Great trip on Queen Victoria through the Panama Canal
Nigel Tollit | March 22, 2017 | Cunard | Queen Victoria
Going through the Panama canal has been on our bucket list for some time, and an opportunity to escape the British winter was a great excuse to tick this one off the list. We have cruised half a dozen times before on a variety of ships, big and small, but not with Cunard.
A smooth flight with Virgin into Miami, an efficient Cunard transfer to the Marriott Harbor Beach hotel in Fort Lauderdale for a couple of nights before joining the ship set us up nicely. The hotel is large and mainly a business and conference hotel, but it was comfortable and on the beach – shame it rained and was too windy to sit by the pool! The restaurants were OK, but pricey. By the time we joined the ship, there were quite a few people on the transfer to the port, but it all worked well, and check in was pretty efficient – no welcome drink on the gangway though!
We had a standard balcony cabin on deck 7, which was fine and well looked after by our cabin steward, Elvie.
We were generally very impressed with the ship and all the staff. A wide mix of nationalities, always polite and keen to please. We got to know our waiters and wine waiter in the Britannia restaurant well, and the bar staff in the bars we tended to use. We ate at the second sitting at 8.30pm on a table of six, and really enjoyed the company of our fellow diners. The food in the restaurant was always excellent quality, and the choice each evening was always very adequate. The 15% gratuity on everything was an irritant, but it seems to be becoming the norm. With the percentage, the bar prices, and the restaurant wine lists are getting top heavy on our opinion. Our other comment on pricing would be to suggest that $24.95 for the daily round of photos taken by the ship’s photographers is completely over the top. The same pictures stayed day after day on the displays unsold – surely $10 is enough, and they would have sold most of them – some thought needs to go into those areas of discretionary spend by passengers to maximize revenue.
We elected to remove the daily gratuity from our cabin account, which was no problem at the front desk, and spent the same dollars rewarding the five members of staff we had had most to do with on the voyage. We enjoyed all the ports of call, but the highlight was the Canal transit. The onboard commentary was most informative, and it was bright,hot,and sunny,which made for an excellent day. We went on some of the ship’s excursions, which as always were on the pricey side, and given the ports involved, meant a disproportionate time spent riding on the coaches to some of the destinations. If the security situation in Mexico deteriorates further, Cunard may have to follow Princess and Royal Caribbean, and withdraw from Mexican ports altogether – that would be a real shame, and a bodyblow for the locals relying on the tourist trade the cruise ships generate. Our only comment on this itinerary might be that we could have done with a couple more stops as there were quite a few sea days on this trip.
Finally arriving at Los Angeles, where the port authorities managed to delay our departure off the ship, although there was little communication from the crew as to why, and when we might get ashore. It just seemed to be a problem with getting the ship cleared so we could get off. We ended up doing a conga line up and down inside the ship for more than an hour and a half to get to immigration. It wasn’t the fault of the immigration personnel who came onboard to stamp our passports, but there must have been a number of people with internal US flights who never made it to LAX in time. We elected to stay on for a few days in LA before flying home which really finished the trip off nicely.
An excellent cruise – we would certainly cruise on Queen Victoria again.
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