Queen Victoria – September 2022

Kim arrived on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning at 9.30 the second member of the support team appeared. He was to be the driver of Jane’s adapted Peugeot. I had given him some training a couple of weeks earlier and he seemed to up to the task. In reality I had never had any doubt that former Group Captain Nick Brewer would manage to get Jane, her electric wheelchair and Kim to the Queen Elizabeth II terminal in Southampton Docks. Sadly Nick was not in uniform.

Gary arrived with his massive taxi and loading commenced and by 10.15am we were on our way. The QEII terminal has seen better days. The last time we had used it was in November 2008 when QE2 was making her final voyage to her resting place in Dubai, where she remains.

For some reason everything seemed to be running late. The baggage handlers had not all showed up (it was a Sunday) and the new technology for checking us in needed some tweaking, but we managed to position ourselves in the right place so that we could be checked in early.

An American lady standing nearby, started chatting, and told me she was a frequent cruiser and lived in the Bay area of San Francisco. I told her that I had a godson who is a District Attorney in that same Bay area, Simon O’Connell. She immediately googled him. I explained the story of our good friends, the O’Connells, emigrating when Simon and Daniel were young boys. The family holidays together. She kept coming back to me and it was eventually established that she and her husband live in Danville which happens to be the very same township where Simon and also our very good friend, Simon’s mother, Maggie O’Connell live.

To cap the coincidences, some 30 minutes after these conversations with the mystery lady, we had been checked in and moved to a large seating area on the upper level. As we walked through the door, the very first person we saw was ‘meeter and greeter’ Susan Malizia who is Maggie O’Connells sister! Amazing, particularly as we had no idea that Susan worked for the company concerned. It was great, because Susan made sure we were in prime position to get through security first and straight onto the ship without queuing!


Three sea days from Southampton

It’s unusual to have the first 3 days at sea on a Cunard voyage unless you are sailing in a westerly direction. On voyages to the Med usually day 3 is spent in La Coruna or Oporto or Lisbon or Cadiz. This time the cruise planners at Cunard decided to take us through the Bay of Biscay, down the coast of Portugal and Spain ignoring all the usual stops.

The B of B was choppy, but with stabilisers out, the ships movement was minimal. On Wednesday (day 3) it was sunny and the sea was flat; in the early afternoon the ship swung gently to port and Morocco was soon on our starboard side. The sun was out and the modern buildings close to the coast looked bright and the beaches looked good.

On the port side Portugal and Spain appeared to be gloomy and wet and as we passed the Rock of Gibraltar it was shrouded in cloud.

It reminded me that back in January, on the Queen Elizabeth, the weather was so appalling that the Captain decided against taking the ship into Gibraltar.

Our first port is Cartagena where we will arrive at 8.00am tomorrow – Thursday morning.



We have been here a number of times. It is a wonderful City. We docked at about 7.30am and there between the dock and the city was the marina with a multitude of boats of various sizes.

We set off with Jane seated in the new manual wheelchair, crossing the marina and then heading towards the entrance to the main street. It was busy. Tourists were out in force. We walked north, past the entrance to the Roman Amphitheatre, which we have explored in the past. The coffee houses and street venues were full but as we moved further north there were places to stop. We chose the wrong one. No service. But having sorted out the correct procedure we drank coffee and did the daily Sudoku before setting off down some interesting side streets.



It is amazing how a computer wizard like me can forget how to operate this blog. OK it’s 9 months since we were last at sea, but in the last 2 days I have had to go back to Sam (who set it up) for simple guidance and today it has taken me some hours to remind myself how to get my photos onto the blog. But I have done it!

Cartagena and its harbour are surrounded by 4 hills topped with forts. The entrance to the harbour is narrow and well protected. It has been a prominent naval station although there was no evidence of that as we passed by. Some of the photos taken as we left are added below

This was all we could see of the Naval station. It appeared to be a dismembered submarine and an old grey hulk, but we may have missed something.

Dinner companions

It is always an interesting part of the cruise experience. Pre pandemic we always asked for a table for 8 in the Britannia restaurant but in January we found that they we not available and tables for 2 (in our case 3) were the norm. This was a sensible exercise to keep passengers safe.

