Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Last Few Days

Saturday 5th November 2016

We were entering the Bay of Biscay and it was forcast to be a fairly choppy crossing.  Mr G thought it was choppy on our first crossing but this was something else, I believe it was something like a 12ft swell.  Mr G isn't a good sailor and had already made good use of the travel pills I packed.  He lay on the bed most of the day watching TV.  I'm not as sensitive as Mr G but even I felt a bit queasy.  Poor Abraham was most disappointed he couldn't get in our room to do his housekeeping.  He urged Mr G to go sit in the centre of the ship, for example The Queens room where it is more stable.  

Tonight was our last formal night.  I did not feel up to it but we had arranged with table companions to exchange contact details that evening.  So I got dressed and went down for dinner alone.  I was getting a bit worried when I was seated at the table all by myself, but then Chris and Charles turned up. There was no sign of Bev and Paul.    It was a struggle to speak and keep up conversation without bursting into coughing.  My sinus' were extremely sore and prone to bleeding, did I mention I felt awful.   It was Lobster tonight ( I love seafood) but I could not finish it.    It was also Baked Alaska night and the Parade of Chefs which was well worth seeing. 

I made it through dinner, but didn't go to the Queen's Room so I've no idea what the Starlight Ball was like.  I had no dance partner and wasn't up to it anyway.  I went straight back to bed.

Due to the circumstances I didn't get a photo of my last formal outfit that night,  however I have one taken from a Christmas Dinner Dance.

I don't remember much of our last day on board except that somehow we managed to get packed.  I do remember being desperate to get off the ship and get home.  I felt I was never going to get better whilst on board.

On the last morning we left our hand luggage in our Stateroom whilst we went up to the Lido for our last breakfast on board.  On returning to the Stateroom to collect our luggage, we were surprised the room had already been cleaned and readied for the next occupants.  We felt totally undervalued and no longer of importance to Cunard.  Due to the speed of the turnaround I questioned how the room could have been de-sanitised so quickly and what bugs we were leaving behind for the next occupants.

Once back at home our daughter, a doctor, was deeply concerned at the state she found us in.  She urged us to go  to our GP so he could rule our Legionaire's disease.   Thankfully he did, we had caught a very nasty bacterial infection and were given a dose of antibiotics.  It took a further three weeks before we began to feel like ourselves again.

It was whilst we were feeling so ill that we received a questionnaire from Cunard re our voyage.  One of the questions was, Would we go on another cruise?  I was adamant I wouldn't.    Approximately one month later I wondered if I'd been too hasty with that reply.  After all, I had enjoyed the dressing up, making new friends and visiting the ports.   I came to the conclusion, I needed another cruise to see what it was like without having any nasty bugs!


Friday 4th November 2016

I still wasn't feeling good this morning but we had an excursion booked and I wasn't going to miss it. We were visiting the World War II tunnels.  Ours was a small group so we had a mini bus.  Our bus driver was brilliant and drove all around the Island before beginning the steep climb up to the tunnels.  It was so steep, with a sheer drop on one side, that one lady could not bear to look.  Just before we got to the tunnels we came to a stopping place were we could see the famous Gibralter Apes.

By this time I was feeling really ropy, I was shivering, couldn't keep warm even though it was a fairly warm day, and was feeling very shaky.

In the tunnels I had to put on my waterproof jacket to keep warm and held on tight to Mr G.

From Jocks Balcony (built by the Scots of course), we had a great view especially of the airport and runway that ended right at the edge of  the sea.

That evening I didn't feel like dressing for dinner, even an informal one,(Mr G was pleased as he's not a fan of getting dressed up at anytime) so we snook up to the Lido.  To my delight it turned out to be Indian Night.  It was like good home cooking, real comfort food.  Eating dinner in the Lido was a pleasant experience not as formal as the Britannia Restaurant but not quite as bad a cheap cafeteria.  The tables had been set out quite attractively with placemats, silverware, white napkins and candles. 

