Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 20 - Puntarenas, Costa Rica

We pulled into port at just about 7 am which was when I woke up.  The meeting time for my tour was 8:15 and I was there very early.  The tour I took was called "Sarchi Colors and Shopping".

Once on the coach we left the port at about 8:30 with our driver, Rafa, and tour guide Selma.  Selma had been an exchange student in Chicago during high school which is where she learned most of her English.

We drove for almost 2 hours to get to Sarchi which is in the hilly area of Costa Rica so it was not as hot as the forecasted temperature of 97F/36C for Puntarenas.  The villagers used to elaborately decorate their oxcarts in this area and the folk painting lives on in the crafts produced here.  Fresh, local fruits and Costa Rican coffee was included in the tour.

Leaving Sarchi we headed for Grecia and its dark red, metal church.  The story is that a ship left the metal at Puntarenas, Costa Rica instead of Puntarenas, Chile.  It sat for a number of years and when nobody came to correct the mistake, the government used the metal to build a school and church.

We learned a great deal about Costa Rica - the crops, the government and the schools (the school year begins in February).  Next Sunday there is a presidential election with no less than 13 candidates running.  Selma told us that most likely there will have to be a run-off election since a candidate has to get 41% of the vote - hard to do with so many  vying for the presidency.

Most of the buildings in Costa Rica have corrugated tin roofs.  They help to reflect the sun and allows for the run-off of rain (Costa Rica has a rainy season that runs for about eight months).

On the tour I tried two new things.  One was papaya.  I am not sure why I had never tried it but it was very good.  The other was cashews.  I had eaten cashews at some time in the past and decided I did not like them.  The ones we had today were local and from what Selma said, processed in a different way than most big companies use - maybe that is why I liked them.

Arriving back to the ship just before 2:30 I had a late lunch in the Lido and then back to the stateroom for a short nap.  The ship was running a 2-for-1 special between 5 and 7 on the internet minutes which I took advantage of and was on for 84 minutes.

Tonight was pirate night and about 25 people dressed for the event took part in the Pirate Parade.

View of Puntarenas from my balcony

Costa Rican street scenes

Metal church in Grecia

Largest oxcart in the world (it is in the Guinness Book of World Records)

A living fence (parts of trees are cut off and planted and barbed wire is wrapped around them)

Grecia town square

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 19 - At Sea

Awoke about 8:30 but stayed in bed watching the sea go by.  At about 9 I decided to go and sit on the balcony.  The Pacific was living up to its name today - very calm.   I noticed some movement below and saw some small dolphins.  (Later in my iPad class, the tech guy said they like the vibrations from the engines and often come up close to the ships.)

I attended two lectures today.  The first was by Bill Miller (who was once a middle school Social Studies teacher!) about "Maritime Royalty" - the Cunard "Queens" history.  The second was by Bill Bryson, entitled "An Even Shorter History of Nearly Everything" based on his book A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Unfortunately, this was the only book of his that I have never been able to get through and therefore, was not my favorite of his talks.

Lunch again in the Lido and then I walked around.  I had not seen the upper floor (Deck 3 of the Britannia Restaurant so I went in there and took a few pictures.  Then I looked at all the pictures in the Photo Gallery.  I ended up buying the picture with the Captain.  Since my handy key card was all primed, I took a look at the World Cruise merchandise which was on sale (personally, I think Cunard should give us some of these items like Holland America does on their World Voyage).  I ended up purchasing a fridge magnet and an insulated mug (to fill with lemonade when I sit out on deck).

I did receive two vouchers (not sure if they were from Cunard or not).   One was for a free meal in the Lido Alternative (which carries a $10 "cover charge").  The other was for the "Enhanced Afternoon Tea".  I'll let you know what these are like.

Today was the last of my iPad lessons.  This one was on photos and videos.  Learned a few more good tips.

After the class I had an ice cream instead of afternoon tea and then came back and sat on my balcony watching the sunset.

