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| Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2015 - 2016
Christmas and New Year Cruise - Part 1
Having stayed overnight in Southampton for two nights we woke up to find, to our surprise, we could see the Queen Elizabeth moored just across from the hotel at City Terminal whilst we had expected to leave from Ocean Terminal. The weather had been so bad that she had come in early and berthed the previous evening.
We got down to the terminal much earlier than we were supposed to and found priority check-in had already started and the security staff who normally come at 1200 were already present so we were on board at 1130 long before we should have turned up. The cabins were not ready but we went up to the lido and had a coffee and late breakfast then went down to listen to the choir from Salisbury Cathedral which sung on the stairs in the Grand lobby then after lunch in the Queens room, it was already beginning to feel like Christmas!
We rapidly found familiar faces and were greeted by name by many of the staff who remembered us from previous cruises. Our dinner table was in our favourite place above the double-down circular stairs from the upper to the lower level which has excellent views into the restaurant and was good for listening to the music but they are often not available as priority is given to those with wheelchairs as they are close to the entry. Our ocean view cabin on 4 deck, had a slightly better view than we expected, with a view past and two of life craft. Most of the cabins on deck four have 'obstructed views', that is a window with daylight and a perfect view of the side of a lifeboat but no view of the ocean! Our preference is the cabin the other side, which has a better view between the two smaller lifeboats. 4 deck is a good place to be as it is only one floor down to the restaurants and Grand Theatre and a reasonable climb of 5 flights to the Lido, Gym and Coffee making facilities. Regular readers will know we like our coffee and bring our own ground coffee and filter mugs rather than use room service or the machines on 9 deck.
The main problem on Cunard ships is putting on weight, the food is generally very good both in the main Britannia restaurant and in the self service Lido where we usually have breakfast and often lunch as well. The answer to this is the gym and Pete always goes to the Gym when it opens at 0600 for an hour or so and tries to average a 500 calorie burn on the cross trainers or other machines along with stretches and a few weights. On the last trip he exceeded that by quite a margin as there was very little competition for machine time unlike on world cruises when people queue at 0600 and you are rationed to 30 minutes on a machine and he actually found he had lost a couple of pounds by the time he was home.
The first thing we did when we got on board (after lunch that is!) was to go down to the Pursers office and book Boxes for the shows - this time we booked for the Christmas Eve Show 'Jingle Bell Rock' and also the new Production Show - 'Hollywood Nights'. We then went to the Verandah Restaurant to book for our free lunch there - a benefit of being regulars with Diamond status (over 150 days), in our case by quite a margin. It is so difficult to keep slim on board! Cunard Line has a strong Cunard World Club of repeat passengers, this cruise had many Diamond members so one needs to get in early to book lunches on a short cruise! We took the precaution of also booking a dinner.
After leaving Southampton there were 3 full days at sea, then 4 consecutive days visiting the Canary islands of Lanzarote, La Palma, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The weather was rough through the Bay as it often is at this time of year but the Queen Elizabeth handles poor weather much better than most cruise ships. We slowed a little through the worst sections then made up time rapidly. We had our first dinner in the Verandah.
The Verandah Restaurant restaurant was introduced on the Queen Elizabeth by Chef Zimmermann. Chef Zimmermann is the Culinary Ambassador who is responsible for all the Cunard ships and masterminded the concept and implementation of the Verandah Restaurant which is based on the Verandah Restaurants on the original Queens. He was aiming for the first Michelin Star afloat - he used to have one ashore. The Verandah is open for lunch on Sea Days and every evening. It is small with a maximum seating of around 70 but is normally limited to about 40 covers to maintain the level of service. There is a small supplement for both meals but we get a 'free' lunch as we are diamond club members. Some of the pictures are from earlier years as we do not like to intrude by taking too many flash pictures.
Christmas was everything we could hope for and more - Cunard do Christmas well. It was far more than just decorations round the ship and a couple of good meals. The festivities started properly with Carols and other Christmas songs on the staircase of the Grand Lobby led by the Captain and Officers of the Queen Elizabeth - it was packed on every level and everyone was joining in. There were even Mince Pies being handed out but the staff found it difficult to penetrate the crowd. There was also a reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' with the Captain for the younger guests- it turned out there were a lot of young at heart as well who came to listen. Normally there are very few children on Cunard ships and they have special facilities for them but over Christmas they were many more family groups and they were much more prominent.
Christmas Morning, we had a light breakfast in the Lido after Pete got back from the Gym to recover before the Inter Denominational Service of carols and readings led by the Captain - there were 9 carols and readings again it was full, this time in the Grand Theatre. This finished just in time to get to see the arrival of Santa - there was a video feed in the Queens room of his arrival on the funnel before he came down and through the ship. Again a magnificent show for the kids each of whom got an individual present addressed to them from him, with of course a photo taken!
We had a few minutes after lunch to recover before going to the Garden Lounge for the relay of the Queens speech. We were very glad we were second sitting for Dinner, formal of course, where there was Turkey and all the trimmings but also we were recommended the Chateaubriand which was blood red and melted in the mouth.
There was a huge Gingerbread Village at the side of the Queen's Room and more had been appearing round the ship with lots of Gingerbread animals and shapes in front of them and this year seemed to be the year for the return of Licorice Allsorts and Smarties. And of course any excuse was taken to bring out ic carvings, this time coloured brightly and featuring Reindeer and Sledges.
The following pictures taken round the Queen Elizabeth show something of the Decorations and celebrations which took place over Christmas and the New Year