The case of the missing trays

Does anyone know what happened to Cunard’s passenger trays? (This is a waiters tray)

It is a real mystery. I understand that the trays vanished from Queen Mary 2 initially. I can only think that it was a sort of virus that somehow destroyed the trays. I think they were wooden. They were to be found in the self service food areas (known as The Lido in QE and QV). It seems that the virus then spread to Queen Elizabeth and when we boarded Queen Victoria 10 days ago we found it had spread here.

It is difficult to comprehend how this can have happened because there are plenty of hand bacterial units all over the ships and ashore and we are all encouraged to use them, particularly in the Lido area. It may be that the trays have gone into hiding to avoid catching the virus. Perhaps one of you knows how we can kill off this virus and encourage them out of hiding.

After we boarded the ship on the 8 June, while waiting for our luggage to be delivered to our stateroom, we went to the Lido for some lunch. I noticed that the trays were not in their usual place. I asked a waiter if he could find one for me. He told me that they had disappeared. He thought trays had been in the Lido before the ship went to Sicily for the recent refit. They were certainly there when we were last on QV just before Christmas last year. Is the explanation to be found in Sicily? The Mafia?

Please email me on richardghsmith@gmail.com if you have an answer to this mystery.

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Lanzarote 

 What an amazing place. We were here briefly, years ago on Regent’s Navigator. We saw very little of the island on that occasion but this time we had a really great day. Cunard had organised an adapted vehicle. An identical model to that used the day before in Gran Canaria. Three wheelchairs again and 4 companions. 

The only problem we had was the driver. He didn’t secure Jane’s wheelchair properly so that while we were still in the dockyard, on the first bend, which he took too fast, her chair spun. We shouted out and he stopped the coach. It was clear that he had taken the easy, lazy way out and had only used one fixing device. We have 6 in our adapted vehicle at home! He then found a second, but, still within the docks, the chair tipped backwards. Another shout and another fixing device and that did the trick.

We were off to the Fire Mountains within the Timanfaya National Park. From 1790 for the next 6 years there were volcanic eruptions resulting in devastation and a massive area totally covered in lava. There are more than 300 volcanic craters and here are some of them.
In some areas the ground temperature is 140 degrees C and 2 feet down it can be 450 degrees C. To demonstrate this at the visitor centre a man poured a bucket of water down a pipe set into the ground and a few seconds later boiling water shot up as if it was a geyser. He also threw some tree branches into a hole in the ground and within seconds it had caught fire.

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From Tenerife to Gran Canaria

This voyage is a busy one with a port a day from Madeira to La Palma to Tenerife to Gran Canaria and then to Lanzarote. That is followed by a day at sea, then Lisbon before 2 more days at sea and then home.

On our day in La Palma we had the wonderful news that our daughter Louise had given birth to her second son and our second grandson Charlie. Our congratulations to Louise and Richard (Red) and to grandson number one, Ethan. Charlie arrived 2+ weeks early. He was meant to wait until we returned!

Gran Canaria was the place we chose for our honeymoon, 44 years ago. We flew to Las Palmas in the early evening after our afternoon wedding reception – none of this modern stuff with dancing. Just canapés and a glass or two of champagne and it was over and we were off! How things have changed! 

The Hotel Rocamar it was, overlooking the beach in Las Palmas. 4 star which we thought was the tops. It was excellent, but when we sought it out on a cruise visit a few years ago we found that it was now a rather run down apartment block.

We came back to Gran Canaria a few times when the children were small. We had learned from our honeymoon that resorts in the south of the island had sun all day. Those in the north only had sun in the morning because the clouds backed up against the mountain during the morning leaving it overcast in the afternoon.

We often stayed at the Costa Canaria Hotel in San Augustin for a fortnights break in the Easter holidays and we also had a holiday with the Holts at the Maspolomas Oasis hotel in 1978.

On Thursday Cunard had organised a small coach with a lift at the rear to take us on a 5 hour tour. The planned itinerary was to take us round Las Palmas showing us the sights and then south to a small fishing village, Puerto Mogan. There were 3 wheelchairs and 4 companions, a guide and a driver and 20 empty seats.

Instead of touring Las Palmas we set off on the main road south. The presumption was that we would cover Las Palmas at the end of the day rather than at the outset. The guide, Jose sat at the rear of the vehicle with us and seemed to direct most of his comments at Jane, who clearly looked the most attentive and interested of the group.

