Athens to Rome Aboard the Queen Victoria

by Our Editors

Our Queen Victoria itinerary would take us to many places we had never traveled to before including Athens, Greece; Bodrum, Turkey; Santorini and Katakolon Greece; and Salerno and Rome, Italy.

by Robert Adams

The next day, we caught up with our e-mails in Connexions where they have computers with Wi-Fi. This room is also used for a variety of events and computer classes, but we found it was nearly empty most of the time we were there. The cost for using the Wi-Fi onboard can be quite expensive, especially if you have a couple of hours of e-mails you need to send and receive, and the speed can be excruciatingly slow. My advice to anyone who is planning on using Wi-Fi is to bring your own mobile hotspot with international access, or leave your work at home and make this a true holiday!

As soon as we finished our work, we headed for the Royal Spa & Fit- ness Centre to work off some of the extra pounds we had gained onboard ship. The gym provides a great assortment of free weights and cardio equipment, including numerous treadmills that look out across the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows.

If you’re more inclined to get in shape with the help of some pampering hands, the spa offers a wonderful variety of massages and body treatments from which to choose, as well as steam, sauna, hydro-pool, and thermal suite. My only disappointment here was that the spa did not employ any male massage therapists.

Feeling invigorated after our workout, it was time to head for the Commodore Club for sundowners as the Queen Victoria sailed through the narrow Strait of Messina from the Ionian to the Tyrrhenian Sea. With Sicily on one side and the Italian mainland on the other, we were in awe of the landscape that surrounded us. The clear blue waters, sandy beaches, and hillsides line with red-roofed houses, and golden domed churches, beckoned us to come back and explore this fascinating part of he world.

When it comes to onboard dining, there are many options from which to choose. For us it was always the breakfast buffet from the Lido, enjoyed poolside after our morning swim. Lunch was also from the Lido and usually included a large create your own salad. There were a couple of days, however, that our inner child took over and we decided pink lemonade and soft-serve chocolate/vanilla ice cream made the perfect lunch. The kids on board loved the fact that they could choose from a variety of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and freshly made pizza. It was great fun watching them standing on their tiptoes trying to point out to the chefs what they wanted.

Whether it was a casual meal in the Lido, English fish and chips in the Golden Lion Pub, or 24-hour room service, we never lacked for a quick snack, light meal, or decadent indulgence. Our greatest dining pleasure, however, was dinner each night in the Princess Grill restaurant.

Our waiters were Rowena and Norman, and they made us feel like we were dining with friends. The service is white-glove formal, but they went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our time together as much as we enjoyed the food. Being the only gay couple in the dining room (capacity 132) each evening, we felt totally accepted and quite comfortable sharing jokes and stories with Rowena between courses. During our second night at dinner, the couple who dined at the table next to ours, leaned over at one point and said: “We’re so lucky to have Rowena. She is just the best.” We couldn’t have agreed more.

Arriving most evenings around sunset, we began our meal with a vodka martini or a glass of wine recommended by the handsome and knowledge- able sommelier. For appetizers, the cold soups were a wonderful treat. Two of our favorites were the chilled pineapple soup with toasted coconut, and the chilled cucumber and mint soup with herb sour cream.

For the second course, it was all about the salads, and each night they featured a different selection. Whether a simple mixed green salad with goat cheese toast, or a Tuscan chicken confit salad, their offerings were the perfect segue to the main course.

When it comes to food, as a couple, and as individuals, we like simply prepared cuisine with a minimum of embellishments. We like the fresh, unique flavor of each dish to shine through without the interference of an overzealous chef. In the Princess Grill, the chef and his staff were heaven sent. Entrées always included beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian option, with added nightly specials from international locations. Some of the dish- es that made it to the top of our must have list included: pan fried fillet of beer batter prawns served with green pea purée and Beurre blanc; spinach, feta, and mushroom strudel with Thai red curry sauce and Basmati rice; and beef and red wine tortellini with sundried tomatoes, rocket, and creamy mushroom sauce.

Thankfully, the entrées were just the right size. This meant that after a brief respite we were ready for one of the over-the-top desserts that were so popular with our fellow diners. The dessert menu offered some delec- table choices, including lemon poppy seed cake with vanilla sauce, and a fresh fruit tart with raspberry coulis, but the sweet stars of the Princess Grill were the baked Alaska and the cherries jubilee.

Every night, many guests would order one of these flaming delights, prepared tableside and served to smiling faces licking their lips in anticipation. Never have I seen so many people order these desserts, or enjoy them with such childlike gusto.

Queen Victoria, Bathroom

Queen Victoria, Bathroom

Our final port of call, and a maiden visit for the Queen Victoria, was Salerno, Italy. Excursions offered that day included visits to the Almalfi Coast, Sorrento, Pompei, Vesuvius, and Herculaneum.

This area is rich in history and is famous for being the home of Europe’s first Medical School. According to Legend has it that “the school was founded by an Italian, an Arab, a Jew, and a Greek who brought with him the writings of Hippocrates. The story reflects the cosmopolitan nature of the region, where Greek and Middle Eastern influences were strong. The school actually started in the 9th century as a place for monks to dispense medicines. In the 11th century, however, scholars at the school began translating Greek and, later, Arabic medical texts into Latin.”

For passengers who want to explore Salerno on foot, there are a variety of attractions nearby the port. These include the medieval Castle di Arechi that is home to a multimedia and archaeological museum, park nature trails with breathtaking sea views, and Salerno Cathedral. Begun 1076, the cathedral is the main church in the city of Salerno and a major tourist attraction. It is dedicated to Saint Matthew, whose tomb is inside the crypt.

To help get your land legs back in preparation for disembarkation the next day in Rome, you may want to explore the Lungomare Trieste, which runs five miles along the Mediterranean Sea. This green park is pedestrian only with palm trees and pathways for walking while enjoying the sea air. There are also some restaurants, and cafés nearby if you want to stop for a coffee or other refreshments.

Back on ship just in time for the call to “all aboard,” we changed quickly and headed to the Commodore Club. Enroute to Rome that night, we passed the famous Isle of Capri. As we approached one of the most romantic island in the world, the pianist started playing one of our favorite songs (made famous by Frank Sinatra):

It was on the Isle of Capri that I found her
Beneath the shade of an old walnut tree
Oh, I can still see the flowers bloomin’ ’round her
Where we met on the Isle of Capri
She was as sweet as a rose at the dawning
But some how fate hadn’t meant her for me
And though I sailed with the tide in the morning
Still, my heart’s on the Isle of Capri

Whether you’re an incurable romantic or pragmatist, a novice traveler or seasoned globetrotter, there is something about a cruise with the Cunard Line that you will always remember, always savor, and always hope to experience again.

Royal Court Theatre

Royal Court Theatre

From the moment we arrived in Athens to the moment we stepped ashore in Rome, we felt that we were experiencing something unique and special. From our fellow passengers, to the captain and the crew, everyone seemed to have a collective appreciation for the magnificent Queen Victoria, the fascinating ports of call, and the shared experience of traveling together in this part of the world steeped in history, culture, romance, and adventure.

Maybe it was the fact that this was our first Cunard cruise. Maybe it had something to do with celebrating the 175th anniversary of their very first ship, the Britannia, setting sail with passengers from England to America. Whatever the reason, we knew in our hearts and minds that this was just the beginning of a life long appreciation of Cunard’s ocean liners and what they offer people who want to experience a new golden age of travel.

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