Norway here we come.

We left Southampton on time on Friday evening and eventually turned to the east and aimed towards the North Sea.

All our table companions turned up on Friday. Casey and Nadia from just north of Miami, Florida and Mark x 2 – from Southampton! So it’s a table of 7.

It soon became apparent that coincidences would be rife. Mark 1, from Chessel Bay revealed that his former father in law was Ken Bennett, a Southampton character, who would have been well known to many of you. Ken lived along the road from us in Chilworth.

By the way, I’ve lived in Southampton all my life and have never before heard of Chessel Bay. Have you? When I was a boy, our family GP practiced in Chessel Avenue, Bitterne. But a bay in a river? That’s new to me! But I have found it on Google maps.

Mark 2 revealed that he had worked for IBM in Hursley for 17 years. The park in which IBM operates is no more than 2 miles from our home and I drive past the park every time I go to Winchester.

On Tuesday evening at a World Club party, I found myself talking to a distinguished English gentleman with a very attractive Chinese wife. I didn’t get their names but they told me that they now lived in Winchester, having until recently lived in Kingsway, Chandlers Ford. Kingsway is 50 yards from our house!

The first of the 2 sea days was rough but not as bad as the weather in Biscay the previous week. We had 2 days relaxing and then we arrived at our first Norwegian port on this voyage – Alesund.

You can see Alesund, south of Kristiansand and Molde but north of Bergen and Haugesund (which is our last port before our return home)

Alesund in the early morning as we arrived

For the four Norwegian ports, I had given up on Cunard tours and shuttles and in September I emailed taxi firms in all the ports. There were plenty of adapted vehicles. The firm that I eventually used in Alesund have 6 large Mercedes Sprinter adapted vehicles with lift and room for more than one wheelchair and 6-8 seats for the able bodied.

Our driver, of Eritrean heritage, arrived in the adapted vehicle as arranged at 10.30am. He was a lovely man. Courteous and a careful driver. We sorted out an itinerary and he wanted first of all to show us one of the handful of houses that had survived the fire back in 1904.

In many towns in Norway in the late 1800’s nearly all the houses were wooden. In Alesund in January 1904 a fire started in a factory when a cow apparently kicked over a torch! It was a very windy night and flames spread rapidly wiping out the 1,000+ houses in the town leaving 10,000 people homeless. Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, who often vacationed in the town, led a swift rebuilding programme, combining German art nouveau with Viking flourishes.

Alesund sits on 3 islands between 2 fjords

He took us up to the Aksla viewpoint which gave us magnificent views in all directions. Queen Victoria was on her berth.

These photos look north, south, east and west from the viewpoint
This island is known as Viking Island

Our driver then took us to the Sunmore museum, an open air exhibition of Viking boats and homes.

It was a fun day and after our return to the ship I ventured out on foot to find a few items that I was in trouble about as I’d failed to pack them. I took some more photos on my travels. The buildings in Alesund are very attractive.

We have a day at sea on Tuesday with, apparently, some Halloween celebrations.

As I write the Captain has announced that we are now within the Arctic Circle. He also said that he will be leaving the ship in Tromso tomorrow for a months leave. The new Captain is apparently already aboard. We look forward to meeting him.


The first leg return

We had all enjoyed the first week. It was unusual for us to visit only one port but the tour on the second day in Lisbon was exceptional. Those who frequent Queen Mary 2 and her transatlantic voyages are, of course, used to spending 6 or 7 days at sea visiting no ports at all.

Jane, Kim and I love sea days. There are always plenty of things to do. After a leisurely breakfast the Wordle, Sudoku, crosswords and books come out and then it’s time for coffee. The Commodore Club on 9 deck is the favourite for us these days.

Commodore Club

It has fabulous views looking forward and because it is high up on deck 10 in the forward part of the ship new passengers find it difficult to locate. That keeps it peaceful and relaxed. Some never find it!

Thursday evening was our last dinner before our table companions departed.

Clockwise from the bottom left – Me, Ray and Margaret from Bagshot, James from Paris, Anthony from Northampton and his daughter Liz from Chester, Kim and Jane

And the next day, Friday 27 October, the vast majority of passengers departed and about 100 of us doing the back to back adventure remained. Some went into Southampton, shopping, but we stayed on the ship. By lunchtime the new contingent had started to board for the Norway cruise and the excitement began to build up again.


