Sea Days

Final Tyrrhenian Sea Day – Day 13

It was ever so nice to have a lie in for a change, crawling out of my pit and into the shower in time for breakfast at 09:00. We were bad today, having pancakes with maple syrup, eggs easy over, crispy bacon and sausage. Naughty but nice. We were all set for sunbathing so went straight up to deck 12 to claim a bed and catch some sun. I didn’t stay long as I had a 10:15 insights lecture.

Trev Trethathen gave the lecture standing in for Angela Rippon who had to return the the UK, I assume to do a talking head for the TV coverage of the Queen’s demise. He was very good, talking about his time as a Matelot (RN), in the Falklands conflict as well as Iraq and Afgan. His lecture was followed by Jim Jarvie OBE and his border force lecture on fakes. Again this was a very interesting lecture. Once finished I wandered up to the Grills lounge to see if I could find the sunbathing Jane. As I arrived in the lounge she was just coming in from the Terrace, it was getting a little too hot without any shade on the lower terrace. I finished off the previous two days blogs from Rome and Naples before we headed into lunch.

We’d decided to get some of the packing done after lunch just to get it out of the way. I could pack away most of my smart attire and one of my tuxedos. Once that was done we headed back upstairs to relax once more and get in an early cocktail or two. It was nice to relax and sit out in the waning sunlight as the day cooled down.
Being a sea day, it was the final formal night of the cruise and the theme was Masquerade. I had dug out my Masquerade bow tie and cummerbund. It’s been a while since our last Masquerade formal night, none of our previous three on Queen Elizabeth has had one and my cummerbund had shrunk in storage so was a little tight, but I managed to just about squeeze into it.

Jane had pre-ordered Sole Meuniere and Crêpes Suzette so only needed to order a starter, some goats cheese dish. I on the other hand stuck to the Gala menu, cured fish to start and Barbary duck breast for the main. I ordered baked Alaska for dessert against my better judgement as the Alaska hasn’t been anywhere near an oven but is made with singed Italian meringue and is overly sweet because of that.

At Sea on Route to France – Day 9

It was our penultimate sea day, which meant there were to be insights lectures for me to attend. For Jane it would be a day of sunbathing and just general chilling out. I headed off to breakfast first as I had an 9:15 lecture so an early breakfast with Jane following on once she was ready.

My first lecture was Jim Jarvis OBE a customs and excise man from Nottingham who told us all about the nefarious world of drug smugglers and the many dangers involved in foiling them. From there I headed up to the Grills terrace to find Jane.She was laid out in a bed worshipping the sun so I joined her for a little while, that little while turned into a long while as I lay there reading and forgot about my 11:15 date with Angela Rippon. She must have been very disappointed to be stood up, but to be honest I prefer the more informative lectures rather than the luvvie ones.

Lunch was beckoning so we went inside to the PG restaurant for salt and pepper squid and fish chips and mushy peas – lovely.Jane had the chilli dog which she also enjoyed.
After lunch it was more sunbathing for Jane and more book reading for me, we just chilled for the afternoon. So much so we were late getting to the Commodore Club at 17:00.

It was the Black and White formal night so we decided to get ready earlier and head up for drinks pre-dinner rather than at Commodore O’clock.The Commodore Club was busy but not so much that you couldn’t get a seat, We sat close to the duet who were entertaining us and ordered cocktails. Well I did, Jane had a Vodka and coke, I had a 1942 martini (tequila and orange bitters) god it was disgusting, I thought I was all sophisticated, like James Bond in my tux, but it turns out I’m not even Brooke Bond.

Dinner was back at it’s best with a really nice ballotine of chicken and game chips. Jane had the lobster tail followed by cherries jubilee while I had the strawberry delice. After dinner we headed back into the Grills lounge for a swift one before bed. It wasn’t until we’d finished I looked at my watch and realised it was only 21:30 – Ho hum the joys of getting old!