Dinner was a tasty steak and then the show was a variety show with The Royal Cunard Dancers (danced to 007 theme songs), David Kaplan (billed as a "One Man Variety Show") and Lance Ringnald (a gymnast who also juggles, sings and plays the piano).  The show was ok.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 18 - Transit of the Panama Canal

What a day!  If you have never made a transit of the Panama Canal, put it on your bucket list.  Although the completion of the canal took many years, millions of dollars, and quite a few lives, it is an engineering marvel - especially considering it was completed 100 years ago.

I woke up at 5:30 (after four and a half hours of sleep) and it was still dark, so I went back to sleep until 7:00.  We were approaching the first lock (Gatun) on the Atlantic side.  I dressed quickly and went to the forward part of deck 9 in front of the gym, which you had to walk through to get to the open deck (so I got my one - and likely only - view of the gym!).  It was crowded and since most people are taller than I am, I could not see much.  I ended up going back to my balcony and had a good view of the process.

Cunard had a local lecturer, Jose Fernandez, give commentary as we made the transit.  He also had a Q&A session about the canal.  He said he did not believe that the extension of the canal would be finished before the end of 2015, if then.  It was due to be finished this year for the 100th anniversary.

Over the course of the day I also watched the transit from deck 9 aft, deck 9 midship, deck 10 midship, and deck 3.  After watching the working of the locks from my balcony, I realized you could not really notice the up or down motion which is why I ended up on deck 3 for the Miraflores locks.

We exited the canal (with Panama City in the background) into the Pacific around 5:30.

A movie I have wanted to see, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", was being shown tonight so I decided to eat in the the Lido and go to the 8:30 show.  It was a great movie but the background music was so loud I could not hear some of the lines.

Parts of the extension locks

Crocodile on the shore (there are many of them in the canal)

"Mules"  The locomotives that guide the ship through the canal (four on each side of a large ship).  They are named mules after the animals that were once used to travel across Panama.

Gatun Lake

Work on the extension

Centennial Bridge

View of the lock

Bridge of the Americas

New Museum of Modern Art with Panama City in the background

Palindrome for the day ---  A man, a plan, a canal - Panama

Smooth sailing until next time!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 17 - Limon, Costa Rica

My tour had a meeting time of 7:00 am so I had to get up at 6:15 (way too early)!  The tour was called "Train, Canal and Countryside".   We were the first tour off the ship and we loaded the awaiting coach with our driver, Carlos, and our tour guide, Alex.

We had a short ride to where we loaded the boat for the canal ride.  We were able to see a variety of wildlife along the way - sloths, monkeys, birds, and bats.  The boat would stop and turn around so that everyone was able to see and photograph the animals.

It was also interesting to see the homes along the canal.  Since it was Sunday, many people were home and waved to us as we passed.  Most of the homes we saw were small with few partitions within the house to allow the breeze to pass through.  Alex told us that the houses we saw with barred windows had them to help keep the animals (as well as humans) out.

After we left the canal boat there was fresh fruit as well as iced tea and water, clean restrooms, and a small souvenir shop.  We then boarded the coach for a 45 minute drive to the train.  We passed though banana plantations on the way - bananas are not indigenous to Costa Rica but are now an important crop.  The trains stopped running in this area of Costa Rica about 20 years ago - the one we were on has the actual old cars but now they only take tourists.

The ride was really bouncy - not sure if it was the tracks, the suspension of the car or a combination of both.  We stopped twice along the way.  The first was to get an up close look at a monkey that was sitting in a tree close to the tracks.  The second stop was because there was an animal on the tracks (never heard what kind).  We were then transferred back to the coach and driven back to the ship.

Within the gates of the port is an open air market with many stalls selling native crafts as well as the ubiquitous T-shirts.  I managed to resist since I am going on another tour when we reach the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Half of the people at the dinner table did not show tonight.  They were making an early night of it because the transit of the Panama Canal begins at 6 am and we lose an hour of sleep tonight.

Today is Australia Day so there was an Australian music sing-along in the pub so I dropped in for awhile.

Another early morning tomorrow!

Blue egret

Tiny bats

A monkey

A sloth

Houses and street scenes

The interior of the train

Smooth sailing until next time!

