Relaxing fly-cruise back from Dubai
Tim Fellows | October 26, 2018 | Cunard | Queen Victoria
Having cruised twice before, including once on the Queen Elizabeth, we largely knew what to expect when we boarded the Queen Victoria in Dubai, joining the last leg of it’s world voyage back to Southampton.
Briefly, on the two ships, there is little difference in the layouts. The sports deck on the QE is better, being covered and having bowls and croquet but otherwise the experience is largely the same.
The overall trip was 3 weeks, including flights to Dubai and 2 nights in a 5* hotel. When we landed the transfer to the hotel was a little chaotic but we made it there. The Fairmont Dubai is a very good hotel but be prepared for a big bill if you eat there. The pools on the 9th floor are spectacular as is the architecture throughout (as in the rest of Dubai). Whilst waiting for our room we headed off to the city to explore. The metro is very efficient and cheap (?3 for a daily pass) and takes you downtown and to the malls and the Burj Khalifa.
We didn’t go up the Burj Khalifa – we hadn’t booked and while we were there there was a sandstorm which reduced visibility significantly and somewhat spoils the effect. We did a 4 hour open top bus tour, a cheaper one with easyTours that included an evening boat trip on the creek with meal and entertainment. Not bad value for ?40 each in total. The fountains at the Dubai Mall are worth a visit in the evening.
We easily filled the 2 and a half days and were ready to be transferred to the port on Monday lunchtime. After a very quick embarkation process we had time to get off again for a last look at Dubai.
Once on the boat we had 5 sea days, but had no problem filling the time. I don’t think the ship was full, but the feeling of space even when the weather was bad (or when we had to hide from pirates) was impressive. There was always somewhere relaxing to sit and read or just watch the view – particularly the Commodore Club at the front on deck 10. The talks in the theater during the day were all good – we didn’t have time to see them all but they are repeated on the TV so you can catch up at night or first thing. The entertainment varied between excellent and OK – it depends on your taste I suppose but I would say that none of the acts was bad, it’s just whether you like a particular style or act type. The magician (whose name has now escaped me, if anyone has kept their info sheets or can remember please leave it in the comments) was terrific but didn’t seem to get a great response in the theatre. However when he did the close-up magic in the Golden Lion pub everyone was left wondering how he did it. Most impressively, there was a young boy on the ship (aged 7 or so) who had a little magic trick with him. The magician spent half and hour with him showing him how to use the prop and do some other tricks and offered to send him some videos by e-mail afterwards to help him.
Having briefly mentioned the pirates, we did have to do an anti-piracy drill before entering the Arabian Sea, there were lookouts posted on deck 3 all the time and the open decks were shut at night. Having attended an interesting lecture on piracy around the horn of Africa it did all make sense.
We were very lucky with our dinner table – we asked for 6, which is our ideal size and got on really well with the other two couples. I would have to say that the food on this trip was better than on the Queen Elizabeth last year, both in the Lido buffet and in the Britannia restaurant. Our waiter, Ivan, did a great job.
We tried the lunch in the restaurant on a few days and this also met expectations. We tried the breakfast on one day but found it took up too much time. Wine is outrageously expensive but nobody forces you to buy it! The best value alcohol (apart from the freebies at the captain’s reception) is the Martini Mixology seminar – 4 cocktails plus some top-ups and a chance to get your hands on one of the demo examples for $20 (plus the ubiquitous 15% service charge).
The dancing classes (ballroom/latin and line) were very good – the dance couple (Dan and Olena) taught very well and gave some spectacular show dances in the evenings and James did a great job with the line dancers. Cunard has to be the place to go if you like dancing on board, I can’t believe other lines can do it better. The band and singer in the Queens Room were excellent.
Aqaba, Jordan (trip to Petra)
We docked in Aqaba and prepared early for our pre-booked Cunard trip to Petra. This trip wasn’t cheap but it’s not easy to do yourself with a long journey but since we’re unlikely to be there again we did it anyway along with over 1000 others from the ship in a convoy of coaches. Our guide was very good both on the bus and in Petra itself. It’s well worth going to – although if you have difficulty walking it isn’t easy and the local transport (horse drawn carriage, horse, donkey and camel) doesn’t look all that comfortable an option. When we returned Cunard met us with iced face cloths and sparkling wine on the quayside – nice touch.
Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt
The conflict in Egypt meant that the Cunard trips for people who wanted to go to St Katherine’s were cancelled although some intrepid Aussies did it anyway, with armed excorts and guards. Not my idea of fun tourism, so we went snorkelling using a local shop in the port for the equipment and a guide to take us to a good spot and swim with us. Forgot to protect my back so got a bit sunburnt – lesson learned.
After a day at sea we docked at Sokhna for the tours to Cairo. We decided not to go, and stayed on the boat but people who went to see the pyramids and do the short Nile cruise did enjoy it. Again, it was pricey and armed guards were present. Locally you could go to one of the beachside hotels and pay to use their beach, which some people did.
Having anchored overnight at the entrance we entered the Suez Canal early in the morning as part of a convoy of northbound ships. It is worth doing but I would expect that the Panama Canal is more interesting. As we entered the Med the waves and wind noticeably increased and things got a bit choppy for a while on the way to Rome. We had a really good passage through the strait of Messina, with good views of Etna and a gently smoking Stromboli.
Civitavecchia, for Rome
After 2 more sea days we docked at Civitavecchia. We followed advice we read on here and headed for the station ourselves rather than going on a Cunard trip. We actually bought our train ticket in the little shop at the port gate that saved a bit of a queue at the station itself. For 12 euros you get the return ticket to Rome and this includes local buses. If you are going to the Vatican, do what we did and get of at S. Pietro station. This will save 20 more minutes on the train to the main station and 20 minutes back on the metro or bus. The Vatican was heaving with tourists and has limited signage so we just found a tour that led us through the chaos into the museum and the Sistine Chapel. It is a bewildering place – stunning art and historical artefacts but very difficult to appreciate when you are one of about 10000 people trying to do the same thing. Perhaps Saturday in late spring is a particularly busy time. After a quick walk round St Peter’s we tried to find the metro station but managed to find a bus instead that took us to the Colosseum. There wasn’t enough time to go in so we walked from there to the Trivi fountain and then to the main station. Warning – leave plenty of time as the main station is in two parts and the train to Civitavecchia was not on one of the main platforms but was a fair trek down long corridors! More choppy seas and rain in the western med, but as we headed past Gibralatar it had calmed down, although the rock itself was not visible due to low cloud.
The last port stop was Lisbon – and definitely the biggest surprise of the whole trip. We caught it on a beautiful day – not too hot and clear blue skies – and we loved it. For a capital city it has retained a lot of charm and being built on hills offers some great views at various viewpoints. We used the hop-on, hop-off yellow bus that also includes the funicular and the elevator that take you up to one of the viewpoints, all for 15 Euros. In the morning we went out to the Belem area, which has a great waterfront and has a monastery and tower to walk round. After a quick trip back to the ship (it only takes about 10 minutes) on the shuttle we walked around the main part of the city, went on the funicular, found a great bar near the top of it serving lots of types of port at a very good price (1.50 Euros a glass) and then used the elevator down again.
The Bay of Biscay was kind to us and we had a gentle ride back to Southampton, being overtaken by the QM2 in the channel.
All in all, a very enjoyable cruise. The Cunard staff were very good from officers, entertainment staff, waiters, bar staff and housekeeping. I’m certainly happy to go with them again. Every one we met on board were friendly – mostly British but a fair number of Germans and Australians. It was interesting meeting the world voyagers, but I’m not sure I could do it – I think I prefer a trip with more port days on the itinerary.
It was brilliant to be at sea and sunshine once again, despite all the horrendous form filling, PCR tests, etc.… Read more
Just returned from a fantastic cruise onboard the Amazing Azamara Journey, it was small but perfectly formed! The staff onboard… Read more
Xmas & New Year Cruise – 2021 – Iona
Disappointing overall - ship very clean/bar & restaurant staff good / housekeeping fine (but restricted service). Very poor communication throughout… Read more
A little disappointing
Our New Year cruise was a little disappointing. The entertainment was not up to much, no Headliners (with no reference… Read more
Could have been wonderful
Negative test before leaving for the USA. Negative test prior to boarding. Down with Covid on Boxing Day - following… Read more