Sea Day 2 Transit to Valencia – Day 6

We’re all at Sea today, so it was nice to have a lie in and have a relaxed breakfast. My first insights lecture wasn’t until 10:30 as Phil Holt was first up, and I’ve seen all of his offerings several times. We had breakfast in the PG restaurant, a basic one of mixed berries and yogurt followed by a cheese, mushroom and chilli omelette.
My first lecture was Grace Barnett’s chat about sharks and set out to dispel all of the myths surrounding them and went on to describe some of the more dangerous creatures that inhabit our oceans. She has a really good delivery and made the lectures very interesting. On the way to the lecture I passed along the Queen’s room gallery and there was a chairobics class going on, maybe I need to sign up for it as it looks to be at my level.

We had a new lecturer as the headline act, Dr Christian Jessen. Now he was very good, you could tell he was used to presenting, apparently he’s on the CH4 programme Embarrassing Bodies. His lecture rambled a bit, in an entertaining way, before ending up on his main point of trust science, not some random YouTubers for your information.
After that I headed back up to the Grills Terrace where I had left Jane sunbathing She was back in the Grills lounge after managing to wind herself up over the selfishness of some of the guests, well most of the guests, reserving sunbeds with books and assorted tat and not even using them. One couple grabbed 4, and had 2 unused until their progeny arrived at 12 to use them.
We then went for some lunch in the PG restaurant, I had a very nice chicken and wild rice salad with pomegranate to start and then Angry Prawn pasta as a main, delicious Jane was going to have gammon egg and chips, but noticed a cheese and onion toastie as the sandwich, her favourite, so she had that.

After lunch it was time to see if there were any free beds in the shade, not a one, no-one on them, but all claimed with tat, I wish I had the bottle to chuck it all overboard, but I’d probably get in trouble for littering. Anyway we found a couple of steamer chairs on deck 3 to chill on, but you miss out on the ice creams by not being in the Grills Terrace at 15:00. We did have some excitement though, a pod of dolphins started to breach as we passed with some being very acrobatic. Typically I couldn’t get my camera out in time!

After our afternoon’s relaxation we headed back to the room to change for the second of our Formal Nights, the Roaring 20’s theme this time. We had arranged to meet the other two couples for a drink in the Commodore Club as it was the penultimate dinner for two of them who were only on a seven night cruise. We stayed there for a couple of Doombars with Jane having Ginger Cosmos. They served up breaded tofu as one of the canapes again, this time without the redeeming samosa served along with it, shame on you Cunard!
DInner was excellent again, a starter of chicken and chorizo terrinne followed by a Prawn Kerala curry, I’d asked Anulraj to zhuzh it up a bit and make is spicier, the chef didn’t let me down. I think I also got extra prawns as I had to ask for extra rice to finish it all up. Jane had lamb cutlets again!

All at Sea – Day 2

It was a solo breakfast for me first thing, it usually is, what with the excitement of the cruise, half a bottle of Pol Acker, Commodore cocktails and shared a bottle of Montagnes 1er Cru at dinner plus port with her cheese, Jane was a little jaded and had already had the foresight to order room service. My first and only lecture for the day was at 09:15, Gloria Barnett’s chat on the weird and wonderful behaviour of sea creatures, that part was excellent. The second part on pollution at sea felt a bit more preachy even though everything she said was true and the aims laudable, there seemed to be a bit of hypocrisy in telling people on a fly cruise to lower their carbon footprint. The second lecture was to be by Phil Holt on Donald Campbell and Bluebird, but as I’ve already seen that twice before I wasn’t sure I fancied a third helping

I had arranged to meet Jane post lecture to go and hunt down a new cap, the Cunard ones are nice but $28 is a bit steep, so I think I’ll wait until tomorrow and Cannes to see what’s available there.
After our failed shopping experience we decided to head up to the Grills Terrace for some more sunbathing. We managed to bag a couple of beds, mine in the shade and Jane was in full sun. At 11am we were brought some lovely chilled fruit kebabs to snack on. It was quite warm on deck even in the shade so I headed into the lounge to read while Jane finished off.

