The Queen Victoria’s makes four port calls to Los Angeles during her debut Americas season. // (c) 2011 Cunard
Having recently endured a series of itinerary-intensive trips, I was looking forward to some much needed downtime. My upcoming Cunard Line cruise to Ensenada — part of Queen Victoria’s Americas Season — seemed to be the perfect opportunity to catch my breath.
While not a veteran cruiser, I’ve certainly been on enough cruise ships to have a general sense of what I could expect on board. My plan was to ditch all schedules, and my to do list largely included sleeping in, enjoying breakfast in bed and catching up on my reading (from my stateroom balcony).
The four-night sailing, which included two full days at sea and a day in the Port of Ensenada, seemed just long enough to get a taste of the ship, while still enjoying some much-needed “me” time. Looking back, I could have probably used at least another day onboard.
To my surprise, activities onboard the Queen Victoria were so plentiful that, by the end of the first day, I had to write a schedule for myself, just to make sure that I could do all the additional activities that I wanted.
Despite my plans for breakfast in bed, I opted to enjoy breakfast the first morning in the Britannia Restaurant. Here, I was coincidentally seated with a travel agent who I had met on another trip, several years prior, so we spent the time getting caught up on each other’s travels.
After breakfast, since I was already in the vicinity, I headed upstairs to the watercolor class being held in the Britannia Restaurant. Although my own attempts at interpreting a Mexican landscape were less than impressive, I enjoyed the fellowship with other like-minded travelers. In particular a traveler from France shared her sketchbook from the various cruises she had taken around the world, and we got caught up in a conversation about favorite sailings and her artistic renderings of those sailings.
As soon as the class came to an end, I found myself racing to the ship’s English Pub to sample some of the much-praised fish and chips. I had been warned that the line for lunch could be daunting, which accounted for my rush; however, I was already too late. Upon seeing just how many people were waiting for the famed meal, I instead went to Cafe Carinthia to enjoy coffee and sandwiches instead, with a mental note to try the fish and chips another day.
Although I’d carried my book with me, my coffee hadn’t even arrived by the time I was deep in conversation with another passenger, again sharing stories of sailings past and how she’s once traveled on the original Queen Mary. What I’d intended to be a short snack ended up being a lovely two-hour conversation.
After lunch, I finally accepted the fact that my onboard life would be governed by schedules after all — food schedules, that is — and headed to the Queen’s Ballroom to take in high tea, another one of the ship’s much-celebrated institutions. Again, however, I found the line too daunting for my first day. Instead, I returned to the cafe for another coffee and to map my afternoon’s activities, with high tea becoming another addition to my growing to-do list.
Shortly after ordering coffee, I was again caught up in a conversation with fellow passengers, this time with mother and daughter duos who travel together annually. Although I am admittedly a generally gregarious person, having four long conversations in one morning is unusual for me, which I mentioned to the mom and daughter.
“Oh yes,” enthused the mom. “That’s what we love about the Cunard ships — they have so many interesting passengers.”
She was right. It occurred to me that there wasn’t a dominant demographic onboard the ship. Although there were certainly plenty of passengers in their golden years, there were also a handful of families traveling with young children, some college students and someone in every age group in between, with a healthy mix of domestic and international passengers.
As my two new friends wandered off in search of the bingo tournament, I added bingo to the list of things I wanted to do on a future date and finally pulled out my daily schedule, while caving in to the inevitable — I was going to have to make a yet another schedule to keep track of everything I wanted to on my next Cunard cruise.