When Carnival Corporation ordered the six-ship Vista class for Holland America Line almost immidiately there was a problem. These ships would be called after the points of the compass and because there are just four of these, it was a wild guess for the last two names. This problem was eventually solved when one of the ships was cancelled and one of them transferred to Cunard Line to become the Queen Victoria.
The first ship of the 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. The new Cunard ship should also be capable to sail traditional transatlantic line-voyages and for this, the hull of the original intended Queen Victoria was not strong enough. This is why a new ship was ordered up to different specifications, that would give her the opportunity to fill in for her larger sister Queen Mary 2 on the direct Southampton-New York line when the nessecity for this would arise. So, the Queen Victoria that would set sail some years later could also be named Queen Victoria 2 (just joking). Next to the strenghtened hull, the new Queen Victoria also was 11 meters longer, 5000 tons bigger and her passengercapacity was increased from the previous ship. In her interiours, the new ship was also brought more in line with the flagship Queen Mary 2.
On the 15th of januari 2007 the newly designed ship sailed out of the dock where she was built. Tradition in Italy is that at this moment, a bottle of champagne is smashed to the bow to celebrate the floatout ceremony. It is not the official namingceremony, though. It is just to signal that the ship is ready for her trials. This time, a bottle of Italian sparkling wine was used and the bottle of fine prosecco was broken at the bow by Maureen Ryan, a Cunard employee who worked aboard all other Cunard Queens. Also, the traditional placing of the coins was done this day, when a euro and a gold Queen Victoria sovereign were welded beneath the radar mast. This is done to wish the ship good luck. The ships' 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.
Queen Victoria measures some 90.000 tons, has a lenght of 294 meters and she is 32,3 meters wide. The ship has a draft of 8 meters and has a total of 16 decks, of which 12 are accessible for her passengers. Her capacity is 2014 passengers and 900 crewmembers. The ships maximum speed is 23,7 knots and she is driven by two ABB Azipods of 16,7 MW each. Those are powered by diesel engines from Sultzer. Her homeport was to be the traditional port of Southampton, so the ship flew the British flag.
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 merger of Cunard and 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.
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,
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 don't normally sail line-voyages like older sister Queen Mary 2 so in my view, there is still only one Cunard liner in operation, next to these cruisequeens. 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 will depart 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 will call at St. Peter Port at Guernset, 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 will take passengers into history and explain about one of the largest maritime tragedies from the 20th century.