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.

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.

Southampton At Last – Sunday 28th November

I woke before my 07:00 alarm with lights twinkling through a gap in the balcony curtains as we sailed up into Southampton. It was nice to be on calm waters again after the last few stormy sea days. It was also nice to have a phone signal.

We were scheduled for departure at “Cowboy Time”, so we didn’t need to rush up to breakfast. The PG restaurant was open for an early sitting from 07:00 to 08:30, so after a final shower it was nice to be able to go straight up in Lift C to deck 10 and walk across the deck to PG. We were greeted by a lovely sunrise and clear blue skies, it was very chilly though, so I was glad to be wrapped up warm.

Fully fueled I was now ready to get off the ship, so we said a final farewell to Sachin and Karen who had, so ably, looked after us for the last 13 days and headed back to the soon to wait for our departure time. We have been instructed to leave directly from the room, which is the same as our August disembarkation. Unlike August though the Air Bridge seems to be working.

We picked up our hand luggage and after checking the room for one last time, headed down at 09:45 to finally leave the ship. Departing was painless and after collecting all our bags, we had the short walk to CPS to collect the car and head off.

Disembarkation, Not! – Saturday 27th November

We had everything packed and shipped out ready for disembarkation last night and were taking advantage of the extra hour in bed as the clocks had gone back overnight. We’d decided to have a late breakfast as our disembarkation time had been put back to 13:00, so after a relaxed shower we headed up to the PG for one last time for food and collect the menus that our waiter had been collecting for us. After breakfast, we said our goodbyes and on leaving the restaurant Ionel, the Head Waiter said see you later which I thought was a little strange.

Back in the cabin, Jane set the timer for 30 mins as she wanted us to do a lateral flow test before going to her Dad’s. While waiting for that to happen there was an announcement from the Captain saying that it was far too dangerous for us to enter Southampton and that we would now not arrive at the Mayflower Terminal until tomorrow morning. This isn’t massive issue for us, we’ve not a long drive to Jane’s Dad’s place, and the dog is with a friend plus I’m not back at work for a week. I can imagine it is a real issue for others though.

I’ve heard tales of a Canadian couple for whom this is really problematic because of COVID test timings and having to reschedule flights.

They are making calls for people requiring their luggage to collect it from the Queen’s room.

I grabbed a couple of ours so that I had a Jacket for dinner and Jane wanted a complimentary top for her slacks. I nearly had a heart attack carting them up three flights back to our room wearing a facemask.

Jane wasn’t feeling well as the swell was bringing on her nausea, so I was dining alone again. While in PG the ship was canted right over with the cross winds with the horizon just sitting at the top of the PG windows and my glass of water showing a distinct tilt

It was a pain not to have a phone signal, but as one guest observed we were sailing outside British waters to allow the shops to open. Every so often we got within range of a phone mast and we got occasional service, but not enough to make a difference. The afternoon Trivia quiz was on as usual in the Garden Room so we headed up to meet our table mates for that at 4pm. We made a fairly dismal showing, only scoring 14/20 made worse since we’d recognised some of the questions from August and still got them wrong!

The outside decks were closed and had been pretty much since leaving Gibraltar, so crossing to the Commodore Club was made more awkward by having to descend a deck to be able to go from Stair B to Stair C, so we went to the Grills Lounge for drinks. Jane had a Dark and Stormy, but found it tasted strange. It smelt like it had been made with Whisky to me so she had a chat to the barstaff and it was replaced with a much better one made with Dark Rum.

After a rest back in the room it was back to the PG restaurant for what was hopefully our final dinner. Jane was feeling queasy as it was getting lumpy again so only had soup and salad. I, on the other hand, was feeling fine so started with ham hock terrine and pepper steak.

Final Sea Day – Friday 26th November

That was a lumpy old night. The wind had really got up and coupled with quite a heavy swell we were rocking back and forth all night, accompanied by crashes and the ship’s bow ploughed into the heavy seas. 5001 is a lovely suite, but not one for travellers that are sensitive to noise. Jane never made breakfast, but I popped up to Lido to grab her some Danishes to keep her strength up. Me I headed up to the PG restaurant for a proper breakfast before today’s lectures.

