Monday Nov 8th
As we were in a Princess Grill suite we joined the priority queue. Two aquaintances of ours who had been on our coach were in Britannia so they joined the normal queue. We went on to security which took ages and we had to remove coats, belts and heavy jackets, then go though a scanner. This was supervised by a couple of extremely slow-moving security staff apparently recruited from Cell Block 9. When we got on board we were just behind our non-priority friends.
Due to bad weather and heavy traffic our coach had been delayed and it was 3.30pm when we reached the room, just in time for lifeboat drill. The captain warned us about very heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay so he decided to stay in the English Channel overnight.
We met our two friends, both ladies of a fairly advanced age, and they told us that when they arrived at their cabin two men were already installed there. Luckily they both have a sense of humour as everyone they mentioned it to asked if it was a new Cunard service. It isn't and they were moved to a new cabin.
At dinner we had been assigned to a table for six in the Princess Grill. I usually ask for a table for two as I can only hear in one ear but I hadn't bothered this time which was lucky as the other two couples turned out to be extremely nice. Many people ask if it is a problem on a large table if people want to eat at different times but in practice it doesn't matter, even if you arrive as the others are finishing their dessert or vice versa.
Heavy seas today so the ship is proceeding at only 12 knots to wait out the rest of the storm. They say it will be at its worst this evening. Went to a lecture this morning by Gerald Scarfe which was very interesting. He was helped while setting up by his wife and the people behind us kept commenting on how she looked like Jane Asher. Eventually my wife couldn't stand it any longer, turned round, and told them that, yes, he was married to Jane Asher. Luckily they took in good part our listening in to their conversation and even thanked us while I cringed in my seat.
Left the Bay of Biscay mid-morning. The wind last night was force 9 and the sea state rough. The scheduled singer, Annette Wardell, was too seasick to perform in the theatre at night so a flautist, Suzanne Godfrey, who had been scheduled for the following evening, played instead. She was very good despite the fact that one of her stilleto heels stuck fast in a join in the stage as she entered so she delivered the first number rooted to the spot,trying to keep her balance while the ship moved about and a stagehand tried to free her shoe. A truly professional performance!
The Cruise Director was Alistair Greener, he of the Cunard blog, and he is one of the less cheesy cruise directors although I do wish that they would not attempt to tell jokes as they introduce the shows. Yes, I know that Alistair is a professional actor but they employ comedians to tell jokes (this wasn't just my opinion - from time to time we would have a Table Consensus (TC) at dinner and we were all agreed on this point)
Today is sunny and the sea state about 8 metres with a 20mph wind. Due to hanging back in the Channel we are missing Malaga and going straight to Malta and we should arrive there on Friday.
My wife enrolled in fencing class this morning, as she had fenced at uni, but found it hard going with the movement of the ship.
The Insights lecture this morning was The siege of Malta, 1659, presented by Dr Nick Slope, which was very interesting. Thanks to modern technology people can present their talks using a laptop linked to a video projector and it worked very well. There did seem to be an ongoing problem later in the voyage where the house lights were left on, and on at least one occasion the lecturer requested that the lights be turned down and it took about thirty minutes for it to happen. The sound and lighting techs were only at the back of the theatre so why they didn't respond is a mystery.
The show at night was the much-hyped "A Slice of Saturday Night" which involved the theatre company and the ship's dancers. Whoever chose this show should be ashamed of themselves. It is supposed to be an established West End musical that has toured the world but I find that hard to believe. Not only are the songs non-memorable yet curiously reminiscent but the story is negligible. There is a single set with one moveable item. The cast all look too old for their parts and overact enthusiastically. The costumes look like a 2010 take on what Sixties clothes looked like. Even the mini-skirts were too long which is surely a missed opportunity! My wife fell asleep during the show which is normal for her but so did the entire row in front of us. The show has a single joke at the end where a male character is sitting with a shoe box on his knee and a female character is lured into groping his genitals through it. No, I
didn't make it up. When you think that other ships are presenting shows like "Chicago" and "Hairspray" perhaps Cunard should realise that it's no use having a magnificent theatre unless you stage suitable shows.
In fairness I should point out that the above was my personal opinion and the TC was "not bad".
