Last Night for the Glad Rags

We woke up feeling a little sad this morning, as the holiday we had waited for for so long is fast coming to an end.

So it was another nice relaxing sea day, and this time we were in the Bay of Biscay.  Usually this is a notoriously rough stretch of water, but this time, like the time going out, it was disappointingly calm!  🙂  Trevor and I are never sea-sick, and there is something quite exhilarating about being on a ship when the sea is rough, being buffeted about and tasting the salt spray on your lips.

We sat out on our balcony and drank the bottle of Pol Acker sparkling wine we had won in the “Mr & Mrs” competition.  Then we had a walk around the ship, and I took lots of photos for my gallery.  I was amused to see other people going round taking their last lot of photos as well.

In the evening it was the final formal night, and there was lobster thermidor for dinner.  This is absolutely delicious; I simply adore lobster.  Most cruises serve it at least once during the voyage.

Then off to the show in the Royal Court Theatre; this time it was a comedian/impressionist/musician/singer – a good all-round entertainer in other words, called Allan Stewart.  He was side-splittingly funny.  He did decent impressions of well-known people but he really brought the house down with his impression of Captain Chris Wells – it was spot-on. 🙂

Afterwards we went off to – you’ve guessed it – the Golden Lion, where once again it was karaoke night.  I did Dido’s White Flag again, then Madonna’s Material Girl.  It was fun.  All the usual suspects were there; Bob and Val, Thomas, Rex and a few other familiar faces.

Then it was off to bed after another late night.

All at Sea (again)

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. 🙂

Washed out in Madeira

Today we woke up in Funchal, Madeira.  We had been here twice before; the last visit was a couple of years ago.  Madeira is a beautiful island, and is sometimes known as the garden of the Atlantic, as its flora is so green and lush.  But today we opened our curtains to grey skies and mist.  We certainly hoped it would improve; we could stay at home if we wanted dull, rainy weather.  🙂

We were due to go on a scenic coach tour and visit to a Madeira lodge this morning.  In the past we had just done our own thing, as the ship docks right in Funchal centre and everything is within walking distance.  So we’d already done the cable car and the wicker toboggan run; this time we were going on an organised excursion.

We left the ship about 9.30am and there was a light shower, certainly nothing much.  We boarded the bus and off we went to the Blandy’s Madeira lodge, to try the different Madeira wines.  They were very palatable; there was a nice medium one we started with, which tasted similar to sherry.  Then there was also a dry one and a sweet one; I wasn’t too keen on the sweet.   The wine lodge was fairly crowded with tourists, which meant you had to queue up at the bar each time to get your sample; you could also purchase bottles of Madeira at the bar.  When I say “queue up” however, I mean that’s what the British visitors did.  The Japanese absolutely did not seem to have any idea of the concept of queueing!  There was one lady in a stupid baseball hat with a massive peak, who was just determined to squeeze in, even though it was apparent that people were waiting to be served.  When I pointed this out to her, she glared at me then moved to push into another part of the queue, until she was sent packing by the person there!  Is queuing just a British phenomenon?

We bought some Madeira to take back home, and also some Madeira cake.  When we came out of the lodge it was absolutely teeming with rain!  I mean, the skies just opened and it was torrential.  The bus was parked a good five minutes walk away, but that is all it took for me to become soaked through.  If I’d jumped in the ship’s swimming pool with all my clothes on, I could not have been wetter. 😦

It was a very uncomfortable journey on the bus, particularly as they had the air conditioning on full blast and you couldn’t turn off the blowers.  So there I was, soaked to the skin, getting cold air blown onto me.  Furthermore, the windows inside the bus steamed up inside and had water pouring down them outside, so you couldn’t see anything!

The rest of the tour just consisted of the bus going up the winding streets, all the way to the top.  Normally this would have given us spectacular views and fantastic photo points, but there was just nothing to see except clouds and water.  At each of the stopping points no-one got off the coach to take any photos, and I just got the impression everyone just wanted to go back to the ship – I certainly did!  On the way back down we could see torrents of water pouring down the hillside, and manhole covers were lifting up with the force of the flood waters beneath them.

Eventually we did go back on board, by which time my teeth were chattering.  As we dripped our way up the gangplank we heard an announcement over the tannoy to say that due to “inclement weather” (understatement or what?!) all further excurions would be cancelled, and even the shuttle bus into town would be cancelled.  I don’t really blame them.

I had a good, long hot shower and changed into some clean, dry clothes – sheer bliss to get out of my damp things.  No sitting out on the balcony for us today then!

For the rest of the afternoon we just pottered around the ship as the rain continued to bucket down outside.  At least there is always plenty to do on the ship, so we weren’t bored at all.  We got ready to go down to dinner at 6.00pm as usual.  Someone on our table said that a dog had been washed into the sea in the floods and had had to be rescued by one our the Queen Elizabeth‘s crew in the pilot boat!  They couldn’t tell us any more though.