Cartegena, Spain

Thursday 3rd November 2016

It promised to be a fairly unique day, a port day in an unexpected port and also a formal evening.

I decided to try out room service for breakfast today.  Everything arrived on time.  I'd ordered, cereal, toast and fresh fruit. The pot of tea, though covered with a thickish napkin was lukewarm and un-drinkable.

Our first glimpse of Cartegena viewed from our balcony

We completed our gift shopping (which we had planned to do in Sardinia), in Cartegena.  Mr G now had my cold and I could not talk without breaking into a massive coughing fit.  The coughing was keeping us both awake at night, and I just wasn't feeling up to much today.

I went for my afternoon nap but nothing would keep Mr G from his run around the port.

When I awoke it was time to get ready for formal evening, tonight it was the Masquerade Ball.  I was surprised that Mr G had not yet returned.  I went ahead and got ready sure he would be back in time.  About half an hour before sail away he still hadn't returned.  I was getting really worried now, was he still on shore? had he fallen and had an accident?  What if we sailed without him!  I could stand it no longer and phoned the pursers desk to see if Mr G had returned to the ship.  They confirmed he had.  As soon as I put the phone down Mr G appeared in our stateroom.  He explained he had returned ages ago and had gone straight to the gym, it hadn't occurred to him to let me know!

More people participated in tonight's theme than they had for Elizabethan night, though they were still few in number.

Five Ports in Five Days

Queen Elizabeth was to visit five ports, Barcelona, Villefranche, Civitavecchia (Rome),Naples and Cagliari (Sardinia), in the next five days.

Saturday 29th October 2016 - Barcelona

The City of Barcelona is a short walk from the port, even I could manage it.  We were heading for Las Ramblas, when we came across an antique/vintage market which I couldn't resist having a look round.

On either side of the path leading to Las Ramblas were various living statues which were very impressive.

We bought gifts for friends and family, including a few Christmas stocking fillers.  I in particular was interested to note the number of Asian owned businesses (I'm Anglo-Indian), I had not expected to find that in Barcelona.

The Evening was informal and some kind passenger offered to take a photo of both of us

We went to the show tonight as it was Phillip Browne, who had starred in several West End shows including The Lion King.  It promised to be good.  In fact it was absolutely brilliant, Phillip Browne was excellent, and received a standing ovation.

Sunday 30th  October 2016 - Villefranche

Villefrance was a maiden call for Queen Elizabeth. Whilst planning the cruise we had decided we would stay aboard ship for Villefrance and Rome as five ports in five days was too much for me.

As it was a port day there was no art class so I  took my art materials, found a steamer chair on Deck 3 and did some sketching. 

It wasn't going very well, I've forgotten so many of the techniques.  I gave up and visited the sunbeds around the pool.

Meanwhile Mr G, who has tons of energy, discovered from another passenger that you could get a tender to the shore, take a few photos and get the next tender back, so off he went.

Queen Elizabeth viewed from the shore.

After listening to the adventures of our table companions I began to regret not going ashore, but next time......

In the afternoon we visited the Queens Room to sample Afternoon tea.

Unfortunately the Harpist was not playing today so we just had to revisit later in the voyage,  we were quite restrained and shared a scone!

Monday 31st October 2016 - Civitevecchia (Rome)

As mentioned above I did not go ashore.  Mr G however went for one of his runs around the port and took some photos at the same time.

Another informal evening

I bought the shawl and hand fan in Barcelona.

