Month: August 2021

Disembarkation

Friday 27th August

My alarm went off at 06:30 ready for our trek to breakfast. Breakfast was in the MDR from 06:30 and since we had a disembarkation time of 08:30 I thought we’d better get in there early. Breakfast was nice as usual, slightly limited menu as it was disembarkation day.

There seemed to be some issues with the air bridge for a time and announcements were made asking Purple 2 passengers to wait in their cabins while it was sorted, we’re green 2 so it looks like we’ll be slightly delayed.

It looks like they never resolved the air bridge issues as we were called to disembark from deck 2 by gangway with a human chain to help carry off the heavier pieces of hand luggage. From leaving the stateroom to climbing into the car (CPS parking) was less than 30 minutes.

Final Sea Day – On our way home.

Thursday 26th Aug

I was “Billy no mates” at breakfast again, Jane needed a lie in after staying up for the show last night.  As it was our last sea day I’d decided to indulge in the Signature breakfast, I’ve had healthier breakfasts all week, poached egg and smoked haddock, so I fancied a nice fry-up and it was lovely.

In

After that it was time for the morning’s round of lectures to start. First up was Philip Price talking about the weirdest of the creatures found in the sea. He’s an excellent speaker, full of enthusiasm for his subject he was followed by Professor Turi King and the second of her lectures on DNA. This was very well attended, not surprising really given she was the headline speaker. She did her best to make the audience cry, with her tales of family reunion based on her family tracing program on the Beeb.

The sun is out again today, unsurprisingly on the starboard side of the ship, so between lectures I went out onto deck 3 and grabbed a steamer to relax, catch some rays and read a little more of my book. I’ve just finished an enjoyable load of Rabbity nonsense, The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde an now continuing with the second of a Joe Abercrombie trilogy, The Trouble with Peace.

The final lecture of the cruise is Helen Doe’s talk on cross channel smuggling.

After this it was time to meet Jane for Lunch in the MDR, she’d been wishing for Spaghetti Carbonara all week and today was the day. We also had a half bottle of Chablis left over from the previous night’s dinner which went down very well.

It was time for the dreaded packing after lunch and with that out of the way we headed up to the Garden Lounge for trivia, we didn’t win, and then Commodore O’clock. Jane had a Brandy Alexander again while I had a Doombar.

The final dinner was a disappointment, our first meal where the food wasn’t outstanding. It started badly, my chicken livers were overcooked and dry. I’d asked for my main of lamb rack to be served medium, now I like lamb pink, but this was still bleating, I still ate it though and it was delicious . Bess ordered a medium sirloin which she had to send back to have it cooked some more as it was very rare. 

Jane and the oldies went off to watch the show, The Flyrites, who apparently were wonderful. I set my alarm for silly o’clock and went to sleep.

Day Five – Still in the Bay of Biscay Heading Home

Wednesday 25th August

The Captain is back in my bad books, no sun again on my balcony this morning. I can only assume her cabin is on the starboard side of the ship.  There’s another round of insights lectures this morning starting with Dr Helen Doe and SS Great Britain. This is followed by Philip Price talking about scary monsters from the deep oceans. Finally John Maclean will take us to the stars with his talk on the Constellations.

Jane missed breakfast in the MDR opting instead for room service. She wants to be sure of getting a sunbed and I shall hunt her down once the first lecture is over. I notice there was a notice in the DP reminding guests that sunbeds mustn’t be reserved and any personal effects left on them will be remover to the pursers office for collection. I assume this will make no difference until they actually act on it.

I found her shivering by the Lido pool on deck 9, it’s warm enough, but there’s a strongish breeze, 20+ knots so I wasn’t inclined to hang around. I arranged to meet her for lunch after my third lecture and headed back inside and the warmth of a coffee in Café Carinthia. Cakes here seem to be a bit hit and miss, pastries are available pre 11:30 but I’m more interested in the wonderful strawberry tarts that were previously on offer. I’ve yet to find them.

