Don’t cry for me Argentina!

Instead we cried as the lovely, brilliant flautist Gillie Poznansky and the wonderfully talented pianist Mark Tanner left us in Buenos Aires at the end of their contract. They had given five superb recitals over the previous two weeks and had captivated us all. They were also great dinner companions.

So here we are in Argentina. First, Buenos Aires, then Puerto Madryn and then the southernmost capital in the world, Ushuaia. Our arrival in BA was accompanied by torrential rain – a heavier but warmer variety than that falling in the UK recently.

Buenos Aires is a large and beautiful city – too large to cover in one day. We took a taxi because one of the shuttles organised by the ship was not wheelchair friendly. The first, from the gangway to the terminal was fine. It could tilt and had a ramp but the second from the terminal to the city had neither. We took a taxi but as roads were closed because of a noisy demonstration a ten minute journey took mpre than an hour.

Regrettably we did not see much that BA has to offer. We did not get to see Eva Peron’s grave nor did we see some of the museums that we had hoped to visit – the rain and traffic problems curtailed our plans. We did, though, have a lovely lunch in a pavement restaurant once the rain had cleared and the sun had started to shine.
And in the evening we were treated to a beautiful Argentinian tango by the onboard professional dancers.
We will return to BA for a longer visit one day.

Problems for our Lady Captain

Our next port is Puerto Madryn, Argentina where we are due tomorrow, but there are apparently problems there including some sort of blockade of the port. The Captain reported in her regular noon broadcast that there was a potential difficulty. The problems that she faced were that she has a number of passengers who are due to leave the ship there, she also has a group who have booked a 4 day tour of Patagonia returning to the ship in Ushuaia. And she needs to take on 2 Chilean pilots to assist her in navigating the waters off Cape Horn and through the Beagle Channel.

I know there were problems for cruise liners last year in getting in to Puerto Madryn if they had been to the Falklands or were going there later but whether this is related to that we do not know. We are not due to go there on this trip.

The Captain has updated us. We will go into the port in the early afternoon and we have apparently been given assurances that the ship will be allowed to leave! It will allow those who are due to leave the ship to disembark and importantly it will enable us to get the Chilean pilots on board. We will not, for our own safety we are told, be able to go ashore.
While we were in Buenos Aires on Tuesday there were massive traffic jams which meant that our taxi driver only received US$10, the agreed fare, for a ride that should have taken 10 minutes but in the event took an hour. When he dropped us off there was a large demonstration nearby which blocked the road and the flags being waved referred to Navales – which I think related to the present dispute. No doubt your access to the news is better than ours and if you could email me to let me know what it is all about – or make a comment in the appropriate place on the blog, that would be even better because it would update the 74,027 readers of the blog!
I think I have a photo of the demo in BA which I will add.
No wonder Captain Peter Philpott, who left the ship in Rio to go on leave will be pleased that he has avoided this hot potato!



Montevideo is on the north shore of the River Plate (which separates Uruguay from Argentina) with Buenos Aires being 140 miles to the west on the southern shore.

We were here back in 2006 on Queen Mary 2 and took an organised tour on that occasion, so this time we decided to go on Smithy’s Walking Tour. The capital of Uruguay was just across the road from the berth and as a Holland America ship, Zaandam, was also in port the locals were out in force with their market stalls.

It was a lovely day and we were soon away from the port with Jane map reading. We reached a small well maintained square – Plaza Zabala – with a large number of gardeners and cleaners in evidence. Montevideo is a clean and tidy place and boasts about its welfare state system said to be the first and to a great extent the only welfare state that still exists in the Western Hemisphere. It has been in place since the 1900’s with free medical care, 8 hour working days, paid holidays, legal aid and nationalisation of essential services.

Jane guided us along a pedestrianised shopping area to a further beautiful square with a temporary antique market in place. Not a tatty place with some of the jewellery priced in the US $1,000 price category. Form there it was on to Independence Square which we remembered from our earlier visit.

Museums were plentiful, but sadly they were not equipped with lifts (elevators) and we were restricted to the ground floors.

Before returning to the ship we bumped into our dining companions, Gillie and Mark, and enjoyed a coffee with them. We walked some 6 or 7 miles over fairly uneven pavements with very few dropped kerbs!

Rio de Janeiro

What a great day! This was probably our best port visit ever. Carole Gordon was recently in S America with Ian, and told us that the Brazilian jewelllery firm H Stern offered tours of the City incorporating a visit to their headquarters.