Tuesday 1st November 2016 - Naples

We had booked the morning excursion to Pompeii which meant a much earlier start to the day.  Breakfast in the Lido, by this time I'd given up on cooked breakfasts and settled for cereal, toast and marmalade, followed by fresh pineapple.  We went straight from breakfast down to the Queens room to receive our group number and sticker.   The coach journey took us on a lovely scenic route including a glimpse of the Isle of Capri.   I was a little concerned going on a guided tour as I do not walk far or very fast and hoped I would be able to keep up.    We were told by our guide it takes 3 days to see the whole of Pompeii, we had two hours.   It was a lovely sunny hot day ( we would say a very good summer's day in GB), but our tour guide wore here padded winter coat and boots saying it was chilly.  I found the site very crowded and it was a struggle at times to get past other tourist groups.   Being a slow walker I was often at the back of our group.  When viewing a particular section ie. a beautiful tiled floor in a small room, by the time I got into the room, our guide started to move on to the next point of interest and so I only caught glimpses, when I would have liked to have had a more leisurely look.

I was very tired after the tour so made sure I rested once back onboard.

Wednesday 2nd November 2016 - Cagliari, Sardinia

Although still tired from the day before I was really looking forward to visiting this port.  The Yesterday Captain had mentioned in his daily update that Queen Victoria would also be in port at the same time and they had planned to do a little 'dance' when leaving the port at the end of the day.
So I went of to breakfast anticipating a lovely day.  We were just finishing breakfast, watching the coastline of Sardinia, as we made our way into port, when the Captain came over on the speakers.  This was very unusual, it was the wrong time of day.  He expressed his great regret but the port authorities had given our berth to another vessel.  Whilst QE had been offered an alternative, the Captain deemed it too shallow and unsafe, we would not be stopping at Cagliari and an alternative port would be found.

I was so so disappointed.  I had wanted to visit Sardinia since I was a teenager.  Then I thought of Charles and Chris.  They had arranged to meet up with relatives they hadn't seen before and had a suitcase full of gifts from family in the US to give to them.  Their disappointment must be so much greater.

Our very brief view of Sardinia

It was announced later in the day our new port was to be Cartagena, Spain.

I made use of the extra rest day and remained in our stateroom most of the time.  I woke from my afternoon nap to find a stowaway on our balcony

Informal Evening tonight:

The Forgotten Day

Friday 28th October 2016

This was a sea day but I have totally forgotten what we did.  I seem to have lost the Daily Programme which may have helped jog my memory. By reading over the other Daily Programmes I have deducted that this must be the day we went to the movies and watched ' Woman in the Van'.   I'd just finished a cup of coffee but hadn't had my usual ice cream lunch.  Then I had the idea of having an ice cream to watch the film with, just like the cinema at home.   So I filled my tub and carried it from deck 9 to deck 2.  I got some strange looks but I enjoyed it! 

 This was a formal evening, the night of the Elizabethan Ball.

I'd bought an outfit off E-bay.  It was far too long so I adjusted it and used the cut off material to make a matching headdress.  Mr G wore his Tux.

Once dressed we made our way to the lift foyer and played our game of guess which lift would arrive first.

I used the lifts whenever possible to conserve energy levels, however at busy times it was much quicker to use the stairs.

Tonight wasn't too bad and there was space in the lifts.  The doors of our lift opened and as we entered people were deep in conversation.  As we entered all conversation stopped.  I(I did not notice this but Mr G told me afterwards),  the lift started moving,  then one of the gentlemen said 'very impressive'.

Upon entering the dining room I was the only one dressed in the theme for the evening.  I was prepared for this as I'd read it was so on various forums.  I thought not everyone here dances, it will be different at the ball.   We entered the ballroom shortly before the Ball began.  I was relieve to see another person in costume, and then realised it was the Dance Hostess Janice.   Later in the evening another couple did appear and both were in costume, tights and all!  It was lovely to see someone else taking part in the fun. 

After all the discussion on forums re Dress Code on Cunard ships, and all the fuss made by some posters I was most disappointed that the 'Themed' evenings were not adhered to.   It did detract from the atmosphere.  I was asked quite a few times if I was wearing my 'national costume',  each time I replied it was Elizabethan for The Elizabethan Ball! 

Having danced for a while, we sat down for a rest and watched. As we were doing so, one of the Dance Hosts approached me and said ' Madame, you look Wonderful!'  That made my night!!

