Review: Queen Victoria
Cruise - Ocean Cruise
A peek behind the scenes on our Christmas Cruise!
70 people found this review helpful
The jury is still out on the subject of cruise holidays. Do I enjoy them? I am still making up my mind. Up until this point I have only cruised twice – with different cruise lines, and both, in their own way were very enjoyable but I am still not quite sure if cruising is for me. I quite like the idea of waking up somewhere new in the world every morning, but I am not sure about large ships with many, many passengers.
I am not a great fan of flying, so sought a cruise this winter leaving from Southampton, a four hour drive from home. My choices in December were limited but I was drawn to the classic, traditional elegance of the ocean liners of the Cunard fleet, with their large ships but actual passenger numbers smaller than some of the other popular cruise lines.
So this is where I have been these past few days, cruising round the Canary Islands on the Cunard grand liner Queen Victoria.
I had a fantastic time. The ship was fabulous. My husband and I were very well looked after and enjoyed the company of some lovely people!
Anyone who knows me will tell you I always like to research a holiday thoroughly beforehand. As we drove to Southampton Docks on the morning of the cruise I bored my husband silly with facts, figures and statistics about Cunard ships! I knew the majestic Victoria so well, long before skipping up that gangway or so I thought.
You see, what I didn't know about the Queen Victoria was the sheer scale of the industry below deck that ensured my life above deck was so comfortable.
I had never given a thought to the hundreds of employees that Cunard passengers never see, but without whom, cruising would not be the luxury experience I enjoyed over the Christmas period.
I didn't realise there was so much skill, experience and specialist knowledge beavering away twenty-four hours a day, keeping me pampered, safe and well catered for in every respect of the word!
Finally, it had never occurred to me that within this industry below deck is yet a further layer of staff and operations taking care of those who are looking after me!
So how, where and when did this revelation occur?
While on board I was fortunate to be one of an exclusive group of passengers who were able to take a "Behind The Scenes" tour of the ship. This was a tour like no other tour. On a previous cruise I had experienced a galley tour which briefly allowed a large group of passengers a peek into the kitchen to watch the Chefs at work. No comparison – this tour took a whole afternoon and involved access to areas of the ship I never knew existed.
So, on Boxing Day, somewhere off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, with my husband settled in front of the live screening of the Manchester United game, my VIP ID badge around my neck, I embarked on a fascinating journey of discovery just one deck below my plush and luxurious floating hotel!
Along with eleven fellow passengers I was treated to informative insights by various Senior Officers who were efficiently running their own departments below decks. I think for most of the afternoon I walked around the ship with my mouth gaping open at the sheer scale of the activity, numbers of crew involved and the mammoth task of coordinating these hidden services, so vital to the ships operation.
Being relatively new to cruising I have never given much thought to the operation of a cruise ship beyond wondering on occasions where and how the crew lived when they weren't looking after us above deck.
Descending into the whitewashed, spotlessly clean stairwells and corridors I entered what was essentially a mini – town with pathways, roadways, entrances, and exits leading to crew quarters, crew restaurant, crew bar, crew gym, crew recreation areas. How do crew find their way around this vast maze? Maps of the ship layout at every turn! Our group stick closely together – you could get lost as easily as you would if you were walking for the first time around an unfamiliar town.
The services introduced to us, while familiar on land, were extra-ordinary because of their unexpected location. I was amazed to see state of the art Intensive Care facilities led by the Ship's Doctor and his experienced nursing team, the mobile ambulance with a response target time of reaching any location on the ship within six and a half minutes! The Environmental Officer who explained with such pride, the refuse and recycling functions carried out twenty-four hours by his small team. With Christmas Day only a few hours earlier the number of wine bottles crushed here was staggering! On to the Chief Engineers responsible for all things connected with the ship's power; including navigation, heating, lighting, air-conditioning – can you believe the ship produces its own water supply? Turn a corner and we meet the ships Chief Safety Officer with his ever ready and prepared Fire Fighting Team, fully equipped with all the latest technology and resources.
We stood inside huge refrigeration stores which kept our fruit, vegetables, perishables and flowers fresh for days on end while Officers rattled off the eye-watering inventories of the stock required per voyage!
Offices accommodating IT specialists, a photography laboratory constantly churning out the latest pictures of guests in their finery, a print shop complete with Print Technicians producing our daily programmes, notices and invitations to the Captains Cocktail Parties. Sound and lighting engineers who designed and produced the most stunning accompaniments to the shows, concerts and orchestral recitals around the ship.
We paused for breath and refreshments in the sparkling kitchens and met Chefs and staff from all over the world (including Manchester) as we marvelled at the exquisite cakes and bread being prepared for afternoon tea (we sampled a few too – it would have been so rude not to!) Vast quantities of ingredients transformed into the most amazing menus for the various restaurants around the ship, day in, day out, calm seas, rough seas!
Wherever we went we encountered busy maintenance engineers, painters and decorators, window cleaners, deck hands…the list of roles goes on!
The highlight of the afternoon for me was a visit to The Bridge and The Captain. These days such visits are restricted, and amid strict security I stood high up above the decks, surveying the open sea and big sky, as far as the eye could see. I was struck by the quiet and calm reigning in this part of the ship while Senior Officers went about their business. I could stand here all day, in awe of my surroundings – both inside and outside the ship! All too soon though it was time to leave The Bridge, but what an experience!
So many dedicated staff, working hard on both passenger and crew decks. Many very different worlds independently operating within their own procedures, rules and regulations, yet expertly and seamlessly co-ordinated to provide the passengers with the very best cruise experience. The Cunard website tells me that Queen Victoria is loved by both passengers and crew alike. From what I have experienced today, the pride the staff have in their ship is clear!
It was a wonderful and informative tour I will never forget!
2015 is Cunard's 175th anniversary year. On the 25th May all three "Queens" of the fleet will rendezvous in the River Mersey, to salute the city of Liverpool; the home of Cunard between 1840 and 1967.
Along with thousands of people around the world I intend to watch as Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria make their way proudly along the Mersey. However, having now had my eyes opened to the world below deck I will be saluting all those men and women on board that none of us ever see, but who will make the 25th May and every other cruising day possible!
Do I like cruising now? Yes – though I think I will have to try another Cunard cruise – just to be sure!
70 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.