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Queen Victoria

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Queen Victoria enjoyed a $40 million refurbishment in 2017, which involved slicing off the back of the ship to add 43 new cabins, and, in the process, increasing the size of the aft pool deck. The month-long refurb also saw the addition of a new dining room, a new specialist café and significant refurbishments to five Penthouse Suites and four Grand Suites. As a result, passenger numbers have increased to 2,081 (from 1,988). It re-entered service on June 4, 2017.

Queen Victoria is elegance personified. In typically understated British style, the ship doesn't do glitzy or loud, so the ambience overall is modest rather than striking. Do not expect even the slightest hint of neon or glitz nor -- perish the thought -- rock climbing walls or bumper cars. Luxurious furnishings and eye-catching features lend an air of extravagance to the onboard atmosphere with muted colours and lots of dark wood. Architecture is in keeping with the ambience of Cunard ocean liners of times past while the interior design offers the contemporary elegance of a modern luxury hotel.

Cunard cashes in on its impressive heritage, sense of occasion and somewhat old-fashioned pursuits including ballroom dancing and bridge. An outdoor Games Deck harkens back to the days of the '20s and '30s with croquet, shuffleboard, hoopla, deck quoits and paddle tennis. No hint of brashness here. Loyal followers also totally approve of the fact that the cruise line employs a stricter dress code than that followed on other mainstream lines.

Queen Victoria is almost a replica of her bigger sister Queen Elizabeth, at least as far as layout, cabins and enrichment programs go. One difference is that the decor throughout the ship is darker Victoriana rather than Queen Elizabeth's lighter Art Deco-inspired interiors, but the public areas of the ship are every bit as splendid with an earth tone colour palette of creamy beige, chestnut brown and gold, with mahogany walls, circular hand-woven area rugs and intricately designed marble floors.

Everywhere you turn there is a treat for the eyes, from the glittering chandeliers and white-gloved waiters serving scones at afternoon tea to elegant restaurants and deep, rich carpets. One of the ship's signature features is the stunning three-tier Grand Lobby with its unique artwork, sweeping staircase and sculpted balconies. With a dramatic triple-height ceiling, the -lobby serves as a majestic focal point and is the centre of onboard activity. It forms the core from which the ship's other public rooms flow. A bronzed-effect sculptural representation of the cruise ship emerging from a sun motif coordinated with a marquetry relief depicting a map of the world graces the staircase landing and is visible from nearly every part of the Grand Lobby.

The 4,000 square foot Royal Arcade on Deck 3, inspired by the Royal and Burlington Arcades in London, features a grand staircase at the forward end. Light wood panelling contrasts with green marble and gold and white stone textures. The centrepiece of this area is a custom-built, chiming pillar clock by English clockmaker Dent & Co., clockmaker to Queen Victoria and whose most famous work is Big Ben in London. The clock housing is black with gold-leaf lettering and backlit dials are opal acrylic with black Roman numerals.

However, while all of this may sound very posh, this ship is not just the preserve of the wealthy. During the day you can relax and unwind in the Royal Spa while at night there are live theatre shows, music and dancing in the bars and lounges. The ship has enough classy, small to midsize public rooms and various nooks and crannies for guests to relax, read or enjoy a drink and a chat.

A refurbishment in January 2015 saw the addition of nine single cabins while carpets, mattresses and paintwork were replaced or refreshed. Eight new Internet stations were added to the upper floor of the library and awnings were installed at the back of the Lido and Upper Grill Terrace.

Like the other Cunarders, Queen Victoria operates a class system in which the cabin grade you choose dictates where you eat. This means for those who want to splash the cash, the Queens Grill and Princess Grill provide top-notch accommodations and more upmarket dining options. Having said that, around 80 percent of passengers are happily ensconced in Britannia-grade cabins and dine in the stylish Britannia Restaurant.

Passengers' peace is not disturbed by multiple announcements either -- there is just one announcement a day -- at noon, by the captain, telling of the ship's progress.

As far as service goes, in the main, the overall quality is satisfactory. Most staff members are friendly though some are unresponsive while others are rather inexperienced. The majority either speak excellent English or have a good grasp of the language.

To sum up, Queen Victoria is a comfortable, graceful cruise ship best suited to couples, single travellers and mature cruisers.

For first-timer cruisers, Queen Victoria is a good choice. It isn't one of the huge cruise ships so has a more intimate, friendly feel. Also, a plus point for those new-to-cruising is that they won't get lost trying to find their way around. Cruisers -- especially those who enjoy dressing up for dinner -- can expect an elegant experience on this well laid out ship.

