On board Cunard’s Queen Victoria when she stopped off in Sydney.
So you think you hate cruising?
Cruising is a lot like politics; 42.5 percent of the populace LOVE cruising, 42.5 percent HATE it, and the 15 percent swinging voters aren’t quite sure – “I could like it if it was the right cruise . . . I think”.*
As a travel writing professional I try not to be in either camp, particularly as my experiences amount to less than 70 hours on board.
The first 64 hours were relatively strange. The entire time the ship was stationary off the Isle of Wight for a business conference in the middle of an English winter – not a qualifying experience by any stretch of the imagination. It was spent drinking, eating, drinking, talking, selling, being sold to, playing a few hands of black jack and rolling off.
My remaining cruising hours were spent having lunch on board the Sun Princess in Sydney – and, yes, it was a long lunch. But, professionalism aside, I tend to be in the “I would rather have shards of glass inserted under my fingernails than cruise” camp.
Change of heart
The first time I actually thought “I might not hate cruising” was on the Sun Princess in Sydney. The occasion was the media lunch to celebrate, announce and generally bribe the native media into discussing and writing about the first real “classy” cruise ship to call Australia home.
Stepping on board the Queen Victoria for a similar media lunch – and my third ever step onto a cruise liner – repeated the overall Sun Princess experience. But doubled the dose. After all, the ship is fresh out of the wrapper and on her maiden round the world voyage.
Lunch was held in the general dining room, the Britannia. It was a good meal and what you’d expect from the most luxurious liner brand in the world – Cunard. A Spanish Chardonnay or Beaujolais to accompany lunch highlights the fact that you’re now on a European liner.
In the back of my mind I couldn’t help remembering the small fact that the average cruise passenger enjoys/stuffs in approximately 11 to 13 courses each day. That is a shed load of food.
Take a three-course breakfast and a three-course lunch and you have at least another five courses on their way. I could do that for one day, but for a seven-night journey? No wonder the PR kit tells me that the Queen Victoria will consume 1.5 million eggs in a single year. “Cunard kilos” is a term, literally, close to many cruisers’ hearts.
Later, on the “walk around”, the personal trainer attending the gym claims to be overworked when at sea. “We actually need a larger gym. This is far too small for the amount of people we get.” It’s a spacious gym with at least 20 treadmills. When you consider that the average age of the passengers is 72 I can only imagine the hardest thing about getting a workout would probably be climbing onto your treadmill through the herd of Zimmer frames.
Grand on a Grand Scale
The special thing about Queen Victoria or really any liner in the Cunard line is that they’re impeccably finished with excellent service. In truth I imagine the service is an easy thing to get right. The staff are obviously very proud to be working onboard the Queen Victoria. Throughout the walk around there were many staff members off duty, proudly showing the ship off to family and friends. It’s this kind of pride that makes the entire ship a welcoming and lovely place. You feel lucky and proud to be a part of it – it’s just so very, very grand.
The Cunardia museum and collection amplifies the kind of legacy and tradition the Cunard lines have. It’s a large gathering of images and memorabilia from the Cunard vaults, the most significant of which is the replica of the Hales Trophy awarded to the QE2 in 1970 for winning the Blue Riband (for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic at the time). As per the wishes of Sir Samuel Cunard the trophy has never made it on board the QE2 as Sir Cunard wanted the company to be known for reliability and not speed.
Interestingly, if you turned around, the prize outshines the Faberge eggs. (Yes, you are on the kind of ship where Faberge eggs are housed in little glass cabinets and I am convinced it was not a replica.)
Black and white photos of the grand old entertainers and stars are hung throughout the hallways, staircases and decks. That’s Rita Heyworth, that’s Jerry Lewis and here is Clarke Gable. Elsewhere the paintings are art deco motorcars (on a ship?).
The clock in the centre of the Queen’s Arcade is from Dent & Co – Queen Victoria’s official clockmaker who’s most famous ‘face’ is Big Ben.
The Royal Court Theatre seats 830 people and has those lovely and romantic balconies close to the stage. See what I mean? Grand and traditional.
I could bore you with all these details and more from every room. The library (it’s good); the cigar room (Churchill is on the wall and the humidor is as you’d expect); Queens Room; the Commodore Club; the two pools (they’re outside on Deck 10); the winter garden (has a retracting roof); the spa with an indoor pool and the hot beds (very relaxing); Hemisphere’s nightclub (leave your ‘frame at the door) and my favourite the Verve Cliquot bar (meet you there).
You and i Wish
But to make it worthwhile I should let you in on the places you and I will never see – the Grills.
Being smart people, the Cunard company dispensed with the First and Second Class labels ever since the days when the damnable Second could afford the First without the required good taste and upbringing. (Less political commentary, more colourful travel, please. – ED)
The Queens and Princess Suites are bigger than many Sydneysiders’ first homes – 63m2 or 48m2. The suites are extremely comfy with a proper bathroom and wardrobe space and a balcony big enough for a small game of badminton.
The real benefit of a Grill Suite, other than the more humane living space, is the exclusive areas of the ship reserved for those lucky enough. The Queen and Princess Grills have their own dining area, a small outdoor Tuscan-inspired courtyard for alfresco dining. You also have access to an exclusive sun deck – the Upper Terrace and private lounge.
The Queens Grill also comes with your own butler. But just to keep your ambition in check, the LA to Sydney journey is listed at $66,719 per person.
The grandness of the Queen Victoria and her sister Queens (Mary 2 and the retiring Elizabeth 2) heightens the appeal of cruising to me. If I had my choice I’d certainly snap up a cruise on either the QM2 or the QV (we’re getting into the lingo now). I’d even now consider a small voyage on the Sun Princess. Part of the attraction is that once on board I could do nothing but eat, relax, eat some more and be entertained. Then again, maybe I’m just getting old.
*These stats are totally fictitious and based on no real scientific data other than AT’s own anecdotal experience.
As always we are interested in your cruising journeys, feedback or if you have sailed with the Queen Vicotria – tell us.
Queen Victoria has more balcony rooms than any other, which makes the voyage even more enjoyable.
The round the world journey is an annual journey and you can book some excellent specials by booking early. The earlier you book the better.
The inbound leg from LA to Sydney is a 24 night journey and Staterooms with a balcony start at $9709 per person. The outbound leg from Sydney to LA is a 23 night journey and balcony staterooms start from $7879 per person.
More information at www.cunard.com