Day 16 - At Sea

Saturday - When I awoke about 9 the sun was shining in and when I stepped out on my balcony it was already hot, so I decided I needed to get to the pool.  I was in the pool for about half an hour and sat outside for another hour and a half - I did not want to overdo it since it was my first day in a strong sun since September.

After lunch I sat on the balcony and read before it was time for my third iPad lesson.  I am still learning so many things about my iPad and the iOS7 upgrade.

Tea time was in the Lido with a friend from my Cruise Critic roll call.

Tonight is Burns' Night honoring the birth of Robert Burns the famous Scottish poet.  We had haggis as an appetizer choice which I ordered.  I have had it a few times and actually like it as long as I don't think too much about what goes in to it.  Some of the menu choices started repeating tonight.  After dinner there was the Traditional Address to the Haggis and some dancing by the Royal Cunard Dancers that was definitely not traditional Scottish dancing.

The entertainment tonight was the "Manhattan Dolls" a trio of female singers doing hits from the 50s and 60s.

We gain another hour tonight but I have to meet my tour for Limon, Costa Rica at 7:00 in the morning (what was I thinking booking such an early tour).

Smooth sailing until next time!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 15 - Aruba

Up early (7:15) to get ready for our island tour.   Maggiemou (from our Cruise Critic roll call) had arranged a three hour tour with Bully Tours.  We were among the first ones off after we docked and Bully was waiting for us as we came out of the terminal.  One of the nice things about an independent tour (versus one sponsored by the cruise line) is that often they will tailor the tour to what you want.  We asked to see the major sites.

Bully has a very nice van and by law can only carry five passengers.  We were able to get out, take our pictures, walk around and get back in the van before everyone was off the large coaches (we were in port with HALs Noordam).  Bully also gave us a good commentary about the history of and life on the island.  Did you know that students in Aruba must study four languages in school - (Spanish, English, Dutch, and the island language - which has some elements of the other three?  He took us (and treated us) at the best bakery, Bright.  He stopped at scenic places for us to take pictures and took a number of pictures for us.  He is a great guy and I highly recommend him to anybody who wants a personalized tour of the island of Aruba.

I had a walk around the shops (every high end name you can think of seems to have a shop here) and stalls but did not spend much and came back to the ship for a very late lunch.

Tonight is a "Casual Night" which is something Cunard does not have frequently.  This is described as no jacket, open neck, collared shirts for men and tropical dress for women.

It was a beautiful sunny day in Aruba with a high in the 80s.

Eureka!  Thanks to iResize and Google photos, I can now add pictures quickly and easily!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New York City

Pictures of the "Freedom Tower" (new World Trade Center) and the  9/11 Memorial.

Days 13 and 14 - At Sea

Wednesday - When I awoke (about 9:30) it was cloudy and when I went out on the balcony I found it was warm and humid.  As I was standing outside I saw a movement and thought it strange to see little birds miles off the coast - then I watched them dive into the water and realized I had seen flying fish.

My TV has had poor reception from the start and I was longing for the days when you could put aluminum foil on the "rabbit ears" and improve the reception (you have to be of a certain age to remember that).  Finally I decided to check the cable connections to see if they were loose.  When I unscrewed both ends of the cable and put them back I had a beautiful, clear picture - no foil needed!

Our Cruise Critic group had its third meeting to welcome aboard our three members who embarked in Fort Lauderdale.

After lunch in the lido I spent some time out by the Lido Pool because the weather had cleared up and was a sunny, gorgeous day.  You could just make out the coast of Cuba off the starboard side.

Since I updated my iPad to iOS7 yesterday and was lost with the differences, I signed up for the first of four iPad classes.  This was on the very basics but I learned a few things I did not know and can now close apps when I finish with them.  I decided to sign up for the last three in the series which will be held over the next week.

Tonight was a formal night and the Black and White Ball.  I only saw a few people not wearing black and/or white and there were some amazing outfits!

Thursday - One of the lecturers today was Bill Bryson who is my favorite non-fiction author.  He spoke to a full house and then had a book signing.  I purchased At Home one of the few of his books I have not read.

