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CUNARD LAUNCHES THE QUEEN VICTORIA IN GRAND STYLE

By Michael Hepworth

The Queen Victoria is Cunard’s latest addition to their tiny fleet, but it certainly ranks as the classiest ship so far in their illustrious fleet.  Although it is slightly smaller than the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria is intended to recreate the glory days of the transatlantic liners in the early part of the twentieth century.  History was also made with this launch, because it was the first time in Cunard’s illustrious 168 year history that there are three Cunard Queens in service at the same time. Not bad for a company that started out with three paddle steamers.  Captain of the Queen Victoria is Paul Wright, a 27 year veteran of Cunard, who takes over the coveted job after spells with QE2 and Queen Mary 2. He started out with Shell Tankers in 1966, and gained his Masters Certificate in 1976.

I was at the launch in Southampton on December 10, in the presence of the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales, prior to the ship going on her maiden voyage to the Norwegian Fiords.  Queen Mary launched her namesake ship in 1934, and the current Queen Elizabeth was at hand to launch the QE2 in 1967 and Queen Mary 2 in 2003.  Yes, it is perfectly true that the bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne failed to break on the hull, inspiring several local journalists to write articles claiming “bad luck” for the ship, and finding any excuse to put down the beleaguered Duchess.  Subsequent events concerning a violent outbreak of the vicious norovirus bug on the initial cruise to the Canary Islands that affected 78 passengers have further tarnished the image of the ship, although I can certainly hope for all concerned that future journeys are not quite as stressful for passengers.

Sir Derek Jacobi was more or less the host of the inauguration, relaying the history of Cunard through the eyes of Phileas Fogg.  The three tenors performed, and the entire event was reported to have cost $1.5 million for the 1,800 or so invited guests, many of whom who spent a couple of nights on the ship.  A mixed bag of British celebrities and faces were dotted amongst the guests such as Sir Jimmy Saville, Robert Powell, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Carol Voordeman, Judith Chalmers and others.

She commences her first world cruise in early 2008, with a bare minimum cost of $40,000, going all the way up to $420,000 if you want to stay in a “Master Suite”.  That will include your own private butler by the way.  Princess Suites range in size from 335 to 513 Sq. Ft.  The Queens Grill Penthouses and Suites range from 508 to 771 Sq. Ft., and the Carpathia Suite which is 1,100 Sq. Ft. is one of two Master Suites on board.  For the ultimate buzz select the Aquitania , one of four Grand Suites on board.  These suites range in size from 1,918 to 2,131 Sq. Ft. and feature butler and concierge service, and many other first class services.

There is a spectacular Royal Court Theatre that seats up to 850 guests and is designed by the great theatre architect Frank Matcham, who has over 80 theatres to his name. There are 16 private boxes in the theatre, the first ever at sea that will house 48 guests, who are served champagne and appetizers from white gloved ushers.  The shows onboard will reflect the rich Victoriana decor

Dining on the Queen Victoria is headed by Todd English, named after the famed Boston chef. Refined elegance is the name of the game here with Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood china and Gainsborough silverware and Hepp cutlery.  To his credit Todd was at the grand launch checking out the other onboard restaurants, and for a nominal surcharge of $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner, guests can sample Todd’s specialties such as lobster and corn chowder, ricotta gnocchi and seared sea bass.  The main dining room is the Brittania Restaurant that can seat up to 900 passengers.  Designed like the old style transatlantic liners, the restaurant features sweeping staircases, decorative pillars and arches, and a combination of mahogany and old cherry.  Even more luxurious are the Queens and Princess Grills located on the top deck.  Both Grills offer a single sitting, and guests also have access to their own private lounge, bar and deck terrace.

Shopping is also first class aboard the Queen Victoria, and the 4,000-square foot Royal Arcade is fashioned after one my favorite parts of London , the Burlington Arcade.  Shops include Harrod’s, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. Another great place to hang out on the ship is the Commodore Club, a well appointed bar with a sweeping panoramic view, and Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar on Deck 2 is also likely to become a favorite hangout as well.

 

Fact Sheet

Cost: $600 million

Passengers: 2014

Crew: 1001

Built: Venice , Italy

Length: 964 feet

Width: 106 feet

Height: 179 feet

Weight: 90,000 tons

Top Speed: 23.7 knots

 

 

Website: www.cunard.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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