It was the final round of lectures, first up was Dave Mallinder speaking about Frank Sinatra. The second lecture was Cathy O’Dowd who talked about her attempt to conquer the last unclimbed ridge in the Himalayas, Manga Parbat, Pakistan’s infamous “Killer Mountain” She certainly has a flair for the dramatic, and the talk was very entertaining.

Lastly came Dr Sheona Urquhart, who went off on a tangent to her usual Cosmology lectures to talk about a life without satellites and on pre-industrial navigation.

I managed to leave my Kindle in the theatre and by the time I had realised the doors were locked for rehearsal. After a bit of a faff and with help from the Purser’s desk I retreived it in time for lunch in the PG

The weather had taken hold with the outside areas all closed off with red barriers in place at all of the doors to the deck. We decided to sit in the Grills Lounge to chill for a while, but the lumpy seas were making Jane feel unwell so we headed down to the stateroom where Jane could lie down. We missed the 4 O’clock quiz, a combination of sea sickness and last night’s lack of sleep catching up on us.

We decided that since both this and Commodore O’clock were wash outs, we should make the effort and have pre prandial drinks in the Grills Lounge. This allowed Jane to have a Ginger Cosmopolitan, as it would settle her stomach. I rather boringly had my usual.

The menu wasn’t very inspiring for a last night, so I had the Crab Scotch Egg from the A La Carte menu paired with fillet steak. Jane had soup and had a punt on Coconut and Pineapple encrusted Prawns, a good choice apparently.

We got some more news of tomorrow’s arrival, breakfast will be available 8 to 9:30 and the Grills Lounge will be open from 10am. Then it was back to the room to pack up dinner clothes and put the  cases out for collection.

Heading Home – Thursday 25th November

It was obvious overnight that we’d entered the Atlantic, my bed was moving around, and not in a good way. The crash of the waves on the bow had also resumed, not to the same extent as when we passed Cadiz, but noticeable. It’s a sea day so I’ve three lectures lined up starting at 10am, so a reasonably early breakfast was required. After a nice omelette we quickly popped to see the Concierge as, like a fool, I’d forgotten the Internet login for Jane’s allowance. That will teach me to register the account as required and not both at the start of the cruise.

My first lecture was with Dr Sheona Urquhart and her talk on our planetary neighbors. Hers have been my favourite series of lectures so far on the cruise, always delivered in a relaxed and informative style.

The second was Everest Explorer and mountaineer Cathy O’Dowd. She gave a very inspiring talk  on the trials of climbing Mount Everest. It was very good Indeed. I’m looking forward to her following lecture tomorrow.

The third and final of today’s lectures is the return of Dave Mallinder and his “Singers of the Great American Song Book” Tony Bennett. His lecture was scheduled to start at 12:15, I assume, so as not to clash with the Captain’s daily announcement, needless to say, the Captain was late with his announcement and cut Dave’s lecture just as it was starting.

We went to the PG for a late lunch and since we were at sea decided to take a constitutional around the Promenade Deck on 3 to walk off lunch. We did four windy laps before giving into the cold and heading up to the Grills Lounge for a coffee and stab at the crossword puzzle. Jane’s friend Lorna was there so she and Jane chatted until it was time for the Trivia quiz. We weren’t particularly good, only scoring 15/20 but we had fun.

Keeping true to habit, post quiz we headed for Commodore O’clock in the Commodore Club. Jane started with a Cosmopolitan followed by a Moscow Mule. I unsurprisingly had an Old Speckled Hen.

It was our final gala night, with a theme of Roaring 20’s. Jane had her special spangley dress and was looking the part. I had been very apprehensive about fitting into my Tux trousers, after 10 days of Princess Grill dining, but I released the last of the waistband buttons and I had just enough room to breathe. I had another excellent dinner, surpassing yesterday’s tandoori lamb cutlets, it was a prawn curry, possibly the tastiest prawn curry I’ve ever had, and I’ve had more than my fair share of curries. Jane chose to revisit the Corn Fed Chicken breast from the A La Carte menu and had the theatre of Crêpe Suzette for dessert.

