Having arrived at the new Cunard terminal at Southampton when I arrived home from the Autumn Colours cruise in October it was a very pleasant surprise to check in at the new terminal. No more standing in line, just a smiling hostess to hand us a coloured card bearing a letter, and a 'please have a seat and listen for your letter to be called'. In no time at all we had checked in, been welcomed aboard and found our bags ready and waiting outside our cabin.
This had been very much a last minute idea, to have a few days of QM2 luxury before flying off to Boston for our 'real' three week holiday in New England and Canada, so we had opted for an inside stateroom with atrium view on the basis we would be sailing at night and sightseeing ashore by day. We opened our curtains to find we had a birdseye view of the Grand Lobby and the beautiful lighted mural was right outside our window. These rooms are also slightly larger than the general inside ones.
We booked online through an American agency and were delighted to find they had supplied a plate of delicious chocolate dipped strawberries and $50 each onboard credit.
We headed up to the Kings Court for a late lunch, but many of the areas were closing in preparation for the lifeboat drill. This was our first and as it turned out final visit to eat in the Kings Court this trip.
Lifeboat drill saw us back in the Kings Court briefly, then it was off to the sailaway party.
Dinner in the Britannia Restaurant saw the high standard of service one would expect of Cunard. We were on a table for six, but there were just four of us. After dinner we watched the Cunard singers and dancers performing what for us was a brand new show.
We arrived on time at Zeebrugge, and were fortunate to have a friend pick us up at the dock gates to show us around Bruges. What a beautiful city - I would describe it as a perfect cruise destination, as it is close to port and easy to see in a day. And of course the chocolates are gorgeous!
We were tired when we arrived back on board and too late for afternoon tea, so we decided to skip the captain's cocktail party and take our time getting dressed in our black and white finery for dinner - full table of six this time and everyone very sociable.
As it turned out there was the perfect table just waiting for us as we came out of the Britannia Restaurant after dinner in the Chart Room, so we sat and listened to the excellent jazz there for the rest of the evening. The Chart Room is a favourite spot of mine, but too often difficult to find a seat.
My travelling companion is a cigar smoker and on our previous transatlantic voyages he had enjoyed the company of other cigar fans in the Churchill Room off the Commodore bar, but this time found it crammed with cigarette smokers, I guess due to Cunard's change in smoking policy.
Next day we arrived in Rotterdam in pouring rain. The coach trip to Amsterdam took well over an hour, but the tour guide kept us informed all the way and walked with us as far as Dam Square once we arrived. The rain made sightseeing on foot difficult, so we took a canal boat trip in a glass topped boat, which immediately steamed up throughout!! We found a great table outdoors but under cover in Dam Square for lunch. The sun, of course, decided to come out as we departed.
Afternoon tea back on board was in Sir Samuel's - a favourite spot of mine. This was originally a wine bar and very little used during the day, but now it doubles up as a coffee shop it has become a very popular meeting place.
After dinner we just had to see 'Appassionata' I must have seen this show at least four times, but the singers and dancers change, so it was a pleasure to see it again. We chose the Commodore as our nightcap location and the waitress was happy to get me a favourite drink - the Milky Way - although it is no longer on the drinks menu.
Monday morning saw us arrive in Cherbourg in brilliant sunshine. I live not far away, so I know that Cherbourg is closed on Monday morning, but no-one in the tour office either was aware of this or bothered to impart the information (they had also moved Mont St Michel to Brittany on their information sheet, which the people of Normandy - where it is actually situated - had not been told!). We stayed on board and relaxed in the sun. But of course when we went to the Britannia for lunch everyone was saying that everything was closed. I told them it would all be open after two in the afternoon. This was the only day we had the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea in the ballroom.
We late sitting diners had our show early as, all too quickly, it was the evening for packing up ready for disembarkation. After dinner a quick flutter in the Casino. Last time I had played the same table I was sitting across from Rod Stuart and Penny Lancaster. No such luck this time, but this was no Transatlantic crossing! Very different clientele and I really missed the daytime activities like the RADA classes, bridge lessons, regular afternoon teas in the Queen's Room, etc.
All in all an enjoyable bank holiday weekend which set us up nicely for our holiday to come, but it will be longer voyages for me in the future as I do not think this type of cruise allows enough sea time.