Queen Elizabeth in January 2022

Success! Sunday and Monday were stressful. Forms to complete and packing to do. But the worry about failing the covid test at the terminal and being sent home, disappeared when Kim, Jane and I took early morning lateral flow tests at home that were negative.

When we arrived at the terminal at midday on Tuesday we found 10 testing bays in operation. It was very efficient and the negative results were sent through to our mobiles within 15 minutes. As we had checked in on line the rest of the process was painless and we were soon aboard Queen Elizabeth.

It is clear that the ship is only about half full, but that makes it a much safer place. There is plenty of room for people to move about freely.

For this cruise we have been upgraded to the Britannia Club restaurant and the food has been fantastic. I am in danger of putting on massive amounts of weight. Jane has had to endure food prepared by me for the last 2 years and has not enjoyed the experience but now she is eating much more and with a smile on her face.

We have just been notified that the order in which we visit the various ports has been changed. We do not know why. We were due to visit Lisbon on Friday but we are now told that we will be there on Thursday next week. Instead of being our first port it will now be our last. It’s entry rules were more stringent than the Spanish rules, so perhaps Cunard are hoping for a relaxation of the Portuguese rules to enable more people to get ashore in Lisbon without more tests and more Passenger Locator Forms! We will see.

I will now attempt to publish this. Two years with no blogging at sea has meant that I am finding my way again with WordPress. Preparing the words off line and then getting onto Cunard’s expensive internet to send it.


En route to Cadiz

We are now back in cruise mode. This morning we all forgot to put our watches and clocks forward an hour, which meant that we missed a formal breakfast. Not a problem as the Lido is always open. It is more casual and more relaxed and the sun decided to shine in on us.

The sea is calm and Queen Elizabeth is sailing calmly towards Cadiz at about 20 knots.

We had afternoon tea in the Queens Room today with the Stafford twins. We first met Peter and John Stafford on the Queen Victoria World Cruise in 2014. They have sailed on the last 10 World Voyages! They are great raconteurs and very good company. We will meet up with them again for lunch later in the voyage.

Later, in the early evening a Frigate appeared to be tracking us. Nick Brewer will no doubt investigate.

Cark asked if I will be watching this weekend’s Saints match. I may pluck up the courage to find a seat in the Golden Lion!

Thank you all for your good wishes. I will not be able to respond to them individually because of the expensive internet time but you are all in our thoughts all of the time!

Tomorrow Cadiz.



Friday 21 January 2022.

The ports are now coming thick and fast. We woke this morning as the QE was gliding into her berth. The view was wonderful as the sun rose.

After breakfast we went ashore, armed with the evidence that we were all fully vaccinated. We entered the terminal building expecting delays while the QR codes on our mobiles were inspected.

There was no sign of any official. Zero! Straight through!

Jane and I have been here a couple of times before. It’s a lovely town. Kim had the map and when I turned right out of the port, she corrected me and said we should be going left. It is not easy when there are 2 women telling a dominant male what to do. Not easy for the male is what I mean.

So we followed Kim’s lead and she led us to the Cathedral. It is a landmark that we had been aiming for and it was agreed that we would have coffee in the square. The best cup of coffee we have had so far. Cunard are not good in the coffee stakes at the moment.

We did the daily Sudoku sitting in the sun and after a while found that last nights Royal Court Theatre act – the exceptional singer Jenny Williams – was sitting next to us with tonight’s performer, the well known singer/comedian Allan Stewart who is a regular on Cunard ships. Let’s hope that covid has given him time to create a new act.

After coffee and Sudoku we set off for the Parque Genoves that Kim had spotted on the map. It was exceptional and we realised that we had been there in the past. I remember that on that earlier occasion a beautiful girl was taking part in a photo shoot. There are photos of her earlier in the blog!

We walked almost 5 miles in a clockwise direction and eventually arrived back at the ship in time for a late lunch.

Tomorrow we are in Gibraltar for the morning and in the afternoon we sail to Malaga where will arrive in the early evening. The itinerary has been changed to ensure that we are not late for Sunday lunch with Lord and Lady Freer. Queen Elizabeth will be in Malaga overnight on Saturday. Whether she will be at anchor or on the berth we are not sure.