Queluz Palace

The Palace was built in the 18th century for the Kings children, but when the main Royal Palace in Lisbon was destroyed in 1794, the King and the senior royals moved to Queluz.

We had a complete tour of the main palace. It was magnificent, as was Pedro’s guiding and commentary. Sonia had presumably heard it before because she remained in the vehicle!

These are some of the rooms we were led through

The Throne Room
Pedro thought this was not a piano. It looked like one to us!
The ballroom

After a full tour we were ready for the magnificent gardens

By the time we were outside it was raining heavily and we had to give the beautiful gardens a miss.

It was time to return to the ship. The traffic was heavy and by the time we arrived by the berth we had been out for 5 hours.

It had been an excellent tour and we were clearly lucky to get it. It became clear that the tour had been offered to us at the last minute because of a cancellation. Thank you Cunard!


Day 2 in Lisbon

Two days before we left home on 20 October, a lady from Cunard rang and asked if we wanted to take up the offer of a 5 hour tour for the 3 of us in an adapted vehicle on the 2nd day in Lisbon. It was to start at 8.30am. I told her I knew nothing about it, that it had never been mentioned before, but that we might be interested if it started an hour later. The price seemed reasonable for a 5 hour tour with an English speaking guide.

Agreement was reached on the deal and this Wednesday we were ashore by 9.30am and there, awaiting us, was a large smart wheelchair adapted vehicle with a side lift. We were introduced to Sonia who was to be the driver and Pedro the guide.

The tour that had been planned was first a drive up the coast to Cascais, then across to the Queluz Palace, a tour of the Palace and its grounds and then back to the ship.

Pedro was fantastic. He was fanatical about accessibility and his knowledge of the history of the region, of Portugal and of the World was amazing. And he was able to explain it to us beautifully.

But before I tell you more of the day, let me reminisce. Back in 1967, my father arranged for me to go on a 2 week Cunard cruise on RMS Carmania after graduation. If there were unsold cabins then dependant children were allowed to travel for £2 a day. I was still a dependant child. I see that I talked about this in the blog on 27 January 2022. But I didn’t tell you about Cascais, the place that we were to visit on this tour with Sonia and Pedro.

Back in 1967 after the ship had berthed in Lisbon, a crowd of us decided to catch a train to the beach resort of Cascais. We had a great time on the beach and in the sea on what was a very hot day.

RMS Carmania

It’s amazing how a place can change in 50+ years. From being a charming small beach resort there is now a massive town and a very small beach. Sadly it was raining this time, but Pedro took me to look at the beach.

There were just two boys braving the rain and a group playing volleyball. Perhaps I won’t be hurrying back there. We had a coffee and then we were off to the Palace.

I will report on the Palace visit shortly.


An extra day at sea and then Lisbon

Many were disappointed that Vigo was cancelled.

James, a Frenchman, who sits with us at dinner, was upset. He was intending to take the train to Compostela de Santiago.

James says doesn’t know why his mother decided to give him an English name. He was born in a small town in Northern France, 100 miles north of Paris, and lived there all his life, until retirement, teaching history in a local school. After retiring, he sold up and bought a flat in Paris where he still lives.

We have a table of 8 for dinner. Liz now lives in Chester and is with her elderly father Anthony. She has not cruised before but Anthony has. Liz appears to be enjoying her first cruising experience. Then there are Ray and Margaret. They used to live in Ferndown, Dorset but to be nearer to children and grandchildren they moved to Bagshot. The table is fun but sadly 5 of them will be leaving on Friday when new companions will arrive.

Lisbon as we arrived

The daily programme said that we would be arriving in Lisbon at 9.00am on Sunday. I awoke soon after 6.00 to find that we had passed under the 25 de Abril bridge and were moving slowly towards our berth. These were views from our balcony.

As we had a tour organised for the next day, we decided to take the shuttle into Lisbon. This would be a test for Cunard. It was a fair walk to the terminal building. We saw some shuttle buses and alongside an adapted vehicle with a lift. Two ladies in wheelchairs were already in position and there was room for a third. Jane was installed and Kim and I climbed aboard.

