Author: Jimbo

We love cruising and specifically we love cruising with Cunard. These blogs are intended for my own consumption, but they can also act as a repository of useful cruising knowledge for people wanting to cruise with Cunard.

Bergen From a Distance – Monday 28th March

We arrived in Bergen at about 7am, not that it made any difference to our plans. We hadn’t any excursions booked for Bergen so had decided to stay in our room for the day.

Being stuck in the room in quarantine, you end up getting into a bit of a routine. Mainly around ordering meals, the daily round of requesting new mugs and glasses but mainly meals. We ended up waiting 90 minutes for lunch as that had gone missing, but a chasing phone call brought about by rumbling stomachs resolved that.. We had a phone call from our erstwhile quiz mates to say that they had actually won one and that they wanted to donate the prize of a bottle of wine to us to cheer us up. Thank you Sarah, Andy, Mark and Pam it will be very much appreciated.

Quarantine ! – Weekend 26th/27th March

There’s not a lot to report, quarantine is pretty dull. It’s not helped by the ships satellite signal being compromised being so far north, luckily the ship is sailing reasonably close to the coast and we have a bit of 4G to supplement the woeful WIFI signal in the new cabin. Everything about this cabin is inferior to the Grills Suite we previously had, It’s smaller obviously and that means that our bags and cases which are now all packed take up a lot of room. I don’t see any point in unpacking as we can’t go anywhere. Having the bags in the way means that there isn’t anywhere to sit, and even if there was then the TV is at the wrong angle to be viewed comfortably from the sofa. All this means that we spend an inordinate about of time in or on the bed. We had a reasonable WIFI signal in the last room.

The service we have been getting has been improving all the time, although the purser’s desk are still poor, promising to look into things and never returning calls, and seemingly indifferent to our issues. Cynthia on the concierge desk continues to excel.

Narvik – Friday 25th March

My hip has been playing up for a while with a bit more pain than I have had recently so I had decided not to leave this ship today, we hadn’t had any excursions booked so it was going to be a quiet day on board for us.

We went down for breakfast first thing before heading off to the Grills Lounge for a nice coffee. While I was sat there sipping my flat white Jane commented that I was sniffing a bit and I had noticed that I had a bit of a sore throat, so it was decided that we’d head back to the room where we had some LFT test kits and I would take a covid test. 20 minutes later and I had two bright lines at C & T showing I was Covid positive. From then on it was action stations, first calling 911 to inform the medical team. They dispatched a blue suited medic to carry out tests on both Jane and myself. Mine came back positive as expected whereas Jane was negative. This left us with two options Both of us go into quarantine or I go into quarantine and Jane into Isolation. I’m not sure what isolation would involve apart from not being cooped up with me and it’s only 5 days until we return to Southampton so we decided to get locked up together.

We packed up all our gear, donned masks and were escorted into the crew elevator and down to deck 6 where we were shown to room 6138, a standard balcony room in the quarantine area. Apart from the disappointment of going from a Grills Suite to a standard room we found that the room hadn’t been prepared to receive guests and not to same configuration as we had. There weren’t enough pillows, no bottled water and missing tea making facilities. The bed was set up as a double, where we’d had it set up as a twin to facilitate my dodgy hip.

I expressed my disappointment to the purser’s office that there weren’t any Grills quarantine rooms so we’d have to make do. The first half day was all a bit moany. Every time we went to do something we found bits missing, towels in the bathroom, dressing gowns, slippers, menus, all the things that you need when confined. That involved a lot of phoning around with us finding the purser’s office to be less than helpful, luckily as Grills passengers we have the dedicated Grills Concierge, Cynthia, who has been superb, always helpful and has been able to handle all our requests with zero fuss.

It was time now to dig in for the next five days and try not to kill each other, time will tell………….

Snowy Sea Day Heading South – Thursday 24th March

It was another quiet sea day today, only two lectures again which is disappointing. Not the lectures themselves, but the fact that there are only two per day. First up was John Mclean and the mythology of Norse Astronomy followed by Stuart Musgrave’s talk on Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki and Rah II expeditions

Because of this I’d missed out on the morning’s trivia and Jane was beside herself waiting to tell me that they had got 17/20 without me. After lunch we met up with the rest of the quizzers for the Music Intro’s quiz – 70’s intro’s were right up our street, unfortunately given the demographic it was up every elses street as wall. We were rather smug with 38/40 but we didn’t win. I had got very excited while the compere was teeing up the quiz she played the intro for Rammstein’s Sonne knowing I was probably the only person that would know that unfortunately it was 70’s and not 2000’s Industrial Metal

We chilled in the Grill’s Lounge with a coffee until it was time for the trivia quiz at 16:15, More success, this time 18/20 but it not to be our lucky day someone had gained 20/20

Ah well, it was rime to drown my sorrows in the Commodore Club with my usual Doombar. Jane had a Brandy Alexander followed by a Margarita. There have been canapes served every night in the Commodore Club so far, which is a nice return of an old tradition.

