A Royal Christening

Cunard’s new Queen Victoria sets sail from Southampton

By: Deborah Dimond

This is the first Image
Queen Victoria leaves Southampton
on her Maiden Voyage.
The Cunard lion really does roar again,” proclaimed Cunard Line president and managing director, Carol Marlow, at the grand inauguration of Cunard’s new Queen Victoria in Southampton, England, last month. The gathered crowd was there for a glimpse of the newest member of the Cunard family and the royal family. It’s safe to say that the pageantry didn’t disappoint.

The naming ceremony began with a fanfare of trumpets from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. The audience (including those of us from the colonies) sprang to their feet as Prince Charles and the ship’s godmother the Duchess of Cornwall entered accompanied by the strains of “God Save the Queen.” After the royal arrival, the proceedings began.

Emcee, British actor Sir Derek Jacobi, portrayed time-traveling scientist Phileas Fogg, who recounted the history of the British-founded company. From Samuel Cunard’s early days to the line’s present incarnation at the pinnacle of the luxury ocean-crossing business, Jacobi kept the audience entertained.

This is the second Image
Cunard’s president Carol Marlow
(left) with Prince Charles
and the Dutchess of Cornwall.
Afterward, a lavish production number from the opera “Carmen” was preformed by England’s singing sensation Katherine Jenkins, with music provided by none other then the London Philharmonic. The musical number culminated with the unveiling of the ship’s moniker and a barrage of fireworks fit for a queen or at least a duchess.

Once the smoke had cleared a parade of choir singers from the Winchester Cathedral streamed down the aisles and on to the stage as the Lord Bishop of Winchester preformed the ship’s blessing. Then the ship’s captain invited the Duchess of Cornwall to perform the naming.

“I name this ship Queen Victoria, may God bless her and all who sail on her,” exclaimed the Duchess and she pressed the button releasing the magnum of Veuve Clicquot champagne which sadly did not break.

This glitch was corrected by an engineer who quickly broke another bottle over the side. The fluke went largely unnoticed under the rain of confetti that fell from the ceiling.

But the pomp and circumstance did not stop there. The audience was then treated to a performance by tenors Alfie Boe, Jon Christos and Gardar Thor Cortes. The trio performed a very fitting holiday classic: “I Saw Three Ships” (accompanied by images of the three-ship Cunard Line fleet). A sing-along ensued, with the audience waving small Union Jacks and singing “Rule Britannia.”

This is the second Image
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines
performed at the naming ceremony.
That night the festivities continued on the ship with an elegant feast in the main dinning hall and a masquerade ball in the Queen’s Room.

The next morning, the Queen Victoria was off on its 10-night maiden voyage to Northern Europe.

Mediterranean itineraries will highlight the Queen Victoria’s 2008 schedule. A variety of cruises will depart from Rome, Barcelona, Venice, Athens and Southampton.

“In Queen Victoria’s inaugural year, we’ve planned a compelling around-the-world schedule that affords travelers an opportunity to experience the next generation of Cunard style, complete with festive welcomes in every port,” said Marlow.

I felt lucky to have had an advance preview.


Queen Victoria

Gross Tonnage: 90,000
Length: 964.5 feet
Width: 106 feet
Draft : 25.9 feet
Height: 179 feet
Guest Capacity: 2,014
Guest Decks: 12
1,007 staterooms
86 percent of staterooms are outside
71 percent of staterooms feature balconies

Fun Facts: Guests staying in the 127 deluxe Queens and Princess Grill suites will be able to enjoy a “members-only” atmosphere with key-card elevator floor access and private restaurants.

The 800-seat Royal Court Theatre features a cruising first: private viewing boxes on the upper level and a dedicated lounge area where guests can enjoy a pre-show cocktail.

Book worms will be pleased to find the ship’s well-stocked two-story library with nearly 6,000 books and two full-time librarians and sporting its own unique spiral staircase.

Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations