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Posts Tagged ‘cruising’

Today dawned bright and sunny again; hopefully we’ll see no more rain until we’re back in Blighty. 🙂

In the shopping arcade on the ship there was a shop selling merchandise with the Cunard and Queen Elizabeth logos on them.  A lot of the QE stuff had “Maiden Season 2010-11” etched onto it.  Today though, they were selling some very-limited-edition “Maiden Voyage” merchandise, and it was announced that the shop would open at 9.00am and each passenger was limited to buying two items each; this was to prevent people buying truck-loads of the stuff (it has been known!) to sell on E-Bay at a profit.

We went down to the shops at 09:10am and joined the extremely long queue.  Ten minutes later someone came out of the shop and said that ALL the Maiden Voyage stuff had sold out; every last bit of it.  It will be interesting to see how much of it ends up on E-Bay. 🙂  What is the point of buying a souvenir of the Maiden Voyage on E-Bay if you haven’t even been on the ship?  Surely the point of special-edition souvenirs is to give a memento to the people who were actually there.

At 10.00am we went along to the Royal Court Theatre to listen to a presentation about Clint Eastwood, by the film historian Barry Brown.  The 45-minute talk included clips from Eastwood’s illustrious film career and was very interesting.  I’m not really a fan of Westerns but I did enjoy the “Man with No Name” trilogy; they are just classics.

Later on we were having a stroll around the promenade deck when the First Officer did the noon announcement with the navigational information.  He also mentioned the appalling weather we had had in Madeira, and confirmed the story of the little dog that had got washed into the sea with the flood waters.  Sure enough, a member of QE’s crew had gone out in the pilot boat and rescued the dog, which was a bitch.  The dog had no collar or tags and appeared to be a stray, so the crew member adopted her as a pet for his children.  There was only one name he could give to her – Queen Elizabeth.  What a lovely little story!  🙂

As we were wandering around the ship, we saw a guy going round taking photos of absolutely everything; even the patterns on the carpets!  I thought he looked vaguely familiar, and he looked at me and did a double-take as well.  It was another blast from the past, this time none other than Alan Lang from Melbourne; he and his wife Marion had shared our table on the Queen Victoria, three years ago!  It really is a small world.  🙂  We went back along to Alan’s cabin as he wanted me to write down our email address so he could send some photos from the QV, and we had a nice long chat with him and Marion.  Lucky people are doing the next two cruises on the QE as well.  It’s all right for some!

We got ready fairly early on as we were due to attend the Cunard World Club party at 5.15pm, just before dinner.  We are currently Gold members; in fact this voyage qualifies us for Platinum grade.  As ever, we went along to the Queen’s Room and positioned ourselves in the best place to make the most of the free champers! 🙂  We did quite well; I think we managed five glasses each.

I didn’t want to go and eat a massive dinner, so once again I just went to the restaurant for the coffee and liqueur course.  The show tonight was the ship’s singers and dancers doing a production called “Sing”.  I must say that the ship’s orchestra is very good, and we enjoyed the show a lot.

Then it was off to the Golden Lion to do some singing of our own, as Simon John on the piano was doing a good old pub singalong.  There wasn’t all that many people in the Golden Lion, so the singing was a bit flat, but never mind, we had fun anyway. 🙂

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The Queen Elizabeth arrived in La Palma at 8.0oam.  This is the only port of call that we hadn’t been to previously, so we were looking forward to exploring this island.  La Palma is the fifth largest of the seven Canary Islands.  We had booked an excursion this afternoon to see some volcanoes and also (more!) wine sampling.  🙂

La Palma is known as la isla bonita, which means pretty island.  It was the subject of a song by Madonna in 1987:

Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita.

La Palma is very rugged as it was formed from volcanic eruptions in the Atlantic ocean millions of years ago.  We spent the morning walking around and looking in the little narrow streets and boutique shops; I bought myself a pretty scarf/wrap which was velvet with a hand-painted pattern on it in plums and purples.  It will go nicely with some of my evening wear.  We then had a cup of coffee at a pavement café and wandered back to the ship.

After lunch, we boarded our excursion coach and went off on our trip; the first stop was to (yet another!) bodega.  We sampled red, white and rosé wine, but they didn’t give us very generous measures; just a couple of mouthfuls really.  So it meant lots of trips back to the table for more samples 🙂  We then went off to see, and learn about, the volcanoes.

The coach wended its way up the zigzagging, narrow mountain roads, higher and higher, which afforded us impressive views of the island and the Atlantic ocean beyond.  It was a lovely clear day so we could see for miles.  The bus parked at the visitor centre and we went inside, where we watched a docu-film explaining how volcanoes are formed and what happens when they erupt.  We were then able to walk along the path to view the now-dormant crater of Teneguía, the best-known volcano in La Palma.

Teneguía is the source of the last volcanic eruption on Spanish soil – from October 26 to November 28, 1971.  Several earthquakes preceded the eruption.  An elderly fisherman was killed, who had come too close to the lava and asphyxiated.   The eruption also caused some property damage and destroyed a beach, though a new one was later formed by natural means. Luckily, most populated areas were unaffected.  The crater, and the mountain paths that lead to it, are popular with hikers, and indeed we saw quite a few as we walked along to the crater for the great views.