This time the majority of the tables were for 2 but there were a number for 6 and Jamie Firth (a former Maitre D’) had, as usual, assisted with this for us and we were allocated one of the tables for 6. On the first evening Valda from Odiham joined us and she is still with us.

Another couple, whose names none of us can recall, sat down with us. We all introduced ourselves and the conversation started. Mrs X wanted to know all about what I did for a living. I avoided the issue which made her more inquisitive. She gave up for a time and started telling us about the vast number of cruises she had been on. Her husband seemed a nice chap, but he kept his head down for most of the evening.

That was on Sunday, our first evening on the ship. On Monday evening Jim and Di turned up in place of the mystery couple, who had clearly decided that we were not their cup of tea. Strangely we have not seen the couple anywhere on the ship since that evening.

Jane reminded me later that when we used to go on Mark Warner holidays with the kids (we went on 13 over the years – dinghy sailing, water skiing, windsurfing) the first question at dinner was ‘where do you live‘ and the second was ‘what do you do’. For a time I used to say that I was an undertaker. No one ever asked anything more and they changed the subject. But I was eventually caught out.

Dennis Amiss, the former English Test batsman was with his family on the same Mark Warner holiday. What I didn’t know was that at that time he was doing promotions for a young man who was buying up small firms of undertakers in the Midlands. Dennis had been doing his research and when his wife asked me what I did and I replied that I was an undertaker, Dennis immediately joined in, named the undertakers in Southampton and wondered which one was mine. I had to come clean.

On a later Mark Warner holiday, when asked, I said that I was a gynaecologist. That worked well and no one asked anything more until one evening a lady came and sat next to me after dinner and said she had a problem and wondered if I could help. I had to make some excuses to get out of that.

Jim and Di joined Queen Victoria for this trip as part of an Imagine Cruising promotion. They are the travel company who have supplements in the middle of the weekend newspapers. They specialise in holidays that combine cruises with other activities. Jim and Di leave the ship in Trieste, then travel to Venice, stay there for a few nights before a train and coaches to the Swiss lakes and eventually the Orient Express for the last part of their journey home.

Jim and Di are great fun. They listen to all my stories and laugh at the correct time. Jim’s family business was in hosiery (socks!) and that seems to have kept generations of their family happy.

There may be 200/250 people leaving the ship with Jim and Di but I gather that a similar number will be doing the journey in reverse and replacing the leavers in Trieste. We will see.



Fifty years ago – almost to the day, Jane and I had our first holiday together here in Corfu.

Much earlier in 1972, Brendan Andrews, Ted Coulter and I had fixed up a 2 week Taverna holiday for late August/early September in the village of Benitses, a few miles south of Corfu town. In July 1972 Jane and I met. As she had to get back to her teaching job in Wantage halfway through holiday that us 3 lads had booked, Jane arranged to come with us for the first week.

A few years after we married we came back to Corfu and stayed in Paleokatrista and then when Louise was small and before Mike had arrived we had a holiday in Roda in the north of the island.

Then about 3 or 4 years ago we came to Corfu on a cruise and a taxi man took us to all our old haunts.

We had been there 50 years ago – Brendan, Ted, me, Jane and a fisherman Angelo who took us all the way from Benitses to Kassiopi

For the visit today I had managed to book online a 3 hour tour in an adapted vehicle with a wheelchair lift. Corfutaxis were the outfit and although Penelope was not great in responding to emails, eventually we put together a tour which would take us to new places but with a drinks stop in Kassiopi in the north of the island.

This time we were shore, expecting the adapted Taxi by the ship. Kim was sure taxis were not allowed through the dock gates and she was right, so we took the adapted shuttle to the gates. There we were met with chaos. Cars, buses and people everywhere. Someone told me that Corfutaxis had a stand in the building. I found it and asked the lady where the adapted taxi was. She asked what I meant. Another lady said she was in charge but didn’t know of any such booking. Luckily I had all the emails on my phone. It seems that Penelope had failed to tell anybody about the booking and was not working that day!

Anyway they rallied round, found a vehicle, found a driver, Spiros, took out the back seats and we were ready to go. They knocked 60 euros off the price which was a bonus and we set off on my suggested route round the coast up to Kassiopi.

