There’s nothing as strange as………

There is an attractive lady on board who has been married and divorced 4 times. I suppose that in itself is not particularly extraordinary. I’m sure that over the years we have heard of numerous actors and actresses who have managed that number and more.

When I used to make a penny or two out of the divorce business, the best I managed was a man who had two divorces which I looked after, married a third time and remained happily married for the rest of his days.

The story here, though, is that for a number of years after the last divorce, the lady had another lengthy relationship with a man, but she brought that relationship to an end some five or six months ago.

The lady decided to move to a different country and to take up a new occupation. And then she decided to sail on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and that’s how we met her.

Once she was on the ship she started to receive anonymous gifts which were delivered to her stateroom. She says that it was obvious to her that they were being sent by her estranged partner. Then after a few days at sea he appeared. He had secretly booked himself onto the same cruise as her in the hope that he could persuade her to resume their relationship.

The man concerned appears to be having some success in re establishing the relationship, despite the lady telling us that that would not happen!

Watch this space.

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The Rewind Project

The blog needs a small rewind. I asked you if you recognised four gentlemen who appeared on stage on QE last week. Jean Whitehead from Torquay had seen them on a Cunard ship in the past but couldn’t recall their name. ‘Project’ on its own was not good enough. Sorry Jean!

They are The Rewind Project.

The lead singer is Mick Wilson formerly of 10cc.

Nigel Freer will know him and his guitar.

Some twenty men and women have been members of 10cc over the years, but Mick was a member for a long time – 1999 to 2017. The Rewind Project drummer was a member of the Moody Blues for years, but I’ve forgotten his name. I wrote all the names down on the back of an envelope but cannot locate it! If anyone can remember their names, please let me know so that I can update this.

The Rewind Project played twice in the Royal Court Theatre to standing ovations. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of the passengers on this voyage appeared to be older than me, the band did well to get them rocking in the aisles!

They were brilliant and it was announced that they would appear twice on the last night before Southampton in the Queens Room – the ship’s ballroom and large party venue.

On the last night they were to play for 45 minutes for those who eat their dinner early and then again at 10.30 for 45 minutes for the late diners, us included.

When we arrived at the Queens Room many of those who had heard the band, left their seats to enable the newcomers to have a drink and enjoy the band. We were ready behind a group of 4 waiting for them to leave.

When they showed little inclination to move, to check that they were indeed overstaying their welcome, I asked one of them if they had enjoyed the band. Yes they had, he said, but it he made it clear that they were not moving.

I have nothing against the Dutch. I have met quite a number of Dutch people over the years and have enjoyed their company. Some of you have children who have married Dutch people and they are delightful.

Suffice it to say that this bunch (I have no idea what their nationality was or is!) refused to move. To extend their stay they ordered a round of drinks – tap water, with ice of course, from an unhappy waiter.

You can see Jane stuck behind a pillar. The lady at the front was so conscious of the fact that we were waiting for her chair, she hung onto it! The good looking man sprawled out on the left was rated the worst dressed man on the ship in an earlier competition. I think I have another photo of him.

Yes there he is with his lovely wife. A very attractive couple I think you will agree. I’m sure they enjoyed their evening!

Despite all these diversions, The Rewind Project were terrific. They have clearly found a nice niche. Yes a nice niche.

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Competition time

Does anyone recognise these four gentlemen who appeared in the Royal Court Theatre last night?

Those travelling on QE are barred from taking part!

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The Brits in Gib

Most Brits go straight to the shops in Gibraltar. The perfume and the alcohol are incredibly cheap and the production of your cruise card produces a further 10% reduction.

Somehow the Brits cannot resist having a go at the Spanish. When a departure from Gibraltar happens in the middle of the day, large groups of them gather together on the open rear section of Deck 9.

These occasions have become something of a tradition particularly when the sun is shining as it was today.

Pimms appear to sponsor these sessions, in which otherwise respectable UK citizens wave Union Jacks, drink more alcohol than usual, and sing Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen (they all stood up for that!). And they dance. Sometimes it’s not a pretty sight.

Sadly, they are singing to absent Spaniards. Everyone hopes that the Spanish Navy will turn up to keep us out of Spanish waters. They are nowhere to be seen. They keep well clear when the Queen is about.

One day we’ll see something like this to liven up our day.

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Cagliari

We were here back in June. The guide we booked then, to drive an adapted vehicle, was pretty, but could not speak much English, nor could she understand much that we said.

This time we decided to explore on our own. Jane and Kim wanted to go to the botanical gardens. The gardens didn’t seem to be too far away according to the map. The trouble is that most maps are flat and don’t tell you about steep hills between you and your proposed destination.