Because of traffic we were told that it was likely to be 35/40 minutes to the drop off point in the middle of Lisbon. That meant that if you just missed the adapted vehicle there could be a 70/80 minute wait. I raised this with a local girl in charge of shuttles. She assured me that a second vehicle would be used. We never saw it.

We explored the beautiful squares. Wherever we went there were hoards of tourists. The explanation was that it’s too hot to visit Lisbon in the summer. Although the floor of this square appears otherwise it is in fact flat.

Roast chestnuts

It was a tiring day, but we covered a sizeable area, much of which was new to us.

With Kim reading the map we returned to the meeting point. Guess what. No adapted vehicle. The local girl rang her colleague by the ship. I asked her where the second adapted vehicle was. She said it was on a lunch break! The other girl said it had to go elsewhere to help out.

Sorry to bother you with this but I know that Cunard read the blog and I want them to know yet again how poor their service is for the disadvantaged.

We had to wait 40 minutes before the adapted vehicle arrived. It was the same one that had taken us into Lisbon in the morning.

Some of you will know that I had an hour long meeting at Carnival House, Southampton about 6 weeks ago. It was with the people at Cunard responsible for shore excursions and shuttle services for wheelchair users. I told them how poor the service is and how it should be changed and improved. They clearly didn’t listen to me.

Carnival House

Smithy the incompetent blogger

As we have an extra day at sea today I have been investigating the blog and have found 3 pieces from our last cruise in May that somehow I failed to publish. Here they are!

“Party time on Queen Victoria “

“Missing in the Baltic” and


You can find them back in May where they should have been.


Sailing south

Queen Victoria
Queen Mary 2

On Friday evening we expected to be leaving at about 4.45pm but for some reason it was 6.30pm before we left the berth. But before that, the magnificent flagship of Cunard Line, Queen Mary 2 slid by on her way to New York.

By the time we were south of the Isle of Wight it became clear that the weather was getting worse. Big waves and big winds. Queen Victoria rides a storm well but by Saturday morning there was substantial movement.

At 12.00 noon on Saturday the Captain broadcast as usual, but the news was disappointing. Because of a serious storm ahead of us we would have to slow down and divert to get round the bad weather. That meant that the visit to Vigo would have to be cancelled.

The weather proved to be much better on Sunday. Very little swell and much more comfortable for passengers getting around the ship. On Saturday night the dining room had been half full because of the storm, with people taking to their beds, but this morning they were out in force.


Queen Victoria – Spain Portugal and Norway

Yes it’s a strange mix. A 7 day excursion down to Vigo and Lisbon (2 days) and then back to Southampton for a day when most passengers will leave and a new cohort will board.

In Southampton, next time, we will stay on the ship (unless we discover that checklists have failed me and that I’ve left an important bit of kit at home). I think I must have bought everything because as the luggage was being off loaded from the van at the terminal at Southampton docks, the luggage handler asked me I was about to embark on a World Voyage!

We had a lucky break at check in. A certain Mrs Linda C, who we have known for many years, led us to one of her team and we were all checked in instantly.

It is wonderful being back on Queen Victoria. We have sailed on QV for more than half of our 680 days on Cunard ships. But I must now unpack.



Before I started writing my blog I used to write pieces for a blog that Cunard ran called “We are Cunard”. Some of the pieces appear on this blog at the beginning but the photos disappeared when I had to move from blogspot to WordPress.

What I’m trying to say is that back in 2013, Jane and I chose a cruise from Los Angeles and back to LA. 39 nights on Queen Elizabeth. It was almost the last time that we could cope with Jane flying. In those days we used to take a simple folding wheelchair and the airlines could cope, and so could we.

We flew to LA and then stayed a few days in Santa Monica. We boarded Queen Elizabeth on 4 February 2013 and the voyage took us to Pago Pago, Samoa, New Zealand – Auckland, Napier, Wellington and Christchurch. We then headed north to Papeete in Tahiti and Bora Bora. The next stop was Maui and this is the extract from the piece I wrote for Cunard

“Our final call was to the island of Maui. We drove south to Kihei and our driver was keen to show us the holiday homes of Jack Nicholson and Tiger Woods before embarking on a drive through the lava fields. We then headed north through the beautiful homes in Kula before rushing back to the ship from the Tedeschi Winery. Maui is clearly an island with much to offer. We merely scratched the surface but voted to return one day.”

