic saunas and steam rooms, the relaxation room, sensory showers and in my opinion, the best part, the hydrotherapy hot swirling pool. The experience left me feeling relaxed, calm and collected.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience sailing with Cunard. The ship herself was absolutely stunning with a mixture of traditional and modern décor. I was also lucky enough to experience the luxury and tasteful Christmas decorations on board.

The welcome by the bellhops was another lovely touch making you feel special from the moment you stepped on board. All staff were welcoming and professional. The service was impeccable from start to finish, and a special mention must go to my stateroom steward.

The food was probably my favourite part of the voyage. It was great to visit a range of eateries on board to experience as much as possible on a four-night sailing.

The show in the theatre was absolutely fantastic – I have always been sceptical of shows on board as I have experienced some not-so-great ones in the past, but from what I experienced on this voyage, I would always take time to visit the cabaret acts on board Cunard.

The ship is purely stunning, and she really reflects the Cunard brand with sophistication, charisma, pride, and the feeling of freedom and being inspired.

Interested in taking your own cruise on board Queen Victoria? Browse the collection of sailings here.