It was another non-gala night so we were up in the PG dining room at 8pm. It was lamb cutlet tonight so Jane got a basin full of those. I ordered a Thai Red Prawn Curry with extra spice, lovely. Jim at the next table was very quiet and when Jane enquired of him his wife Rosa said he had a bit of a cold.

Tipping it Down in Tromso – Wednesday 23rd March

The Red and Gold Gala dinner was a roaring success for Jane as she looked wonderful in her new frock, and I didn’t look too shabby either, if I say so myself. We were looking so good we went in search of a photographer before dinner down on deck two only to be thwarted by the long queues. Not one for queuing for anything we decided to come back after we’d eaten, and try again.

Dinner itself was very good, with Jane ordering Scallops, I nearly went for the wellington, but decided on the Langostine Ravioli from the a la carte menu to make the wine choice easier, an excellent Pouilly Fume. Dessert was a whole load more exciting with Jane having Crepes Suzette and I had Baked Alaska. They were both “flaming” nice. I have one complaint though, surely a “baked” Alaska should have been somewhere near an oven during its construction.

Firey Dessert

We had no trips planned until our chase the Aurora trip at 19:30 and with it being a port day there were no lectures schedules. The weather was miserable, so there was no chance of getting me on a shuttle bus into Tromso either. So after a hearty breakfast in the PG restaurant we headed down to the Garden Lounge for the early trivia quiz. None of our quizzing pals were around so it was down to just Jane and myself to uphold the honour. Needless to say we outdid ourselves gaining a measly eight points, 8/20. mind you this must have been a very hard quiz as the winning points were only 13/20. I don’t think we’ll be coming back from this cruise weighed down with prizes.

The rest of the day involved lounging, eating lunch and more lounging before we met up with Mark, Pam, Andy and Sarah for the afternoon trivia. We were back to our normal 13/20 score. for this one.

Our View Over Tromso

We had decided to eat in the Lido tonight, as our trip departed right on dinner time. I have to say I was not impressed at all, we had pizza from the pizza station and a salad from the salad bar, both were uninspiring with the pizza having a very hard biscuit base and the salad was just a bit meh! We were sat with Andy and Sarah and their meal of roast pork didn’t look appetising either. The choices of dessert was also limited. All in all I don’t see why people would choose to eat here in preference to the MDR.

The Northern Lights Mmmmm!

At 19;30 I limped my way down to deck A and the gangplank and waiting coaches, ready to whisk us away in search of the elusive Northern Lights. It was an hour’s drive to the car park out beyond the reach of the light pollution of Tromso. Here we would spend the next three hours shivering in the cold looking skywards. Apparently the Aurora was dispersed and everywhere but I couldn’t see it and ended up back in the coach to rest my leg. When we were given the nod that it had been spotted and although weak was there. Jane went out with the camera and came back about 30 minutes later with a bunch of photos, some of which might have the Auroa in them. All in all it was a bit underwhelming. The journey back was nice especially as the driver took us on a shortcut under the sea tunnel which enabled us to beat the other coaches back. We waited to disembark and were the last off as Jane had lost an earring and glove some time earlier. Luckily I spotted both and we were off and in the Lido grabbing a tea and nibbles from the midnight supper service.

A Cloudy Old Sea Day – Tuesday 22nd March

Last night was another Smart Attire night on the ship, which was good for me, it means another comfortable dining experience. Jane had decided to go off piste and order the duck a l’orange from the a la Carte menu. It was both huge and delicious.The portions on this cruise seem much larger than previously, even I am struggling to fit in a dessert, I have to try very hard and it’s not quite beaten me yet, but I have had a couple lunches without a starter

We woke late for breakfast, but Jane did make it upstairs to the PG even though she was very tired after getting up several times on the previous night to see if there was any Aurora about. She was massively disappointed to hear that the Captain had made an announcement that there was an Aurora at 02:30 and she’d slept through it. The Captain was making announcements on Ch41 which is the TV channel showing the Bridge camera.

I was only going to one of this morning’s lectures and I had seen John Maclean’s Solar System lecture on our August QE cruise. Stephen Musgrave gave a talk on the Russian Convoys from WWII. While I was enjoying myself down in the theatre Jane was working hard sorting out the first batch of laundry for this trip.