From Maui we sailed to LA before we flew home. Sadly we haven’t been able to return to Maui since then. The devastation caused by fires this week is horrific. A beautiful island destroyed and vast areas reduced to ash and rubble.


The USA – Part 1

One of my American friends, Roger Bialcik (more about him later), wants to know why I have never published the story of the three months that a group of us Brits spent in the USA in 1965.

As we are between cruises and because I feel that there should be a record of the highlights of one’s life, I will endeavour to put the story together. Our grandchildren may appreciate it!

It was 1965. I was in my first year at University studying law. I can’t recall whose idea it was that we should go to the USA during our first summer vacation. Julian Avery, a fellow law student, and I decided to explore the idea. We felt that in the US we would need to work for a time and accumulate enough money to fund a tour of the States during the second half of the trip.

I knew that my grandfather Charles William Hewson had a friend called Hal Kadish who he had met on cruise ships in the fifties. Hal owned hotels in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mother had exchanged Christmas cards with him after grandfather had died. Incidentally grandfather died from a heart condition while on a Caribbean cruise on RMS Andes and was buried at sea off Trinidad.

My mother suggested I wrote to Hal Kadish, which I did, and he replied indicating that he would be happy to give the two of us work in one of his Milwaukee hotels, the Ambassador, and accommodation in another of his hotels, the Plaza.

By then we had realised that, if we were to work in the US, we would have to emigrate to that country. Julian and I made applications which involved us attending interviews at the American Embassy in London and taking an Oath of allegiance to the American flag!

At some point Nigel Pugh, who I had grown up with in Southampton and who was also studying law, indicated that he would like to join Julian and me. As he had a godfather who was a Professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (only 70 miles west of Milwaukee) he would stay with his godfather and do a 6 week course in jurisprudence while Julian and I were working.

At the time Greyhound buses had an offer of 3 months travel anywhere in the US for $99 for 90 days. We all bought tickets on the basis that that would be the mode of transport we would use to tour the US during the second half of the trip.

Julian and Nigel arranged to fly to New York with BUNAC (British Universities North American Club) and I found that the old Queen Mary was leaving Southampton 5 days before and would be arriving in NY the day that they flew in.

RMS Queen Mary

My father George Smith was by that time a Cunard Captain and (I only discovered this recently) must have persuaded Cunard to switch him to Queen Mary for that trip so that he was aboard while I was travelling. It was a bonus because I received invitations to numerous drinks parties and other celebrations.

I didn’t get the impression that father was there to check that I behaved myself but perhaps that was his intention! It was a great voyage because in those days many American High School children were taken to Europe by their wealthy parents to celebrate their graduation. There were a large number of young ladies returning to the US on that voyage on Queen Mary. One of them was Susan Moore from North Carolina.

I do remember the arrival in New York. Queen Mary berthed at Cunard’s Pier 90 and I could see Nigel and Julian on the quay as the tugs pulled and pushed us into the berth.

Pier 90

They were brought aboard and after lunch we met Peter Kendall’s parents. Peter (more about him later) was at school with me at Canford, but as his fathers job had taken his parents to New York, Peter had decided to apply to an American university and Cornell (prestigious Ivy League) offered him a place and he had just finished his first year there.

Peter’s parents had agreed to accommodate the 3 of us for the night before we set off for Wisconsin. In the afternoon we met up with Peter who had a holiday job in the British Pavilion at the 1965 Worlds Fair. He had to dress up as a Beefeater every day. Hot work in July in NY.

The British Pavilion


The Beefeater uniform

That night we all had dinner with my father in NY and next day Nigel, Julian and I boarded a Greyhound bus for the trip to Wisconsin via Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago. In Chicago we split and Julian and I set off to Milwaukee and Nigel to Madison. For us it was then a taxi to the Plaza Hotel, Milwaukee where they were awaiting us and within minutes a phone call from our sponsor Hal Kadish. He would meet us for breakfast at 7.30 the next morning!