I had imagined that the route would take us round the coast at sea level. It did occasionally, but in the main it twisted into the cliffs, round sharp corners, through little touristy villages on surfaces riddled with potholes. It was a bouncy hour hut eventually we arrived in Kassiopi. My recollection was that 50 years ago, there was one or maybe 2 tavernas and nothing else. Now there was little room to move, but I found the taverna we had lunched in 50 years ago.

Jane and Kim in the taverna
My beer and Janes new hat
The village

Kassiopi centre

We took a better route back through central Corfu and eventually arrived back at the ship some 3 hours after we had left. It was an exhausting day.


Sad times

Whenever we have been in our cabin on this voyage the TV has been showing Sky News and we have been following the dramatic scenes after the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II.

I was reminded that my father was the first person to greet Her Majesty aboard Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) on Clydebank after the ship had been completed. Here he is shaking her hand as she stepped off the gangway.

And father was also there to greet Prince Charles, as he then was, as he boarded QE2

God save the King.



Those of you who know me well are aware of the fact that I hate complaining, hate arguments and hate unpleasantness.

I will be careful what I say, but on Tuesday the port was Dubrovnik. A fair number of passengers go off the ship on guided tours, some ( probably only a few) remain on the ship and a large number do their own thing and walk round the port or local town.

If it is a long way to the dock gate or to the local town then a shuttle bus service is provided by Cunard. If the shuttle bus is not wheelchair friendly then Cunard provide adapted vehicles that will take people in wheelchairs to the dock gate or the local town.

All I will say, at this stage, is that when Jane in her wheelchair, Kim and I arrived on the quay from the ship we were told that there were no adapted vehicles to take the 3 of us to Dubrovnik. The day was spent on the quay. 3 unhappy bunnies.



Di and Jim Pain are 2 of our table companions at Dinner. They live in Rutland but both originate from Leicester. During a conversation early in the cruise I mentioned the name of a friend of ours, Mike Yeomans. Di immediately said that as a teenager she had had a friend with that name. She asked if my friend came from Leicester. I was not sure but Di gave me the name of the school ‘her’ Mike Yeomans had attended.

I emailed Mike and he replied that he had indeed gone to that school and that he had lived with an aunt in Leicester at the time. His parents had gone to Wales as a result of a job move. So he was indeed the same Mike Yeomans who Di remembered.

The next night Jim Pain said the Pain family had lost contact with a cousin whose father had died at a young age many years ago. The boy’s mother decided, on her husbands premature death, to move with her children, back to Southampton, where her family still lived.

After that, the Pains in Leicester, lost all contact. Jim thought that the boy had probably become a lawyer. Jim couldn’t remember the boy’s name but his surname was Pain. ‘Grant Pain’ I said. I remembered a boy with that name when I was at prep school. Jim confirmed that that was his cousin’s name. I had not seen or heard of Grant Pain for 50+ years. I said I would do what I could to get contact details.

I thought that Max S-C was possibly a friend of Grant and emailed him. He replied instantly and confirmed Grant’s contact details.

So I knew Di’s friend from the 1960’s and Jim’s cousin from the 1960’s but to cap it all, when I told Mike Yeomans that I had located Grant Pain he told me that he and Grant had worked together as Solicitors for the Southampton Town Clerks department for about 5 years in the late sixties.

I have left it to Jim Pain to make contact with his long lost cousin.


At anchor off Hvar

We had always known that Jane would not be able to get ashore in Hvar. When the ship has to anchor, the trip to shore is in the ship’s tenders and they are impossible for Jane. It made our treatment In Dubrovnik harder to take.

The plan was that I would go ashore in one of the tenders after breakfast and return at lunchtime so that Kim could get ashore too.

Hvar is an island off Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast in the Adriatic. It is lovely. I was ashore by 9.00 and walked first to the west around the harbour. There were large numbers of yachts of all shapes and sizes. Their occupants were beginning to stir and some were diving it to the harbour to clear their heads.

Later, after exploring the town centre, which was just beginning to organise itself for the daily influx of tourists, I found an excellent bistro by the eastern harbour for a coffee and time for the daily Wordle.

And then it was back to ship by tender for lunch with Mrs Smith.