Lunch in the PG restaurant was very nice again. I had a mackerel orzo salad followed by seafood kebabs and banoffee pie. Jane had a very fresh melon salad to start followed by the same main as me.
After lunch we went down to the Queen’s room where they were performing Cunard Street, an oratory originally written by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was very interesting indeed. After that we went up to the promenade deck to lounge on a steamer chair. They’ve all been refurbished and look very smart all clean and royal blue.

Jane wanted to get a little more sunbathing in so it was back up to the Grills Terrace to grab a bed. I wasn’t complaining because there would be ice creams at 15:00. When we got there, there were a lot of free beds but covered in towels. I’m not sure if people are just too lazy to throw them in the towel bin or too entitled and feel that someone can clear up after them.

We had cocktails in the Grills Lounge rather than the Commodore Club. Jane wanted to see if her issue with yesterday’s drinks were a barman problem or a recipe change. The Cosmopolitan in the tonight were much better, much more of a citrus vibe to them and the ginger Cosmopolitan she had as her second drink was lovely apparently.

I’m happy to report that canapes are in full attendance, we were served them in the Commodore Club yesterday and again tonight, but whoever thought breaded tofu made an acceptable canapé need shooting! They only redeemed themselves by also serving a really delicious veg samosa along side it.

It was the first of our formal nights, with the red and gold Cunard theme. Lots of red dresses on show as well as a smattering red bow ties and cummerbunds. Dinner only gets a good from me, I had the tempura jumbo shrimp off the A la Carte menu and though they were delicious, the tempura batter was papery rather than crisp. A technical point but they’ve always been brilliant previously, I didn’t want to complain as our waiter Anuraj is a bit of a feeder and I know I’d have ended up with a second helping, and as much as I’d have been happy to have them, my waistband wouldn’t. Main was chateaubriand which was perfectly cooked, but a small portion, again I could have asked for more and Raj did offer more, I knew it was for the best not to have it.

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.


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.

Cadiz or Not – Friday  November 19th

It was extremely lumpy during the night as we hit 45 KT winds traversing from Lisbon to Cadiz. I was woken at 00:45 by a massive crashing and then through the night multiple times. At least I managed to get some sleep, Jane didn’t. There was announcement by the captain at 08:30 informing us that the winds at Cadiz were outside the safety limits for a ship of out size to dock and that we would be carrying on to Valencia instead.

We had nothing booked for Cadiz so another sea day is no hardship for us.
I went to breakfast alone as Jane was exhausted, with the instructions to bring her something nice back. Sachin dutifully supplied me with an American bacon and Avocado Bagel, even volunteering to get room service to deliver while I had my fry-up. I declined as I wanted the plaudits for delivering.
After breakfast I popped down to the Pursers office to pick up revised daily programme. There were two new lectures planned, firstly,  Dr Sheona Urquhart explaining everything about the Cosmos, or as such as can be fitted into 45 mins. I’ve really enjoyed her lectures on this cruise.

Secondly Dave Mallinder spoke on Doris Day. Jane came to this one, so he’s honoured as that’s the second of his she’s been to now.
We went up to the Grills lounge to have a coffee, but there wasn’t a free seat to be had, so we walked back down to the Garden Lounge for a tea instead. We then went back up to the Grills for lunch. Whitebait followed by Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Jane has cauliflower cheese soup and seafood pasta.

There were some free seats in the lounge after lunch so we had a coffee there before heading off to do a bit of laundry.
We were so near with the Trivia Quiz, 17/20 again with the winners on 18 – so close, with two 50/50 questions letting us down.
The Captain said the storm should have been abating at 18:00 but on return to stateroom after cocktails in the Commodore Club it’s just as noisy in the room and the winds are still hitting over 50 knots. There’s a lot of wind noise through the balcony doors and when a wave slams into the bow it sounds like a thunderclap. It’s no wonder Jane had such a terrible nights sleep.
Smart Attire again tonight for dinner where I’m having Jimbo prawn tempura and pork cutlet. Jane went A La Carte and had shrimp tempura and a delicious looking chicken and prawn dish

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