Sea Days

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

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

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.