2021

Leaving Biscay – 17th November

I slept a bit better overnight, as it was our second night on board. The room is very quiet but we do have an annoying squeak, it’s got an irregular interval and seems to be outside the room somewhere as I can’t pin it down. Jane joined me for breakfast in the PG dining room, so we were a little later getting there. I tried the devilled kidneys on sourdough toast, nice. After breakfast we went to relax in the sun while I waited for my first lecture of the day. We were just off the North Spanish coast near Vigo and the weather is warming up nicely.

Poor Dr Sheona Urquhart, she’d only just started her SETI presentation when there was a random crew announcement that cut her off mid flow while the Captain told the crew they needed to fill in an environmental questionnaire – I’m not entirely sure this was meant for public broadcast, but it killed the slideshow and took quite a while to get her back on line.

This was followed by Dave Mallinders Dean Martin talk where I was joined by Jane.

After the lectures we decided on a walk around the promenade deck for our daily constitutional, it was a more pleasant walk than yesterday’s, the sun is out and it’s nice and warm. We had an escort from the US warship Robert E Peary, I think that’s what the Captain said it was, which slowly passed us on the port side.

After that excitement we had worked up a appetite so headed up to deck 11 and lunch in PG. I had quiche, spaghetti bolognaise and tarte tatin. Jane was having a bit of a quandary, whether to go to the wine tasting at 14:00 or to save herself for cocktails at Commodore o’clock, we decided to lie in the sun on the loungers until she could make up her mind. Surprisingly the sun won over the free wine tasting.

After an ice cream on the loungers and a cappuccino in the Grills lounge we headed downstairs to the Garden Room for the 16:15 Trivia quiz. 16/20 again, but slightly better as the winners won with 18.

To celebrate our near win we headed up to deck 10 for Commodore O’clock where Jane had an Ichio Martini and I carried on my gluten-free experiment with Old Speckled Hen.

I had a relaxing soak in the bath before dinner, which was just a standard night. Jane was very excited though as she’d ordered the Rack of Lamb from the A La Carte menu. My starter of Jumbo Tempura Prawns followed by the lamb didn’t disappoint.

Then it was an early night for our arrival in Lisbon early tomorrow morning and our walking tour.

First Sea Day – 16th November

We woke to grey skys and a slight swell as we headed across the top of Brittany. My alarm had woken me at 06:45 and I climbed into my running gear to head off to the gym, oh dear! Lockdown hasn’t been kind to me and I looked like “Little Britain’s Matt Lucas as the Only Gay in the Village” I should have tried it on before packing it. I’ll try again tomorrow with a cotton t-shirt which won’t be ideal, but I really need to make the effort.

Jane stayed in bed as she’s booked breakfast in the room, apparently the choice is better, in PG, but I never looked. I headed up to the PG restaurant as I wanted to try their breakfast. The have a more extensive menu again with item like devilled kidneys and more egg choices than you can shake a stick at. Needless to say I had prunes and figs followed by kippers and poached eggs.

We have a table of eight sat by us at dinner, we like a large table for dinner as we get to meet interesting people and I gave new blood to bore with my war stories. I had a chat with one of the diners there and they are all travelling independently and have a loose arrangement to meet at 19:30 so that would suit us. It be be this is the case as well with larger tables in the new world order in Britannia – I shall have to ask.

The first of the insights lectures on the cruise is Dave Mallinder and his series on the Singers of the Great American Songbook. Today, Nat King Cole. Things have changed from our August cruise on QE, we still have to wear masks in the theatre, but the seat restrictions have been removed and lectures are now 15 minutes apart rather than the 30 they were previously.

The next lecture was Dr Sheona Urquhart from the Royal Astronomical Society all about early space flight pioneers. Unlike David Mallinder, the veritable Doctor is a new speaker to me.

After the lectures I headed back to the stateroom to see how Jane was? There wasn’t a lot of swell but what there was had set off her motion sickness and she was feeling a little under the weather. We decided to get some fresh air, so had a walk around the Promenade Deck, three laps to the mile, and a mile later feeling refreshed in the breeze headed up to the PG for lunch. I had salt & pepper squid followed by a smoked salmon bagel, Jane had soup and a veggie shepherds pie. All were excellent.