First Port - Cadiz

Thursday 27th October 2016

Our first port day, began much the same as the previous days except slightly earlier.  I had got into the habit of watching the morning show whilst getting ready for the day.   Breakfast was again in the Lido, we felt it was much more informal and slightly quicker than in the Britannia.  Today I decided to try the English bacon again but this time I hid it in a wholemeal bun and enjoyed a bacon butty.

Getting off the ship was a fairly quick, straight forward affair.  We had only two excursions booked this voyage and they were for Pompey and Gibralter.  Today we were hitting the shops(my favourite type of excursion)!  

Cadiz is a very quaint town with lots of narrow streets.  It was still quite early and not many shops were open, so we wandered around and got our bearings. Eventually we found the shop we wanted which was open and made our very first purchase .......... a box of paracetemol!  The cold had returned.  A few shops later I purchased a very nice red jumper.  We stumbled on a non-touristy bargain shop and had a wander round.  From here we bought a set of place mats (we've just moved house and wanted something new).  I love finding items/designs that are not available at home.  Just outside this shop was this very unusual tree:

We even found a street lined with Orange trees, I'm sure you could just reach up and pick one, but I didn't try.

We were back on the ship for an ice cream and coffee lunch, followed by my afternoon nap.  Mr G decided he was going to go for a run on dry land.  He had come up with the idea of  doing a run in each port.

After my nap and Mr G had returned from his run, we watched the sail-away from our balcony.

Deck 4 balcony's are a little wider than on other decks so we were able to look up and see all the champagne glasses!

Queen Elizabeth needed a little help.

Tonight was informal night and I wore a pink outfit (originally bought for my daughter' graduation)with the very first facinater I ever made.  Mr G wore his Navy suit.

This was taken on the stairs just near the Casino and Golden Lion Pub

This evening's show featured Mark Donoghue, a multi talented musician.  It was very good.  Afterwards I needed to visit the restrooms just outside the Theatre.  Whilst waiting patiently outside Mr G was surprised when a passenger came passed and said to him, ' Thank you, that was a very good show'.  A few passengers and thank you's later, it dawned on him that he had been mistaken for a crew member!  He was very wary of wearing his Navy suit after that.

First Formal Evening

Wednesday 26th October 2016 

Today was very similar to yesterday.  Breakfast in the Lido.  I tried the American bacon to see if it was any better than the English,  it was worse!  Instead of being lovely and crispy it was limp and very greasy. 

Then it was art class followed by lunch and my afternoon nap.  Except... I felt a cold coming on.  Determined not to let it spoil my first formal evening I headed to the steam room inside the ladies changing rooms at the gym.  It seemed to work as I felt much better afterwards.

Cunard Black & White Ball and Captains Reception.

Although Mr G is tee-total and I'm not a big drinker we decided to attend the Captains Cocktail Party just for the experience.   The reception was held in the Queen's Room.  We found a position next to the stage and stood and watched the proceedings accepting an orange juice from one of the many waiters.  Afterwards I kicked myself as I realised I could have asked for a softail.  We enjoyed Captain Hashmi's entertaining welcome speech and were introduced to various members of staff.

As it was formal evening there were plenty of ship's photographers about.

I'm afraid I don't take very good photos, I always blink!

After dinner Mr G went off to change into dance shoes and I made my way to the ballroom only find the entrance blocked!  I'd forgotten the Captains Reception for Second Sitting. Staff advised I could access the ballroom from the other side of the ship. I made my way there going down to deck 1 walking along to the Royal Court Theatre and up again to deck 2.  As I arrived at the outskirts of the ballroom I realised this was my chance!  I nobbled a passing waiter and bravely asked if I could have an Atlantic Mist, it was no problem and he returned a few minutes later.  I did feel naughty!

We had planned to dance most of the evening but as it turned out we did not have access to the Queens Room until 9pm.  