Lunch was fish and chips at the Golden Lion Pub.

My second iPad lesson was today and I learned quite a bit about the new operating system.

Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Reception (as well as Captain Wells' birthday) and was another formal night.  Once again almost everyone I saw was beautifully dresses.  I had my picture taken with the captain before going to dinner.  I made it an early night since we are in Aruba tomorrow.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 12 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

We sailed in just after 6 am (yes, I actually woke up to watch).  After docking I went back to bed and slept until 9.  Woke up to find that my iPad was almost dead because the plug was not completely in.  Decided to wait awhile so I went to the Lido for breakfast (Yes, my second breakfast of the cruise).  When I returned to my stateroom, the amount of power had decreased (just one of many computer issues I faced today)!  Finally I decided to just take it and make sure I found a seat where I could plug it in.

Cunard was running a free shuttle bus service to the Galleria Mall.  I was hoping I could find a place to buy some odds an ends and free wi-fi nearby but it was a standard mall so I took the shuttle back to the ship.  After a few minutes wait a taxi came and took me to a Winn-Dixie (grocery store chain) for my odds and ends.  It was then a short walk to a Panera with free wi-fi.  I spent almost three hours working on the computer.  I wanted to get the app "iResize" (thanks Bev!) in hopes it will make it possible to add photos regularly.  Turned out you had to be using iOS 7 (which I had been resisting - every time I "update" something, I have major issues with it).  So then I decided to upload pictures through photobucket and had trouble so then I tried flickr and had more issues.  I tried to post about 20 pictures and were only able to get up the stateroom pictures.  After a little reassurance from my daughter, I downloaded iOS7.  Then I went to download iResize and the computer completely froze - nothing worked, even trying to shut it down.  After about 10 minutes of major worry, something happened and it unfroze.  (I finally was able to download the app back on board in about 4 minutes).  Called for a taxi and was back on board by 5:45.

Had a nice visit with DreamflightPat from our Cruise Critic roll call who joined the cruise today.

Sailaway was set originally for 9 pm but was changed to 8:30.  One couple was missing but just made it (they actually had to put out a gangway because it had been removed).  I had asked for a webcam wave and one of my fellow sailaway addicts started a thread on Cruise Critic for watching.  I was e-mailed some screen shots and am looking forward to the video that PTZtv offers for sale.  Thanks to Lou and Dave (owners of PTZtv) for the coverage and Roy for the thread.  We had about 10 people show up for our wave and had glowsticks and flashlights/torches.  It was great fun to see a sailaway from the other side of the camera.  We had a good reception from the people in the condos and the captain rewarded them with a few good toots of the horn,

Our webcam wave group then decided to toast the success of our sailaway with a drink in the Commodore Club.  

Smooth sailing until next time!

Days 10 and 11 - At Sea

Sunday -  I am having a hard time disconnecting with the internet and used up the 500 minutes I purchased in eight days.  So today I purchased the largest package (which is 1920 minutes) and hope it will last me until Sydney.

Went to the 11:00 lecture by Bill Miller about the "The Great Atlantic Liners".  He is a very dynamic speaker and will be doing more lectures that I plan to attend.  We had our second Cruise Critic Meet and Greet and were able to welcome some of the passengers who embarked in New York City.  About 20-25 attended.

Today is blustery out on deck and the Captain announced we had gale force winds.  Lots of white caps and some movement but still not as much as we had in the early days of the crossing.

This evening's show was a singer named David Shannon who has played Jean Valjean in Les Mis and the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.

Monday - What a difference a day makes!  I woke up around 9 and the sky was blue and the sun was shining into my stateroom.  I decided to stay in the bed and admire the view - I woke up an hour later!  I then stuck my head outside and found the temperature was lovely (about 65F/18C) so I sat on my balcony for almost an hour.  After lunch I finally explored the outside portion of deck 10 and sat in the sun for another hour.  There were a few people in bathing suits and one hearty soul was swimming in the pool.