We went ashore at 9.30am. It was a beautiful day and almost immediately we were introduced to a young man, Hugo, from Stern’s, and were told that he would be with us for the day. A new black shiny Toyota then appeared driven by Philip. Getting the folding wheelchair into the boot/trunk was tricky because the car was fuelled by natural gas and the gas tank was located in the boot! But we managed to do it.

Hugo asked us what we would like to see. As we had been up Sugarloaf in the cable car on a previous visit and as we could see the statue of Christ the Redeemer from most parts of the City, with Hugo’s help we decided on the route we would take. First stop was a private boys school which had formerly been a monastery. The chapel was almost completely built of gold. The walls and ceiling were gold as was everything else. An incredible building.

From the Monastery we drove to the cathedral. Not a pretty building from the outside but inside it was stunning with stained glass windows stretching from the floor to the top of the pyramid shaped building. The cathedral can apparently hold more than 20,000 worshippers at one time.

Hugo turned out to be a perfect host. A 23 year old, due to graduate in International Relations next Friday from Rio’s University. He speaks 5 languages and is about to apply for internships in the UN with an emphasis on African affairs. He was a charming young man and took us next to the districts of Copacabana and Ipanema with their multi million dollar homes and beaches with the same names. 
The Girl from Ipanema was to be seen on the beach with her beautiful girlfriends, but the Copacabana beach was not as busy as it was when the Pope was in Rio last year. Millions of people flocked to see him on the beach.
By then we were ready to face the H Stern selling experience. It was not a hard sell and we felt no pressure to buy, although Jane did buy a smallish piece. After an hour there we returned to the car and were then driven to the massive botanical gardens. Hugo knew his trees and plants and the history of the gardens created by King John VI of Portugal in 1808 and opened to the public in 1822. We spent an hour in the beautiful gardens before returning to the ship. By then it was 6.00 pm and we had been out, courtesy of Stern, for 8 hours.

A brilliant day.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy was on board for the second segment and gave two lectures and also took part in a Q&A session. You will recall that he was kidnapped in Beirut in 1986 and held as a hostage for 5 years. He is a brilliant speaker and talked about his capture and imprisonment, his time in solitary and his relationships with others – Brian Keenan, Terry Waite and three Americans.

He spoke without a note and kept full houses enthralled on each occasion. It came out during the Q&A session that he had been at school at Haileybury. Janes brother, Nigel Atkinson was also at Haileybury and when we spoke to John later, it appeared that they overlapped for 2 years, Nigel being his senior by 3 years.

John is a successful radio and TV presenter and frequently reports in the Middle East and from time to time returns to the Lebanon.

Dinner companions

One of the highlights of each day is dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. With a little help from some friends (they know who they are) we were allocated the table that we had used in the past and which we like. For the first segment from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, we enjoyed the company of Geoff and Pam from Harrow, who were intending to spend a few days in Florida, before returning by air to the UK. Henry and Marlene made up the table for 6. They were using the ship as a ferry to get them to their holiday home in Boca Raton, Florida. They were all in great form.

After Fort Lauderdale we were joined by Kim Brumpton, originally from Brisbane but now resident in California and his ‘boss’  Deidrie Ihlam who runs a travel agency in California. Deidrie, with Kim’s assistance, is hosting a group of her clients on QV. 

We were also joined by the classical musicians, Mark Tanner and Gillian Poznansky, who are giving 5 wonderful recitals during the segment between Ft Lauderdale and Buenos Airies. They are a lovely couple except that they can both do Super Fiendish Sudokus really rapidly (so they say!). Jane and I thought we were pretty good, but we are clearly in a different (lower) league!



Fortaleza was a maiden call for QV. The first time here and probably the last. QV is apparently the largest passenger ship to call, but that is not surprising because the facilities were poor. We moored in the commercial port (which in itself is not unusual in a port where there are no passenger terminals). It was dirty and uneven with railway lines crossing the dockside. The locals appeared to be totally disorganised and unable to cope with the large number of coaches and people.

We had been told that we would not be allowed to walk out of the port to find a taxi but that a vehicle would be available to take wheelchairs to the port gate. A van was parked near us on the dockside but the driver showed no interest in us and shook his head when I pointed out Jane in her wheelchair. After about half an hour the Port Agent arrived and indicated that this was indeed the van we were to use. It had no ramp and no hoist. By then Dan and Maureen Downey had arrived with Dan in his wheelchair. The van was high but I managed to bundle Jane in. Dan was a big man and Maureen a small lady but we pushed and shoved to get him in for a journey which turned out to be only some 400 yards to the gate.

