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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Still at sea

Captain Alan Hawkins is Master of Queen Victoria. He is one of the next generation of Captains and appears to be a very popular with his crew. At the Captain’s cocktail party on Wednesday evening he spoke very well to the assembled guests, who, unusually at such events, stopped talking amongst themselves, and listened to what he had to say. He was very amusing.

Cunard have clearly listened to criticism about the way in which these events were run in the past. Finding a drink used to be a nightmare, but now they are readily available and the scrum around the wine waiters no longer occurs. It’s all much more relaxed.

When we arrived at the party I (we) drifted towards two young ladies in uniform. Very attractive they were. One of them was in charge of the receptionists and the other was in HR. They kept us entertained until the Captain introduced his senior Officers.

A number of senior Cunard Captains have retired and as a result men who were Deputy Captains in the Cunard and P&O fleets are now getting their chance as Masters. One such former Deputy is Captain Simon Love. We met him back in 2014 on QV’s World Voyage and I predicted in my blog at that time that he would soon get a command. He is now one of the Masters of Queen Elizabeth and I have it on very good authority that his crew love working for him.

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At sea

All went well on Monday despite Jane’s broken ankle. What broken ankle?

Last week Jane was being driven in her wheelchair. Her foot slipped off the footplate and caught up in one of the front wheels. She was in considerable pain but after some paracetamol the pain subsided and it appeared to me that she had just suffered bruising.

As the week went on the bruising appeared to be stable but the ankle had started to swell. I repeated my belief that there was nothing wrong and that in a few more days the bruising would go. What do I know.

Jane’s sister Sarah, a retired GP, came to help with the packing on Friday. She felt the ankle and said that she suspected a break and that Jane ought have an X-ray. So off they went to A&E at Winchester. Three hours later it was confirmed that two small bones in her ankle were broken. Luckily no heavy plaster but she was kitted out with one of those large grey boots that footballers wear. More about that later.

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Shore Team

I was cut off last night before telling you of one of the most important members of the shore team – Sarah, Jane’s sister. She is one of the most travelled grannies I have ever met. She looks after grandchildren in London and Chester and also manages to spend plenty of time with Jane. When here, she is up and down the stairs selecting clothes for Jane to take. The stairs are a great way of keeping fit.

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A new story to tell – 2 November 2019

On Monday the Queen Victoria should be arriving in Southampton at about 6.30am. Peter and Lesley-Jane Nicholson will be disembarking after a cruise to the Western Mediterranean.

As they disembark, the Smith team will be arriving at the Mayflower terminal for Queen Victoria’s next cruise – to the Canaries.

Some of the shore team have been involved for some time

Linda – head housesitter – she takes over on Monday. Then she looks after the house and always leaves it cleaner and tidier than it is when she takes control.

Ian – Notary Public and accessible vehicle driver. He gets Jane to the port in our adapted Peugeot. Thinks he is Lewis Hamilton and always tries to get there first. But we love him.

Gary from Area Cars. He is always reliable and good fun. Regrettably I get paid nothing for advertising Area Cars. They always charge me full whack. If you want to get to Heathrow, or anywhere, Area Cars are the men to take you. We need them because the adapted Peugeot won’t take all of us and the luggage.

It’s always a busy time in the days leading up to a cruise. Other members of the shore team come in.

Jane St looks after Jane when I have to be out during the build up. She is a star. She goes through our diary and works out when she can be here. But she does have a fault. She refuses to fill our dishwasher as I like it to be done.

Carole G helps Jane to decide which clothes she wants to take and she comes again to pack them. She is an expert, but they always pack too much and I am always ignored when I tell them.

Chris J takes Jane out on shopping missions to find more and more clothes for Carole to pack. They always hide the credit card slips from me and inevitably, when items need to be returned, I’m the one who is blamed for not knowing where the slips are.

And Georgina and Miranda are regular supporters and lead Jane astray by taking her to National Trust estates and garden centres leaving me behind to mastermind the cruise schedule and the tours.

The person that makes cruising work for us arrives the day before departure. Kim Bigwood. This will be Kim’s 6th cruise with us. She is fantastic and without her we couldn’t contemplate joining Queen Victoria on Monday.

