On June 4, Queen Victoria returned to service following a major AU$57m refit. Chris Frame was aboard the ship’s first voyage to check out the changes.
Externally, the freshly repainted Queen Victoria looks familiar yet different. Her profile has been altered; with the once terraced stern being rebuilt in a squared form due to the installation of a new block of cabins. While the ship’s profile is a little less appealing, the refurbishment work largely concentrated on boosting the appeal of her internal areas.
Made possible by the new stern design, the Lido Pool has been revitalised with the addition of an outdoor relaxation area. Additions include a number of sails and awnings, creating ample shade for those on deck; while the installation of couples cabanas make for a great place to relax. Further improvements come in the way of new lounge chairs and wind breaks, while an expanded bar service is available throughout the day night.
Amidships on Deck 9, the Winter Garden has been given a new look; with the previous light wicker furniture and low-level wrought iron dividers replaced by brightly coloured furniture and a large central tree.
Blue carpeting and new faux-wood deck add a sense of depth to the room, while floor-to-ceiling dividers separate the port and starboard seating areas creating a sense of privacy. Illy branded barista coffee is now served here from early morning until late at night, meaning this space was far more utilised during daylight hours than on previous voyages.
Further forward, the ship’s nightclub Hemispheres has been recreated and renamed The Yacht Club. Taking its name from the after-dinner venue aboard the QE2, the space has been redecorated in a theme of ocean-colours; while the original chandelier and circular dancefloor remain.
Plush seating complements a lighter colour palate introduced through new carpeting and window dressings. The entertainment staff made a conscious effort to better utilise this space, with daytime functions including a ‘meet the guest speakers’ event being hosted here.
One of the most polarising changes aboard is the introduction of the Britannia Club restaurant.
Visually, the new restaurant is stunning. Its interior sports a modern take on art deco, and is completed with dark wooden walls, crisp white ceilings and clever use of mirrors to ensure the entire space is bathed in natural light.
The restaurant serves passengers in the 43 new Britannia Club staterooms and brings Queen Victoria’s offering in line with that aboard QM2 and Queen Elizabeth, both of which already offered a Britannia Club grade.
The down side is the loss of the original Chart Room Bar; with Britannia Club being built in its location on Deck 2, aft.
The Chart Room has been ‘relocated’ forward, replacing the equally popular Café Carinthia as well as the Veuve Clicquot champagne bar. Despite retaining the Chart Room name, there’s no escaping the fact that the ship now offers less choice of bars and lounges.
Never the less, the new Chart Room is a popular venue. With décor inspired by both nautical and star charts, the space features two bars; with the aft bar doubling as a café. Here barista coffee, artisan teas and a light-snacks menu is on offer throughout the day; while in the afternoon and evening both bars serve alcoholic drinks and canapes.
Moving forward, and the Cunardia Gallery (which showcased Cunard History) has given way to an expanded Clarendon Art Gallery, while the shopping promenade has received an update with stores now featuring bright modern interiors, bathed in crisp LED lighting.
All 1,006 cabins aboard have been upgraded with the installation of wall-mounted LED TV’s, new carpeting, bed coverings and soft furnishing; while on the aft end of Deck 6 and Deck 7 four new Grand Suites have been created.
These rooms are 198m² each and include a separate lounge, dining room, marble bathroom, marble powder room, bedroom and a sizable balcony. They are completed in a dark-wood finish with light carpeting and furniture and have ample large windows creating a bright, airy and luxurious space.
The newly refreshed areas aboard Queen Victoria are impressive. Work has been completed to a high specification with the ship presenting smart and vibrant. Changes to the Winter Garden and Yacht Club have made the areas infinitely more usable; and the inclusion of several areas where proper barista service is available is a definite plus for coffee lovers.
The ship’s original interior was completed throughout in a Victorian / Art Deco blend, which presented in a consistent style from bow to stern. The changed areas do not follow this same design theme, meaning Queen Victoria now sports two distinct styles and does feel a bit like two ships in one.
While the reduction in the number of bars aboard is a loss; particularly given how pleasant both the Chart Room and Café Carinthia were; the new Britannia Club restaurant is easily the most impressive of this grade of restaurant across the Cunard fleet.
The cabins are much improved; it’s remarkable what can be achieved by changing carpets and soft furnishings. Cabins present in a smart, fashionable manner with my standard Britannia ocean view feeling bigger, brighter and more luxurious than the same space had felt last time I travelled. The new Grand Suites are among the most impressive I’ve seen aboard a Cunard ship.
In all, the refit has been a huge success. Queen Victoria now sports a number of newly revitalised spaces that improve the passenger experience and revitalise the ship as she approaches her tenth birthday in December.
Want to know more about this incredible ship? Cruise Passenger is giving away 10 copies of ‘Queen Victoria: A Photographic Journey’ by Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross*. All you have to do is subscribe to Cruise Passenger Magazine – we will give a book to each of the first 10 people to subscribe (starting from Friday 11th August 2017). Click here to subscribe!
Chris Frame travelled aboard Queen Victoria as a guest speaker.
Itinerary: Southampton – Amsterdam – Zeebrugge (missed due to bad weather) – Southampton