At the gate a few taxi drivers argued between themselves about who should take us. They produced a number of unsuitable vehicles, but eventually a young man with a smattering of English and an honest smile arrived in a slightly battered taxi. A price was agreed to take the four of us and 2 folding wheelchairs to the centre of the city.
The 40 minute ride was interesting. Fast and furious with frequent lane changes and close shaves took us to the massive market on four floors. Dan decided to stay in the car with the driver despite no common language. The market was clean and the sellers surprised to see Europeans in their city. Jane managed to find some miniature dolls but we spent very little.

Then it was back to the taxi before another dangerous ride took us across town to the new football stadium. Reports in the UK have tended to give the impression that the stadia in Brazil are not ready for this summers FIFA World Cup, but Fortaleza is ready apart from a few roads near the stadium which need surfacing.

Fortaleza is a ramshackle, grubby place but its stadium looks magnificent. I asked the taxi driver if he would be going to any of the matches but he said he couldn’t afford to do so. A shame because no doubt many of the matches will be played before half empty stadia.
The drver then took us to his home to introduce us to his wife and 3 month old baby. The flat was sparcely furnished but a large flat screen TV took pride of place! Then it was off to the beach. A wide expanse of beautiful sand stretching for several miles. Fortaleza may one day sell itself as a tourist resort, but it has some way to go before it can make such a claim. It needs to clean up it’s act.

Everyone appeared to be pleased to be back aboard the ship after their day ashore. Home sweet home!

Crossing the Line

On Sunday we crossed the Equator. King Neptune and his Queen boarded just after lunch and sentenced the Pollys who had not crossed the line before for a series of offences. Punishments were carried out ruthlessly on men and women alike. In the main they ended up covered in gunge extracted from the kitchen refuse bins. When we actually crossed the Equator later elderly passengers were warned to hang on to the handrails in case the ship lurched as it went over the line and others were to be seen looking out over the ocean hoping to spot the red line.



I woke to see the sun rising over Bridgetown, as we approached the island of Barbados after three days at sea.

After we made fast on the main berth, I noticed a large crane bearing the name LIEBHERR and was reminded of Nicola Cortese’s fallout with Katharina Liebherr a few hours earlier. Southampton Football Club appeared to have achieved stability but in hindsight I suppose it was inevitable that the owner of a multi million pound business could not allow the existing regime to continue to run it as their private fiefdom. But I digress! Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas followed us in and moored against the harbour wall. She was on a 7 day voyage from Puerto Rico around the Caribbean.

My favourite place for watching us arrive and depart is just above the bridge. Few passengers know of it or how to access it. I regard it as my private deck and tell very few people how to find it!

Once ashore, our plan was to find a taxi and head off to the Orchid Farm that we had not visited before. Outside the terminal building a driver spotted the wheelchair, said that he had a 12 seater and 2 spare places and a wheelchair lift. He agreed to take in the Orchids as part of the tour. Perfect. Once we were loaded in we headed north, up the West side of the island, past the Kensington Oval, out of the Parish of St Michael and into the Parish of St James. We passed the luxury hotels where many of you will have stayed and arrived in Holetown. Jane and I remember it because we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary there at the Glitter Bay and Royal Pavilion both of which have apparently seen better days, according to a local lady.

The first settlers landed at what is now Holetown in 1626 and a wooden church was built there almost immediately. It was replaced by a coral-stone building in the early 1680’s and it is still there today as the Parish Church of St James. We then headed inland through lush farmland and rose up to one of the highest points on the island. From Highland we had magnificent views of the east coast, known as the Atlantic Coast. The cattle in the fields around us looked to be very well fed beasts in terrific shape. The roads were steep and narrow and we passed sugar plantations – sadly no longer a major source of revenue for the island. Although we did not visit it on this occasion, we were near to the Francia Plantation owned at one time by our friends the Sisnett family.

We then travelled south to Orchid World. Set on a hill, it was not easy to negotiate with a wheelchair, and to put it mildly, the orchids were not very impressive. The display at Asda, Chandlers Ford is always better than this! Jane will report separately in her blog on accessibility.

We then headed south to Bridgetown and back to the ship to hear the Captain announce that we had 1735 nautical miles to cover before reaching our next port Fortaleza, Brazil.

Apologies for the lack of photos, but the internet is very, very slow today and it is impossible to download the Barbados photos which will follow in time!