Gibraltar was not to be

It was very windy and dark as we approached Gibraltar. We seemed to be running late which surprised me, bearing in mind that last night we were in Cadiz and we left there at about 11.30pm. Gibraltar is just around the corner from Cadiz!

I couldn’t work out the course we were taking which appeared to be leading us away from the port. Perhaps we were too early? But then the Captain spoke. She didn’t use the system that broadcasts to our staterooms (cabins in normal parlance). As a result, her comments were heard only in the public areas. We did hear the word “unfortunately” but that was all. I left the cabin and found a steward who told me that the Captain had decided that it was too windy to risk trying to get into the port and for the safety of all of us she was heading straight to Malaga.

The Rock

And that’s what occurred – a gentle trip past Estepona, Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Marbella – all those places where we used to holiday in the sixties and seventies. And then it was Malaga.

We decided to check out the restaurants where we were to lunch with the Freers on Sunday. After a walk alongside the breaking waves at the back of the beach, we found a mass of eateries including the Plaza and the Toro that the Freers had suggested. Both had easy access for Janes wheelchair, so we are all set for tomorrow.

The Saints were playing Man City this afternoon, but as Spanish time is an hour ahead, I knew that I would only see the first half before dinner. We played very well and 1-1 was an excellent result.

Tomorrow is here and it’s Sunday. Less windy today and the sun is shining. After a gentle morning in the Commodore Club we walked down to the Toro restaurant. I earmarked a table and had a coffee while Jane and Kim went shopping.

Nigel and Linda arrived on time and we had a wonderful lunch in the Toro restaurant. The Freers were, as usual, on brilliant form.

They now live permanently in Mijas and Covid has inevitably restricted them from seeing their family and friends in the UK as much as they would like. We all miss their company.



Cartagena is a beautiful city. Talking of beauty, Nigel Freer sent me a photo of Linda that he took yesterday when we met in Malaga, with Queen Elizabeth in the background. Lovely.

Today in Cartagena it was raining for a time as we were preparing to leave the ship, but by the time we were ashore the skies had cleared.

There is a marina between the berth and the city.

As we walked from the ship around the marina, I remembered that on the last occasion we were here Tim and Jean Whitehead were on the same cruise. I can’t recall whether we met them on that trip or on an earlier one.

I think we first met when the 4 of us were invited to sit at the Captains table. Deputy Captain Simon Love was the host. Incidentally he is now Captain of P&O’s Aurora. I hope that in time he comes back to Cunard. Tim and Jean had big Southampton connections. Jean grew up in Southampton and we discovered that Jane and Jean had both played lacrosse for Southampton ladies. Tim was a Southampton University alumni as was I some years before him.

As usual I have digressed. We crossed the marina and recognised the entrance to the main street. The city is very pretty and the streets are narrow, the architecture classic and the coffee shops appealing.

But first it was a visit to the excavated Roman Theatre. The entrance to it is in the Town Hall Square. You walk into the new exhibition space and the theatre’s museum and from there you take an underground passage to the Roman Theatre. It is very impressive.

It was then time for coffee. Usually coffee on the ship means suduko. While battling the latest one I mentioned that I had hardly slept last night. Kim said she wasn’t surprised because yesterday, after finding a double espresso for the first time on the ship, I had one at breakfast, one in the Toro restaurant waiting for the Freers, one after lunch and one after dinner. Yes, that would explain the tossing and turning. One double espresso a day in future.

Last night after dinner I spotted Raj who had been our waiter on a previous cruise. Amazingly he remembered us, which ship we were on and where she had cruised. I asked him how he had coped during Cunard’s ‘pause’. He said that after being flown home he took a month long course in teaching on Zoom and found himself a job teaching schoolchildren geography. He said that the pay was poor but it kept him out of mischief!

We toured the backstreets of Cartagena, ensuring that Jane didn’t spot too many fashion shops. In fact there were very few open. It was clear that many retail outlets were permanently closed as a result of covid. We then made our way back to the ship.



No surprises today. We expected to be in the beautiful city of Valencia and we duly arrived on time. There were delays, though, in getting the all clear from the port authority. We were not told whether that delay was influenced by Covid or Brexit, but the early tours set off late (in the rain).

