Onboard Queen Victoria
By Paul Clifton
Queen Victoria sailed away on her Maiden Voyage from Southampton to a background of fireworks on Tuesday 11 December. But what's she really like onboard? Our Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton joined the gala celebrations.
Camilla pressed the button to release the champagne bottle. Nothing happened. So she pressed it again. And then again.
The champagne bottle failed to smash
Finally the machinery clunked into life, and dropped the bubbly onto the side of the ship. It stopped with a dull thud, the glass unbroken.
The champagne failing to smash is traditionally seen as a sign of bad luck, and every one of the 2,000 guests watching knew it. There was a collective sharp intake of breath, and even the Duchess of Cornwall struggled to conceal her alarm.
And whether Cunard like it or not, that's going to be the enduring image of what was a spectacular and otherwise flawless naming ceremony: one of the best Southampton has seen.
That shot of the bottle still in its holder will remain long after the huge dockside auditorium has been dismantled and driven away. It will be taken out of the archive every time the ship hits a problem for years and years to come.
Afterwards I went onboard to the gala dinner, and everyone I asked said the same thing: this is a great ship. A cut above her big sister, Queen Mary 2. More stylish.
Queen Victoria during the gala celebrations
And passengers on the 40 year old QE2 are likely to transfer their allegiance to Queen Victoria. It has the same warmth, intimacy and comfy chairs in quiet corners with elegant upholstery. And superb service.
This is a British ship. Well of course it's Italian really, built near Venice - Britain hasn't built a ship of this standard since 1972.
But it's styled for a mixture of UK passengers and Americans who want the all-British experience: a lovely library, kippers and porridge for breakfast.
It's got the name of Southampton stamped on her stern, just like QE2 and QM2. So it's a surprise to see ashtrays around, and smell cigarette smoke. It seems the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces does not apply at sea.
The ship's elegant decor
To be honest, I was impressed. I've been on literally dozens of cruise ships in the last 15 years, and I've been to all the naming ceremonies. And frankly after a while most of them look the same to me.
Hotels with propellers, salmon-or-beef for dinner and the same dancers in different costumes.
But this one is better. More classy. Outside she's like a block of flats compared with the elegant lines of QE2. But inside she is certainly a worthy successor, and can reasonably claim to be Southampton's finest.
Take a look for yourself on 6 January when QE2 departs on her last ever world cruise, with Queen Victoria alongside starting her first circumnavigation. That will be worth seeing.
last updated: 05/11/2008 at 12:38
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