The Concept of Queen Victoria
In 2002, Cunard announced their intention to build a new Cunarder. This ship was later designated Queen Victoria. At 85,000 tons, the ship was to enter service in 2005 during Cunard’s 165th anniversary celebrations. Cunard planned to base the ship in the UK allowing it to service the British cruise market; operating cruises out of Southampton to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe the Canary Islands as well as extended voyages to the Caribbean.
In late 2004, Carnival-owned P&O and Cunard jointly announced that the ship would be completed as Arcadia for the P&O Cruises brand. Cunard had opted to return to the drawing board with Queen Victoria, allowing for Arcadia to replace P&O’s older ship, Adonia which had returned to Princess Cruises as Sea Princess.
The New Queen Victoria
Cunard later announced the building of a new Queen Victoria. At the time of the announcement, Cunard said the new ship would, “adhere to the grand ocean liner design inspired by current vessels QE2 and QM2”.
The company intended for the three Cunarders to sail together in late 2007, the first time Cunard had operated three Queens at the same time.
Queen Victoria was built in the same Fincantieri shipyard as Arcadia, and her keel was successfully laid down on 19 May 2006, with Cunard Commodore Ronald W. Warwick in attendance.
Queen Victoria is a modified Vista Class design. The Vista Class is a design originally created for Holland America Line (also owned by Carnival Corporation), but has since been successfully used by P&O, Costa and Cunard.
Cunard made a number of alterations to Queen Victoria’s design, allowing the ship to undertake direct transatlantic crossings. Additionally, the changes were intended to ensure fleet commonality with Cunard’s flagship QM2 as well as QE2.
The changes to the Vista-Class design included reinforced hull plating on the bow to allow for direct transatlantic crossings, additional length added to the hull and superstructure to accommodate the Grills Restaurants and Queens Room, removal of glass lifts (elevators) from the exterior design of the vessel for strengthening purposes, and inclusion of a Cunard funnel design based on QE2’s, with scoop and cowling.
Entry into Service
On 4 October 2006 Captain Paul Wright (who has commanded both QE2 and QM2 during his 26 year career with Cunard) was appointed Queen Victoria’s first master.
On 15 January 2007, Queen Victoria was floated out, after a special ceremony was held. Cunard’s then-Managing Director Carol Marlow was joined by Maureen Ryan – the only known person to have served on all Cunard Queens – Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, QE2 and QM2. In recognition of her service to Cunard, Maureen was given the honour of being ‘Madrina’ to Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria commenced sea trials in August 2007. After the successful completion of the trials, Cunard officially took delivery of the vessel on the 24 November 2007. QV sailed from Venice on 30 November to her home port in the United Kingdom, arriving in Southampton for the first time on 7 December 2007.
Queen Victoria was named by HRH. The Duchess of Cornwall on 10 December 2007 at a special ceremony in Southampton. However the formalities were marred a bit by the failure of the champagne bottle to break when it hit against QV’s bow.
The ship departed on her Maiden Voyage the next evening, following fantastic fireworks display witnessed many well wishers. QV commenced her Maiden World Cruise on 6 January 2008, which began with a tandem transatlantic crossing with the QE2. This was the first and only time these two ships crossed the North Atlantic together. During the voyage QV’s design was put to the test against rough Atlantic seas.
Queen Victoria rendezvoused with QM2 and QE2 in Southampton on 22 April 2008, and the three ships spent the day in close quarters before Queen Victoria and QM2 departed the city, while QE2 remained alongside. The occasion marked the final time these three Queens would be together, due to QE2’s retirement in November 2008.
In May 2008, Queen Victoria suffered damage when she hit the pier in Malta. Although the damage was minor, the ship required repairs which resulted in the port of La Goulette being missed. The cause of the collision was deemed to be a thruster failure.
Cruising the World
Queen Victoria set out on her second World Cruise in January 2009. During this voyage she was commanded by QE2’s final master, Captain Ian McNaught. Throughout 2009 the ship completed a number of European Cruises.
In early 2010 Queen Victoria was illuminated in Pink Light while alongside in Sydney, Australia, to raise awareness of Breast Cancer Research undertaken by the McGrath Foundation. During this world voyage, the ship was joined by Captain Chris Wells, who was aboard to familiarise himself with the Vista-Class vessel before taking command of the new Queen Elizabeth in late 2010.
In early 2011, Queen Victoria completed her second transatlantic crossing, this time in tandem with the Queen Elizabeth. Upon completion of this voyage, the ship participated in a ‘meeting of the Queens’ in New York Harbour. All three ships rendezvoused in front of the statue of Liberty at 6:45 pm for a fireworks display. The Empire State Building was lit up in Cunard Red to mark the occasion.
In October 2011, Queen Victoria’s port of registration was changed from Southampton (UK) to Hamilton (Bermuda). The change saw the name Southampton removed from her stern, and replaced with Hamilton; while lifebuoys and lifeboats were also repainted to reflect the change. At the same time, her call sign changed from GBQV to ZCEF3.
Commodore Christopher Rynd assumed command of QV in 2013. In 2015 the ship played host to the historic ‘Lusitania Remembered’ voyage in honour of the 100th anniversary of the loss of Cunard’s Lusitania, which was torpedoed during World War I.
Queen Victoria has since enjoyed year round cruising, including voyages to Norway, the Mediterranean and an annual long duration or World Cruise. The ship has made headlines in recent years for being the largest passenger ship to sail on the Amazon River.
Refit for a Queen
In 2017 the Queen Victoria was given an extensive multi-million dollar refurbishment. The changes made to the ship were extensive, and included a reorganisation of the ship’s interior spaces including:
- A new Britannia Club restaurant that occupies a space that used to house the Chart Room,
- A revitalized Chart Room bar in the space once occupied by the Cafe Carinthia – this bar is based on a successful design used on QE2 and QM2, however the Queen Victoria’s room takes inspiration from star charts,
- A renovated nightclub called the Yacht Club replacing the Hemispheres Bar,
- New grand suites at the aft end of the ship,
- A revitalised aft pool deck including new awnings, new daybeds, deck chairs, cabanas and entertainment, and
- Upgraded Winter Garden which includes the installation of a popular coffee bar.
In the years since QV’s major refit, the ship undertook a series of cruises throughout Europe. She also established Cunard’s reputation in Amazon waters. The first Cunard Amazon cruise took place aboard Queen Victoria in January 2017. During the voyage, Queen Victoria became the largest passenger ship to transit the Amazon waterways.
Fast forward to 2020, and Queen Victoria started the year back in South America. The ship was undertaking a special long-duration voyage that saw her circumnavigate the South American continent.
During the voyage, news of the COVID-19 outbreak started to spread around the world. Initially the ship’s itinerary was unaffected, but by March, as the ship’s voyage was nearing its end, Cunard suspended all future sailings.
Queen Victoria called in Florida, USA, as part of her cruise itinerary. She then sailed directly for Southampton ending her 2020 cruise season. Unlike Queen Mary 2, which returned to the UK with very few guests aboard, Queen Victoria returned with her usual complement of passengers. She was laid up throughout the cruise pause.
Back to Work
Initially it was planned for Queen Victoria to resume sailings in 2020, however successive extensions to the cruise pause – due to the ongoing Pandemic – meant that Queen Victoria did not take any passengers aboard during 2021.
The ship remained fully powered up, in a state of warm layup, off the coast of the United Kingdom for most of the cruise pause and returned to passenger service in 2022.