By the time the Smith party were ready to roll, the rain had gone and a large coach with a wheel chair lift was awaiting us. It was a scary process to get Jane aboard, because the lift took her about 10 feet into the air on the outside of the coach. I was not allowed to go up on the platform with her, but of course Jane took it all in her stride and she was soon safely inside the coach.

Years ago we visited Valencia on a Regent ship, the Navigator, which was much smaller and able to berth close to the old town. The shuttle coach ride for us this time took 45 minutes, but the architecture of the modern buildings that we passed was stunning.

The old town, El Carmen, is home to the cathedral (8 euros each seemed expensive to me to get in!)? The surrounding streets are packed with bars and quaint shops, but it is evident that many have closed permanently as a result of covid.

We returned to the ship in the early afternoon and Kim sat on her balcony in the sun and emerged slightly tanned.

The evening entertainment on the ship has been good and in some instances excellent, but on Tuesday the comedian was very poor. Not funny at all. I won’t name him, but why anyone hired him I do not know. Many Cunarders walk out on these rare occasions and they did so on Tuesday. We stuck it out, hoping he would get better. He didn’t!



Before I tell you about our visit to Lisbon, I must tell you about our sea day yesterday. The Stafford twins had suggested that we should meet for lunch in the Verandah speciality restaurant. As we are all long-standing Diamond guests we are entitled to a free lunch there on each voyage.

The twins are the same age as Jane. They dress in identical clothes. Down to the last detail. Even their spectacles are exactly the same. They live in Sandbanks and each have their own flat in a block overlooking Poole Harbour. Their routine on the ship never varies. 12 noon for lunch. If possible the same table. The same seats in the theatre. Of course they have become very well known on Cunard ships and they are very popular. They are great fun too.

I first came to Lisbon in the days of Salazar. It was 1967. My girlfriend at the time was studying in France for the summer and my father suggested that I took advantage of Cunard staff rates and go on a Mediterranean cruise.

I had enjoyed the voyages on Queen Mary in 1965 to and from the US, so father arranged for me to join RMS Carmania for a 14 day cruise to the Med to celebrate graduation. I worked as a lifeguard at the Southampton Lido before the cruise to get the spending money together.

Regrettably I didn’t keep any memorabilia or paperwork relating the cruise, but I remember that Lisbon was the first port, then Gibraltar before crossing to North Africa, taking in Algiers and Tangier.

There were a number of people on the cruise of my age and we spent our time together on the ship and ashore. A number of the girls were travel agents on freebies. I remember on the day in Lisbon we met a group of Portuguese students who were very worried about talking to us. Their concern was that the secret police might be listening in and might arrest them. We had no concept of the dictatorship that operated under Salazar at that time.

Jane and I have been here many times since then. Lisbon is a wonderful place to visit, and is regularly included on Mediterranean cruises. But Jane and I decided not to go ashore today. Pushing the manual wheelchair up the hills of Lisbon is not an option and the pavements are too uneven for the electric machine. Tours that were offered in adapted vehicles were unappealing so we opted for a day in the sunshine on our balcony. I think it is only the second time that we have not gone ashore out of the hundreds of port visits we have made over the last 20 years. The first opt out was in Funchal, Madeira when it rained so heavily all day that cars and dogs were being washed down the road into the harbour!

But Kim needed to see Lisbon, so she chose an excursion on an amphibious Duck.



I didn’t finish the piece on Lisbon. It somehow published itself. As I said, we sent Kim off on a tour. She liked the sound of the Duck which looks strange and apparently was strange. I’ve never been in one and nor had Kim. It took her on a land tour of the City and then down the hill and into the River Tagus, whereupon the bus became a boat!

Queen Elizabeth sailed at 5.00pm and we had a gentle trip down the River Tagus beginning our 2 day voyage home.

The show in the Royal Court Theatre on Thursday evening was a Beatles replica band. They were very good and are appearing again on the final evening.

During sea days we have 2 or 3 speakers who give 45 minute presentations in the theatre. Some are ‘celebrity’ speakers and on this voyage Nicki Chapman fits into that category. She has given 2 talks – the first described her initial career in the music business, promoting singers and bands, then as a Judge on musical talent shows and the second talk dealt with her career as a presenter – Wanted Down Under, Escape to the Country and many more. Her presentations were very good.