On a seven-night cruise, there are two formal nights; longer cruises will have three or four. Some have a theme, such as the Black and White Ball, a Cunard tradition that includes the classic 'Officers Gavotte' dance. Dress code for these formal nights translates as a dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for men, and a range of men's formalwear is available to hire onboard for anyone who does not wish to bring his own. Men can also wear formal national dress or army uniform. For ladies, formal nights mean evening or cocktail dress. Many ladies go all out to impress by wearing floor-length gowns covered in sparkles or sequins; some wear fascinators in their hair, carry glittery evening bags and are adorned with plenty of look-at-me jewellery. Ninety percent of passengers adhere to the dress code on formal nights, which is as it should be; this ship is elegant and guests enjoy looking their best as part of that experience.

Other evenings are designated 'informal', which on Cunard does not mean passengers can turn up wearing anything they choose. For men, a jacket is essential, and although a tie is optional, many older men still wear one. Ladies wear cocktail dress, stylish separates, a smart trouser suit or equivalent. There are many ladies who still wear floor-length gowns on these informal nights. After 6 p.m., shorts and denim on men and women and sandals and sleeveless tops for men are considered inappropriate wear onboard. Anyone who really does not want to dress to impress can opt-out by eating in the Lido buffet on Deck 9 or relaxing in the Winter Garden on the same deck. However, they are politely advised to stay away from other areas on the ship, especially the restaurants, out of respect for fellow passengers.

Theatre

The 830-seat, three-deck Royal Court Theatre on Deck 3 was designed to emulate the grandeur and luxury of the spectacular designs of architect Frank Matcham, whose dramatic multi-tiered theatres made him one of the most prolific theatre designers, with over 80 venues to his name. The ambience is similar to a 19th-century theatre with lots of rich brocade fabric, deep red velvet curtains and murals framing the walls. Among the Royal Court's most distinguishing features are the 16 private boxes that frame the stage and are furnished with armchairs and cocktail tables, two of which are wheelchair accessible. A box for two costs $55 plus a 15 percent service charge. The fee entitles you to a glass of Champagne, canapes or chocolate-covered strawberries, a photo taken in the box and the services of a uniformed bell boy who escorts you to your seat. Otherwise, you can grab orchestra seats for free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Two shows per night -- at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. -- last around 50 minutes. While onboard, we saw "Hollywood Rocks", which is on once a week and had a great reception from the audience, and a performance by English comedian Tom O'Connor, which went down well, though his British sense of humour was unsurprisingly rather lost on many of the Americans and Australians in the audience.

Daily Fun

Especially on sea days, passengers are spoiled for choice with lots of activities, including beginners' bridge classes, golf-putting tournaments, whist, bingo and lectures. The Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2) hosts a variety of entertainment (such as darts or trivia games), while ballroom and line dance classes get passengers moving in the Queens Room. Art classes are sometimes held in Hemispheres (Deck 10). You can buy an art kit for $35. There are also daily Friends of Bill W and Friends of Dorothy meetings. Wherever you go, you will encounter live music, typically harpists or pianists.

Passengers interested in nautical history can check out the Cunardia museum on Deck 2. It is a lovely room, with leaded-glass canopies and panels, which exhibits memorabilia and artefacts telling the story of the Cunard ships -- known as the Queens. It houses articles from the original Queen Mary and QE2, including Queen Mary's logbook. It is open from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is adjacent to a museum-style shop. One deck above, the artwork is devoted to Cunard's heritage, and there is a touch-screen for archival footage of milestones in the company's history.

At Night

Every evening sees some kind of pub entertainment in the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2. One night the ship's entertainment team hosted a "Blankety Blank" game where passengers had to guess the missing word -- the kindest way to describe this entertainment would be to say it was amateurish. Another evening a mediocre pianist/ singer belted out some numbers, while a rather good Dixieland Jazz night had the pub packed out. Additional live music, featuring pianists, harpists or a string quartet, can be found in other bars and lounges around the ship.

Occasionally Hemispheres on Deck 10 will play recorded ballroom and Latin music in the early evening and offer live music for late-night dancing from 10:30 p.m. onwards. Some evenings, the Queens Room is the scene of ballroom or sequence dancing; on our cruise, few dancers were willing to take to the floor, so there was a decided lack of atmosphere.

The small European-style Empire Casino on Deck 2 has leaded-glass canopies over three of the main gaming tables. It was relatively popular on our cruise with table games including roulette and poker and slot machines that are open 24 hours while the ship is at sea. During occasional 'happy hours', slot players with a minimum of 300 points receive complimentary drinks while playing.

Queen Victoria Bars and Lounges

Passengers can relax, read a book or have a drink at the many bars and lounges dotted throughout the ship. All of them are excellently furnished with comfortable seating.

Passengers can buy drinks packages, including soft drink, wine and liquor packages. The soft drink package costs $6.50 per person, per day, plus a 15 percent service charge and entitles you to enjoy unlimited soda and juices served by the glass in any of the restaurants and bars. The package does not extend to bottled water, in-cabin bar service or other non-alcoholic beverages. Wine packages are available from $175 for four bottles, including gratuity.

