What to wear on board…
Before embarking on this cruise I had no idea what to expect and worried so much about what to wear that it threatened to dampen my excitement about the entire trip. The idea of dressing for dinner, in particular, stressed me out no end. Illogical yes, but there you have it.
To say I don’t have an expansive wardrobe would be an understatement. I work from home so only leave the house once or twice a week – and even then it’s nowhere that requires me to do more than make sure that what I’m wearing doesn’t have any holes in it. I live in cheap beach-style dresses during summer and trackie-daks or leggings in winter. I have one or two nicer things for each season just in case and that’s it.
As for shoes – unless I leave the house I rarely wear them, and then it’s trainers – and Birkenstocks in the summer and flat boots in the winter. While I spent my twenties and thirties running around the city in heels, my ankles are way too dodgy these days and my feet have widened in the last few years.
An invitation to an event requiring me to “dress to impress” will have me in a ball of constant anxiety until the event is blessedly over. I enjoy wearing make-up but dressing up makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. How then would I deal with life on board a Cunard ship where we’d be required to not only dress for dinner every night, but dress formally for three gala nights? Grant was looking forward to it – I was completely the opposite.
As is usual with me though, my worries were quite unfounded.
During the day, casual dress is the norm and what we’d taken for travelling around England was fine on the ship. It is, however, a different story at night – although even then, essentially you wear what you’d wear to a nice restaurant or the theatre ie no jeans, no shorts, no rips, no flip-flops/jandals/thongs.
For the main restaurant, the evening dress code for men specifies a dress shirt and trousers – jackets and ties are optional. Gala nights require a formal suit – which means a jacket and a tie. (At the time of our cruise, dinner suits were specified although this has now been relaxed to a formal suit.)
Plenty of men on our cruise did the dinner suit thing – and you can hire them on board at a cost, but we found it more economical to buy him a dinner suit off the peg at Marks & Spencer. Fully outfitted for gala nights for £130. It was the first time since we got married that he’d been properly suited and booted.
For women, a nice skirt and top or a cocktail dress are fine, with something a little fancier on the gala nights. Some women dressed up every night and looked completely gorgeous.
The gala nights are themed and on our cruise, we had a black and white night, a masquerade night, and a roaring twenties night. While you can go all out – and some people did – most people had at least a nod to the themes.
Because the cruise was only part of our five-week holiday we needed to pack smartly – and relatively lightly. For evenings I took a couple of light dresses, a pair of black jersey pants, and a black jersey skirt, and mixed those up with a few floaty tops. None of it took up much room in my bag, and nothing required ironing. Bonus. If it needs ironing it doesn’t belong in my wardrobe.
I had my flat boots for most evenings and a pair of low-heeled sandals for the gala evenings that were dressy enough and didn’t cripple me.
Dining on a cruise ship is one of the main attractions, and Cunard takes it very seriously.
The main restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and while you don’t have set times or tables for breakfast and lunch, upon boarding you’re allocated a time and a table for your evening meal for the length of the cruise. We opted for the early seating (6.30pm) and for a table for the four of us. We had the same servers and sommelier each night and got to know them well.
A menu is posted outside the restaurant prior to each meal and from this, you can order as much or as little as you like.
If you’re not into the whole dressing for dinner palaver – or you need a break from it – you can choose to eat other than in the main restaurant.
The onboard buffet is like no other buffet I’ve been at. It’s orderly, food is cooked in small portions so is mostly fresh, the hot choices change each day, and there’s plenty of seating. Rather than adhering to set meal times, you could graze all day if you wanted to.
The Golden Lion does a pub-style lunch or if you just feel like a plate of sandwiches for lunch you can grab these at the Chart Room – both of which we also tried.
There are a couple of additional extra-cost restaurants on board, but we didn’t bother, although our friends did do a food and wine-matching night there and enjoyed it.
The pics below were some of the dishes that found their way onto our table over the course of our cruise.
To avoid eating too much we got in the habit of starting with a salad or soup (the consommes were so good) and alternated between appetisers and desserts. While some of the desserts looked nice, I rarely ordered one. #donthaveasweettooth
We’d also try and keep it light-ish at lunch and often chose fruit and yoghurt or avocado on toast for brekky.
Where do I start?
We opted for the daily drinks package which meant we could have any drink up to a value of $12 USD per glass. This included soft drinks, the sparkling mineral water I drink all day and the espresso coffee Grant prefers. Most wines by the glass, plenty of spirits, and plenty of cocktail choices fell within this range.
Most importantly it meant we didn’t need to worry about bill shock at the end of the cruise or paying a service charge on every single drink. We worked out the break-even point and some days we sailed way past that and on other days we didn’t. Overall it balanced out and, when service charges were factored in, we came out ahead.
While Grant would have a beer while playing bingo, most days we tried not to drink alcohol until late in the afternoon. Then we’d have sundowners in The Chart Room or The Commodore Club (above) and finish up most nights at the gin bar (below).
