Godfrey Hall is an award-winning UK based travel journalist and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has been in search of elves in Iceland, traveled to the depths of central Australia and been off the beaten track in Bulgaria.

Town of Corfu (Godfrey Hall)

Town of Corfu (Godfrey Hall)

Cruising out of season is one of the best ways to see new places and at the same time hopefully enjoy some fine weather and quieter resorts. One of my favourite cruise lines, because of its quality of service and classic style, is Cunard. My most recent trip was on the Queen Victoria. Smaller than the Queen Mary 2, it still provides the same quality and standard of service, but is capable of visiting smaller destinations. Joining the ship close to Rome, I enjoyed good weather and smooth seas as I travelled down to the foot of Italy, across to Corfu and then onto Dubrovnik, famous for its links with Game of Thrones. From here I visited the delightful town of Kotor and then to Venice where I left the ship.

Places to See

The ship departed the port of Civitavecchia in the late afternoon in the capable hands of Commodore Rynd, one of Cunard’s most experienced officers.  Civitavecchia is a seaport about 50 miles from Rome. It is easy to get to from the city and Rome’s international airport. The ship travelled along the coast overnight and in the morning a pilot got on-board as it made its way through the Strait of Messina and onto the island of Corfu.  Docking just outside the town there was an excellent public bus service which took just a few minutes to the centre.

Town of Corfu (Godfrey Hall)

Town of Corfu (Godfrey Hall)

Corfu Town

Corfu Town has strong links with the British and there are some excellent cafes overlooking the Spianada, one of Europe’s largest squares. Here you will find plenty of places to eat and drink or just sit and watch the world go by. There is a very good food market close to the New Fortress where you will find a selection of local produce. There are many shops selling local goods including leather, ceramics and different types of olive oil. Also there are places close by such as Benitses, eight miles south. Locals often enjoy mezes which is a selection of hors d’oeuvres such as Tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber) or Tyrosalata (a cheese dip with a kick). There is much to see as you walk through narrow lanes packed with bars and cafes. The public buses run regular services to the port and there is someone to help in case of any problems.

Dubrovnik Harbour (Godfrey Hall)

Dubrovnik Harbour (Godfrey Hall)

Dubrovnik

The next port of call was the spectacular city of Dubrovnik. Even travelling out of season it was extremely busy and if there are several cruise ships in you will find the streets quite crowded. Again there is an excellent public bus service from the port to the gates of the old city. The town is surrounded by spectacular city walls which can be climbed for a fee. To get into the old part you will have to enter through one of the ancient city gates.

Cheese in Olive Oil, a Croatian Delicacy (Godfrey Hall)

Cheese in Olive Oil, a Croatian Delicacy (Godfrey Hall)

Sights worth noting include the Onofrio Fountain which can be seen as you go through the Pile Gate. It is a good idea to take a strong pair of walking shoes when you visit as there are many narrow, steep cobbled streets. You will find an Italian slant on the regional dishes which include smoked ham and deep fried squid. The city has strong links with the TV series, Game of Thrones. There are a number of film locations throughout Dubrovnik and plenty of shops where you can buy memorabilia. Talking to the locals they said that the series has helped to increase visitors each year. There are some very attractive restaurants and cafés that look onto the water front and beautiful views when you explore some of the back streets. Beware of restaurant prices which I found were very high for this part of Europe. Also try to avoid November when it can be very windy. The city has had a very turbulent history and there has been comprehensive restoration. If you talk to the residents they can provide you with plenty of background.

Look out for cheese soaked in olive oil which is a local favourite and also some of the local wines. A good place to eat is Restaurant Kopun which has lots of local dishes on offer and is well placed close to the Jesuit church.