The Chart Room (Deck 2): The new Chart Room overlooks the Grand Lobby, and is where Café Carinthia and the Champagne Bar were located pre-refit. At one end, you'll find a café serving illy coffee, Godiva chocolate and light bites; at the other end is the bar area. The idea behind combining the rooms was to encourage activity throughout the day -- a place for a mid-morning coffee stop during the day, and for pre-dinner cocktails at night. The café area has sofas and chairs in dark greens and brown leather; the bar area is altogether grander, with a horseshoe-shaped, marble-topped bar backed by a glass cabinet full of premium liquors. The bar plays on the old ships' charts theme, and there are 12 cocktails in a beautifully-designed menu, representing the signs of the Zodiac. It offers pastries, a light lunch and snacks in the evening. Décor is gold and burnt orange with chairs and small tables. The walls are adorned with original maps and prints.

Queens Room (Deck 2): Inspired by Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight, and in the style of a grand ballroom in a large country house, this two-deck-high room is designed for dancing, cocktail parties and afternoon tea accompanied by a harpist or string quartet. Two magnificent crystal chandeliers are reflected in intricate, backlit, leaded-glass panels, and murals around the room depict ornate gardens. Cantilevered balconies overlook the ballroom and are detailed with classically ornate, curved railings. The 1,000-square-foot patterned dance floor is hand-crafted from inlaid wood with light maple-paneled walls. There is a portrait of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Marcus Hodge, based on the original by Sir Edwin Landseer, and an attractive oil-on-canvas depiction of Osborne House by Clarissa Parish.

In the Queens Room, people attend dance classes during the day, and watch -- or participate in -- ballroom dancing in the evening. Ladies, if you want to strut your stuff with a waltz, foxtrot or tango, but don't have a willing partner, gentlemen hosts are available to accompany you.

Midships Lounge (Deck 3): This small, pleasant lounge was never busy on our cruise. Open from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. The 2017 refurbishment saw the addition of a "gin and fizz"-themed menu, including a variety of wines, Proseccos, Cavas and Champagne alongside premium gins and spirits -- as well as a rather lovely brass miniature gin still. 

Winter Garden (Deck 9): The Winter Garden, modelled on London's Kew Gardens, is a lovely spacious area with a retractable glass roof, fountain and honeycomb tile-clad walls. It got a significant refresh in the refurb, with all the chairs and sofas replaced with bright, pastel-coloured orange, blue and green furniture. It's a light and airy indoor/outdoor relaxation area reminiscent of a grand conservatory and guests who do not wish to adhere to the dress code can relax and enjoy a drink from the small bar here. A moveable glass wall opens out to an open-air swimming pool in sunny weather. Cushioned wicker furniture, ceiling fans and lots of greenery help enhance the area's colonial theme. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hemispheres (Deck 10): Hemispheres, adjacent to the Commodore Club, is the ideal venue for daytime pursuits and transforms into a disco and nightclub open from 9:30 p.m. into the early hours. The most contemporary area on the ship, the glamorous room features a backlit perforated metal sphere encapsulated in decorative glazed screens, a dramatic focal point. Light mahogany wood panelling, leather-clad columns and metallic wall surfaces in shades of dark blue, burgundy and gold give the room a modern look. The circular dance floor is handcrafted wood and highlighted by a rather spectacular chandelier suspended above. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows offer 270-degree panoramic views. You'll find a comprehensive martini menu here, along with other popular cocktails such as the Rhubarb Mule (vodka, homemade rhubarb puree, lime and ginger beer) and Azul Margarita (tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon and lime juice).

The Commodore Club (Deck 10): Featuring sweeping views over the ship's bow, the Commodore Club captures the essence of Old World elegance. Highlights include murals of past Cunard liners and two ship models at the entrance. The room's nautical atmosphere is further highlighted by wood inlaid flooring with a compass design. Cosy gathering areas feature leather sofas and club chairs. Live music plays from late afternoon through early evening, making the club an ideal retreat for oceanview cocktails. The Commodore Club seats 122 and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to late.

Admiral's Lounge (Deck 10): Just off the Commodore Club, this is a small, elegant room with seating around an oval table. It is available for small parties and meetings, but other passengers can use the room when it's free.

Churchill's Cigar Lounge (Deck 10): Next to the Admiral's Lounge, this small wood-panelled lounge for cigar and pipe smokers seats 11 and features a selection of cigars in a humidor as well as Armagnac, Cognac, port, Madeira and Scotch.

Grills Lounge (Deck 11): Available for Grills passengers only, the forward-facing lounge is a quiet, refined area ideal for enjoying afternoon tea or cocktails accompanied by live entertainment.

Queen Victoria Outside Recreation

Pools

The Pavilion Pool on Deck 9 is located outside the Winter Garden, and is one of two generous pools on this deck with 10,000 square feet of sunning area. There is a small pool bar here and two hot tubs. Sunseekers flock to this pool, and it can get packed on hot days.

The Lido Pool, located aft on the same deck, was extended significantly in the 2017 refurbishment, adding about half as much space again as the original area. New windbreakers, more sun loungers and luxury cabanas were added, while the shaded area has been extended for those looking to dine al fresco. It is reserved for passengers ages 16 and up. It is flanked by two hot tubs and a bar, with a small stage for evening entertainment.

There is no separate pool for Grills passengers.

Recreation

On Deck 10, passengers can enjoy paddle tennis, deck quoits and shuffleboard. A lone ping pong table on Deck 9 is located just outside the spa area.

Sun Decks

Approximately 412 garden-style white framed sun loungers surround the two main pools and are free for all to use. Decks 11 and 12 have 86 steamer sun loungers for Grill passengers, who have more space to sun worship. All sun loungers are available on a first-come, first-served basis. At the Grills Upper Terrace on Deck 12, staff provide Evian spritzes, fresh fruit, sorbets and sandwiches to sun-seekers.

Queen Victoria Services

The reception desk, purser's office, shore excursions desk and sales office, for those who want to book their next cruise, are all located on Deck 1.

The card room on Deck 2 was almost always deserted during our cruise. It also houses boxes of board games for passengers to borrow. The library on decks 2 and 3 offers a selection of 6,000 books, the bulk of which are in English. This traditionally styled, mahogany wood, double-height room is connected by a spiral staircase to the upper level. The carpet is embedded with signatures of literary figures and there are plenty of leather sofas and armchairs. The library is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on ports days, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on sea days.

Shops selling mainly high-end goods, including jewellery and perfumes, are housed in the Royal Arcade on Deck 3, which is also where to find the Clarendon Art Gallery and Photo Gallery.

There are self-service launderettes on decks 4, 5, 6 and 8, beside stairway A. These are complimentary with washing machines, washing powder, tumble dryers and ironing facilities and are open from around 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.

There are three Internet centres onboard called ConneXions (Decks 1 and 3) with plenty of computers available if passengers don't have their own devices with them. A crewmember is available to assist passengers experiencing technical difficulties at ConneXions 1 on Deck 1. Help is available from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on port days and from 2:30 p.m. to :30 p.m. on sea days. Costs of packages are pretty high, particularly as Internet access is slow and could be compared to a slow dial-up -- $167.95 for 480 minutes, $89.95 for 240 minutes, $47.95 for 120 minutes, or passengers can pay as they go at $0.75 a minute.

Spa

The Cunard Royal Spa on Deck 9 has been designed to offer a tranquil atmosphere. It's decorated with artwork that includes two gold, bronze and white sculptures by Rebecca Newnham and an Art Nouveau-style bronze statue. Treatments include facials (starting at $140 for 60 minutes), acupuncture (50 minutes for $179), and a range of Ayurvedic treatments, nail services, sunless tanning and all manner of massages. Men have a more limited choice with cleansing facial ($130), de-stress treatments ($113), sports manicures, barbering and grooming. Medispa offerings by the spa physician include dermal fillers to zap those wrinkles and lip enhancements for fuller lips. There is also a separate hair salon. All treatments are subject to a 12.5 percent gratuity.

The Royal Bath House includes the thermal suite, with sauna and steam rooms, heated ceramic benches and a hydrotherapy pool; it costs $35 for a day pass.

Nearly every day seminars are held in the spa or gym -- such as 'how to look ten years younger' or 'eat more to weigh less'. All, of course, are geared to selling spa and hair treatments, lotions and potions.

Fitness

The Fitness Centre is located forward of the spa's hydro-pool area. The well-equipped gymnasium has views over the bow. Seven Technogym exercise bicycles, 15 running machines, 4 Nordic trainers, a range of Precor gym equipment, free weights, 16 spinning bicycles, an exercise floor and mats are available for passenger use. Daily classes including Nordic pole walking (free) and yoga and Pilates, which incur an additional charge of $12. Occasionally there are Sculpt Boot Camps ($12). Queen Victoria is the only cruise ship to offer fencing classes, which are free and held regularly in the Queens Room.

There is no designated jogging track but there is an Outdoor Promenade (Deck 3) where three laps equal one mile.

Free Dining

Food onboard Queen Victoria is generally good with plenty of variety at lunch and dinner. There are two main restaurants where passengers in standard accommodation can eat -- the Lido buffet and the Britannia restaurant. For lighter bites or more delicate appetites, the Cafe Carinthia offers light dishes at lunchtime and cakes and pastries at teatime, while the Golden Lion pub goes the whole English hog by offering traditional English pub fare -- think fish and chips in beer batter or a hearty ploughman's sandwich. Only the top-priced cabin categories entitle passengers to eat in the ship's most exclusive dining rooms -- the Princess Grill and Queens Grill.