Lunch was served in Britannia with a very nice Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. After which we went to have a look at our balcony and by some miracle it was in the sun, lovely and warm as we were sheltered from the breeze. We headed back up to the Garden Lounge for Trivia, a more difficult one today with 15 points taking the prize. We managed 12, I put the low score down to a pod of Harbour Dolphins appearing on the starboard side of the ship. Looking down from deck 9 offered a brilliant view of them swimming beneath the waves.

Commodore o’clock came and went with Jane ordering a QE2 for herself and a Doombar for me.

It was the final formal night of the cruise and disappointingly, in these post Covid times, the chef’s parade didn’t take place. We had the usual Surf and Turf and Baked Alaska on the menu. How they can call it baked Alaska, when it’s never seen the inside of an oven is beyond me? I gave it a miss opting for cinnamon rice pudding, small but perfectly formed. 

We had decided that we should see at least one show in the theatre and Jane had read good things about “Top Hat”. The Royal Court Theatre company had obviously put the lockdown time to good use as the dancing and singing was very slick and as good as I’ve seen. The story itself was, as expected, pretty cliched but enjoyable. 

Day Four – Bay of Biscay Cruising

Tuesday 24th Aug

Yay! The Captain is back in my good books, this morning we have the sun on our balcony, we’re steaming south again this morning following yesterday’s reacetrack pattern off the French coast.

My day is mapped out as usual, three insight lectures interspersed with hunting down a sunbathing Jane. Followed by Lunch then chilling before becoming competitive at the Trivia Quiz.

The first lecture is John Maclean and the risk of asteroids hitting earth. With a lot of fuss when his sound effects weren’t working.

After this I popped up to the pool area to see if I could find Jane. She had managed to bag a bed, but only because she was there before 9am. One row of 16 sunbeds, we’re occupied by 2 people, the other 14 strewn with towels and personal belongings but no sunbathers. She was livid again about this. On my way to my next lecture I went to the Pursers office to complain and ask if their policy of not reserving sunbeds was still in force. It is and they will be reminding the pool stewards to enforce it. Time will tell.

The headline insights lecture for this cruise is Prof Turi E King, about cracking the DNA   puzzle in identifying Richard III. Deservingly so, she was an excellent speaker, witty, interesting and informative. 

The last of my lectures this morning is Dr Helen Doe’s talk on Brunel’s Great Western, the first Atlantic liner.

A pub lunch beckoned, I’d arranged to meet the others in the Golden Lion after Helen Doe’s lecture. They’d bagged a table so we sat and chatted over fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding. 

John and Bess went back up top while Jane and myself retired to the steamers on deck 3 to regain our strength in preparation for trivia at 16:15. We were no more or less successful today, 18/23. I only changed one of John’s answers, but he had got that one wrong.

A quick sortie to the Commodore club for our regular cocktail saw Jane have a Margarita which she wasn’t too impressed with, unusually, she found it “watery” boring old me stuck with a pint Doombar. The oldies both had a cappuccino which according to Bess are the best on the ship.

Jane was very excited about dinner as it was lamb again, cutlets this time. I had veal parmigiana with some of the nicest polenta that I’ve ever had it’s not difficult as polenta is probably the most boring accompaniment going but this was livened up with a Parmesan crust.

The service was faultless for this meal, the downside of which was we’d finish 40 minutes before the show was about to start. We decided to give it a miss and left it to John and Bess to report back on it tomorrow.

Day Three, Heading Back North

Monday 23rd Aug

I was supposed to be Billy-No-Mates again at breakfast as Jane fancied a lie in, but I made such a racket getting ready she decided she would join me. The queue for the Britannia was quite long again, so it took a few minutes to be seated, coincidentally at the same table we’d had the previous evening. I finished breakfast in time for my first lecture at 09:00. It wasn’t a cheery one, Philip Price talking on Global Warming, he was enthusiastic though, and delivered it with gusto even when the PA announcements for the crew drills kept cutting him off and resetting his slide show.

