I recently cruised with Cunard for the very first time, it was a 3-night mini-cruise aboard Queen Victoria from Southampton to Bruges, and what an experience it was. I visited Queen Mary 2 several years ago in Scotland and I have been looking forward to sailing with Cunard ever since. If I could go back in time, I would board a vessel like the SS Normandie or RMS Lusitania, just to see what pleasure cruising had been like all of those years ago. We will never get those days back and in many ways Cunard is the only fragment of it that we have left – with the exception of one or two other vessels from other cruise lines.
During my time aboard Queen Victoria I had the pleasure of staying a Princess Grill Suite on Deck 4 and it was absolutely beautiful. There were 2 beds, a sofa area, large balcony, ample storage space and a bathroom with a shower over the bath. There were even 2 TV’s. It was more than comfortable and the pillow menu – yes, pillow menu – just added to the overall experience.
Guests in the Princess Grill and Queens Grill have their own allocated tables in their own allocated restaurants, which means no matter what time you wish to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, your table is always there waiting for you. For me, this was one of the biggest highlights of being in the Princess Grill, I knew I could just turn up when I pleased and be seated right away. Grills guests also have the advantage of their own lounge, the Grills Lounge, and that’s where I went for my pre-dinner drink each evening. It was a small and intimate space and it soon filled up.
The Princess Grill Restaurant was beautiful (I could see right through into the Courtyard from my table, another area reserved exclusively for Grills guests) and the menu was extensive. On my first evening I had pumpkin soup and seared beef tenderloin Rossini, both were delicious, but I could hardly breathe by the end of the meal. I was so full. I sat for a few minutes to let my food settle before heading for the Golden Lion, where I enjoyed a few drinks before playing the quiz and then making my way towards Hemispheres, a club on Deck 10 which would turn out to be the “go to place” of an evening.
We arrived in Zeebrugge for our tour with Tripashore to Bruges on a miserable and damp day. I washed, dressed and left the ship to go and meet my tour guide. I have to say that I’m not a fan of sightseeing in the rain, I don’t think anyone is to be honest, but Rudi (my guide) made the tour for me, he was brilliant. We walked all over the UNESCO recognised city and admired the Market Square, Old St John’s Hospital, City Hall, Provincial Court and the Princely Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde. We even stopped for a hot chocolate – this gave us time to dry off and warm up before hitting the streets again.
Once back onboard it was time to get ready and head for dinner. To start I had broccoli soup, which was delicious, and for main this time I went for Shrimp Provencal. I’d never had it before and when it arrived it didn’t look like the most appetising dish in the world, but I soon found out that looks can be deceiving! It was absolutely delicious.
My final day onboard brought a well-received sea day and a chance to visit the Royal Spa. I’m not a big fan of the spa area aboard any ship, I like to look but not use the facilities, however, I purchased a day pass for the Royal Bath House and I was pleased that I did. It allowed use of the Hydro Pool, relaxing loungers, steam rooms and sauna and the Thermal Suite. The pass was $35, which I thought was very reasonable. I literally just chilled out for an hour. I was quite happy just sitting and listening to the sounds within the room and once the hydro-pool emptied of a few people, I took a dip. The water was 36 degrees Celsius and ideal for those looking to ease some tension and aching muscles. The Royal Bath House was incredibly popular, so if you are on a longer voyage or this is an area you like to frequent then I would recommend you buy your passes for the duration of your cruise as soon as you board.
I spent my final evening onboard making the same circuit: Restaurant, Golden Lion Pub and then Hemispheres. I was surprised how busy Hemispheres was given that it was the night before disembarkation, but everyone was having a good time. It was the perfect end to what had been a fabulous first experience with Cunard.
I am now counting down the days until my transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2…
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: arg_flickr, Tom Mascardo, Randolph Croft.