Dinner companions

Despite gale force winds, lumpy seas and plenty of rock and roll, our dinner companions completed an almost 100% turnout for dinner. Just a small illness absence which is forgiven!

This is us.

From the left – Bill and Judith, Doris, Ray and Leslie, Me, Jane and Kim. It is often the case that people retain the seats they happened to sit in on the first evening. We like to switch about as much as we can – in my case so that I can bore more people with my limited number of stories and jokes – but it sometimes upsets people when they find me next to them delving into their backgrounds and relationships.

It’s a shame that the Duke of York wasn’t on our table. I thought Emily Maitlis did a reasonable job interviewing him but there were so many questions she didn’t ask him, that I would have asked. That story will run and run!

This photo was taken by Faith, our assistant waiter from Kenya. She was delightful and looked after us very well.

We were home by 10.00am on Saturday. The house was immaculate. As usual Linda not only house sat but spring (autumn) cleaned. And she left us a home made cottage pie for dinner. Wonderful.

I will now cook it.

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Mobility at Sea

I want to mention Mobility at Sea. We first came across them a few years ago when we decided that we needed a hoist on ships to carry out transfers from bed to wheelchair. We have an H track hoist at home fitted on the ceiling. Cruise ships are not yet sophisticated enough with their adapted rooms to have fitted hoists and mobile ones are required.

I investigated rentals and came across this company Mobility at Sea based in Waterlooville, Hampshire. I have to say they are terrific. They are reasonable in price. All their documentation is clear. As the date of your cruise gets nearer they contact you to check that you are still going and that your cabin number hasn’t changed.

When you arrive at your cabin the hoist is there with clear instructions and the battery fully charged. The company don’t just provide hoists. They supply cruise companies with both folding and electric wheelchairs and no doubt other mobility aids.

If you need any sort of mobility aid at sea I can recommend them.

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No Lisbon on this Voyage

On Tuesday morning at 11.00am the Captain announced that it would not be possible for us to visit Lisbon. The lost 14 hours meant that there was insufficient time. Tuesday became the first of 4 days at sea.

A new speaker had boarded the ship in Las Palmas, Jonathan Haslam, John Major’s Director of .Communications. He was the ‘Celebrity Speaker’ (which means that he gets Queens Grill treatment).

Two speakers have been on the ship throughout, Dai Davies, a former Head of the Royal Protection Command and Mick Testoni a former RNLI Coxwain. So there were plenty of lectures to keep us out of mischief. If any of you have heard Dai in the past, I would love to hear your views!

Since leaving Lanzarote the weather has deteriorated. We have had some very lumpy seas and noisy winds. Wednesday night was probably the most violent night that Jane and I have had since we first started cruising. In the early days of cruising, I was pretty hopeless in rough sea conditions but a magic pill, Stugeron, has changed all that and I now don’t suffer queasiness at all.

Tonight is the last formal evening of the voyage – DJ,s and long dresses. Cunard always produce their best menu on these occasions. Lobster, fillet steak and the like. Earlier today was the Senior Officers Cocktail party. They are now held at 11.15am rather than in the evening, presumably on the basis that the punters drink less, making it a cheaper exercise for Cunard. Stupid really, because it overlaps with other activities around the ship.

We had arranged to meet Eamonn and Deena Kelly at the party. Eamonn is Brian Kelly’s elder brother. I had met up with Eamonn for a coffee earlier in the voyage and it was a delight to meet the two of them. Eamonn had celebrated a milestone birthday on 10 November. He was a little disappointed that Cunard didn’t celebrate it with him. What he didn’t know was that if you ask for (and pay for) a cake, a gang of waiters circle your table and sing Happy Birthday in a multitude of different accents and present you with the enormous cake which your companions are also meant to help you eat.

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Canaries

The internet has been weak today. That may be as a result of us being at sea rather than in Lisbon. More people are writing their blogs or reading The Times on line! It means that many of my photos have not appeared. Here, with luck, are some more

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Las Palmas (2) and Lanzarote (2)

I return to our day in Las Palmas (Sunday). I broke away because of the shenanigans in Lanzarote. These are photos of the honeymoon Hotel Rocamar. It has had a facelift and I guess the apartments in it are now privately owned. It has fine views over the beach.