After that I went in search of Jane who had gone to sun herself on the upper decks. I found her near where we had sunbathed yesterday. She wasn’t happy as there seems to be a lot of reserving sun beds going on, with many left with a book or sunhat on them. She did manage to find one though and was listening to music when I arrived. I hung around until it was time for my second lecture – John Maclean’s talk on ET.

I met Jane in the Golden Lion after that with the intention of eating there, but John was up in the Lido Grill, so we decided to get a burger there instead. To be honest I should have eaten in the Golden Lion, the burger was nice, but it only came with a few curly fries and no sides.

After lunch I went back to the stateroom to sit on our balcony only to find we’d changed direction again and our balcony was in the shade yet again. I need to have a word with the captain about this as it’s a waste of our huge balcony. 

Paul Garthwaite gave his second lecture on the History of the guitar in the Queens Room. Then it was time for the quiz in the Garden Lounge – I mistakenly changed two of John’s answers assuming he knew nothing! How wrong was I, we would have won had I not done that.

For Commodore O’clock Jane and John both had Brandy Alexanders while I, a creature of habit had a Doombar.

Tonight is another non-formal night. While waiting for John an Bess to arrive for dinner I was thinking there doesn’t seem to be quite so many sartorial car crashes and then a chap walks out of the elevator wearing too short grey slacks, blue Sketchers and no socks. The straining short sleeved shirt didn’t help his look either.

We were ushered to a six seater near the rear windows tonight, a new waiters station for us. The food, as always, was excellent. The service not so much, long waits between soup and main, and no offer of coffee or petit fours at the end of the meal. Tonight’s sommelier was better though, retrieving our partially finished bottles quickly. Jane was very happy as lamb was back on the menu and I had a seafood linguine. Bess and John went to the show while us boring youngsters went off to bed.

Day Two, At Sea Steaming South

Sun 22nd Aug

I’m joined by Jane for breakfast in the MDR this morning, an honour indeed. The process for breakfast is unchanged apart from no table sharing, but the distance between pairs is pretty much unchanged from previous cruises so a bit pointless. The breakfast was excellent, I had smoked haddock and poached eggs in a pretence of being healthy, but it’s only a pretence given how much I’m eating the rest of the time.

The sun hasn’t quite arrived yet, but the Southern horizon is looking promising as we steam further into the Bay of Biscay.

After a quick maskless walk around deck threes headed to the Queens room as Jane wanted to see the Zumba class in action. Looked a bit energetic so I’m not sure if she’s up for it tomorrow.

After hopping back to the room we headed to deck 10 to find somewhere in the sun. Even with a half full ship, sun beds are at a premium but we found a pair on the Yacht Club roof. There was a little excitement when the Bridge announced a large pod of dolphins on the starboard side. I never saw them, but they are slippery blighters and hid when I was looking. 

The sun is patchy but nice and warm when  it’s out, according to the Captain on her 12:00 briefing tomorrow will be better.

My insightful lectures today are inconvenient @ 12:30 and 14:00 so we went to the early one with Philip Price about mating habits of sharks and whales in the Hebrides 

We had a rush to get to the Britannia for lunch, before heading back to the Theatre for the next speaker. I’m glad we did as it was really nice with fish and  chips and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding. I lost a pea, but was unable to find it, hopefully it won’t cause too trouble for the waiting staff.

The lecture was about the Minchelcombe Meteorite. Once that was over Jane headed off to the top deck to find a sun bed and I went to deck 3 for a steamer where I could read. We had arranged to meet John and Bess for the trivia quiz in the Garden Lounge. We found today’s a little more difficult 15/20. We didn’t win but it took us nicely to Commodore O’clock. Ichigo Daiquiri and my usual Doombar.

It was non-formal again tonight for dinner, so there were plenty of polos and short sleeved shirts in evidence, although the vast majority were in jackets. Dinner was excellent yet again, it’s nice to see the standards there haven’t slipped. I started with a salt beef hash and poached egg. When I attacked the egg with my knife, yolk fountained all over Jane, needless to say she was less than impressed. That we had suckling pig that melted in the mouth, followed by a really rich cheesecake.