We got back to the ship around 4.00pm, sat out on the balcony for a while and then got ready and went down for dinner. As ever, it was far too easy to eat and drink too much, and I finished the meal absolutely fit to burst.  In fact, I could have done with being trocarised to relieve some of the bloat.  Really uncomfortable, but self-inflicted. 😦

So I decided I wasn’t going to eat or drink anything more tonight.  No going to the show, no going to the Golden Lion.  I just went back to our stateroom and read my really good book and watched some TV.  Actually, it was quite nice to have an early night, as most nights we had stayed up well after midnight, and sometimes even 1.00am.

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Today was another long, leisurely day at sea.  Once we leave the cold British shores for warmer climes, we tend to leave our balcony door propped open overnight, as I hate the artificial air-conditioning – it’s so drying for the skin.

So it’s lovely to wake up in the morning to the “ssssshhhhhhhh” sounds of the sea swishing past the ship, as she glides through the Atlantic waters.

We spent the morning pottering around the ship before making our way, in good time, to the Royal Court Theatre for a lecture by none other than Sir David Frost, who had boarded the vessel yesterday in Cadiz.  Even though we got to the theatre around 10.20am and he wasn’t due on until 11.00am, the theatre was almost full.  His talk was entitled “Interviews I Shall Never Forget” and proved to be very interesting, as Sir David is such a veteran of TV.

Sir David took to the stage and, although a chair and a podium were provided for him, he spoke for 45 minutes without any prompt notes and remained standing – well impressive for a 71 year old bloke!  He told some great little anecdotes, of which he must have hundreds, of broadcasting bloopers and unintentional double entendres.  He also spoke about the famous interviews he had with former US president Richard Nixon, which were made into a film called Frost/Nixon in which the inimitable Michael Sheen plays Frost.  The talk was really interesting and Sir David was well-deserving of the standing ovation at the end of it.

We left the Royal Court Theatre in time for lunch and decided to go to the Golden Lion for lunch and a beer.  I like the atmosphere in there; it’s just like a typical English pub.  The chiken tikka masala I had went down a treat and afterwards we walked a few laps around the promenade deck to get some fresh sea air and exercise.

That evening, I didn’t go up to dinner.  I put on my dark blue sequinned evening dress (bought off E-Bay for a tenner!) and decided it was getting a wee bit tight. 😦  Instead, I went along to the midships bar, had a glass of Veuve Clicquot, then went to the Britannia Dining Room in time for the coffee and liqueurs.  It was nice to go into the show lounge not feeling like a stuffed pig for once.  Whoever it was who said you joined a cruise ship as a passenger and left it as cargo certainly wasn’t kidding!

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After our first comfortable night on board Queen Elizabeth in which we both slept very well, our first day was spent, as is often the case, at sea en route to our first port of call, which would be Vigo in Spain. You will notice how may times I have said the word “first” but this is, after all, the Maiden Voyage in which there is a ‘first’ for everything.

I enjoy the days spent at sea. After the initial excitement of embarkation and the sailaway, it is nice to spend a whole day relaxing and exploring the ship. All around us we could take in the evocative smells of new carpet and leather, and all the gleaming brightness of the paintwork, windows, brass fittings and fabulous fine art on the walls lining the many long corridors of Queen Elizabeth. People often ask us if there is enough to do when the ship is at sea and you are, in fact, a captive audience. There is much, much more than enough. As well as looking around the ship, sitting on deck watching the world go by, and browsing the library or the many shops, Cunard always has a full itinerary of entertainment. You can learn watercolour painting, how to do ballroom dancing, attend presentations/talks given by eminent guest lecturers (more about that later!), have a massage in the spa, or attend fitness classes such as pilates or tai chi. The list is endless and gives you the chance to try something new. On days at sea you will find the time passes much more quickly than you would imagine, and before you know it, it is time to start getting ready for dinner.

The first night at sea on Queen Elizabeth (and indeed most other ships we’ve sailed on) sees a formal night, where guests are resplendent in sartorial elegance before meeting the Captain at his reception cocktail party. Dinner jackets and bow ties for the gents, and long dresses, silken wraps and up-dos for the ladies. I always enjoy dressing up for dinner and I take at least two hours (!!) to get ready, before sweeping out of our stateroom like a movie star. 🙂

And of course there is the free champers (or, more usually, cava). The Captain’s party usually only lasts an hour before it’s time to go to dinner, so Trevor and I (after many cruises and therefore much practice) position ourselves near the doorways from which the waiters emerge with their silver trays of flutes, in order to make the most of the freebies and drink as many glasses as possible. 🙂

As Cunard only has a small fleet of ships (three at the most) it is not unusual to come across the familiar faces of passengers we have met on previous cruises, and indeed this time has been no exception. We’ve already met Thomas, a German guy who we also met on the Queen Victoria’s maiden voyage and also the Queen Mary 2 maiden voyage. It’s almost like greeting old friends. We’ve also seen quite a few of the Cunard staff that we’ve met on previous cruises. Small world.

Dinner, as ever, was sumptuous and was accompanied by fine wine and after dinner port or liqueurs. After only two nights at sea I was feeling decidedly heavier. 😦 We often joke that you have to arrange all of your clothes in order so you wear all the close fitting things at the start of the cruise and leave the loose items until later. I think I will have to miss out a few dinners and/or stick to salads. 🙂

So after dinner we were treated to a 45 minute show in the theatre of a singer who has appeared in the West End in London, before we adjourned to the Golden Lion to take part in a game called “Majority Rules” which, in fact we won. Our prize was a couple of Cunard vouchers, which you save up and trade in for prizes at the end of the voyage.  Usually these are fairly rubbish, but we’ll see.

Then off to bed to end the second night on board Queen Elizabeth.  We were due to arrive in Vigo tomorrow to our maiden port of call.

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