When we go ashore we rarely take the powered wheelchair because of uneven pavements and high kerbs. So either Kim or I have to push the basic folding wheelchair. That’s not a problem on the flat but this particular hill soon defeated us. 1 in 10 or 1 in 5? Who knows, but Jane took pity on me as I grunted and groaned. I exaggerated the heavy breathing.

We found an area with some quaint back streets. Despite it being Sunday most of the small and interesting shops were open and were fun. When we got back down to sea level we found Elizabeth from Liss, who we meet regularly on QE (‘her’ ship – she has never sailed on the Queen Victoria because of her name!). She had just ordered a cocktail to celebrate the fact that it was her birthday. So we joined her and celebrated with her.

Cagliari is not top of my list of favourite ports, but if you go up to the old city (right at the top of the hill) or the salt pans with their flamingos, there is plenty to see.

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Strait of Messina

In the past, whenever we have sailed between mainland Italy and the island of Sicily, it has been dark. This time the passage through the Strait occurred in the early afternoon.

We had left Dubrovnik at 6.00pm the evening before and our course took us round the foot of Italy, through the Strait and then on a westerly line to Sardinia.

The Strait is fairly narrow. 1.9 miles at its narrowest point. As we headed north through the channel, Catania was on our port side. We flew from the airport in Catania last year on our way to Lucca via Rome and Pisa for Katie and Sam’s wedding.

Next on the port side was the sprawling city of Messina.

Messina is a major port and a number of ferries were rushing out of the port across the Strait to the mainland or round to Sardinia and Corsica.

On the mainland I spotted a newish elevated road running through the hills. It had a number of elegant bridges spanning the valleys. I wonder which European pot of gold paid for them.

In the foreground is the western point of mainland Italy and in the background is the eastern point of Sicily. It was clear that the currents here were very strong and the ship continued on a northerly track for some time before turning west towards the southern end of Sardinia and our next port.

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Dubrovnik

Some months ago I emailed my usual request to Cunard’s Shore Mobility department to find out whether of not any tours had been organised with wheelchair adapted vehicles in the ports we were visiting. There was one in Sardinia, but we had tried that back in June and it had been an expensive failure because the pretty young lady driver could hardly speak any English. There was another in Gib, but we have been there on just about every European cruise we have been on and I hate the apes!

But there was one half day tour planned for Dubrovnik and we confirmed that for the 3 of us and the wheelchair.

On the ship 3 days before Dubrovnik I was told that it was likely that it would have to be cancelled as only the 3 of us were booked in. I explained I had booked it in Southampton and was surprised, if they were short of takers, why it not been advertised on the ship. I made it clear that I was not very happy. Two days to go and no sign of any promotion of the availability of places.

There were clearly conversations between the ship and Southampton and the day before, I was told it would go ahead. Great. Up early to be ready for an 8.30am meeting on the dockside.

The driver looked a bit grumpy, but our guide, Sanja was lovely. A Croatian girl brought up and educated in Slovenia, married to a police officer now in a senior position in Croatian state security. They have 2 daughters.

Sanja’s English vocabulary was amazing. She speaks 5 languages.

After brief introductions and an outline of the plan for the half day tour, Jane is installed in the vehicle. The driver is told that he needs to use restraints to hold the chair in place and he struggles with them.

The first part of the tour is a visit to Cavtat which is beautiful. A small town in a bay with a bustling harbour. We walk along the promenade alongside the sterns of the tied up yachts and we find that the largest of them by far is Penelope of Luxury Living, Southampton.

The crew are polishing the vessel and I explain to one of them, a young Englishman from Hampshire, that I am taking a photo because of the Southampton connection. They were cleaning because the new guests, one couple, were due to arrive shortly. When we later had coffee I googled the yacht to find that the weekly rental is 50,000 Euros in the Med or $66,000 in the Caribbean. I’d take it but for the fact it’s not wheelchair friendly!

We then returned to the adapted vehicle and set off for Dubrovnik. The driver seemed to forget that Jane was in the back. He took corners too fast and on one corner there was a scream from Jane. Her wheelchair had detached itself from the floor and Jane and the chair were thrown down on their side, her head hitting the backs of the seats in front of her. Mr Grumpy braked and stopped, blocking a junction. We climbed into the back, pulling Jane up. Jane was really shaken up. Luckily there were no cuts or bruises and no broken bones. There could easily have been. It was awful. Quite simply the driver had used 2 restraints instead of 4. He had failed to make Jane secure.

After a time we set off again at a more sedate pace and eventually arrived at the old city. Jane seemed to be over the shock of being thrown to the floor. Sanja was a terrific guide taking us down the main shiny street, the Placa, and pointing out the various buildings and their history.

The plan was that we would be collected for the return to the ship at 12.45. Sanja kept taking calls from the driver and from her employer. In the event we were an hour late returning. There will be a detailed email winging its way to Cunard when we get back.