Jane, John and Bess went to watch the comedian in the theatre and quite enjoyed that, but I was tired so headed up to bed instead.

First Sea Day, A Welcome Return

Saturday 21st Aug

I am totally disorganised today, I had booked breakfast for myself in the Britannia, Jane had ordered room service as she’s not a morning person. I set my alarm for 07:30 and promptly slept through it only to be awoken by Jane’s room service arriving early. I did make breakfast though, but it was a bit of a rush. There was no difference in breakfast today pre Covid apart from the fact I couldn’t share a table, so I ate my kippers alone.

After breakfast the first of today’s lectures beckons, John Maclean, who is an astronomer, gave the first of his lectures on the Solar system. As always I found this both informative and interesting.

After this it was back to the cabin, 4054, to find Jane sunning herself on our huge balcony. I needed a cup of tea, so we headed up to the Lido to find out how we went about getting a brew, obviously there would be changes from normality. It was actually pain free, explain to the Maitre’d allocating tables to diners that we just wanted a cuppa and he sent us to the tea point where waiters were serving up cups of tea which we gratefully took and retired to the Garden Room to drink.

After that it was time for another Insights lecture, sharks this time with a hugely enthusiastic Philip Price. Once digested I headed over to meet my companions in the Queens room where they were line dancing. I found them sitting by the dance floor as the lessons were over subscribed. We sat and chatted as I set up their phones and tablets for both myvoyage booking system and the Internet. After I’d lost the will to live repeatedly entering the same set of credentials we headed off to today’s final lecture “Ships, the men and the women of Nelson’s Navy” by Dr Helen Doe,a naval historian.

Dinner was a toss up between the Lido and Britannia, but Britannia won as getting a lift to deck 9 is problematic and there’s no chance of John and Bess climbing six decks. Lunch was excellent with a Thai noodle salad to start and Italian sausage pasta as a main.

After lunch  and a quick stroll around the deck we headed down to the Voyage Sales office and booked a Q4 for Jane’s birthday cruise. Our first time in the Grills. After spending all my money I had to go and have a sit down, luckily Paul Garthwaite was giving his “History of the guitar (part 1)” presentation in the Queens Room. So I sat with John listening to that. It’s very strange to hear Hendrix’s Vodoo Chile riffs ringing out on a Queen, but it was very good.

After that the busy day continued, John and myself snuck off to the Lido for a cup of tea, and possibly a scone, but we were scuppered as they only had cookies, scones we’re only available at Afternoon Tea in the Britannia and  I really couldn’t eat the full afternoon tea experience.

To hide our disappointment we retired to the Garden room with our tea and cookie just as the quiz was starting. A semi respectable 17/20 later it was time to meet Jane for Commodore O’clock.

Dinner tonight is the first of our two formal evenings, The Black and White ball, and turn-out to this was much better with all but one guest I saw in DJs and the other chap in a dark suit with tie. The food as always was excellent, the service, not so good. It wasn’t bad, but we are used to better in Britannia. Anytime dining means you have new waiters every night so you never build a rapport and they never learn you quirks, likes and dislikes and because they are new every night you won’t have a waiter to tip on the last night. This may remove any incentive to go the extra mile. 

After dinner, John and Bess headed off to the theatre to see “Be my Guest” but we’ve seen it several times before so we headed off to bed.

Embarkation

Embarkation and Our First Evening

Friday 20th Aug

We set off at 09:30 for a leisurely drive down to Southampton where we’d booked lunch in a pie and mash shop. It all started really well with light traffic all the way to the M25. It didn’t take long to change, by the time we reached Leatherhead it was stop start, nose to tail and didn’t get any better until we pulled off onto the A33 into Southampton. Lunch, late but excellent, once eaten, we headed off to the Mayflower to be tested.