The Ball kicked off with an introduction to the Cunard Gavotte.  I had seen examples of this on YouTube but Mr G did not know what he was in for.  Apparently he was supposed to receive 'air kisses' from his dance partners, but they insisted on giving him real ones - he seems to have enjoyed himself!

A performance was given by the Professional Dance couple on board Dan and Olena, which was superb.

We ended the evening with a visit to the Lido for a hot drink before bed.  I was pleasantly surprised to find they even had Horlicks.

My First Full Day At Sea

Tuesday 25th October

Our first morning aboard began with a blocked toilet, which we promptly reported to the Pursers Office.
I think we must have had a faulty toilet for it was to block a further four times throughout the voyage!

We breakfasted in the Britannia Restaurant.

I asked if they had decaff tea and this is what I was given:

Mr G doesn't drink tea or coffee so this was all for me!
This is what accompanied the tea

I also tried a full English breakfast but was disappointed with the English bacon.  I prefer my bacon well done and crispy.

Once breakfast was over it was back to the stateroom to collect my art things.  I'd decided months ago that I would give the watercolour class a go.  Bearing in mind I hadn't done any art since leaving 6th Form College many years ago this was a very brave move for me.   I did not think I was ready to try watercolour just yet and wanted to start off with familiar materials so I had packed a sketch pad, pencils, charcoal and chalk.  The art instructor was quite happy for me to do my own thing and was very pleased I was taking up art again.

Instructors table of Art Resources
Our work tables

My Efforts

Meanwhile, Mr G had attended the Port Presentation on Cadiz.  We met up for lunch in the Lido. I started off with good intentions and had a salad,  then I discovered the ice cream machine!
In order to get through this cruise and manage my energy levels I realised I needed to be extra disciplined and made myself have a nap every afternoon (where possible).  I wanted to have plenty of energy for dancing.  Today however it was a shorter nap because I had to meet up with forum members in the Commodore Club.  I arrived about 15 mins earlier than the appointed time as I had given myself extra time to find the Commodore Club.  We had agreed to meet on the left handside of the club.  I found a table by the large window, settled down and ordered my first softail of the voyage, a Tropicana

The time for the meeting got closer and there did not seem to be any sign of the others.  I tried to remember the photos on our roll call so I could recognise people if they turned up.  I waited and waited, even checked with the waiters that I'd got the correct side of the Club.  No one turned up.  I felt very let down and disappointed but decided to make the best of it.  I enjoyed my lovely cocktail and I had a great view from the window.  As I got up to leave a couple jumped up to grab my table as they said I'd had the best seat in the Club.

Tonight was another informal evening.

After dinner we made our way to the Queens room and enjoyed a few dances until it was time for the show.  Tonight it was Tom O'Conner, what a difference in quality compared to the first nights entertainment from the Cunard Singers and Dancers.  We then met our team for the evenings quiz.    Tonight it was a 'Majority Rules' quiz which is a little like Family Fortunes and we Won!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My First Ever Cruise

After  completing our first ever cruise on the Queen Elizabeth in October  this year my husband Mr G asked if I would go on another and I promptly replied NO! cruising wasn’t for us.   One month later and I’d changed my mind and was longing for another cruise…..the cruising bug has struck. Whilst planning this cruise I visited many cruise forums to glean whatever information I could, read loads of blogs which only fuelled my excitement.  With this in mind I took photos during our voyage with the intention of doing my own blog even if it was only a photo blog.   When I first arrived home, due to the way I was feeling (all will be revealed), I decided against doing a blog.  However now the cruise bug has hit I have changed my mind as it will be my only cruise 'fix' for quite a while.


