Our boarding process was so smooth, efficient and fast that we found ourselves in our stateroom before our luggage arrived, so we went straightaway to our safety muster. We were assigned to muster station C, which happily was located in the Chart Room pub.
We gathered with about 50 fellow passengers, all carrying our bright orange life jackets folded tight into a cube as they had been stored in our stateroom closets. After the captain had recited the required safety speech, we were directed to don the toilet seat-style PFDs. I couldn’t resist trying the strobe light, then realized I didn’t know how to shut it off. Lynn was relieved I didn’t try the whistle too.
By the time we repaired back to our stateroom, our luggage had been delivered, so Lynn directed the process of unpacking. For the first time in two weeks we would not be living out of our suitcases. That’s unusual, because Lynn is the ultimate nester. Even if we are out for a weekend, she sorts our all the clothes in drawers and closets. For some reason, four days in Newport, one night in New York and ten days in Nice did not inspire her nesting instincts. Facing 14 days in the tight confines of a ship stateroom, she put everything in its place.
Happily, we found our smuggled load of wine and whiskey undamaged, so we celebrated with a glasses of the complimentary split of champagne waiting in our room courtesy of Cunard. We have been assigned a portside balcony room about midship on the eighth deck, which gives us a magnificent view of the ocean to the west side as we will head south from Venice to Croatia, Crete and eventually Athens. Undfortunately for our departure, the port side of the ship faces the terminal, while the starboard side faces Venice, so we missed the view of la serenissima as the sun set over San Marco.
Our stateroom on the QV is a bit larger than our QM2 room, with a much bigger flat screen TV mounted on the wall and a love seat couch next to the bed. Not that it matters to us, the shower is smaller. No fatties need squeeze in.
Since we had been assigned to the late seating at 8:30, we had plenty of time to do some preliminary exploration of the ship. Although the Queen Victoria is quite similar to the Queen Mary 2, there are some little and significant differences. For instance, the all-day buffet restaurant on the QM2 is called the King’s Court and is located virtually the entire length of the seventh deck. On the QV, it is named the Lido Buffet and is placed on the ninth level but very convenient to our stateroom. I would explore and discover other differences the next day.
We were assigned to dinner in the Britannia at table 516, a six-top. On the first night, two of our group did not show up. Our other dinner companions were an elderly couple from Des Moines, Carol and Chuck. She has a sister living in Hahnville, just outside New Orleans, and he used to be a radio announcer, so we have some professional experience in common. Unfortunately, Chuck is hard of hearing. More like deaf, even with hearing aids. So he was not able to contribute much to the conversation, since he could not hear much of the conversation.
Dinner was fine, but this ain’t Nice. It’s not even Newport. Both Lynn’s chicken and my pork chop were well prepared though a bit dry. I ordered a couple of glasses of the house French red, which were so corked, we couldn’t drink them. When I notified the wine stewardess of our problem, she immediately replaced them and confirmed that she could smell the rot herself in the glasses.
By the time we finished dinner, it was after 10 p.m., and we were just a bit road-weary, glad to head back to the room for a good night’s sleep as the QV glided through dead-calm seas southeast toward Dubrovnic.
Up early the next morning (sun rises about 7:00 a.m. at this longitude), I took my usual morning walk around the ship. The promenade on the QV is on the third deck, as it is on the QM2, but there are no great views of the stern or the bow. It is the same length, three times around equal one mile, two times equal one kilometer. But without the bow and stern views, the walk is less visually interesting.
In fact, as I discovered all day long, there are several differences between the Queen Victoria and the QM2. The QV seems to offer many more outdoor seating spaces, which leads me to believe that she does not make as many crossings as the QM. This ship seems more of a cruise ship, while the QM2 is more set up for longer passages and crossings. The QV is a bit smaller (2,000 passengers, compared to 2,600 on the QM2) and of course younger, just ten years old with a refit last year. And the Queen Mary 2 offers a public viewing area of the bridge; the Queen Victoria does not, much to my disappointment.
Inside the hallways and stairways, the Queen Victoria plays on the tradition of Cunard, but nowhere near the level of the QM2, whose namesake predecessor was legendary in the maritime industry starting in WWII. The Queen Victoria displays photos of famous celebrities from the early 20th century, who of course could never have actually sailed on this ship that was commissioned in 2007. The QM2 devotes one hallway to the same stars. The rest of the QM2’s walls display moments from her predecessor’s storied history, as well as the history of the Cunard line all the way back to the first ship and the reason all the Cunard non-royal names end in “ia.” (Answer: they are all Roman names, e.g. the Carpathia.)
The Queen Victoria’s main lobby is equally elaborate to her older sister ship’s, and the public spaces are mainly the same—Britannia Restaurant (ours, the lowest level of formal dining); Chart Room bar; Verandah (specialty dining with a surcharge); Commodore Club (farthest forward) but without the view of the QM2); Golden Lion Pub (maybe the best food on the ship); and the requisite shops, gym, spa, pools (two large and four hot tubs), and sports facilities.
The QV has a limited, tented semi-tennis court but does not have the golf simulator that the QM2 offers. Both ships, of course, have shuffleboard courts. The average age of passenger absolutely dictates the last.