The entrance to this was on West Bay Road and not at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal. The process was simple enough, check your Covid certificate details against your passport. Check phone details once done take a swab and send you on your way to Dock gate 4 and Ocean Terminal. We received a text confirming your phone number. Once we’d handed the car over to CPS, it was time to drop our suitcases off and head into the terminal. As we walked in we got a ping with the welcome news we were both negative. Everything else went like clockwork, we were ushered into the priority line, but there was no real need as it was quiet, did the rest of the paperwork and we were in our cabin 45 minutes after arriving at the Covid test centre. 

It’s masks everywhere outside the cabin so far.


While we waited for our bags to arrive we popped down to the Royal Court Theatre to register for the Muster. This just involved scanning our boarding cards.

 We arranged to meet John and Bess in the Commodore Club at 5pm not realising the Sailaway was happening at 16:45. We had a couple of drinks there organising our evening before heading back to the room to finish unpacking. I had Doombar and Jane started the cruise with a QE cocktail. 

Dining on the second sitting is now “Anytime” dining, you book your dining time and table size via the myvoyage website. They’ve also changed the dress code to no jacket required on none formal nights. Needless to say the were some right states at dinner last night. Time will tell but I really don’t see the reason for anytime dining, there are still queues of people waiting to be seated and  the tables don’t seem to be any more spread out that on previous cruises. A different table  every night means you’ll never create a rapport with the waiters if they change every night.

Dinner as usual was excellent, the menu has returned to the old version of Starter, Salad, Soup, Main and Dessert. John who hadn’t eaten all day started with a mushroom risotto followed by huge cob salad, a main of turkey ballotine and cheese and biscuits. 

We took a little too long over dinner so never went to the show, instead we went up to the Garden Room where there was an excellent fiddle/guitar duo, Shane Moran and Cameron Ross who appealed to Bess and her Irish heritage. 

After that it was time for bed. It’s so nice to be back on board and here’s hoping we find some much needed sun.

Queen Elizabeth Sun Voyage 20th – 27th August 2021

It’s all starting again, last week Queen Elizabeth set off on her first post-covid cruise, now it’s nearly our time. It’s two days before boarding and getting very exciting. All paperwork has now been completed and printed off. All the packing has been mostly done, just waiting for a couple of items to be returned from the cleaners. Our departure is slightly different this year, normally we’d head off to the New Forest to stay the night at Jane’s Dad’s place and get dropped off by him at the terminal in the morning. This year John and Bess are travelling with us, so instead of trying to squeeze the four of us, with luggage in a single car we have decided to travel separately and use CPS to park the cars. This was a cheaper option than getting cabs as this cruise is only seven nights. It also has the added advantage that if, in the unlikely event that any of us test positive for Covid on embarkation then the holiday is not spoiled for all.

The documentation for these first Cunard cruises has changed slightly from previous trips, the checklist is slightly different from normal. The major changes are:

  1. Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance cover for the duration of your voyage

The documentation emphasises the following points need to be checked and to take your policy with proof of this to be checked on boarding

  • When travelling with us, your insurance must include medical cover of £2 million minimum and cover for emergency evacuations and medical expenses related to Covid-19.
  • Ensure your policy includes cover for repatriation, cancellation and curtailment
  1. Ensure you have proof of your Covid-19 vaccination Printed in case of connectivity issues at the terminal
  2. Read our latest health protocols information
  3. Complete online check-in

This involves clicking on a Check-in link in MyCunard and entering your details again. Once in there are 3 sections to complete.

  • Check passport details again
  • Enter a payment card for spending on board
  • Upload a passport style photograph – These are not mandatory as they will take a photograph at the terminal

Once the Passport checks and Payment card are completed you can download your boarding pass

  1. Plan your travel to Southampton to arrive at the specified time on your e-ticket
  2. Three days prior to embarking, complete your Health Declaration on My Cunard

This again is a link on the MyCunard site, accessed via the Before You Sail tab and very similar to previous health questionnaires just Covid specific this time. Once completed you can print it off and you will be emailed a copy of the Health Declaration saying you are now cleared to travel.

.