After breakfast next day Mr Kadish took us in his Lincoln Continental to the Ambassador Hotel and we were soon set to work. I was to clean carpets in hotel rooms and Julian was to wash walls. The other staff made it clear that we must not work too hard – not too many rooms a day. They would be doing the job once we had left they said. So 3 rooms a day was the maximum we were told. A room took an hour but we were employed for 8 hours a day. Inevitably to kill time we had to watch TV for hours on end, hoping that the housekeeper wouldn’t catch us.

The room where we lived at the Plaza was fine. It had a kitchen and bathroom and shower and a TV. We bought in food from nearby stores and would eat breakfast and our evening meals there. The hotel had a great bar where they allowed us to drink (we were Mr Kadish’s boys) despite not being 21, the relevant age in Wisconsin.

Our weekdays were breakfast at 7.00 then out to the bus at 7.30 for the trip across town to the Ambassador for an 8.00 start. Lunch was our main meal. Plenty of choice and the same food that was available for the hotel guests. At the end of the day it was a bus trip back to the Plaza.

As we didn’t know anyone apart from Hal Kadish (who was in his 80’s) and his lady friend Miss Alice, the only other people we mingled with in the early days were people we met in the hotel bar. Some were law students with wives who were doing post graduate courses locally for the summer. Others were older regulars who just wanted us to talk. They said they loved our accents. And they bought us drinks to keep us talking.

But Hal Kadish was incredibly generous. He took us out to dinner every week with his lady friend Miss Alice. We went to the American Legion Club which he said he helped to create, the Wisconsin Club (original member) the Milwaukee Golf Club and others. He was very kind but the journeys there and back with him driving the Lincoln Continental were scary.

Additionally he provided our accommodation in the Plaza without charge and he set up a company to ensure that we didn’t have to pay any income tax on our earnings.

I recently Googled him and initially Kadish Park came up. When I delved deeper I found that a park in Milwaukee was named after Mrs Alice Kadish. So at some point Hal and Alice had married. And my recollection was that when we were dining with them they were very elderly.

After we had been in Milwaukee for about 3 weeks, one evening as we traveled back in the bus after work, a girl of our age sitting just behind us said she had been listening to us talking and was intrigued by our accents. She wondered if we would like to see the night life of Milwaukee one evening! Of course we did. We told her where we were staying and she said that she would call us and would come with her cousin.

Blanche was her name and a week or so later Blanche and her cousin made contact and came to collect us. Her cousin was not the blonde we had been hoping for, but a young man called Roger Bialcik (more about Roger later).

From that night on until we left Milwaukee a month later we spent most of our spare time with Roger and Blanche and their friend Valerie and their families.

They took us to a variety of bars, to the State Fair, to a drive-in movie, to barbecues at the homes of their parents and siblings and there were only 3 days in our last month in Milwaukee when we didn’t meet up with them. Their hospitality and kindness to Julian and me was fantastic.

Before we met Roger, he and a group of his old friends had organised a weekend in northern nWisconsin. Rogers parents had a cottage near a small town called Suring and that was to be the base. It coincided with our last weekend in Milwaukee and Roger invited Julian and me to join them for the weekend.

On the Friday afternoon Roger and his friend Marty collected us from the Plaza and we drove north to Plymouth (inland from Sheboygan). There we picked up Glenn and later Gary. Eventually we reached an ancient bar they knew in a place called Hintz. We stayed there until about 2.00am when we drove to one of Roger’s uncles home.

Looking back my memory is of a mobile home with a log fire burning at one end with a semi circle of young children asleep on the floor with their feet all pointing at the fire. (This was August!). We were served with bacon and eggs at about 2.30am and then we left for the cottage.

Next morning when we sobered up, we found that the cottage was alongside a beautiful lake. We swam and sat in the sun and waterskied. We visited some of Rogers relatives and Blanche’s parents and we then went into Suring and Lasches bar. They were expecting us. They loved England. There were photos of the Queen on the walls and all the girls wanted to meet the Englishmen (who loved it of course).