In 1998, after Cunard Line was bought by Carnival Corporation, there were many changes to the old brand, that seemed a little lost in the cruise-age before. The fleet was reduced to just two ships, the splendid Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Vistafjord, that was soon re-named Caronia in Cunard tradition. But both ships were already reaching their grey years, with QE2 built in 1969 and Vistafjord in 1972. Carnival was eager to get Cunard back on track, related to their strong history to gain the company a new prestige. But for this, they did not need historic ships. So a new flagship was ordered, entering service in 2003 as Queen Mary 2, the first order for Cunard in 26 years and the first transatlantic liner ordered since, well, Queen Elizabeth 2. Also the largest liner/ cruiseship in history with a measurement of over 140.000-tons. There was a long time between the order and the launch, as it was very 'new' for a shipyard to construct a ship as an ocean liner instead of a standard cruiseship. And of course, the ship had to be outstanding in every way.
Of course, Queen Mary 2 was truly the replacement for Queen Elizabeth 2, but it was Caronia that was the first to leave the fleet, especially after the company also ordered another ship for delivery in 2004. Convienently, Holland America Line (also a Carnival company), had ordered the six-ship Vista-class that were named after the points of the compass. As we all know, there are only four of those so one ship was later cancelled and one could become the new Cunard ship. With a slight alteration to the original design, she was to be named Queen Victoria, the final replacement for the old flagship QE2.
Queen Victoria 2
The first ship of the Vista-class entered service for Holland America Line in 2001 as Zuiderdam, followed by Oosterdam in 2003. At that moment, also the announcement was made that the ship that would be built for Cunard would be finished for P&O as their fourth Arcadia instead and a new ship would be ordered for Cunard Line in its place, but under the same proposed name. As Queen Elizabeth 2 was going to leave the Cunard fleet, Carnival anticipated on the fact that when the need should arise for the new Cunard ship to fill in for the flagship, she had to be designed as a liner instead of a cruiseship. What this basicly means is that the hull had to be stronger to cope with the north Atlantic. Next to that, the hullform should be sleeker and the machinery more powerfull. With Queen Mary 2, designing a liner was something 'new' again, but the lessons learned in her design were now also brought over to the newly ordered ship so she was able to be delivered on shorter notice. So in some way, the final Cunard newbuilding could be named 'Queen Victoria 2' in true Cunard naming style and you even could say that besides the flagship, Cunard Line has another ocean liner sailing because of the adapted new design for the eventual Queen Victoria.
Construction and general statistics
The keel for the ship was finally laid at the 12th of may in 2006 at the Fincantieri Yards in Marghera in Italy. She was built up out of 80 blocks and when this all was put together, the ship floated out on the 15th of january 2007. Tradition in Italy is that the launch ceremony alos comes with many celebrations, like the smashing of a bottle at the bow, this time a bottle of fine prosecco was used, and this was done by Maureen Ryan, a Cunard Line employee who worked aboard all other Cunard Queens. Also, the traditional placing of the coins underneath the ships mast was performed that day, when a euro and a gold Queen Victoria souvereign were welded beneath the radar mast. This is done to wish the ship good luck.
The Queen Victoria measures 90.049 tons (some 5000 tons more then her HAL sisters) and has a lenght of 294 meters, eleven meters longer then the other Vista's. She is 32,3 meters long on the waterline and measuring between the bridgewings (the widest point of the ship) this number is 36,6 meters. Her draft is 8 meters and the total height of the ship is 62,5 meters from the keel to the funneltop. She has 16 decks, of which 12 are accessible to the passengers whose maximum number is 2081. Also, 900 crewmembers are there. The maximum speed is 23,7 knots, but mostly service speed will be lower.
Two ABB Azipods of 16,7 MW each are driving the ship, powered by Sulzer design diesel engines. The ship was homeported in the traditional Cunard base Southampton, so she was going to fly the British flag. Her trials were starting at the 24th of august when she left the port of Venice and these were satisfactory enough so that she could be delivered to Cunard at the 24th of november of 2007.