Britannia Restaurant (Decks 2 and 3): Queen Victoria's largest dining venue is an elegant space with double-height ceiling offset by cornices and intimate groupings of tables that belie the room's size. Inspired by the dining car of the Golden Arrow train that once linked London to Paris, the restaurant's Art Deco design influences are captured in its original artwork, wall sconces and finishes that include polished wood, bronze, mirror and gold leaf. The room's focal point --- a 10-foot-tall illuminated world globe -- is a sizable yet subtle reference to Cunard's history in plying the world's oceans. The two floors are linked by a sweeping staircase.

Wait staff are friendly and attentive, though on our cruise wine waiters were thin on the ground and couldn't cope too well with the number of passengers allocated to them. Bottles are kept en masse in an ice bucket at a distance from the tables and on one occasion we were offered wine from someone else's bottle. Breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.) offers made-to-order omelettes, fresh fruit and compote, hot and cold cereals, yoghurts and breads 'fresh from the bakery' which include bran and blueberry muffins, toasted bagels and banana bread. Buttermilk pancakes come with American bacon, link sausages and maple syrup, while entrees include an egg white omelette with your choice of topping. Fish fans might opt for smoked Finnan haddock or Scottish kippers. Cold cuts include turkey, roast beef and liver pate.

Choices at lunch (12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.) are varied and include calorie-counted selections from the Royal Spa. Regular appetizers include duck rolls and mint confit, while mains feature hot items like grilled swordfish steak and a good selection of sandwiches. Four or five dessert choices mean you may want to make an extra visit to the gym.

Breakfast and lunch are served on the lower level on an open seating basis.

For dinner, passengers are allocated a table for the duration of the voyage, with set dining times of 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Appetizers may include pate de campagne with red onion marmalade or Singapore-style satay chicken. Main courses usually include pasta, steaks and a vegetarian option while desserts might feature a chocolate and walnut slice, cheesecake or ice cream. Dessert coffee comes with petit fours. The room's upper and lower levels accommodate 878 guests and a string quartet or harpist usually performs during the first hour of dining.

Britannia Club Restaurant (Deck 2): This new venue is where Café Carinthia was located pre-2017 refurb, just off the main Atrium and on the way to the main Britannia restaurant. It is beautifully designed in dark blues, golds and greys, with wall dividers in burnt gold and distressed, Art Deco-style glass. There are lots of intimate spaces for more private dining, with tables of two, four, six and oval tables for eight. It is available to all passengers in Britannia Club cabins.

Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2): Seating 116, this is the only bar onboard that sells draught ales and lagers. The atmosphere resembles a traditional English pub with an antique-ish pressed tin ceiling and wide-screen wall-mounted TVs showing the latest news and sport. It is a pleasant space with lots of windows, oval wood tables, some banquettes in wine leather and dark green leather-topped stools. Table lamps with dark green shades are dotted around the room and add an atmospheric touch. The lunch menu (12:30 p. m. to 2:30 p.m.) offers five or six options that are beautifully presented and served by pleasant staff. One of the most popular dishes is the typically English fish and chips -- the fish is cooked in beer batter, served with mushy peas, a pickled onion, slice of lemon and two separate containers of tomato sauce and tartar sauce. The ploughman's lunch is concocted from York ham, Cheddar cheese, vegetable crudites and apple. It is served on crusty bread with a side dollop of Branston pickle. Other menu choices include chicken curry and pasta. Complimentary meals including mussels, Norfolk duckling drumsticks, mac 'n' cheese, tandoori spiced Dorset lamb shank, burgers, squid and Scotch eggs.

Queens Room (Deck 2): This popular venue serves a traditional English afternoon tea -- scones with cream and jam, finger sandwiches and cake -- served by white-gloved waiters and accompanied by a pianist or string quartet. Afternoon tea has been a Cunard tradition for more than a century, and the brew served is a blend of Ceylon, Assam and Kenyan tea specially selected for Cunard. Other choices are Earl Grey and Darjeeling. Tea is served from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Lido (Deck 9): This is a casual, bright and airy informal dining area with a daylong buffet selection and historic Cunard images lining the walls -- a sophisticated touch. Seating options include tables for two or four, as well as some larger tables. A downside is the Lido does not have separate food stations so queues tend to form at breakfast and lunch, particularly on sea days; at these times, finding a table can also become a chore. Waiters do not help passengers find a seat, and it is rare for them to bring you tea and coffee, so it's up to you to queue at the machine for hot drinks and fruit juices.