Because of where we were sailing – the Norwegian Fjords – we had plenty of days at sea. At first I worried that I’d be bored, but by the end of the first day we’d settled into a pattern of busyness on sea days – so much so that I complained I hadn’t had enough time to sit down and read. Although, to be honest, once we were well into the North Atlantic it was way too cold to be sitting out on deck without shoes.
Each evening a full program of the following day’s events would be left in our room, complete with a “newspaper” curated for the news from our home country – ours was full of the news of the day from Australia. The daily program was also available on the cruise app.
After breakfast Heather and I would head down for line dancing classes. Run by a couple of the dancers from the entertainment troupe they were so much fun – although grapevines on a tilting ship in a rough-ish sea are interesting – and quite exhausting.
While we were finishing line dancing Grant would save a seat in the pub for 11am bingo. He and Heather would play (I don’t have the focus) while I updated my journal. They began by sharing a card but by the end of the cruise were multitasking with multiple cards and arguing about who their favourite caller was.
After lunch Heather and I would do watercolour painting classes while our husbands either read, played board or card games, or got the washing done. (Heather and I were way too busy for that…)
Then we’d end up somewhere for sundowners or the pub quiz before rushing back to do a quick ten-minute change and make-up for dinner.
I had full intentions of beginning Philly No. 2 on board and managed one scene on an afternoon we’d gotten back from shore activities early. John uploaded his photos while Heather finished reading Philly No. 1. Other than that we were simply too busy.
Cunard had experts on board who gave talks on the northern lights, photography, art history, or wartime in Norway – there was something different every day. I planned to go to a few, but, well, other things got in the way. There was also a fully equipped gym, movies showing in the theatre and Zumba, ballroom, and yoga classes – although we didn’t have time for them.
We spent one afternoon tasting South African wines…
Another afternoon Heather and I spent a very raucous few hours in a gin-tasting session that our husbands had to rescue us from in order to get changed to make our dinner booking in time.
After dinner it was time for the show in the main theatre. We didn’t go every night, but when we did we timed it perfectly and managed to jag one of the private boxes.
On one evening we paid for the premium box package and had champagne and petit fours in our private box. Very posh.
If we didn’t go to the show we’d head to the pub for the band or for the music trivia quizzes where we’d all sing very loudly and very badly.
As for shore days? I’ll tell you about that next time…
So much to love here Jo! I think your photos with the mask are stunning, you look so HAPPY!!!!
I’m with you on the dressing up – when I was younger I used to love getting ready for a night out – now I really can’t be bothered! The food on a cruise would be the undoing of me – so many choices and it all looks stunning. I really do get FOMO over food so would spend most of my time either eating or trying desperately to burn it off ready for the next sitting!
You really do have to make an effort to move, that’s for sure.
I love, love, love this post – especially those Masquerade Night Photos. Your brilliant personality shines through!
Gosh what a great description of cruise life! Sounds like it was great fun.
It sure was.
OH that all sounds so wonderful! I haven’t been back on a cruise ship since my honeymoon but I did enjoy all the activities and food and drinks so much. And I too stressed out so much over our formal nights and found that just about anything dressy worked just fine.
I stressed so much and now wonder why I wasted so much energy stressing…
I am so with you on the clothes! I wear more shoes than you for obvious reasons but have about the same amount of dressy clothes! It would totally stress me out and I would constantly feel underdressed and like the country bumpkin cousin. Good on you for letting it go and finding a way thru it. The food looks and sounds amazing. I’d have to find a lot of physical activity so I could keep eating and not feel like a blimp and that wouldn’t be bingo. Cool that they have classes etc. I have no idea as my claustrophobia makes me think I don’t ever want to do a formal cruise. Bernie
I don’t really like other people that much Bernie, and crowds not at all so it’s something that definitely worried me, but I was ok. Hubby thrives on having people around. As for the activity, somehow between line dancing, using the stairs instead of the lifts and walking on deck I got my 10,000 steps a day. Even so, I came back from 5 weeks away 4kgs heavier.
Yes crowds would be the tough part and the fact that there is only one way off. I’m glad you managed ok, well, except for the darn weight gain. Bloody easy to put on and brutal to get off.
Jo, you captured the onboard experience beautifully and anyone who thinks cruising is boring should read this. I look forward to hearing about your shore excursions.
It was easy to see that you were having an absolute blast. You’ve almost convinced me that a cruise would be fun – but I’m still seriously in doubt – especially with those huge liners with 15 decks. I must say that I love the river cruises – so maybe small cruise ships will be my go-to for my future travel days. Loved all your pics – especially the masks and the smiles.x
I couldn’t do a ship any bigger than this. The Queen Vic is classed as medium size, but with 8 decks is still huge in my books.
The food on cruises is always amazing. We’ve done a number of cruises with a few different cruise lines and have never had a bad experience. This ship looks wonderful. Can’t wait to read more.
Have never been on a cruise and have about decided should I ever take one, I’d rather do something like yours or one to Alaska where I wouldn’t have to wear a bathing suit. Would prefer a very laid back cruise, too, without fancy dinners as that would make me super anxious. I am so socially awkward. Sounds like this cruise line has been a wonderful choice, with the talks, games, painting classes.
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