History of deliveries
To go a little bit back in history is a good way to see that this is the first time that a Cunard Queen is delivered the way it was planned. The Queen Mary's building was announced in 1930 and she was supposed to be delivered in 1934. The building of the ship went smoothly at first and her launchdate was set at may 1932. But because of the economic depression of the early 1930's, work was halted. There was no paint available and the workforce of John Brown was laid off.
At the 3rd of april 1934 work could be restarted after the combination of Cunard and White Star into Cunard-White Star, because some more cash was available. The ship was launched at the 26th of september 1934, two years later then originally planned.
The second Queen, Queen Elizabeth, was another story. Due to the outbreak of the second world war the ship was incomplete and hurried out of dock to avoid enemy bombings. She had no official sea trials, because she went to New York for safety as soon as she got out of the dock. Her trials were carried out after her heroic warduties in 1946, six years after her unexpected launch. Her first peacetime voyage started at october 16th 1946.
Queen Elizabeth 2 would originally be delivered in may 1968, but because of labour troubles the contract was almost cancelled when the ship was nearly complete. The ship was finally launched at the 20th of september 1967 and her new completion date was november 1968. Because of serious engine trouble at her trials, Cunard refused delivery in december 1968. All her four maiden voyages were cancelled. Her maiden voyage started at the 1st of may 1969, when all problems were solved. She was one year delayed.
Finally, Queen Mary 2. She was delived at the right time, but not without problems. At her trials, she lost a door that was placed in front of her bow thrusters. Also, at a special day when wharfworkers and their families visitied the ship, the 15th of november 2003, a gangway collapsed and 15 people died when they fell 20 meters down to the concrete floor of the drydock.
Delivery and naming ceremony
On the 7th of december, the newest Cunard queen arrived at her homeport Southampton and she was called the most luxurious ship in the Cunard-fleet. Queen Victoria was named a few days later at the 10th of december 2007 in her homeport of Southampton. For the first time in 77 years, it seemed to work to launch and name a Cunard Queen without problems. That succeeded, at least when you call a bouncing off the bow and still drinkable bottle of champagne not a problem. It was the first time that a Cunard Queen was not named by a human queen. QV was named by Camilla, HRH The Dutchess of Cornwall, and she failed to break the bottle. This is considered to be a bad omen for the ship and we have seen some 'possitive' outcomes to this omen in recent years. Or it will give Queen Victoria bad luck, we will still have to see, untill now, Queen Victoria seems to be immune for this omen. The second replacement bottle did break immidiately.
Design and style
As noticed before, her hulldesign is adapted so she can fill in for Queen Mary 2 to take over her transatlantic scedule when the need for that should arise. Next to the stranghtened hull, it is also longer and sleeker then the hulls of the other Vista's for good waterflow, thus making her able to keep up a good speed. The ships aft superstructure was also stepped back, just like aboard her earlier sisters so there was a lot of room for aft balconies. Like Queen Mary 2, the ship recieved an enlarged promenadedeck, something always so popular aboard the liners. As the ship was re-designed, she recieved more popular venues and spaces that prooved themselves aboard Queen Mary 2, like several alternative diningvenues, junior suites and of course the general decor, which was a modern version of art-deco. The staircase in the Grans Lobby is also a replica of the one aboard her larger sister, adorned by a mural artwork created by John McKenna that was inspired by the original map of the Atlantic in the first Queen Mary's diningroom.
She is no ship divided into several classes, but like Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2, dining aboard is mainly in the three main restaurants, where passengers are eating according to their cabins. There is the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and the Britannia Restaurant. The rest of the public rooms is accessible for every passenger. Alternative diningoptions are of course the more informal Lido and there is also the Verandah A La Carte Restaurant. Of course many bars and nightclubs are also present, including a smokers bar appropriately named the Churchill Lounge. When sailing transatlantics, smokers have to have a place to fill their inner needs, something also needed aboard a ship designed as a liner as she can sometimes spent many seadays in a row.