Continental breakfast (4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.) consists of pastries, toast, a selection of spreads, a smoothie of the day and hot drinks. Full breakfast (6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) is everything you would expect of a good cruise ship breakfast -- porridge, Bircher muesli, bacon, eggs, sausage, mushroom, baked beans, tomatoes, etc. On the cold counter, there are packets of cereals, fresh fruit, cold meats, cheese, smoked salmon and trout with a made-to-order section that cooks up waffles and pancakes. Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) provides enough to keep hearty eaters satisfied. There is meat from a carving section, and separate pizzeria, doughnut and sandwich stations too. Salads vary most days, and puddings are always plentiful. The afternoon snack (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) offers a similar choice to lunch with more emphasis on cold dishes. One section of the Lido offers afternoon tea (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) with warm scones, cream, jam, dainty but tasty finger sandwiches and cake. Dinner (from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.) has a broader range of hot entrees and a plentiful choice of main dishes. At all meals, Queen Victoria caters for a range of dietary needs including vegetarian, pescatarian, low or no fat, low or no salt, dairy-free, gluten-free, low cholesterol, diabetic, kosher and vegan.

Staying true to Queen Victoria's British roots, the buffet maintains a selection of foods and condiments popular with Brits, everything from HP Sauce to English mustard, Marmite and breakfast cereals like Alpen. The Lido Cafe seats 468 guests and is open 24 hours a day.

Princess Grill Restaurants (Deck 11): The 132-seat Princess Grill Restaurant decorated in gold, green and coral is a visual feast of art deco and classic design. It has rich wood-panelled walls in muted shades of cream and brown, bronze mirrors and cream-coloured ceilings, accented with faux gold-paneled moldings around backlit coves. The Princess Grill restaurant is open exclusively to passengers in Princess Grill suites for breakfast, lunch and dinner with waiter service. Breakfast is from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. with lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. There are no set dining times for dinner, so you can roll up anytime between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to be seated at your reserved table. Expect dishes such as lobster Thermidor, Dover sole and chateaubriand to be on the menu.

Queens Grill Restaurant (Deck 11): The 142-seat Queens Grill restaurant, featuring a cream, gold and blue colour scheme, is the exclusive dining venue of Queens Suite passengers. During the day, the entire length of the Queens Grill dining room is illuminated with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. At night, lighting comes from decorative glass uplighters. Wedgwood bone china, Waterford crystal, sterling silverware and Fili d'Oro Italian premium linens complete the scene.

The Queens Grill is open for breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.), with assigned tables at all meals. The dinner menu is a many splendored thing, with appetizers that might include sevruga caviar or seafood bisque. Typical choices for mains could be lobster flambe with Cognac truffle and wild mushroom risotto, while a choice of around six desserts (including a sugar-free option) regularly features the popular baked Alaska. The cheese selection is beyond magnificent. Here however, the menu functions merely as a guide because, in grand Cunard tradition, staff will accommodate any request, on or off the menu, if available.

The Queens Grill also offers an additional menu with a la carte pricing. This menu offers cold appetizers such as marinated poached jumbo shrimp or sturgeon caviar, while hot appetizers might include lobster ravioli or seared sweetbread medallion. There is a choice of hot and cold soups and salads while main dishes might be broiled beef chateaubriand or salmon.

The Grills Courtyard (Deck 11): Princess and Queens Grill passengers who wish to dine outside at breakfast, lunch or dinner can book a table on a first-come, first-served basis at The Grills Courtyard. It's an intimate Tuscan-inspired space with seating for 40, and it offers the same menu as the Grills restaurants. In good weather, this is where passengers can also enjoy pre- and post-dinner cocktails and afternoon tea. Private cocktail parties and special occasion dinners can also be arranged here for small groups.

Room Service: Complimentary room service is available 24 hours a day and offers everything from soup and salads to specialities such as chicken fajitas, warm sandwiches, burgers and desserts. Every day, a room service breakfast card is left in your cabin and if you want breakfast delivered to your cabin the following morning, fill out the card, hang it on your door before going to sleep and you'll wake up to whatever you fancy from fruit and cereal to bacon, eggs-how-you-like-them, pastries, coffee, tea and juice.

Fee Dining

Passengers in standard cabins have two choices for extra-fee dining: the Verandah, a French-style restaurant, and the alternative dining area in the Lido. Food is consistently good in these venues, and waiter service is attentive.

The Verandah (Deck 2); $20 for lunch and $49.95 for dinner: Reservations are necessary in this intimate, stylish French restaurant seating 87, which is on the second level of the three-deck-high lobby. A full bar and wine service is offered. While our waiters -- and the food -- couldn't be faulted, the wine service left much to be desired. We had almost finished our main course before the sommelier came to pour the wine.