We then wandered into an area packed with market stalls. Jane and Kim were in their element. I sauntered away and they vanished. It took me half an hour to find them!

Many of you will know Steve Moore. He was at Canford with me (he’s much younger though!). He was and is a major sportsman – rugby, squash and golf and no doubt others – and he and Bridget have produced 2 successful sportsman sons, one an Olympian. Steve saw the blog about Las Palmas and commented. What he has forgotten is that on one occasion, by chance, Jane and I bumped into him at Gatwick. He was on his way to Las Palmas with some of his divers and we were on our way to the south of Gran Canaria with our children for a holiday. We agreed to meet up for lunch the following week and we ate in the Hotel Rocamar!

I jumped ahead to tell you about getting stuck in Lanzarote on Monday night.

That Monday morning in Lanzarote the forecast was sunny with some clouds, but windy. We knew there would be an adapted shuttle to get us into town. I watched it as we had breakfast and could see that the round trip only took about 10 minutes, so if we missed it there would not be long to wait. The journey into Arrecife, the capital was easy. The driver was careful and the trip took about 5 minutes.

The walk into town took us round a lagoon and we then quickly discovered the shopping area. It wasn’t great and the whole town seemed grubby and unattractive. Perhaps it was the wind and the dust that gave the wrong impression.

Back at the meeting point after coffees and beer, irritation set in. Large shuttle buses came and went but the adapted vehicle failed to show. The only person at the meeting point who appeared to be involved in organising the shuttles couldn’t speak English. He could see that we were fed up. If the vehicle was sitting by the ship it would have taken one phone call and 5 minutes later it would be with us. The man told me the vehicle was broken. Not true. After waiting for 40 minutes the vehicle arrived. I established that the driver had been home for his lunch! Not good.

As my chums know, whenever something goes wrong at home or abroad, I email the CEO of the errant organisation and nearly always get an early response. In the case of Cunard, emailing the President produces zilch – not even an acknowledgement. But the Marketing Director, Angus Struther, always responds and often gives me a hour of his time at Carnival House to listen to my ideas for improvement of the Cunard cruise experience. I hope that someone at Cunard reads my blog, because there is no doubt that more effort has to be made in their treatment of those with mobility problems. A lack of tours and excursions I’m afraid is the norm.

Rant over until our next cruise.

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Stuck In Lanzarote

We were due to leave at about 5.00pm. All were meant to be aboard at 4.30. The gang were ready to remove the gangway but it was clear that someone was missing. He (or was it a she) suddenly appeared round the corner of the port. On realising that he was late he quickened his pace.

Once he was aboard we presumed that we would leave. But no. Perhaps there were others who had not realised we were due to leave earlier than usual. 5.00 instead of 6.00pm.

After more delay the Captain announced that the wind was the problem. Everyone was on board. The gusts were so severe that attempts to leave the berth would make the procedure very dangerous.

No further announcements were made. When we went to bed we were still on the berth and when I awoke at 6.00am today we were still there. But at 7.00am it was light and less windy and soon we were on our way.

We have lost 14 hours so whether that means we will miss the visit to Lisbon where we were due to be tomorrow, Wednesday we do not know. We will no doubt be told the revised plan shortly.

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Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Remembrance Sunday

The sun was shining as we arrived at 8.00am. We docked close to the massive Aida Stella.

Jane and I remember Gran Canaria well because we spent our honeymoon here all those years ago. We stayed in the Hotel Rocamar in Las Palmas. We thought it was a great place, but despite the fact that it overlooked a beautiful beach, at some point something must have gone wrong, because, when we located it 10 years ago, it had been turned into an apartment block.

This time we went ashore to explore. The waterfront area on the west side of the town has been improved dramatically. It is traffic free and a now has a magnificent promenade above the beach. This was the best sand art that we saw

There was plenty of activity on and in the water and all the locals were enjoying beers, Sunday lunches and sunbathing.