Since I had no plans for today, I decided to go ahead and do a load of wash.  I had to wait about a half an hour to get one of the three washers but I did learn how to dismantle a dryer - one of the mechanics was in there trying to fix it.  When I went back to put things in the dryer, he was reassembling the machine - now we have three working washers and dryers.  Took about two hours from the start until all was dry.

I sat and watched the dancing for awhile after dinner but made it an early night.

Fort Lauderdale tomorrow and I am looking forward to a few hours of fast, free internet at a Panera!

Smooth sailing until next time!

My stateroom

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 9 - New York City

I set my alarm for 6:15 (Ugh!!!) to watch us sail into New York City.  It was cold and windy out on deck and still not quite light as we went under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  I have a couple of pictures that I will post when I can.  We pulled into Pier 88 right next to the Intrepid.  About 700 passengers left today and were replaced by about the same number.

I had signed up for the "Lower Manhattan and 9/11 Memorial" tour through Cunard.  A note telling me to meet in the Queens Room at 8:45 was left for me yesterday.  That part went smoothly.  We were escorted off the ship around 9:15 to find it was snowing!  (The captain had announced that it was supposed to be in the low 40s with no snow or rain a few minutes earlier.)

Going through Customs was easy enough (one of the ladies directing people let me go in a separate line when she saw my US passport) and the CBP agent was amazed I was going around the world by myself.  Then it was outside to meet the guide and get on the bus.

We first drove a few blocks to meet the water taxi that would take us to lower Manhattan.  The guide had trouble getting the tickets but we finally got on.  It was a nice  cruise down the Hudson and saw Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on the way.

We left the water taxi at Battery Park where the guide tried to take us through but there were fences up (evidently he had not been there recently).  We finally made it to the beginning of Broadway and walked for a couple of blocks.  We saw the old Cunard building, the Charging Bull, the NY Stock Exchange, Trinity Church, and Federal Hall.  By this time many people wanted a bathroom break, a chance to buy a few souvenirs and something hot to drink.  The tour guide mumbled and grumbled but did allow a 10 minute break.  Finally we arrived at what I really wanted to see, the 9/11 Memorial.  We were late arriving (the tickets have a time frame on them) but were allowed in.  The Memorial is very touching and if I ever return to NYC (not my favorite city in the world), I would like to visit the museum set to open later this year.

The bus picked us up and we returned to the ship around 1:30.  I am usually a very generous tipper but this guide did not receive anything from me.  Once on board I had a late lunch in the Lido and then went back to my stateroom.

After a short nap I took advantage of the 3G on my phone to do a few things online and also talked to my daughter and grandkids.  I was going to find a McDonald's or someplace else with free wifi but was too tired and decided I would have all day to do that in Fort Lauderdale.

I told my table-mates last night that I would not be coming to dinner but was going to watch the sailaway out of the harbor.  After eating in the Lido, I ventured out on the aft deck to watch the sailaway.  I had to go in and out a number of times because it was so cold but I lasted until we passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Smooth sailing until next time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 8 - At Sea

Today is the last day of the Transatlantic Crossing.  A number of people will be leaving us in New York and we will be gaining others.  Because of the out-of-the-way route we had to take, the Captain announced we will be arriving later than expected in New York City.  My tour is supposed to leave at 9:30 but since it is a Cunard excursion, it should go on, just at a later time.

Today I went to two more lectures.  The first was the last in the series by Joyce Gold and was about Grand Central Terminal and the second was by two of the Third Officers and was a virtual tour of the bridge.  Both were interesting.  The amount of fuel the ship burns in a day was amazing.

After a late lunch in the Lido I tried a walk on the open deck but it was a little chilly and way too windy so I gave up quickly.

We were missing three for dinner and the table seemed really large with those empty places.  One table-mate is leaving in New York so we may get someone new in New York or Fort Lauderdale.

Tonight's show was called "Palladium Nights" based on a British TV show.  It featured songs from the 60s and 70s including hits from Tom Jones,  Englebert Humperdink, Dusty Springfield and others.  It was my favorite of the shows for the crossing.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Webcam Alert

For those of you who are webcam addicts (as I am), the QE will be showing up on quite a few for the next week and a half.