Once we had finished dinner we wasted no time in going to the Royal Court Theatre, and managed to get seats in the centre, in the second row.  Tonight we were in for a treat – Lulu was performing, along with her guest Kiki Dee.

The set on the stage was brilliant; you’d have thought you were in some theatre somewhere, never mind on a ship!  Lulu had brought her own band and backing singers with her, and the show was excellent!  She is certainly looking very good for 61 years old.  She sang her own well-known numbers, such as To Sir, With Love and Shout.  She also did some superb covers of other hit songs.  Then Kiki Dee came on and did her famous ones, such as I’ve Got the Music in Me, and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, with Lulu taking Elton John’s part.  I was pleased to hear her fluff her lines in one part, which is exactly what I’d done in the Golden Lion when I was singing this song with the pianist (I’d had a few drinks, mind you!)  😉

As usual, once the show was finished (to a standing ovation) we hot-footed it along to the Golden Lion.  We could not believe our ears when he overheard some of the old farts moaning about Lulu, saying the music was too loud, the lights were too bright etc.  There’s no pleasing some people!

In the Golden Lion later on, they were looking for four couples to take part in “The Marriage Game” (otherwise known as “Mr & Mrs”) so Trevor and I volunteered.   This is the game where they ask the four women questions about their husbands (while the men are out of the room), then bring the husband back in, ask them the same questions and they have to guess what answer their wives gave.  Then the second round is where they ask the men questions about their wives.  Trevor and I won!  We received a bottle of bubbly as well as some of the ‘wonderful’ prize vouchers.  We felt it was extremely fitting that we won, because three years ago on the Queen Victoria we participated in Mr & Mrs and we actually should have won then, but they made a mistake adding up our score and so we were robbed!

Madeira was our last port of call and we now had three days at sea to look forward to, before our arrival back at Southampton.

Wine Sampling in Tenerife

This morning we woke up in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the largest of the seven main Canary Islands.  We had been here last two years ago, on the Black Prince.  Interestingly, whilst most British people pronounce it ‘ten-er-reef’ its actual pronunciation is four syllables long, i.e. ‘ten-er-reef-ay’.

We spent the morning just doing our own thing, before setting off after lunch on the “Tenerife Wine and Tapas Experience”.  It certainly sounded interesting! 🙂  The coach drove along the coastal road en route to the first winery then along some of the winding mountain roads.  We could see Mount Teide, an extinct volcano and Tenerife’s highest mountain, rearing up into the clouds in the background.

We arrived at the winery (its name escapes me so it must have been good ;-)) and watched a brief docu-film showing how the grapes are grown and harvested and how the wine is made, often by the traditional method whereby the grapes and are actually trodden by foot instead of by machine.  Then we were shown around the bodega to observe each stage of the winemaking process.  We then walked into a sunny and pleasant courtyard where we were able to sample the different wines, and try some delicious home-made bread and goat’s cheese.  There was red, white and rosé wine to try and we went back to have our glass refilled more than once 😉

A friendly black and white cat was sunning itself in the courtyard and was getting plenty of attention from our party.  It was a female and looked pretty fat; we were sure it must be pregnant.  But when the cheese and bread was brought out, the cat went and sat under the table and certainly made the most of the titbits of cheese it was offered.  The lady serving out the wine said the cat wasn’t pregnant, just fat!  😀  No wonder if the tourists feed it every day.

We left the pleasant courtyard and boarded the coach to go our next bodega.  This one was more how I remember Spanish bodegas to be; a cool, dim, slightly musty-smelling cellar stacked with barrels.  As we walked into the bodega there were wooden tables and chairs down the middle of the room, and we were shown where the wine glasses were and told “help yourselves!” 🙂

There were six different types of wine to try; a fruity red, a medium rosé, a white, a moscatel and a brut cava and a demi-sec cava.  As always, the cava (which I love) was my favourite and I wasn’t keen on the moscatel, which was a very sweet dessert wine.  At 15% it was almost like a sherry, and Trevor liked it, drinking several (large!) glasses.

In addition to the copious quantities of wine, there were also lots of different types of traditional tapas to try, including delicious jamon serrano and salami.  The taste of the cured meats really brought out the flavours of the wine.

All too soon it was time to go back on the bus; we bought one bottle of each of the Cavas to take back with us to drink on the ship.  In fact, while we drank our own wine in the privacy of our stateroom, a lot of people brought theirs into the dining room to consume with their evening meal, preferring to pay corkage as it was still cheaper than paying the ship’s inflated wine list prices.  Everyone was fairly quiet on the bus journey back – I think most people had fallen asleep after all that wine! 🙂

I must admit when we got back on board that I didn’t feel like going up to dinner after all that drinking and eating tapas, so I took my time getting ready and only went into the dining room at the coffee stage.

The entertainment in the Royal Court Theatre that night was an Irish comedian called Adrian Walsh, from Belfast.  We had seen him earlier this year on the QM2 and he is really funny.  He seemed to appeal to audiences from both sides of the Atlantic and I really enjoyed his show.

Then it was off to the Golden Lion again for the usual, before going to bed around 1.00am.