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.

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.

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It’s that time again! Departure to the Canaries.

It was a bitterly cold morning when we set off on the short drive from New Milton to the Ocean Terminal to join the Queen Elizabeth for our 12 night Canaries cruise. It was very quiet when we arrived and 20 minutes later we were in the cabin. 4049 is a balcony cabin on deck 4, one of the nice ones with the massive balconies, and even better than of previous one 4030, it has a glass front to it rather than a metal one. The bags took much longer to arrive than we’d experienced previously so I ended up missing out on going to the gym. We made up for that by indulging in Commodore O’clock for the Sail away. Where Jane has had a Cosmopolitan and I’ve had a pint of Seafarers. It’s a bit too hoppy for me, think I’ll have a Doombar next.

It’ll soon be time for dinner, we are on a table for 10, on the second sitting. I went to check out the table location before the Muster drill, and elicited a lot of tuts as I walzed past the queue of people waiting to change their dining arrangements and into the 3rd floor dining room. We are now away at sea for 3 days, so don’t expect many updates until we arrive in Madeira

October 23rd – Our Final Day

After the choir, we headed back to the room for a rest, Jane was still feeling a bit rough, in keeping with the sea state. It was looking like our final visit to the Commodore Club wasn’t going to happen. That Captain had promised that once in the English Channel, the sea would calm down. It didn’t seem to. So we rested until it was time to get ready for dinner. When I was all clean and shiney we went to meet Pat and Giana for one last trivia quiz in the Red Lion pub, stopping only to place all the cases, bar one, outside the stateroom door.

It wasn’t to be our night again, we got our usual 9 out of twelve, but the winning team had 11. Jane was well enough to try a Bloody Mary

We got to dinner to find we were missing Linda, Peter had given her his cold, so she wasn’t feeling up to dinner and didn’t want to pass it on. I had a Crab Thermidor as a starter followed by Turkey Sallopini and Blueberry Cream Pie. We had some OBC left, so got a bottle of Fizz to toast our companions on a very successful cruise.

After dinner it was back to the room to pack the final bag with our dinner attire, use up the last of the internet minutes and nod off ready for tomorrow’s arrival in Southampton.

October 23rd – Final Sea Day

The skipper’s rush to beat the storm across the Bay of Biscay seems to have failed. We’re bouncing along merrily in the teeth of a gale. Winds of 60+ miles per hour, and 3 1/2 metre waves. All very exciting if you don’t suffer from motion sickness. Unfortunately Jane is not feeling top tippy, the wrist bands from yesterday’s shopping trip don’t seem to be having the desired effect.

I was sent to breakfast alone in the Lido, with orders for a cup of tea and a toasted bacon bagel. I got up to deck 9 to find my route to the Lido blocked by the bad weather. The doors to the Garden room locked, so a diversion to stairwell B via deck 8 was required. I had kedgeree before returning to the room with Jane’s order. It’s funny how with sea sickness you can be too ill to do any thing except eat!

After breakfast the Captain was taking part in a Q&A down in the Royal Court theatre. Jane had to have a mad dash to get showered and ready, but we made it with plenty of time to spare and more importantly, with free seats still available. These Q&A sessions are a bit contrived, but the Captain is very good value and it was a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes. This was followed by a chart auction which raised 400 USD for the Prince’s Trust.

A walk to the Purser’s desk followed to check our bill and to post the survey. We’ve still a bit of OBC to use, but not as much as I’d feared. We then had a quick drink in the Lido, the Kwells, Jane is using to supplement her wearing of seasick wristbands, dry her out. I left Jane there wile I headed back to the Royal Court theatre for John Sherlock’s final lecture on Renaissance and Revival. I now know my Nashes from my Inigo Joneses.

Suitably educated, it was now time to start the sad process of packing. It’s a miserable task at the best of times, but after having such a wonderful time it’s very depressing. We got most of it out the way before, ringing Jane’s dad for a bit of ‘Mac and Moo’ time. We now have our disembarkation time, so we let John know and Jane made her daily enquiry on Minty’s health and eating habits.

Lunch in the Lido beckoned, where we both had Pizza, freshly made by the chefs up there. That coupled with a nice cup of tea meant I was suitably refreshed. We walked down to the Grand Lobby where the guests choir were about to perform. Strangely I hadn’t been invited to join  them !!! 

October 22nd – Final Formal Night

We only had the one drink in the Commodore Club before heading down to the stateroom to get ready for dinner. We were going to meet Pat and Giana in the Red Lion for the wipeout quiz at quarter to eight. We weren’t successful in our endeavours, getting eight out of twelve questions correct, the same as the eventual winners, but failing miserably on the  wipeout question. Our winning streak had com to an end.

It was time for dinner and as is traditional on the final formal night, there was the parade of the chef’s, where all the catering staff are paraded through the restaurant to the applause of the guests. The maître de then went on to embarrass us with our gluttony over the past 16 nights. We’ve eaten 20000 eggs, drunk 3 swimming pools worth of champagne, etc. I made those numbers up, but you get the idea. Dinner was excellent yet again, Fois Gras, followed by Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. Jane started with escargot, Wellington and ended with Macadamia Creme Brulé.

We’ve had a very good table this voyage, our companions for dinner have been brilliant. We are a table of 10, and because the size doesn’t allow for everyone to easily talk to each other across the table, we’ve been switching places every night, which means no one has to put up with me every night, apart from poor Jane. 

 After dinner we headed straight to bed to try and get a better nights sleep for Jane. The Captain has sped the ship up to try and get us across the Bay of Biscay ahead of a storm coming in from the West. Jane has invested in some wrist band snake oil to stave off the effects of motion sickness, let’s see if that works!