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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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!


A New Hip – A New Cruise – And the Blog is alive

It was back in January 2022 that we were last at sea. It was wonderful to be away after the tribulations of Covid. I can’t remember how many cruises that we had booked were cancelled or rearranged but Cunard looked after us and moved the money forward, and often added another 25% to the money they were holding.

After the January cruise we had 2 more lined up for 2022. June and September, but in May I began to get pains in my left leg. Sometimes in the knee, occasionally in the ankle and often in the backside – yes I know all about pains in the backside – I spent my career dealing with them.


Home sweet home

We disembarked on Sunday. Queen Elizabeth arrived at the Ocean Terminal on time while we were still asleep. The disembarkation procedures adopted by Cunard worked immaculately and we were ashore and out of the terminal before the cars arrived to take us home.

Our first trip away from home for 26 months was a resounding success. We all enjoyed being at sea. For Jane it meant a break from the dreadful meals that I have been producing for her over the last 2 years.

We have to thank Angus Struthers, Cunard’s Director of Marketing, for finding the Britannia Club adapted cabin for us at a time when only a limited number of adapted cabins were being released for sale. The result was that we enjoyed the fine dining offered in the Britannia Club restaurant and the food was indeed fantastic.

On our last day at sea we met up again with Peter and John Stafford in the Queens room for afternoon tea, I had spent most of the day packing Janes vast array of clothes, so relaxing at tea was most welcome. John took a number of photos. He appears in the mirror!

The evening show featured the Beatles tribute band once again. They were excellent.

Before we embarked on QE we were concerned about the possibility of a covid outbreak during the voyage, but as soon as we boarded the ship we realised that Cunard had gone to remarkable lengths to limit the risks. The passengers and the crew respected the rules. We were pleased to be away from our homes for the first time and the crew were incredibly pleased to be back in work. Every one of them did all they could to welcome us and to look after us.



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.



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.