Insights this morning was another talk by Gerald Scarfe, this time about his work in film, the most famous being "The Wall". Again, a very interesting lecture accompanied by slides and video. The show at night was a magician, Phillip Hitchcock, who I enjoyed immensely.
His final trick defied description so I wont attempt it.
Finally we arrive somewhere, Valletta, Malta to be exact. As it's our maiden call at this port we are greeted with a several-cannon salute as we enter the harbour and a band on the quay. We had arrived early as the captain had made full speed for Malta after missing out Malaga. We had been to Malta before (my wife and I, not the QE) so instead of a tour we got on the circular bus which starts at the quay and does a circle around the city, stopping in the centre. This bus is a bargain. It costs one Euro for the return trip.
Before we sailed a group of people wearing medieval costumes paraded along the quay and played bugles and fired cannons. Unfortunately it was almost pitch dark but still they were appreciated.
The show at night was "Sing", which was a collection of song and dance numbers. I thought that it was better than "A Slice of Saturday Night" and my wife, who has a dancing background, enjoyed it.
Afterwards we went to the Yacht Club for a drink and to listen to the resident band. I don't drink a lot but I ordered a margarita which tasted of nothing at all. When I complained the waitress took it away to add some more tequila but it still didn't taste remotely alcoholic so for the rest of the voyage I stuck to beer.
At sea again. The entertainer tonight was Kenny Martyn, a multi-instrumentalist. We didn't go as he majored heavily on the clarinet and Benny Goodman and it's not really my thing. The TC is that it's about time that we had a comedian. There are three piano players on the ship which is great if you like the piano. I don't. There is also a harpist and a string quartet. Enough said.
Arrived at Venice. It was so foggy that the harbour-master wouldn't let us in. After about an hour it cleared and a Costa ship that was also waiting was allowed in. According to our captain that was because their captain was the harbour-master's cousin but he might have been joking. Or not. Eventually we docked an hour late and we went on a walking tour which turned out to be a good idea. The place is quite small and we got to see the side streets that you might normally miss.
Got back to the ship at 3pm but the PG was closed and so was the main buffet so there was little choice of food. It was a pity that they didn't put the meal times back an hour or so.
We left Venice two hours later than scheduled just as the fog was closing in again.
Arrived an hour late at Dubrovnik due to our late departure from Venice. The weather has picked up and is pleasantly warm There are shuttle buses into town and we take one. It's a beautiful city. On the way back we nearly got a free tour as we got on the wrong bus, one that was going on somewhere else, but the tour guide spotted that they had two extra and turfed us off.
We heard later that a few days after we left Dubrovnik was flooded, with a metre on water in the streets.
The entertainer tonight was Kenny Smiles. At last, a comedian! He was billed as a comedy vocalist and he was an excellent singer but the main thing was that he was a brilliant comedian, heavily into audience involvement which I like as long as I'm not on the receiving end.
At sea. The evening show was "Hotel Royale" by the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company, which wasn't bad, alhough the plot was similar to that of "A Slice of Saturday Night" - wimpy boy fancies attractive girl, is rebuffed, gets her in the end, although this time she didn't get to fondle his genitals through a shoe box. Or, indeed, through anything else.
Kusadasi. Like most people we had booked the Ephesus tour as there is very little to see in Kusadasi. We had originally booked the Miletus, Didyma and Ephesus tour but suddenly realised that it was eight hours long so we changed it for the "The best of Ephesus" which was a mere six hours and thank goodness that we did. Even in November the weather was really warm and the place was packed with tourists. We first saw the house of the Virgin Mary and after Ephesus we went to St John's Basilica then the Ephesus archeological museum. This was followed by lunch "in a five star hotel" which was actually a resort complex where a buffet was laid out in an enormous room. The food was adequate but obviously not as nice as that on the ship.
As we were nearing the port on our return the guide, who in fairness was very good, tried his best to get us to visit a carpet-making demo which would only last fifteen minutes and there would be no pressure to buy, although with these prices we would we pretty stupid not to (his words). Luckily the rug factory was just opposite the dock gates so we made our excuses and left.
The entertainer tonight was Sarah Chandler, a saxophonist. I am not unmusical. I play guitar, keyboards and harmonica but somehow an evening of "three different saxophones" didn't appeal so we missed it.