New York City - January 18th

We have a delayed arrival (maybe 9 am) and scheduled to leave at 9 pm.

Fort Lauderdale - January 21

Should arrive around  7 am and sail at 9 pm.  I have requested a webcam wave if they are manning the camera.  We will be under the large "Queen Elizabeth" sign that is near the funnel.

Aruba - January 24

Arrival scheduled for 9 am and sailaway at 5 pm.

Panama Canal - January 27

Days 6 and 7 - At Sea


Had fish and chips for lunch today in the Golden Lion Pub - great chips.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to get the blog updated.  I could get to my blog site but could not get the "New Post" page to load.  There is a concierge for the full world cruisers and she is in the special area of the Garden Lounge for a part of the day.  She tried to help me but the internet link was not cooperating.  I was finally able to get it posted a few hours later but am still not having any luck uploading pictures.  Today was just not my computer day.  While I was getting ready for dinner I was going to play some music on my iPad - no music would play and then I discovered I had no sound on anything.  I tried everything I could think of and still no sound.  Finally, I decided I would have to find an Apple store when we are in port Saturday.

Had a drink in the Commodore Club before dinner because I was going to the show after.  For my something different I tried the appetizers they bring around at about 8:00.  One was shrimp and the others I have no idea although one tasted suspiciously like liverwurst which I would eat as a kid but no longer care for.

Dinner was very congenial.  We have a Dutch lady at the table who is trying to get people to choose the healthy options on the menu.  I am a lost cause but she tries with some of the others.

The show tonight was "Vanity Fair" which was postponed from a couple of nights ago because we were having such rough conditions.  It was billed as "music, dance, and culture of a bygone era" and was mainly from the 20s including music from Gershwin and Noel Coward.  The dancers and singers are good but I think I was spoiled with the stage productions on Disney Cruise Line.

When I returned to my stateroom I turned on the iPad and the sound was back.  I still have no idea what I did to make it disappear or to make it return!


Having watched some of the lectures rebroadcast on the television, I was determined to make one in person today.  So, after a brief time in the sun and wind on my balcony, I went to the Royal Court Theatre to hear Ellen Baker, a former astronaut, talk about the Earth called "My Favorite Planet".  Met with some of my Cruise Critic friends and talked for a few minutes until the next speaker, Joyce Gold, started her presentation.  She spoke about famous women associated with Greenwich Village.  Both speakers were quite good.

After having lunch in the Lido Buffet I attempted a walk on deck.  The sun was still out but the winds were brisk so I did not last long and went back to my stateroom to check e-mail.  After losing badly at trivia (the winners tied with 18 - I had 10) stopped into the Lido for a spot of afternoon tea.  Dinner included the parade of chefs.  I had Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska - both very good.  The show tonight was a variety show with a pianist, a comedian, and the Cunard singers and dancers.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Days 4 and 5 - At Sea


I spent another leisurely day on board.  I actually had breakfast (not much of a breakfast eater) in the Lido buffet and met a lovely couple from Grimsby and we chatted  for awhile.  Later, when I went to afternoon tea in the Queens Room, we shared a table and talked some more.  For anyone who is concerned about cruising solo, don't be.  It is so easy to meet people you only have to be alone when you want to be.

If you ever travel on Cunard, be sure to take afternoon tea in the Queens Room.  The tables are set elegantly and white gloved waiters come around with tea sandwiches (cucumber and egg mayonnaise are my favorites), sweets, scones with cream and jam, and of course, tea (coffee if you wish).  You can get the same food in the Lido in the afternoon if you are in a hurry but nothing beats the beautiful service in the Queens Room.

I was invited to a birthday party for one of my Cruise Critic friends in the Commodore Club before dinner.  A very nice event with champagne and appetizers.  Then to dinner (informal night).  Lost a few dollars in the casino after dinner and decided to call it a night.


The sea is still rolling but is supposed to calm down tonight.  I stopped in for a perfume demonstration (not much to it but one lady did win a basket of goodies) and then happened upon the end of the single travelers get together.  While sitting watching the waves after lunch another Cruise Critic friend came by and we sat and talked for quite a time.

