A gilded ballroom and serious shuffleboard tournaments. A two-story library with 6,000 books. Well dressed gentlemen hosts for single women at the daily afternoon and evening dances. A classical orchestra. Knitting and watercolor classes. Passengers gladly gussied up, in gowns and tuxedos for dinner and their own private boxes at the theater.
Sometimes, as I wandered around the posh new Queen Victoria on her inaugural voyage around the world, I felt as if I were cruising on a floating dinosaur.
Most ships today are built for a new style of cruising, which, like so many personal relationships, is casual and quick. Picture rock-climbing walls and the beat of rock music.
The new Queen Victoria is old world, a 2,000-passenger ship designed for people who crave yesterday's style, cruising as it used to be -- fancy, refined, formal and slow.
Passengers on the Queen's inaugural voyage seemed to love this retro style, at least all of the men and women I talked to during a January seven-night segment of the world cruise, between Aruba and Acapulco.
Me, too. My wife, Judi Dash, and I loved the romance of it all, taking fencing lessons for couples, renewing our wedding vows, listening to a harpist in the lobby, dancing after dinner.
Victoria is the latest of Cunard Line's English ocean queens, following in the wake of two Elizabeths and two Marys. She is a richly appointed, well endowed vessel -- classy, with dark wood trim and cozy with an abundance of nooks for reading, talking, taking tea. The ballroom is grand, the theater the first at sea to have private boxes that can be rented for an evening, with champagne.
Alas, the Queen also displays an irritating dual personality. She is an upstairs-downstairs vessel with two environments for dining, depending on your cabin class. This class differentiation, occasionally thrown in your face by ship employees, is bound to irritate some passengers, mostly Americans I suspect. We downstairs folks from the colonies tend to bristle at being treated as lesser, even if we didn't pay as much for the cruise as the gentry upstairs who are lapping up the champagne and caviar.
For the rest of the QUEEN VICTORIA STORY.
Sunday evening, both ships sailed past Fort Denison, greeting each other with a Whistle Salute. Queen Victoria returns to England April 22. Photo, above, from Cunard Line.
For a free subscription to Travel Maven, type your email address in the box at upper right or add an RSS feed.
Molyneaux is editor of TravelMavens.net. CLICK for articles on cruising, Florida, Europe and adventure.