In the Royal Court Theatre, there are private boxes just like in the large West-End theatres in London. It was the first time this was available at sea. Furthermore, the ship of course has all the standard ways available to lounge yourself through your holiday in a style close to classic travel. With that, we do not have to forget that we live in a modern era and the ship of course is also modern in her own right. If you look at the time of the grand liners, we tend to think that it was always better then now. But we do not have to forget that also this era was more then 100 years of time and the pioneering ships like Servia of the 1880's were by no means comparable to let's say Mauretania of 1909, which in its way was not comparable to Queen Mary of 1936 or Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969. A true liner-enthousiast should embrace the fact that design is a continuous journey and we do not have to expect the ships of today would just be museum-art in 1950's style. Ships have never been about museums or nostalgia, but about progress and modernity. And Queen Victoria is a great example of a modern ship with hints to the past.
The maiden voyage of the Queen Victoria was a ten-day cruise in northern Europe, starting at december 11th, 2007 from Southampton. After this, a cruise to the Canary Islands followed, after which she undertook her first 107-day worldcruise. The first ship that ever made such a voyage, incidentally named Victoria, took 1143 days, between 1519 to 1522. A cruise like that would probably be hard to sell... When she left Southampton, Queen Victoria sailed in tandem to New York with her older fleetmate Queen Elizabeth 2 and in New York, they met Queen Mary 2 close to the Statue of Liberty at the 13th of january of 2008. It was the first time in history that three Cunard Queens met and it was widely covered in media around the world and a smart marketing move for the company.
On the 19th of february 2010, the ship was at Sydney and here she was the host to the National Breast Cancer Foundation's launch of the 2010 fundraising campaign. For the occation, the ship was covered in pink lights throughout the night and it made a spectacular sight at Circular Quay.
A Cunard tradition was broken at december 15th, 2010, when Inger Klein Olsen (it has to be a 'Klein', obviously!) was appointed Captain of Queen Victoria as the first female captain in Cunard history. At that time president of Cunard Line Peter Shanks said about the newly appointed Captain: 'But as Mark Twain drily observed, 'the folks at Cunard wouldn't appoint Noah himself as Captain untill he had worked his way up through the ranks.' Inger has certainly done that.' The 43-year old had started her carreer with Cunard on Vistafjord in 1997 as First Officer, before transferring to Seabourn Cruise Line in 2001, becoming Staff Captain on Seabourn Pride in 2003.
In 2011, the Cunard fleet welcomed their thirth queen, a new Queen Elizabeth. This ship is a close sister to Queen Victoria and she is of course the second ship sailing under this name. Like Queen Victoria, the new ship is also named an ocean liner, but the two ships are basicly different, as Queen Elizabeth was designed purely as a cruiseship, without the distinctive changes that were the reason of the reshaped order for Queen Victoria. In the same year, the Queen Victoria was re-flagged to the Bahamas and her new homeport became Hamilton. This was done to make it possible for the Captain to host weddings aboard, something that is not possible under British flag. The Bahamas of course are still a British crown colony, so technicly the ship is still registered in Great Britain. But this move from Carnival HQ wasn't taken that well with tradition-minded Cunardophiles who see the loss of Southampton as the homeport as a big loss for the Americanized company.
At the 3rd of may 2015, Queen Victoria departed Southampton for a special anniversary cruise remembering the sinking of the Lusitania in may 1915. At the 7th of may of that year, one of the two large sisters, her sister being Mauretania, was torpedoed just south of the Irish coast near the Old Head of Kinsale. For the 2015 cruise, Queen Victoria called at St. Peter Port at Guernsey, Le Havre in France, Cobh (of course at the 7th of may) and Dublin in Ireland. During the ships stay at Cobh, the former Queenstown, special ceremonies are organized at the cathedral. During the cruise, speakers Chris Frame and Martin Bell took passengers into history and explained about one of the largest maritime tragedies from the 20th century.