The afternoon brought my first encounter with the launderette.  Stories are legendary of the "wars" taking place in there (probably "urban legends" of the seas).  I heard one in the Lido about two women who got into a fist-fight and were put off the ship at the next port.  The people I encountered were quite civilized.  I chose my stateroom based in part on its position relative to the lifts and the launderette, so, while my clothes were in the washer and dryer I went back to my stateroom ( the laundry room is about the size of a walk-in closet so there is not much space to wait).  The dryer was set for 40 minutes and I went back after 35 and someone had taken my clothes out and put them in a basket.  Not sure if the timer is incorrect or someone was in a hurry to get a dryer (one is out of service at the moment so there are three washers but only 2 dryers).

Evening dress was a formal/informal choice and the Elizabethan Ball took place.  There were still a number of smartly dressed people although I did see more casual wear than before.  Only a couple of people had on "Elizabethan" clothing.  Watched the dancers and had (what has become a habit in quick order) my nightly cocktail.  There were not nearly as many dancers as in previous nights.

I had promised lots of pictures but I am having trouble getting my pictures uploaded to attach to my blog.  It has taken 10 minutes to upload about 15% of one photo and I have quit each time I have tried (gets expensive at 35 cents a minute!).  The pictures on my iPad are too large to put on the blog.  I have accounts with flickr and Photobucket.  If anyone has any suggestions please, leave a comment. Otherwise, I will be uploading pictures at free wi-fi spots while we are in port.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Days 2 and 3 - At Sea


I slept late and awoke to a beautiful sunny, warm (10C/50F) day so I had to sit out in the sun for awhile.  Then it was off to the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in the Commodore Club.  We had about 50 people attend.  Afterwards, I had lunch in the pub with some Cruise Critic friends.  Then it was off to the Internet Centre to get my internet service set up.  There was a long line and while I was waiting I met another Cruise Critic friend who showed me how to set up my account.  By this time we had moved passed the nice weather and the sea had become very choppy.  We are skirting around a big storm in the north Atlantic by going southwest and are closer to the coast of Spain than a normal crossing between Southampton and New York City would go.

Tonight was our first formal night.  There are often complaints about people not adhering to the dress code but that does not seem to be a problem on Cunard.  Most women had on long formal gowns and the vast majority of men had on tuxedos (also spotted were a few in Scottish regalia, white dinner jackets, and even white tie and tails!).  After another delicious dinner, I watched the dancers at the Cunard Ball.


I was totally useless today and spent a large part of it sleeping.  It must be the rough seas that lull me to sleep.  My goal for the day was to get my last suitcase unpacked and I failed at that.  Maybe tomorrow??

Had afternoon tea in the lido and then went to change for our second formal night, another themed night - the London Ball.  Didn't really see much that was "London" about the ball except they did the "Lambeth Walk" and a few were dressed for the occasion.  We gained another hour of sleep tonight.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 1 - Departure from Southampton

After getting only 5 hours of sleep I was up at 7 am ( a time I seldom see).  I found places for all of my newly acquired items and checked out Cruise Critic before it was time to take my bags down to the lobby.  DreamflightPat, from our roll call, offered to take me to the dock.  I'm sure she wished she hadn't.  There were horrible delays in Southampton due to road works and the fact that three ships were leaving on World Voyages today (P&O's Arcadia, QM2, and QE).  It took us about an hour to go not much more than a mile.  Once we got to the port things were very fast - the porter had my bags out of the car (in much less time than it took the two of us to get them in!), I had checked in (no wait at all) and was on the ship in about 10 minutes.

I went to my stateroom first and checked it out.  Then it was off to explore the ship, have a bite at the lido, and snap some pictures.  By 2 all of my bags had arrived.  At 2:30 there was a reception for the full world passengers.  Found out there are supposed to be about 500 doing the full world but that probably includes those getting on in New York and Fort Lauderdale (91 days or more is considered the "full" voyage by Cunard) but there were still quite a few at the reception.

