When Cunard Line’s newest ocean liner Queen Victoria, was launched in Southampton in December 2007, there was probably no one more proud than Pierluigi Punter, Fincantieri’s project manager. What was once just a vision for Punter, the $522m vessel is one of the Italian shipbuilder’s most ambitious projects. Queen Victoria was built for a cruise line whose name evokes a sense of tradition and elegance.

"Cunard is known throughout the world for its ocean liners," says Punter. "Queen Victoria was a completely new design that began in late 2004. Even though it has been a long time in the making we are very happy with the end result."

UNIQUE DESIGN

“The $522m vessel is one of the Italian shipbuilder’s most ambitious projects.”

On this 90,000t, 2,000 passenger ship, design successfully marries space with intimacy. Although there are three classes of passengers, the differences in amenities are not as distinct as they are on sister vessel Queen Elizabeth 2: the staterooms are smaller, but more have balconies.

The décor is a mixture of Victorian and Edwardian elegance with a large measure of Art Deco, most evident in the two-storey, 900-seat Britannia Restaurant. Attention to detail is a hallmark of the design, from the marble floors in the three-deck-high Grand Lobby to the intricate wooden panelling of the library. Like its other vessels, Queen Victoria sports Cunard’s trademark red and black smokestack, however, this is no ordinary vessel.

The layout takes the passenger through a series of such spaces, which in many cases are double-deck height. From the stern of the ship in the main dining room, which has an open-plan area that creates a visual connection between the two dining room decks, the design leads through a series of Public Rooms, which are a mix of double and single deck height. The main fulcrum of the vessel is the Grand Lobby, which is the general meeting area.

INTIMACY AND SPACE Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

There are many features that make Queen Victoria unique. "Off the Grand Lobby are a series of smaller areas and rooms, which create more intimate spaces," Punter says. "The Library has a wonderful interconnecting spiral stair made to resemble wood. The whole area looks like it came out of an English gentlemen’s club."

“The décor is a mixture of Victorian and Edwardian elegance.”

The room that Punter is most proud of is the Queen’s Room on deck 2. "This is the grandest space on the vessel," he says. "It is a multipurpose area where afternoon tea is served and later in the evening ballroom dancing can take place."

The lower portion of the room can be viewed from the balcony corridor on deck 3, where part of the shopping area is located. Also on deck 2 are the Empire Casino and the Golden Lion Pub, which has a traditionally British feel.

At the front of the vessel is one of the most striking additions: an 800-seat theatre complete with private boxes, a first at sea.

"The Royal Court Theatre was designed to resemble a London West End theatre," says Punter. "Its atrium spans three decks."

FUNCTION AND FINERY

Punter explains how the Fincantieri team married grandeur with comfort through a number of strategically placed features designed to impress the passenger while incorporating their needs during their voyage. "Guests can enjoy the luxury of such a ship, but if someone desires a peaceful spot, there are many smaller and comfortable lounges they can relax in," he says. "The upper decks have some distinct areas not often found on other vessels."

Some of these features include a huge globe that sits behind the Captain’s table in The Britannia Restaurant. The Queen’s and Princess Grill restaurants boast windows that run around the circumference to give impressive panoramic views. The area that began as a residual internal space between the two restaurants has been designed as an open-air courtyard. "Here, passengers can have drinks or dinner outside while listening to the rustle of the water from the decorative
fountain," says Punter.

The ship also features the impressive two-storey Aquitania Restaurant, as well as alternative dining options that include a Todd English restaurant.

ARTISTIC ENDEAVOURS

Even with Fincantieri’s and Punter’s expertise, there were major hurdles to overcome in building this vessel. "The biggest challenge was the design and construction of the Royal Court Theatre," says Punter. "Here the architectural brief and the constraints of the ship’s structure were cleverly married."

“The biggest challenge was the design and construction of the Royal Court Theatre.”

In the theatre Fincantieri incorporated 16 Royal Boxes, similar to those found in London’s Regency-style theatres as designed by John Nash in the 18th century. "The Royal Boxes are suspended from the main structure so we had to design a way for the passengers to reach these intimate areas," he says. "There are regulations in shipbuilding that must be strictly adhered to and which often create design challenges."

The integration of the artworks proved to be particularly challenging due to their size and weight. Some had to be installed in close coordination with the shipbuilding schedule of activities – before the scaffolding had been removed and before the sea trials – so the stability of the artworks could be verified.

The project required all levels of expertise, with the owner’s architect in close cooperation with Fincantieri’s architectural team. Punter worked with a team of 100.

"You can’t underestimate the skill of the site teams in the shipyard who translate the architectural and technical design into a constructed reality," he says. "They must come up with answers to problems faced when the intended design and reality do not always coincide."

EXCEPTIONAL STANDARDS

Cunard’s design brief was to create a unique vessel. Cunard and Fincantieri held long discussions regarding the public areas, the physical geometry of the areas and the finishes that would be applied. Fincantieri then had to integrate the architectural design with all the other aspects required to make Queen Victoria work.

"Once we defined these aspects, we had to test the designs to make sure that the construction methods and the final result would be approved by the architects," says Punter.

"Consequently, we constructed what we classify as mock-ups. For example, our subcontractor builds a small portion of a characteristic item that is located within the public area. This could be a bar counter or part of a balcony balustrade. These are then inspected by the architect. This process allows potential design flaws to be highlighted prior to the actual construction."

Punter believes the long design and build process was worthwhile. "We worked seven days a week during the last part of the building schedule to ensure we reached the highest quality standard," he says. "I’m proud that we have built a unique ship for such a unique company. I’ve seen the impact that the ship has had on the people involved."

The relationship between Fincantieri and Cunard will continue to flourish in Queen Victoria’s wake as new innovations from this design will be incorporated into future Fincantieri projects. "Cunard were so happy with Queen Victoria that they immediately placed the order for the construction of Queen Elizabeth," says Punter. "That is a sign of our successful relationship."