Piraeus, Greece. This is of course the port for Athens and having seen a lot of Athens at a conference some years ago plus being worn out from all the walking at Ephesus we stayed on board, just popping out to buy a newspaper. The ship had announced that a vendor was coming on board to sell newspapers but after buying one we realised that it was yesterday's edition. Luckily a shop in the port had
Unfortunately by now I had developed a persistent cough and other unpleasant symptoms. It may have been some variant of Norovirus but after one day I was left with just the cough. I skipped dinner and the show, although my wife went to both and said that the entertainer, Adrian Walsh, a comedian, was OK but not as good as Kenny Smiles. Popped into the ships shop to buy some cough mixture but they had apparently had a run on it and all that was left was some Venos which I bought. Through the years I must have sold hundreds of bottles of Venos to people and I had no idea how awful it tastes! A retrospective apology to all of you.
At sea. Still coughing. Didn't visit the Doctor as I was told that those who had (and there were quite a few) were just given an antibiotic shot which I know to be useless in the case of a virus infection. Missed all meals and the show.
At sea. Again missed meals and was disappointed to find no apparent difference to my weight.
Alicante. A beautiful port. The temperature was about 20 degrees C but here was a strong wind so it felt a bit chilly. There was a free shuttle from the ship to the dock entrance but Cunard had said that it was just for those with walking difficulties so we went on foot, which took about fifteen minutes. Coming back we joined the shuttle as it appeared that almost everyone on the ship had walking
We were told that there was an open-topped bus which gave a tour of the town and district for seven euros. This had not been mentioned on board.
Gibralter. Unlike most people we had never been here before and had read quite a few negative reports here on CC so I wasn't really looking forward to it. It was about 18 degrees C and a lovely sunny day. We hadn't booked a trip as they seemed over-priced but at the terminal entrance taxi drivers were offering a trip for £22 each that lasts an hour and a quarter and goes to all the interesting places like St Michael's Caves, the Barbary apes, etc, and finishes on Main Street. They needed six people in the taxi to run the trip.
One of our group had difficulty walking and the taxi driver went out of his way to help her so I was quite impressed.
By now I was recovering quite well and even popped into the buffet for some lunch. A very nice Scots gentleman took pity on my cough and insisted that I take the remainder of his cough sweets as he said that he had suffered from the same problem but was now cured.
The show tonight was Katzenjammer, two guys who play a piano four-handed. They were good but I found their humour a bit laboured.
At sea.Feeling a lot better now, possible due to anticipation of arriving home.
We were on Victoria in June, in Queens Grill and apart from the fact that we had a stern cabin on QV I haven't really noticed much difference. In QG we were seated at a banquette away from the windows (serves me right for asking for a table for two) and now in Princess Grill we are on a table for six, beautifully situated at the front of the restaurant with a far better view and of course the service is just as good if not better. Our waiter had moved from QM2 and on probing didn't seem too keen on the move but he had brought the QM2 standard of service with him.
I had expected to be overwhelmed by the newness of the ship but in truth I didn't notice any obvious difference.The library was unfortunately the same. Why other ships allow you to take out and return books 24 hours a day yet Cunard only open for restricted hours (which they stick to rigidly) I don't know. Are Cunard books more valuable? Are the passengers less trustworthy?
We didn't try the alternative dining arrangements. Having paid extra to be in QG or PG why on earth would I want to pay even more to eat somewhere else? Logically QG and PG guests should be allowed to eat elsewhere free.
The theatre is very impressive. I don't know whether it was because we always went to the 10.30pm show but it was never full and the sight lines are excellent. The TC was that they should show films in the theatre (or smewhere else), especially on sea days. I suspect that when not open to the passengers the theatre is being used for rehearsals. Even on the TV they don't screen pre-release films
One odd thing about the P3 balconies is that they are about two feet deeper than those on the higher decks which I really appreciated as I like to keep as far away from the balcony rail as possible due to vertigo. So if your cabin is on a higher deck you pay more and get a smaller balcony. Not only that but in heavy seas you get more movement.
Nearly home. To sum up - a nice ship, but our next cruise is on the Crown Princess in June. For the same price that we paid on QE we get a Vista suite at the stern with a huge balcony, free internet and free laundry. If I don't pick up any illnesses that will be the icing on the cake.