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Zihuatanejo

This set of coincidences started with the regular Pick of the Week piece by the Managing Director of the Regent Seven Seas cruise company, Graham Sadler. He was aboard Seven Seas Voyager with his family on a cruise from Venice to Barcelona.

The ship was in Zadar in Croatia for the day. Graham set a puzzle for his readers pointing out that there were very few ports beginning with the letter Z. He offered a prize for the name of the film that made a Z port famous in the final and emotional scene in what he described as one of the greatest films ever.

I forget how or when I first met Graham Sadler. Regents UK office is just across the road from Paris Smith’s Southampton Office and possibly I did some Notarial work for him all those years ago, when I worked for a living. Certainly when Jane was more agile, she and I had two wonderful cruises on Regents Seven Seas Navigator, one out of Cannes for two weeks in the Med and another out of Fort Lauderdale for 2 weeks in the Caribbean. Six star luxury.

And some of my wealthier friends occasionally ask for advice about six star cruising and I always direct them to Regent. Mr and Mrs C, Mr and Mrs T and Mr and Mrs B and others.

I do recall that about 10 years ago I was invited to a lunch on Seven Seas Voyager when it was in Southampton for the day and I guess that it was Graham that invited me. Ben Ainslie (now Sir Ben) was also a guest and I managed to engineer a handshake and a photo with my hero before we left the ship.

As usual I have digressed. Back to Graham Sadler and his Pick of the Week. If I had read on I would have realised that the port beginning with a Z was on the itinerary of a voyage he was promoting on Seven Seas Mariner between Miami and San Francisco in January 2020 – Zihuatanejo. But even if I had worked that out, I would not have come up with the name of the film.

My pathetic answer was Zulu. It was not surprising that I didn’t win! Graham gave me the answer – the name of the film was Shawshank Redemption. I had heard of it and inevitably I looked it up only to find that it was nominated for 7 Oscars in 1995 and I had never seen it.

The next day I was playing golf with Nick Brewer and I told him the story. He told me that Graham Sadler and Regent had agreed to support the Southampton Shipping Golfing Society in its Centenary celebrations in 2021 when Nick will be President of the Society. That was a connection I knew nothing about. The first coincidence.

That evening Nick emailed me. Shawshank Redemption was on ITV on Wednesday. This coincidence was ‘Scary’ he said and it was.

On Wednesday morning I saw a link to an old Pathe News clip about the original liner Queen Elizabeth. I have been looking for footage of my Father for years without success. This short clip showed QE after she had come to Southampton for the first time. The year was 1945 and Queen Elizabeth had arrived from New York. She had been sent there in secret in 1940 after completion but before sea trials. She served as a troop ship through the war, making her first visit to Southampton in August 1945.

Father had served on Franconia, Ascania and Queen Mary during the war and was granted leave in July/August 1945 so that he could be at home when I was born at the end of July 1945. When his leave finished, he joined Queen Elizabeth on 22 August for what was the first of many trips returning American GI’s to New York. This clip records the send off from Southampton. They called it the Maiden Voyage. Father is on the left (CLICK HERE FOR THE MOVIE CLIP)

http://smithyscruiseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/img_0093.mov

on the bridge with the Commodore of the Cunard fleet Sir James Bissett.

And now to the final scary coincidence. That evening I watched the Shawshank Redemption. I was enthralled by it and when it reached the scene where Red finds the tree near Buxton, and finds the dry stone wall, I was ready. But what I had not expected was that when Red found the tin containing the money and the note, it was a Queen Mary tin. Queen Mary, the ocean liner that my Father had served on during the war.

That’s the convoluted story of a couple of days in my mundane life! And this is the place where the two hero’s of the film met in the final scene.

I wonder if Mr and Mrs C went to Zihuatanejo when they sailed between San Francisco and Florida on a Regent ship a year or two ago. The nearest port to that part of Mexico Jane and I have visited was Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of the Baja California Peninsula.

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27,000 days

Richard Smith is pleased to announce that today on the 2 July 2019 he is celebrating his 27,000th day on earth.

No need for congratulations or cards but please save a few pounds or dollars or euros so that when the autobiography is completed you will be able to buy one of the first editions.

I’m on the right.

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