As ever, Dubrovnik delights and a knowledgeable attractive guide with a great command of the English language is a big bonus.

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Sibenik

We had never heard of the place before. Dubrovnik and Split are the more usual ports for Cunard in Croatia. This was a maiden port, meaning that Queen Elizabeth had not been here before.

More relevant to Jane was the fact that it would be a tender port and she would not be able to go ashore. The second tender port on this cruise, which she not surprisingly thinks is unfair. And no doubt plenty of other people feel the same.This is a tender which is about to be lowered.

For reasons that I will not publish (but will be happy to tell you about next time we talk) Cunard have tightened up their procedures for getting people ashore in tenders. You have to be able to demonstrate that you can step across two white lines on the floor a yard apart! Additionally, the platform that links the ship and the tender is much more robust than it was.

But back to Sibenik. When the ship arrived in the area where she was to anchor we could see a small harbour with a few yachts moored and what appeared to be residential homes dotted around it. A small village.

Further up the coast was a larger town and there was another larger town in the hills.

Once the tenders were lowered, it was clear that we were to be landed in the small harbour.

We had decided that I would go ashore first, so I took an early tender to the little harbour, then boarded a shuttle bus that took me to Sibernik which was about 25 minutes away.

There was a longish walk from the car park to the town and many struggled with that. Sibenik was not very exciting. There was an old town up the hill, but as I was limited in time and energy, I settled for a bar overlooking the water, a coffee, a glass of wine (after noon) and the rather slow WiFi.

It was all rather underwhelming which was a shame. Why Sibenik was chosen ahead of Split, I know not, but the weather was excellent – it was a beautiful sunny day.

I returned to the ship in time for lunch and took over from Kim who then went ashore herself.

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Venice Part 2

I hadn’t finished the earlier piece but was ashore in Sibernik (more of that later) and was on my own, so took advantage of some free WiFi in a bar to download photos (which can take ages). The free WiFi was even slower than the ship, so I did what I could and published what I had achieved so far.

What I was going to say was that Jane and I first came to Venice on a Thomson City Break with the Gordons and the Wilsons many years ago – possibly 25+ years ago. Jane and I also came on a day trip when we were staying in a beach resort called Caorle, north of Venice. QE and QV have brought us here on 3 or 4 occasions since then. Without any doubt, Venice has to be high on the list of places to visit on a ship.

The approach and the departure are always magical. This was on our way back to the ship.

One of the strangest sights this time, just after we had left the Vaporetto was a bride in a long flowing white wedding dress with her man. He was buying her an ice cream from a kiosk! We all agreed it was very odd and Kim took a photo of them sitting down eating their ice creams.

It was only later that day when I was looking at the photos I had taken from the ship early in the day, that I spotted the same couple in one of my pictures. Possibly they do it every day as some sort of joke or promotion. Here they are just right of centre in the middle of the photo taken at about 7.15am!

Even if CCTV misses you, if you are up to no good, Smithy’s camera will pick you out, so beware.

When we arrived back at the ship a Silversea ship was just arriving. Can Ian or Carole Gordon identify which one it is?

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Venice

I’d just like to thank you all for your good wishes and comments. I wish I could respond to them all but cannot because of the dearth of WiFi. It’s an expensive commodity out here.

At 6.30am we were entering the lagoon. By 7.00am we were gently edging towards the Grand Canal.

These were taken from our balcony on the starboard side of the ship.

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As the ship approaches the start of the Grand Canal, it has to veer to port and travel up the much wider and, presumably deeper, Canal Della Giudecca, on our way to the port. The buildings either side are just as beautiful as those alongside the Grand Canal.

As we arrived in the Port, Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager was already moored. I think that is the ship in which the Trehernes and the Clarkes sailed last year on separate voyages. We had 2 voyages on Regent’s Navigator, one in the Med and the other in the Caribbean 10 years ago. They are lovely ships.

After breakfast the three of us set off on the well tried route to St Marks. A shuttle to the Tronchetto Vaporetto station, then bullying our way onto the Vaporetto with the wheelchair, fighting for a vantage point for the blog photography and enjoying the mass of people getting on and off – tourists from all over the world as well a locals going about their daily business.

We are quickly on the Grand Canal which is bustling with ferries, water taxis and gondolas as well as working boats carrying building materials, food, booze – everything.

And then after 40 minutes we were in St Marks Square. Kim had not been to Venice for many years, so we reacquainted her with the main sights and then began the tour of the back streets. Often we are lucky with the back alleys when they lead to piazzas with hostelries occupied by locals rather than tourists. This time we found too many back alleys with little bridges which we had no hope of getting Jane over. But it was amusing.

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