There is a problem with the internet on the ship at the moment. I have some photos to add but cannot download them at present.

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La Palma

Not to be muddled with Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, where we will be on Remembrance Sunday.

Many of you know and love the smaller Canary Islands. Liz and Tim Cracknell (my sister and her husband) frequently have holidays on La Gomera.

The Allens are regulars in Lanzarote.

Jane and I regularly spent Easter school holidays with Louise and Mike in the Canaries. The Costa Canaria Hotel in Tenerife was a favourite but we also enjoyed the Maspalomas Oasis on Gran Canaria. Later Jane and I had a number of golf holidays in Tenerife.

Interestingly, since I blogged about Madeira earlier this week, I have heard from my sister Liz who told me that the family of her son in law, Titus Sharpe (married to her youngest daughter, my niece Carrie) went to Madeira in the 18th century to help the Blandy’s to develop the Madeira wine company. Some of his relatives still live on the island.

I have also heard from Mags Hook, who tells me that she and Roger have had holidays with Nick and Yvonne Fiddian at the Palheiro hotel for the last 3 years and have met the Blandy family. She gave a glowing report of the hotel, the food and the staff.

As Cunard failed miserably to provide any tours in adapted vehicles in La Palma and failed to provide any contacts who might enable me to book such a vehicle independently, we walked to the quaint town. We had been there before but as we walked down the familiar streets it started to rain. We found a bar with excellent coffee and when the skies cleared we moved to the waterfront and found these wonderful houses.

By the time the ship was ready to leave La Palma. the weather had deteriorated. The wind was blowing hard and the sea was lumpy. It was a fairly rough night as we sailed towards Gran Canaria.

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The Old Boot

Jane has coped really well over the last 3 days at sea despite the fact that her injured ankle generates many more spasms in both her legs than she normally experiences. She finds them really painful and they are clearly far worse than the cramp that old blokes like me suffer from occasionally. This is the boot that she wears to speed up the healing process

The sea was fairly rough on Tuesday and Wednesday through the Bay of Biscay although the crew said it had been much worse on the return to Southampton from the earlier Med cruise when the Nicholsons were aboard.

Today was our first port – Madeira. I know that many of you regularly visit the island and love it. We always enjoy it. Funchal was the first port on the maiden voyage of Queen Mary 2 – Jane’s first cruise all those years ago in 2004. On that occasion the port was packed with spectators for our arrival and the numbers grew through the day, so that by the time we departed every part of the waterfront was occupied by local people and holidaymakers wanting to see the ship that was, at that time, the largest passenger liner afloat.

Since that time Jane and I have cruised for 726 days. I only know that because at the beginning of this voyage Cunard gave us details of our voyages with them and the days spent aboard their ships. I calculate that in four days time when we sail from Lanzarote to Lisbon we will have been at sea on ships for exactly 2 years!

I had booked an adapted taxi for our day in Madeira. The driver David was waiting for us as we walked out of the terminal at 10.00. I knew that his English was good but did not know that he was a qualified guide. Jane and Kim wanted to enjoy one of the numerous botanical gardens on Madeira and David decided to take us to the Palheiro Gardens on the road to Camacha.

It was an inspired choice. Initially he took us into the private grounds of the Blandy family, who own the estate, and then into the area open to the pubic. Jane, Kim and David were soon identifying the trees and plants. All gardens in Madeira are inevitably on slopes but David led us down paths to the lower levels and while we had a coffee he climbed the hill to the carpark, retrieved the Mercedes and brought it down to collect us. Perfect.

The Blandy estate (I don’t think that the family are related to Richard ‘Blandy’ Bland, Stoneham’s touring pro, but no doubt he will let me know!) is immediately alongside the Palheiro Championship Golf Course and the cafe where we took coffee was right by the tee to the rather awkward 13th hole.

By a pond in the garden was a rock carved into the shape of a flower. The rock had been brought to Madeira from the Houses of Parliament!We then travelled west before returning to the ship. The weather was sunny and windy but perfect for us tourists. Tonight we will set sail for the Canaries where we will be for the next 3 days.

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