We had a relaxed post prandial half hour in the Grills lounge we took a stroll back to our room to see if we could grab the Steward for a couple of jobs, nothing major, but we’ve all decaf coffee for the Illy machine, so that needs to go, and Jane needs a different pillow.

No sign of the Steward, so back up to the Garden Room for the Afternoon Trivia. We paired up with a very nice couple from the next table to us at dinner and got a respectable 16/20. After that it was Commodore O’clock and I need to carry on my gluten-free experiment by drinking Old Speckled Hen again tonight. Jane started on an expresso martini which she found a bit bitter, wrong choice for her rather than a bad drink.

It’s Gala night tonight with a Black and White theme. I really wish I’d tried on more of my outfits before coming on the cruise. As I’ve already intimated lockdown hasn’t been kind to my clothes as most of them seem to have shrunk through a lack of wearing! I squeezed myself into my Tux trousers and dress shirt for tonight’s dinner, at least my bow tie still fits OK. I don’t think they will see the light of day again on this cruise.

Dinner was excellent, a complimentary glass of fizz on arrival to compensate for the lack of a welcome party, followed by an amuse bouche of chilled leek and potato soup, followed by chicken terrine, chicken ballottine and cherry pancakes all washed down with a nice Reisling

Embarkation – Monday 15th Nov

First things first, I headed into New Milton for my cruise haircut and to get some last minute toiletries, this was more of a time waster to allay the pre Covid test nerves than needing anything. Eleven AM arrived soon enough and it was time to leave Jane’s dad’s for the drive in to Southampton and Dock Gate 10 for the Covid tests. 

The queues at the Mayflower test centre were non existent and after showing our passports and Covid vaccination documentation plus confirming our names, DOB and mobile numbers it was swab up the nose time and headed off to Dock Gate 4 and Ocean Terminal to drop off the car and bags.

We we’re pinged by text that we were Negative just after arriving and proceeded quickly through check-in only to find that the ship wasn’t quite ready. We ended up waiting about 30 minutes before being ushered through security and arriving on board.

 

Even though it’s only a couple of months since our last cruise it was very nice to be back aboard the Queen Elizabeth. 

We’re taking our first cruise in the Princess Grill this time, so I was very excited to see how much nicer a Grills cabin is over Britannia Balcony. I wasn’t disappointed, cabin 5001  is huge, and we are welcomed with a bottle of Pol Acker, 4 chocolate truffles and a couple of bottles of Hilton still water, this last addition was very pleasing for Jane as she’d forgotten her water. 

 

While we waited for our bags to arrive we decided to head up to the Concierge desk to check on our wine package and sort out some missing, shareholders OBC which had disappeared off my booking.

Then we headed off to the PG restaurant for lunch. We have a table for two this time as we aren’t sure how or if a larger table would work in the Grills and in these Covid times. It was also nice to meet with Karen an Sachin who will be looking after us for all of our cruise. The quality of lunch was no different from Britannia and was excellent as usual.

After lunch it was back to the room where our bags were waiting. I’m assuming that Jane has “Tardis” bags because it’s taken her three times as long to unpack than it took me, for the same number of suitcases and one fewer suit/dress carriers!

After a quick detour back up to the concierge desk to try and sort out our missing shareholder credit, we headed down to the Commodore Club for a livener. Jane started with a QE2 followed by a Cosmopolitan and I had an Old Speckled Hen as it promised to be gluten free with the possibility of a decent night’s sleep, time will tell. 

After our evening drinks we headed back to the stateroom for a shower and to get changed for dinner. I’m not sure how tall people are at Cunard Towers, but I’m unlikely to get my chest wet in the shower, never mind being able to wash my hair, or what’s left of it. I opted for a bath instead. 

Dinner in PG was all that I expected, we started with a muse bouchée of tuna tartare, followed by ham hock terrine and New York Strip au poivre for main. I had cheesecake for dessert while Jane attacked the cheese trolley with gusto, so much so I had to help her out.

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.