Soon we were by passing San Augustin and Playa des Ingles which we knew well in the past and on to Maspalomas famous for its massive sand dunes.
We were taken through a hotel to the sand. Not much of a spectacle, but in the distance we could see a white building near to the sea and surrounded by trees. It had to be the Masplomas Oasis where we had stayed in 1978 and it was. Maspalomas then was the small place a mile from where we were standing.

Now it is a sprawling mass of houses, apartments and hotels.

Then it was back in the coach to cross the southern part of the island to what was described as a small picturesque fishing village and marina. Puerto Mogan. I had never heard of it. When we arrived at what appeared to be a vast shambolic development, there were masses of coaches and thousands of people being poured out of them. Were we in the right place? The guide Jose assured us that we were and explained that the market was the attraction. Certainly Jane was excited by this. She loves a market.

I insisted on finding the marina and a coffee in the hope that the market could be avoided. This was not a fish, fruit and veg market but a cheap clothing and tourist ‘tat’ market. As we approached the marina we found the “small picturesque fishing village”.


That part of the place was lovely although it was packed with people. The coffee was good but I was unable to prevent the inevitable attraction Jane and Kim had for the market. I wandered ahead but on losing the others retraced my steps to find Jane trying on a jacket – a sort of woollen thing. 

Only 125 Euros I was told. Conscious of the fact that when Jane is out on shopping sprees with Chris Jackson or Carole Gordon or Jane Strother or Georgina Lucas most of the items have to be returned (by me!). They don’t fit or are the wrong colour. You will all have experienced it. I asked Jane if  she was really sure she wanted to spend that much on an item that she might not wear very much (or at all). The man trying to sell it became very angry and told me it was top quality cashmere. I said that I was talking to my wife and not him. That wound him up even more. He continued to shout. Clearly this was to be his sale of the day and I was ruining it. Jane didn’t like the spat and wanted us to move away which we did. Within 5 minutes he had followed us and found us. He apologised over and over and then said he had never reduced anything to that extent before but was prepared to give us the jacket for cost price – 90 Euros he said. No thank you very much!

The marina was pretty but overrun with tourists. We made our way back to the coach to find that we were last and that the others were waiting for us. We then made our way back to the ship.

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Dinner companions

We sit at Table 309 in the Britannia Restaurant. This is the table that has been reserved for us by Tim and Jean Whitehead on 2 occasions. It is perfect for us. Jamie Firth of Cunard always does a last minute check to ensure that the Maitre ‘d has not forgotten.  I think that they also help to select our dinner companions, because they have always turned out to be great company. Our thanks to all of you.

Of course we do hope that Tim and Jean will one day pick the same cruise as us. We first met them on the Queen Victoria in 2014 and cruised with them again the following year.

Table 309 seats eight of us. Apart from Jane, me and Jane’s companion/carer Kim, we have another Kim and her husband Andy and Andy’s mother Sheila. The group is completed by Dave and Sharon from Norfolk. Dinner is always the highlight of the day for us.

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Tenerife

We first came here in 1977, when Jane was pregnant with Louise. We stayed in the Gran Tinerfe hotel in Playa des Americas. Pete Murray, a well known DJ and TV personality at the time and his barrister wife were fellow guests. We had a very relaxed holiday until the day when two jumbo jets collided at the airport. It was the worst airplane disaster of all time and more than 580 people died.

The first we knew of it was when we went down to dinner to find that half the waiters were missing. They had driven up to the airport in the north of the island, to help out.

The airport had to be closed and a week later, when we were due to return home, we had to travel by sea to Gran Canaria as all flights were diverted there. It was a very rough ferry crossing.

When our children were at school and university, Jane and I came to Tenerife a number of times to play golf. There are numerous good golf courses on the island and we usually stayed in Los Christianos or Adeje.

For our visit to Tenerife this week, Cunard had not offered any tours in adapted vehicles. Our plan was to find a taxi that would take us to the three Botanical gardens, all in the Puerto da la Cruz area, but after making enquiries at the Tourist office we were told that all the gardens would be very difficult to negotiate with a wheelchair. Their suggestion was to stay in Santa Cruz and visit the beautiful parks there.