After my lectures, Jane’s laundry and a late lunch we headed to the Garden Lounge for the Music Trivia quiz, we really are rubbish, but we were not helped by it being a Love Songs quiz which ruled me out of answering any questions. and we ended up with 27/40 – I think 34/40 won it. We chilled out for while over a cappuccino in the grills Lounge before the Afternoon Trivia. Now you’d think that six of us would stand a fighting chance, even with Mark and Pam (bouncingwheel) from Cruise Critic it did help us. |We were just as woeful getting 13/20 in that quiz.

We worked up a bit of a thirst with all the quizzing so we answered the call of the Commodore Club for a Doombar and a Pometini before going back to the room to get changed for the Red and Gold Gala night.

Alesund in the Sun – Monday 21st March

Last night’s dinner was much less stressful than the Black and White Gala night, mainly because I wore a pair of trousers that weren’t actively trying to chop me in half, that and I wasn’t wearing a tie your own bow tie.

I’d forgotten to pack gloves, which is a bit of a schoolboy error on a trip above the Arctic circle, so after a hearty breakfast we headed into Alesund to do a little shopping and maybe a bit of sightseeing. We’d bearthed right in the centre of Alesund, so it was just a short hobble off the ship and before long we’d found a glove and hat shop which fulfilled my needs and 225Kr later I was the proud owner of a pair of thinsulate mittens.

I was getting quite tired by now so we headed back to the ship for a coffee and maybe to sit in the sun for a while before our excursion at 12:30, a cruise on Hjorundfijord. It was glorious sitting on the grills sun deck with a cappuccino. I left Jane out there to relax on one of the loungers as the sun was too bright for my screen.

The cruise was very enjoyable, with the stunning Norwegian scenary taking centre stage. It was quite long at three hours, but we’ll worth it. We had missed lunch, hence the hearty breakfast, but we had hoped to make it back to the ship for Afternoon Tea, which we did manage by the skin of our teeth. Jane was very impressed with the tea which was both hot and not dishwater, which was our previous experience.

From there we went down to the Garden room where we hoped to meet up with our erstwhile quiz partners Sarah and Andy, but they were nowhere to be seen, but another couple from the Cruise Critic group were there, so we joined them. We didn’t win but we did get our highest score so far for the Afternoon Trivia quiz.

Commodore O’clock coincided with us leaving Alesund, which meant that all the window seats were taken, this wasn’t an issue as there were still plenty available where I had my ubiquitous Doombar and Jane had a QE II cocktail.

More Sunshine at Sea – Sunday 20th March

Last nights dinner was the first of the Gala nights, the Black and White ball. I’d tried on all of my outfits on the Thursday before the cruise just to check if they’d still fit. I’d lost a lot of weight while in hospital and thought I might have to dig out some of my older gear. As it happens the time back at home hasn’t been kind and everything just about fitted still. Anyway getting back on the ship and the sea air seems to have shrunk things further as I had a right job squeezing into my DJ trousers that had been fine on Thursday. I also seemed to have lost the ability to tie a black tie over Christmas since the last cruise so we were really late getting up to the PG restaurant for dinner, SO late that our next door neighbours had already eaten and left. Dinner was excellent with Jane opting for Lobster and Chicken ballotine for myself. Dinner, as always was excellent.

We had another sea day, and what a glorious day it was, cloudless skies and a flat sea was more than welcome. We had arranged to meet up with Sarah and Andy off Cruise Critic for a bit of light quizzing in morning, which actually turned into an all day quiz fest with trivia first followed by a midday music quiz after lunch and then our usual afternoon trivia quiz in the Garden room at 16:15. I had thought our 12/20 in yesterday’s afternoon trivia was the low point and things would only improve for us. Sadly I was wrong as this afternoon’s trivia session yielded a pitiful 11/20, I’m not sure if this is just us being thick or the questions getting harder. Given that 16/20 was the winning score I’m opting for the second. All the quizzing meant I missed Stuart Musgrave’s second lecture on the Vikings, so I’m going to have to catch that up on the TV at some time.

After all that excitement it was time to unwind with a libation in the Commodore Club. I had my usual Doombar and Jane again had the Pomentini as she had really enjoyed it the night before. All the stress of being terrible at quizzing called for a second Doombar and Jane changed up the Pomentini for a Margarita (Pomegranate for lime juice) and really enjoyed that too.

