ABOARD THE QUEEN VICTORIA — One of the splendors of this ship is the wood-paneled two-deck library, among the best at sea.
During a recent month-long renovation in which Cunard Line made a number of changes to the ship, it could have taken the opportunity to cut back the size of the library, add a bar or rebrand it as a learning center.
Cunard did none of those things, leaving intact the 7,000-volume collection for guests to peruse.
There’s something extravagant about a two-story library on a ship. The space is unified by a spiral staircase, complete with a standing globe at the base. Upstairs is devoted to fiction, from Aaronson to Zander, while the lower level is for nonfiction.
“Cunard has a proper library,” said Svetlana Minic, one of two librarians who staff the book vault. The only library bigger than the one on Queen Victoria is the one on the larger Queen Mary 2, which has 10,000 volumes, Minic said.
The marvel of such a library is that there’s something for everybody. Not only does Queen Victoria have a fiction section, but it has a separate case for short stories only. There’s a section for young adult fiction as well as one for science fiction. The Everyman Library of classics spans authors from Jane Austin to Virginia Woolf.
The nonfiction collection is even more impressive and superbly organized. There are labeled shelves for everything from Animals, Gardening, Fitness and Science to Arts & Crafts, Food and Drink, Sport, Dance and Digital Photography.
Besides English, there are volumes in Italian, French, German, Japanese and a small number in Chinese.
Reference books include a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. There are five floor-to-ceiling cases of travel books, and two of books on marine themes such as Maritime History, Merchant Shipping, Warships, Yachts and Passenger Shipping.
There are about a dozen books on Cunard Line or its individual ships. Minic said there used to be more but guests have taken them home as souvenirs, even though Queen Victoria has a bookshop stocked with new commemorative Cunard books for sale.
For guests who want to take a book home, Minic operates a paperback exchange. She said the library is very popular on world cruises. There’s often not a seat to spare on either level.
Two or three times a year, the collection is freshened with 400 new books. The next change-out is set for the start of Queen Victoria’s June 8 cruise from Southampton.
Minic said she then picks 400 older volumes to be donated at one of the ship’s ports of call.