Tom Stieghorst is sailing on Cunard Line's renovated Queen Victoria. His dispatch follows.
ABOARD THE QUEEN VICTORIA -- One of the most exclusive experiences at sea is dining at the Queen's Grill on Cunard Line ships.
The food, service and atmosphere are literally meant to be first class, a throwback to the time when liners plied the Atlantic and ships were divided into accommodations based on class distinctions.
If Cunard didn't originate the practice of tying accommodations to dining in a particular restaurant, it certainly was among the first. Access to the restaurant is only for those who buy it through their fare.
Although I was not traveling in a Queen's Grill suite, I was able to dine there one night as part of a press group.
On this ship, the Queen's Grill is situated midship on the top deck, minimizing impact of the motion of the ship and any possible vibration from below. The room is part of a large oval, lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving the illusion of endless vistas.
We were greeted warmly but formally at the entrance to the Grill and escorted to a sequestered table for eight. Most tables are reserved throughout the cruise for a particular cabin, so the table is available at any time during dining hours.
Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
Our sommelier, Kevin, provided a lengthy explanation of why our first choice for wine, a Sancerre, would not in his opinion live up to our expectations. He guided us instead to an alternative white wine that he found more characteristic of the grape variety we had expressed interest in.
We placed orders based on a menu that had daily specials as well as a page of timeless classics. I had a savory mushroom soup as a starter, but it was a solid hour before our main courses arrived.
When they did, there was a fair amount of theater as some dishes were given final preparation tableside. My venison was delicious -- flavorful and tender. As far as I could tell we were the largest group in the restaurant and there was a small army of waiters marshalled to bring our food in a simultaneous presentation.
Dessert included crepes Suzette in a tableside flambe that had me feeling the heat from the nearby flames.
We left feeling that the meal had been an occasion, and that the exclusivity of dining in the Queen's Grill was a lifestyle we could all get used to if given the chance.