The meal began with an amuse-bouche of frogs legs. Starters include duck rillette and escargot crumble (included in the cover price) and a trio of smoked fish and seafood, which came on a trolley (with a supplement of $10). Mains include pan-fried sirloin steak served with melted blue cheese in a red wine jus, and gratin of Dover sole with vanilla truffle, which again costs an extra $10. No matter what you order, the food is exquisitely presented. Don't expect to rush; the atmosphere in the beautiful space encourages lingering.

The menu, which is printed in pale grey on white paper, is available in large type for passengers who can't see too well. The restaurant also provides reading spectacles for those who have forgotten to bring theirs to the table. A thoughtful touch!

The Verandah serves dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Occasionally the Verandah is the venue for the 'Enhanced Afternoon Tea', with a price tag of $29.99. (A free afternoon tea is served in the Queens Room.) With the enhanced version, you get a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV or Rose Brut Champagne and a selection of gourmet sandwiches and homemade cake together with tea or coffee. The ship's daily newsletter alerts passengers to the days that this is available.

The Lido (Deck 9); $17.50: In addition to the free dinner buffet, a section of the Lido restaurant is transformed in the evenings into an extra-fee, bistro-style dining venue offering cuisine from around the world. Each night, the space becomes a different restaurant with changing names and menus, including Asado (South American), Prime (American fusion food with steak as its main offering), Coriander (Indian) and Bamboo (Pan-Asian). It is a pleasant experience and fairly popular with passengers, so it is recommended to book in advance. Open 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Queen Victoria has 1,035 cabins (following the refit). There are 151 inside, 139 oceanview and 566 balcony cabins, 43 Britannia Club balcony cabins, 61 Princess Grill cabins and 66 Queens Grill cabins. Ten are wheelchair-accessible cabins across a variety of room categories (including two Princess Suites and one Queens Suite), which come with a specially designed bathroom and extra-wide doors. Meanwhile, solo passengers can pick from nine single cabins, which were added in the 2015 refurbishment. Queen Victoria does not have interconnecting staterooms.

The 2017 refurbishment saw 43 Britannia Club cabins added to the aft of the ship, all of them with balconies. As well as this, all Britannia Club cabins on decks 7 & 8 were refreshed, with newly-designed carpets featuring a contemporary geometric design soft furnishings. New flat-screen TVs and, by popular request, tea and coffee making facilities have finally been added.

Five Penthouse Suites and the four top suites also had a complete makeover and redesign (for details see Suites, below);

All standard cabins -- inside, outside and balcony -- include the basics: small sofas, a fridge, safe, direct-dial telephone, lighted mirrors, nightly turndown service with one or two chocolates and cotton waffle bathrobes and slippers. All cabins have tea and coffee-making facilities. All cabins have air-conditioning and a writing desk and chair. The hairdryer is fixed inside a drawer of the desk/dressing table, which doesn't make it particularly easy to use as the flex is not very long. Televisions in standard cabins are small, though they offer 32 TV channels and eight music channels. TVs are not interactive, so you can't check your bill or book restaurants via the TV. Standard cabins have two beds that can be pushed together to make a queen-size bed; these have Sealy Posturepedic mattresses and are wonderfully comfortable. The decor is muted and restful, and there is plenty of storage space even for luggage on two- to three-week cruises.

Plug sockets are 220v British three-pin and US 110v two-pin sockets.

The bathrooms in standard staterooms are small and featureless, with a fixed head shower, which spells doom to ladies' hairdos even when wearing the plastic shower hat provided. But the worst thing of all is the clingy, plastic shower curtain; however you play it, it is bound to wrap itself around your legs. Toiletries provided are by Penhaligon's Quercus -- besides the aforementioned shower cap, there are travel-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel and one small and one large bar of soap. The shower has a retractable washing line. A clear plastic pot on the vanity holds cotton wool balls and buds. Toiletries are not replaced automatically as on most other cruise ships, but on request. Two hand towels, two large towels and two face cloths are provided. Bathroom lighting is gloomy, and storage space is limited with only two small glass shelves at either side of the washbasin and a shelf underneath that houses pool towels.

Interior: Interior cabins feature a small corridor, walk-in wardrobe, desk, TV, chair and small table. Inside cabins measure 157 to 243 square feet.

Oceanview: Oceanview cabins are on decks 1 and 4. Some of the Deck 4 rooms have obstructed views. Cabins have two cupboards with adequate hanging space for a not-too-long cruise, while a third cupboard has four shelves and a safe. A living area has a two-drawer desk, and two night tables have a shelf each. There is a two-seater sofa with cushions and a small table. Oceanview cabins measure 180 to 201 square feet.