A Beautiful Day to be Heading North – Saturday 19th March

We ended up getting to dinner a little later than usual last night. We have a table for two in these new post Covid times, which last time out worked quite well as we had a friendly, chatty couple sat next to us. Time will tell how this cruise fares, but it seems promising. Jane ordered “A La Carte” with crab cocktail and lamb provencale, nice but the portions were too large for her. I had the tempura prawns from the “A La Carte” and pepper steak from the main menu, my portions were just fine.

I had a cracking sleep, which has just highlighted how much we need to change the mattress in the spare room that I’ve destroyed in the last 2 months. I had a weird moment in the middle of the night with a hand groping across my face and chest, but it was only Jane trying to find her water now that she’s on the “wrong side of the bed”. I can’t sleep on my usual side because of my hip.

It’s been a glorious day today with clear skies and bright sunshine, looks can be deceptive as it’s bloody freezing once you get outside , much to Jane’s dismay.

We stayed in the room to watch the Tromso port presentation on the TV rather than going down to the theatre, but once that was over we did head down to deck three to watch John Maclean’s lecture on Aurora. This was a particularly well attended one for obvious reasons. It was difficult for late comers to find a seat as Cunard had rolled back their open seating with every third seat having a don’t sit here sign, much like our August cruise. Jane came to this one but went back to the room for Stuart Musgrave’s “Shetland Bus” lecture, which was her loss as this was much more interesting.

After this I went back to the room to collect her for lunch. It’s a pain being so immobile as I’m dependent on the lifts to get up the four floors to the Grills restaurant where I would never have before. The lifts are restricted to to 4 guests again so we ended up letting 4 lifts go because they were full, in the end I got in with a three and poor Jane had to puff her way up flour fours.


After lunch there was a well attended meet-up of Cruise Critic forum members which was nice to put faces to the cryptic user names. We’d taken over the area normally given Hobby corner, they were relegated to the LGBT area on the other side of the Commodore Club and we got a mild telling off by the steward.

After a posh coffee in the Grills lounge we went to the trivia quiz in the Garden room. We were rubbish getting 12/20, there were some questions in there that were quizzers questions so we didn’t have much chance. the winners were the only ones to get more than 15/20. After that it was Commodore O’clock where I was back on the Doombar and Jane had a Pometini, a Margarita with Pomegranate rather than Lime juice. We had Canapes for the second night running, maybe this a welcome return to an old Cunard tradition.

 

Embarkation, Norway Here We Come – Friday 18th March

We’d bundled the pooch off to “Aunties” for his holidays on Thursday, so our alarm clock wasn’t around to get us up this morning, but no problems, I couldn’t sleep because of the pain in my mending pelvis, so I was up nice and early and ready for the drive down to Southampton as a passenger this time with Jane doing the driving duties. The journey was uneventful and we were at the testing centre at Mayflower well ahead of schedule. This part of the cruise is unchanged with the LFT testing going smoothly and us heading out and onto Dock gate 4 and Ocean terminal. The trek from dropping the car off to sitting in the waiting area, post check in was the furthest I’d walked since my accident in December so I was glad of the wait for security to open. It wasn’t long before we were in stateroom 7064 with our bags piled up outside waiting for us.This room is a standard P1 and very nice but not a patch on room 5001 for size and layout, but hopefully it won’t have the incessant crashing from the bow hitting waves in rough seas.


First things first, dinner time, ooops sorry I forgot we are in the Grills, lunch time. We got the lift, no stairs for me yet, up to the PG restaurant on deck 11 for sustenance. Pasta at lunch is always excellent, no matter which restaurant on Cunard and the Italian Sausage Papadrelle was delicious. It’s good to have lunch on embarkation as you get to meet the waiters while things are more relaxed. After lunch it was a quick pit-stop in the Grills lounge for a cappuccino as I fancied a nice coffee before unpacking all those cases back in the state room.


We attended muster on the way back to the room, but when we got to our allotted station there was no one to scan our cards, we had to go down to deck 2 for that. Then it was all go suits, shirts and trousers all unpacked and hung up, all sorted which exhausted me again so I had a lie down while Jane finished up hers bolstered by a glass of the dreaded “Pol Acker”


Commodore O’Clock was calling, and who are we not to hear. It’s only three flights to deck 10 but we got the lift for obvious reasons and grabbed a seat away from the windows and near the band, yep a full on jazz band which is a first for me in the Commodore Club. It’s like putting on a comfy pair of slippers, sitting down with a Doombar and a Cosmopolitan just feels right. We are going to be late getting away as a lady has been taken unwell and we are waiting for an ambulance to pick her up. After a second drink and the rarely sighted Canapes we had an announcement from the Captain to say the lady was in safe hands and we would shortly be on our way.