Perast (Godfrey Hall)

Perast (Godfrey Hall)

Kotor

For me this was one of the most attractive destinations. Another walled town, it is reached from the coast by travelling 18 miles through waterways similar to the fjords of Norway.  The city is much smaller than Dubrovnik and generally a lot cheaper. Steeped in history, the old part was constructed in the 12th and 14th centuries. Access from the port is direct and can be walked in just a few minutes. The city walls extend over 2 miles and the city itself provides a myriad of lanes and alleyways just waiting to be explored.  However, for me, one of the most spectacular parts was the small town of Perast just eight miles from Kotor. This beautiful seaside town links you to a small man-made island which is the site of the church of Our Lady of the Rocks. A fascinating location, it has many famous paintings inside and spectacular views. I can thoroughly recommend visiting there if you can. The ride along the coast from Kotor is amazing and there are several attractive cafés in the town of Perast. Kotor is a new destination for Cunard but I am sure it will remain on their list for many years to come. A good person to contact if you are visiting is Gojko Samardzic who has a wealth of information and can set up a personal tour.

Our final port was the delightful city of Venice. I arrived on a slightly foggy morning which provided an air of mystery and romance which is so befitting for this famous destination.  The docks are once again quite close to the city.

Early Morning Arrival into Venice Aboard the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

Early Morning Arrival into Venice Aboard the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

Accommodation

Travelling by cruise ship means that you are able to return ‘home’ every night. There are plenty of different grade cabins to choose from but if you are on a cruise which stops at lots of destinations it may be better to opt for one with a balcony. Mine was mid ships on the 8th deck and was equipped with a television, bathroom, shower and sitting area. There were plenty of extras around the cabin and every one is allocated a steward who looks after your needs. There are launderettes on most decks which are free to use and also provide ironing boards. A useful addition if you are staying on-board for any length of time. If you wish, you can take your meals in your cabin but part of the fun is to mix with others and also ‘people watch’ so the attractive restaurants may be a better option.

There are many public areas on-board and plenty of places such as the Commodore Club where you can sit and enjoy a coffee. The ship has a comprehensive gym, Wi-Fi connections and a range of organised activities.

Food and Drink

Birthday Time Aboard the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

Birthday Time Aboard the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

There are many different places to eat on board from the large and busy main restaurant to more intimate dining choices. There is a large buffet area which caters for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those in the Princess Suites or Queen Suites there are separate eating areas. There is a wide menu with lots of choice and plenty of vegetarian and healthy options. There are also outside areas that can be used when it is warm and sunny. One of the things I always enjoy about cruises is cocktail time. There are several bars on-board and plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails to choose from. The service all over the ship is excellent and the staff are extremely friendly. If you do have any problems there are plenty of senior staff around to sort them out on the spot. Wines are quite expensive but you can always make a bottle last more than one evening and they are happy to put it away until the next night. Birthdays are celebrated and there are packages available for other special events such as anniversaries. There are also free ‘stations’ where you can get tea, coffee, and cold drinks at no extra cost.

Nightlife

There is plenty to do onboard the Queen Victoria. There is a full sized theatre which puts on top quality shows. When I was on-board amongst the many talented groups were the Bohemians, a Queen Tribute act. Many of the performers have come directly from the West End or Broadway. If you feel like a flutter, then there is a casino where you can try your luck at the roulette wheel or the slot machines. Also a number of the bars have entertainment in the evening in the form of groups or individual performers. You may also like to try a few steps in the ballroom or if you are in the mood enjoy the late night disco in Hemispheres on Deck 10.  There is often an evening quiz in the Golden Lion Pub and a pianist on hand.

Transportation

When the ship arrives in port you will be able to disembark directly onto the dock or by tender. The latter usually means a short journey from the ship to the landing point.

If you are considering travelling on the Queen Victoria you can fly to Europe and join it at various ports around the Mediterranean. Cunard also has two other ships, the Victoria’s sister ship the Queen Elizabeth and Cunard’s flagship the Queen Mary 2. Many of the sailings are from Southampton with regular transatlantic crossings on the QM2.

More information can be obtained by going to www.cunard.com.

Casino on the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

Casino on the Queen Victoria (Godfrey Hall)

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Featured Image: Queen Victoria Docked in Kotor, Montenegro (Godfrey Hall)

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