Balcony: More than 70 percent of staterooms have a balcony. These cabins have a small sitting area with a two-seater sofa, separate cushions and a table, as well as a small dressing table/desk with two drawers, one chair, small TV, two wall lights and two lamps on either side of the bed. Two night tables each have three small drawers. Cabins have a floor-to-ceiling balcony door, and furniture on the glass-fronted balconies consists of a small round white metal table and two white framed chairs with blue mesh seating. Balcony staterooms measure 242 to 472 square feet. Balcony cabins with partially obstructed views due to lifeboats measure approximately 228 square feet.

Minisuites: The 58 Princess Grill Suites are basically bigger versions of standard balcony cabins, with no divider between the bed area and lounge area. They range in size from 335 to 513 square feet, including a spacious private balcony. Of the 61 suites, two are wheelchair accessible. All Princess Grill Suites have larger, beautifully decorated living areas and considerably more wardrobe and drawer space. Bathrooms have full-size tubs with shower-- no clingy shower curtains -- and the same toiletries as standard cabins but in larger bottles and with the addition of a body sponge, sewing kit, shoe polisher mitt and nail care kit. Princess Grill Suite passengers get a bowl of fresh fruit replenished daily and a pillow menu, and they dine in the Princess Grill on Deck 11.

Suites: The Queens Grill suites are scattered around the ship. Decorated in light woods and neutral shades accented by nautically inspired artwork, Queens Grill accommodations include four Grand and two Master Suites, 35 Penthouses and 16 Queens Suites. Five Penthouse Suites and the four top suites -- The Aquitania, Berengaria, Mauretania and Laconia Suites -- were all redesigned and refreshed in the 2017 refurbishment. All offer butler and concierge service and priority embarkation, and guests are greeted on arrival with Champagne, strawberries and petit fours. Passengers in Grill Suites are provided with terry towelling robes and slippers -- slightly more upmarket than standard accommodation's cotton waffle robes -- and the same expanded toiletry selection as Princess Grill guests. Queens Grill Suites all have king-size beds, the option of in-suite dining from the Queens Grill menu, daily fresh fruit, fresh orchids, a pillow concierge menu and personalized stationery, a complimentary minibar stocked with spirits, wine, soft drinks and sparkling/still water and pre-dinner canapes. Suites in the Queens Grill Penthouse Class and upwards all have a Jacuzzi bath and separate shower.

The 16 Queens Grill Suites (one of which is wheelchair accessible) range in size from 484 to 771 square feet including a balcony. This category offers a bath with a separate shower enclosure, living area and verandah.

Each of the 35 Queens Grill Penthouse Suites comes with a large living area, bedroom with acres of storage space and a verandah. The five redesigned Penthouses feature floor to ceiling windows and doors, additional storage space and beautiful bathrooms with luxurious whirlpool baths. Balconies have one large white table, one square small table, two stools, two loungers and two recliner chairs. Queens Grill Penthouse Suites range in size from 508 to 681 square feet, including balcony.

There are two Queens Grill Master Suites on Deck 7 midship. They feature lots of marble, an extensive living area and a separate dining room. Expansive teak balconies have a large white table, a smaller round table, two glass top tables, four dining chairs, two loungers and two reclining steamer loungers. This is the category to go for if you fancy gazing out to sea while lounging in your bath. The Master Suites measure 1,100 square feet including balcony.

The Queens Grill Grand Suites are the top category on the ship. There are four Grand Suites located aft on decks 6 and 7 with king-of-the-seas views from their private wrap-around teak balconies, which come with a complete wet bar. These are the most luxurious accommodations onboard with all the bells and whistles anyone could possibly want, and went through a significant refurb in 2017 to increase their overall square footage to those on Queen Elizabeth at approximately 1,436 sq.ft. The master bedroom has walk-in wardrobes, storage space ample for a round-the-world cruise and then some, lounge area with top of the range furniture and fittings including sofa, additional TV, table and chairs, a second bedroom (or "snug") and a spacious dining room that seats six. The black marble bathroom was redesigned so the bathtub is now against a window, allowing you to gaze out to sea while having a bath. There are twin basins, plenty of mirrors and a separate shower room complete with twin showerheads. Vast, teak wraparound balconies have two or three small glass top tables, four to six dining chairs, a rectangle stone table, two single and one double reclining steamer loungers and two stools/ottomans. Queens Grill Grand Suites range in size from 1,918 to 2,131 square feet (including balcony).

Single Cabins: Nine single staterooms were added on Deck 2 during the ship's refurbishment early in 2015. Eight are oceanview rooms and one is an inside cabin. All of these are comfortable though compact at 159 to 162 square feet. Single beds are classed as 'oversized' at a generous width of 3ft 11ins and cabins come with an ensuite bathroom with shower, two-door wardrobe and three larger drawers. Oceanview rooms have large picture windows that let in plenty of natural daylight. The rooms are centrally located midship close to the social hub of the ship including the Royal Court Theatre and the Queens Room.

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