Our very first cruise ever was on Queen Elizabeth Q619 around the Western Mediterranean October2016.   We live in the North of England, I have ME and so we decided to break our journey to Southampton up and travelled down over two days. On the Friday night Mr G was checking the booking details and discovered we had been visited by the Upgrade fairy.  We weren’t sure if this was a good thing or not.  We had deliberately booked cabin(sorry stateroom) 1077 because it was low down and midships.  We had been upgraded to  balcony stateroom 4186 on deck 4 right at the back (the bows, I believe),  We set off on Saturday 22nd October and arrived in Southampton Sunday afternoon.   After booking into the Travelodge we spent some time doing a little pre-Christmas shopping.  It was my first time in Southampton and I was very impressed with the City.  We both agreed it needed more exploring.  For dinner we discovered Stakks Pancake House in the middle of Marlands Shopping centre and treated ourselves.

Southampton Gate

My Pancake mmmm!

I hardly slept that night I was so excited, in fact I’d been excited for weeks now but it was hard to believe that tomorrow morning I would be on the QE.  
First sight of Queen Elizabeth

From leaving the Travelodge to boarding it took an amazing 40 mins.  Mr G was totally impressed, you don’t get that when flying.

After our embarkation photos we proceeded straight to our stateroom and was greeted by Abraham our steward.  Due to the upgrade our luggage had not arrived so we went to explore and grab some lunch in the Lido.  QE is such a beautiful ship with art deco opulence throughout.

Sure enough on returning to the stateroom our luggage had caught up with us.  We proceeded to get the unpacking over and done with – I’d followed Maggiemou’s advice and asked for metal coathangers.  There is plenty of space in the wardrobes and drawers under the bed. 

The shower isn't too bad either, had no problems with the shower curtain.
Lots of space for toiletries

It was a quick rush to go for the Safety talk, then back to the stateroom to for a quick change. I had made several outfits and fascinators specifically for the cruise.

  I had a dress plan which I attached to the stateroom wall with magnets and referred to each night of the cruise.  It turned out to be a really good idea as some days were hectic and all I had to do was refer to this list.  I had planned my wardrobe so I would wear my tightest fitting outfits first!   Tonight I would be wearing my cream/ivory dress, pheasant fascinator,and a navy bolero. I'd packed 3 pairs of dance shoes which doubled as evening shoes.

 I really wanted to attend a sailaway, especially to say goodbye to Southampton.  We were on early sitting for dinner so I decided I would have to change before the sailaway party.  .  On my way to  the Garden Lounge I had to pass through the Lido where I had my first very warm greeting from Amanda Reid, the Entertainment Officer.  I was pleased to notice I got some appreciated looks from those I passed, which gave me great encouragement.  I love to dress up but I’m not a naturally outgoing person and was not sure how my outfits would go down.

 As can be expected in late October the weather in Southampton was a little on the nippy side hence Sailaway was held in the  Garden Lounge.  I admit to being a little disappointed as not many attended and it was a bit of a damp squid.   Perhaps the ones later in the voyage were better but I did not get a chance to attend.

Dinner & Dance

We made our way to the Britannia restaurant with some trepidation.  Mr G had requested a table for 2 on his voyage personaliser, whilst I, unknown to him, had requested a table of 8!  We were therefore a little uncertain as to what to expect.  I’m very pleased to say we ended up on a table of 8 with Eduardo and Kristoph as our waiters.  Our table companions had been very carefully selected and it turned out we were all of the same age group 40’s-50’s which is quite young for Cunard.   Ourselves and another couple Bev & Paul from Wales were first timers.   Charles & Chris from California had been on one other cruise and Beth and Sandy from Birmingham had been on several other cruises but it was their first time with Cunard.    After that first night Beth and Sandy ate mostly in Lido and so we were essentially a table of 6.   All of us hit it off from the start.  We discovered we all had a love of quizzes and agreed to meet in the Golden Lion later that evening.  We kept this quiz group throughout the voyage, meeting every evening for the late night quiz.

We went to the evening show in the Royal Court Theatre,  then went to the quiz in the Golden Lion.  Our team mates were already there.  We did quite well but afterwards were told there were only 6 members per team allowed we’d had 8.  Future night’s this wasn’t a problem as Sandy & Bev did not join us. 

Finally we hit the dance floor and managed a simple waltz, before heading off to bed.