Gibraltar – Wednesday 24th November

My early morning alarm was a little earlier today, I was awakened by the ship’s arrival into Gibraltar at 06:45. This is no bad thing as I wanted to get ahead of the curve ready for an exciting morning’s shopping (btw this is sarcasm/irony) in Gibraltar.

I was alone for breakfast, Jane had booked room service ready for the rush out to the rock, so I went alone to the PG to collect postcards from our table mates that required posting at the Post Office, so saving them a trip if they were back late from their  tour.

I was all done by 8:45 and picked Jane up from the Stateroom before we descended to Deck A and off the ship into Gibraltar. We walked to the centre rather than take the ship’s shuttle buses, yet another futile weight management attempt. Needless to say a fortune was saved on our purchases…apparently. We wrote and posted postcards, then headed back to the ship to enjoy the last of our winter sun. The lower of the Grills terraces was mainly in shade, but it was glorious sunshine on the upper,  deck 12. It was lovely in the sun, but the chill in the air is very noticeable if the sun is obscured by a cloud. When this happened we decided it was Fish and Chips time in the pub. I followed this, with half a sticky toffee pudding dessert as Jane, “didn’t want a dessert”

After the pub it was back upstairs to get the last of the sun and watch the departure from Gibraltar from Deck 12’s vantage point. I didn’t last very long as the clouds came over and with the sun obscured and the wind picking up it was cold and a nice hot cappuccino had my name all over it in the Grills Lounge.

Jane eventually gave up trying to get a tan and joined me for a coffee before it was Trivia Time In the Garden Lounge. Jane felt very uncomfortable with my table choice, in the middle of the room as that was where the braniacs sat. It mustn’t have rubbed off on us though, we ended up with our usual 17/20 final tally.

Commodore O’clock followed, in the Commodore Club for a change. It’s always a quandary, Grills Lounge or Commodore Club. The Grills Lounge has better nibbles and canapes as well as free coffee, but worse views and less ambiance.

I had my best dinner tonight, tandoori lamb cutlets and Jane had roast beef. Mine was excellent, nicely spiced with just the correct amount of chilli kick.

Malaga – Tuesday 23rd November

We’ve nothing planned today so had a lie in before heading up to the PG for a leisurely breakfast. I tried to keep it light with an omelette again, but the pastries looked too nice so succumbed to a cinnamon danish.

We headed back to the stateroom to get some laundry out of the way as today is a quiet day for us. I was tasked with ironing several of Jane’s dresses, she’s left handed and apparently the fixed ironing boards are difficult to use. I find all ironing boards difficult to use so I’m not sure that washes with me, but anything for an easy life.

Once that was done I headed up to the Grills Terrace to bag a couple of sun loungers. It’s not as chilly today, even out of the sun. I’d even taken my top off, to get some sun, much to the dismay of my fellow travellers. We had a late lunch in PG with the intention of sunning ourselves for an hour after and the heading into Malaga for a walk.

We were out for a couple of hours, just walking around. The shuttle into town seemed very slow, and it also felt uncomfortable, so rather than getting it back, we decided to walk back. It’s a very nice walk, with a lovely promenade followed by the beach rather than just an industrial dock side.

Once back it was Commodore O’clock, so we headed up to the Grills Terrace again where one of the tables were free, so we sat there in the sun. Jane had an Aperol Spritz and surprise, surprise I had an Old Speckled Hen. We were joined by our mad Welsh friend who had spent the day in Mijhas. Jane then changed up her drink to a Margarita.

It was another Smart Attire night, so I didn’t have the worry that I can fit into my trousers that I have on Gala nights. Jane explored the new A La Carte menu opting for Chicken breast with a mushroom Ragu and potato rosti. A much better choice than my bacon wrapped pork fillet, which was a little overcooked and dry. Not enough to complain about as the staff would have swapped it out in a blink, but I’ve had better.

The show was the Fly Rites and as Jane had been very impressed with them on our August Staycation cruise she insisted we attend their show. I’ll just say they weren’t my cup of tea and leave it at that. Other members of the audience obviously disagreed with my assessment as they were dancing in the aisles.

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