We had a marvellous day apart from the fact that Santa Cruz, as with most cities on volcanic islands, is built on the side of a mountain. All the parks seemed to be at the top of the hill, but we made it and the main park was an impressive place. Jane and Kim are both experts in all gardening matters, so as usual, I just did as I was told and pushed when ordered to do so.

We had lunch in a perfect eaterie in the park and then made our way down the hill. I had to be sharp to avoid the inevitable shoe shops and boutiques. Luckily many of them have large steps and no ramps at their entrances which made my task somewhat easier. Back at sea level we had a small beer before making our way back to the ship.

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Funchal

I forgot to mention that on Monday afternoon we investigated parts of Funchal that we had not seen before. Earlier visits had taken us straight out of the City. Martin had shown us the area where the best hotels are. Amazingly the Savoy hotel has been knocked down and a massive hotel is being built in its place. A local man, Dionisio Pestana, is developing the site and wherever you look there is a Pestana hotel – in the region of 15 in Madeira.

After leaving Martin we explored the back streets on foot. Bars and eateries wherever you went. Most of the doors carried artwork. It seems that the owners clubbed together and brought in artists to decorate the doors. Some examples

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Day 2 in Madeira 

Martin arrived at the moment that we walked out of the terminal. His suggestion was that we should drive to Machico, stopping at viewpoints on the way. We had to be back at the ship by 12 noon, so time was of the essence.

The motorways in Madeira are amazing and some of the tunnels through the mountains stunning. Journeys that used to take 2 or 3 hours can now take as little as 20 minutes. Martin quickly reminded us that that was one of the reasons why the island is 6 billion euros in debt!

The first vantage point looked down on the airport and almost immediately we could see a plane approaching. It negotiated the short runway without any difficulty. As you will probably be aware, the extension to the runway, built on stilts, is another contributor to the islands debt. Apparently the airport is still regarded to be one of the worlds most dangerous.

We then drove to Machico where it is said that Captains Zarco and Teixeira first landed on discovering Madeira. A lovely small town with a harbour a couple of smallish hotels and a gentle relaxed air about it. The beach was sheltered and covered in yellow (imported) sand.

After an excellent coffee while overlooking the harbour, we returned to the taxi and set off for the ship knowing that any traffic problems would mean that we missed the 12 noon deadline and would incur the wrath of the Captain! We made it with 10 minutes to spare but were the last and the gangway was removed once we were aboard.

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Madeira

We first came to Madeira in January 2004 on the Queen Mary 2 Maiden Voyage. Madeira was the first port and our arrival in Funchal was dramatic, with thousands of people lining the harbour to welcome the worlds largest liner. There were even larger crowds when we left.

On that and subsequent visits to the island, we have taken tours from the ship, but as the tour offered this time, with an adapted vehicle, was identical to the last time we were here, we decided to do our own thing. It worked out really well because the taxi driver who was next on the rank was a charming man called Martin.

Martin had a nice shiny yellow Mercedes. Our original plan was for him to take us to the Santa Catarina Park

and another botanical garden and then to return us to the ship. But he was so caring and his English was so good that we asked him to take us a tour. We saw areas of Funchal that were new to us. He look us to a number of small villages in the hills and to Europes highest sea cliff where you stand on a glass platform with the water immediately below you.

Martin dropped us off in the middle of Funchal, which we explored for the first time. It was fascinating. We wandered up and down narrow streets, through the market and eventually walked back around the harbour to the ship. In total we had been away from the ship for just over eight hours.

We arranged for Martin to collect us from the ship at 9.30 next morning.

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Funchal, Madeira

This is another test. The blog was vanishing into the ether because of my incompetence, but Sam in N London has recovered them. If you receive this by email, could you please email me just to let me know? richardghsmith@gmail.com Funchal today has been fantastic. I will let you know more tomorrow.

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Cruising south away from the political chaos in the UK

We are on our way to Madeira and the Canary Islands and the blog is a new one supported by WordPress. My earlier blog was with Blogger. com, but without telling me, decided not to support it. As a result it kept crashing.

So here we are on board Cunard’s remastered Queen Victoria, escaping the upheaval at home. I kept waking up last night, watching a few excruciating minutes of Sky News, and then falling back to sleep. The Tories only have themselves to blame. The own goal of the season by Teresa May.


Remastering this new format will take a little time, but if you get email alerts, they should continue. If you want to receive alerts, it is easy to sign up for them.

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