At 4:45 we had the muster drill but there was no checking to see if you attended.  We listened to the information and then tried on our life vests.  It took about 25 minutes total.  Afterwards I did some more exploration trying to put off the inevitable unpacking.  I finished my carry-on and largest bag before departure time.  I'm not sure where two people would put 118 days' worth of clothing!

At 8:00 there were fireworks for the QM2 and QE.  QM2 was supposed to sail out first but we heard there was a medical emergency on board that delayed her so we sailed first.  Unfortunately it was pouring at sailaway but I stayed out until it was time for dinner.

I am at a table for 10 and we are all solo travelers.  There are four women and four men and we come from Holland, Britain, the US and Canada.  We had two no-shows.  5 of the eight are doing the whole world voyage.  The food was very good and in order to break my habit of always ordering the same thing, I am trying something different each day.  Tonight's was a chilled pear and honey soup which was actually quite good.  I had turkey that came with vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce and a "piggy in a blanket".  I was a bit skeptical about this but it turned out to be a tasty English sausage wrapped in bacon.  For desert I had creme brulee cheesecake with a scoop of ice cream.  It was the best vanilla ice cream I've tasted.

There was an introductory show at 10:30 so two of us excused ourselves to watch the show.  Amanda Reid, the Entertainment Director, talked about different types of programs and had some of the entertainers perform.

I have had two nice gifts - a bottle of wine from Patty my travel agent (Thanks, Patty!) and a beautiful plant from ???
Tonight we gain an hour.  Our first cruise critic meet and greet is at noon, so I think I will unpack one more suitcase and sleep late.   I also need to talk to the people in the Internet Centre so I can post this.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Day Before

After missing out on my needed eight hours of sleep for a number of  nights, I made up for it last night sleeping almost 12 hours!  After doing facetime with my daughter and her family, I headed out to do the remaining of my pre-cruise shopping.  Picked up just about everything needed and then back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  A group from the Cruise Critic roll call had arranged to meet at Ennios Italian Restaurant.  We all had a great meal and enjoyed getting to know each other.  Sleeping will probably difficult tonight!

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Great Beginning

As I am writing this, I have just finished dinner onboard BA216.  The trip to the airport took about three hours because we stopped for lunch.  I arrived about 2 pm and the ticket counter opened up at 2:30.  My suitcases all came in at least 1.5 kilograms under the limit so I was pleased.  Took less than five minutes to get through security.  It was my first time in one of the full body scanners but I passed as did my carryon and 7 pound handbag!

I had two nice surprises in the airport.  First of all, one of the ladies that will be making the Southampton to Fort Lauderdale segment of the cruise found me in the airport.  We knew we would be in the airport at the same time but I was amazed she actually found me.  We had a very nice chat about the joys of retirement, cruising and some of our mutual friends from Cruise Critic.

My second nice surprise came at the gate.  As my boarding pass was being checked, the attendant crossed out my seat and wrote in a new one.  Turned out I had been upgraded to Business Class.  This is the second time this has happened to me on British Airways and it is a nice bonus!  The seats fully recline and there is a foot rest,  I can stretch my legs and not even touch the seat in front of me.  Their are so many buttons that I told the flight attendant I needed a User's Manual.  Sure enough, they had one.

Right now everyone around me is peacefully snoring and I, of course, am wide awake!

There are about four more hours until we land.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Almost time to go!

My bags are packed.  Goodbyes have been said. And now, it is just waiting time.  I hope to be able to sleep some tonight (will it is already Tuesday, so I guess I should say this morning) because I cannot sleep on a plane.

About 11 a.m. my ex will pick me up and drive me to Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia.  My flight is scheduled to leave at 6:15 p.m. local time.  I did my first online check-in and printed off my boarding pass on Monday night.  I got the aisle seat I wanted in premium economy (my days of flying "sardine class" are over).  I also paid the $168 fee for taking 3 suitcases (you are allowed two)  According to my handheld luggage scale, all three cases are under 50 pounds.

Here is a picture of my cruise closet before I started packing.

And here is my cruise closet today.

So now it is basically waiting and wondering what could I have possibly forgotten!

Smooth sailing until next time!