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Cunard Queen Victoria 2014
Christmas Cruises - Part 6
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We arrived outside the harbour of Arrecife on time, just behind the P&O Oceana which was already berthed on the breakwater. We had a different berth prepared on the opposite side of the harbour and much closer to the town. Lanzarote has suffered much volcanic activity and the most popular excursion is to visit the Fire Mountains in the Timanfaya National Park. Another popular trip visits La Geria where wine is made from grapes grown in little hollows protected from the wind by a dry-stone wall of lava. In 2010 we had remarked that Lanzarote has a reputation as a windy island, and the wind had been rapidly rising and the captain had called for the tug but it looked tiny and the Queen Victoria was clearly having great difficulty on the against the waves and crosswind which had risen to 34 knots. The captain wisely aborted the first approach and announced that he would try again after 45 minutes. However when the pilot boat arrived back and after great difficulty and several attempts the pilot disembarked it was clear that we were not going to Lanzarote that day.
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 on Christmas Eve with Carols and other Christmas songs on the staircase of the Grand Lobby led by a choir from the the Officers of the Queen Victoria - 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 Deputy Captain for the younger guests followed by a children's carol service. 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.
The Christmas Eve dinner was good, but one expects that, and featured Goose which we have not had for many years - we started on the various wines we had brought on board and passed to our Sommelier - the corkage is high but so is the cost of good wine on board. That finished in time for us to get along to the Theatre in time to bag our favourite box for a show featuring the 'Opera Boys' in a mix from classical opera to modern pop. It was then to the Christmas Service by Chaplain John Van Huizen from the Seaman's Mission - it was bit in the seeking to convert style which was not necessary as the Queens room was packed. Cunard had laid on a Catholic Midnight mass in Parallel with father Alan Griffin who had been holding daily services throughout the cruise. When we got back to the cabin we found two pieces of Wedgewood China at the foot along with a Christmas card from the Captain's and Officers. We got to bed at 0100 making the gym a bit of an effort the next morning.
Christmas Morning, we had a light breakfast in the Lido to recover before the Inter Denominational Service of carols and readings led by the Master , captain Peter Philpott - there were 9 carols and again it was packed, 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! This just gave us time to get up to the Lido for an early lunch as we had booked a special tea in the Verandah. The Gingerbread village had now been built and there were lots of Gingerbread animals and shapes in front of it, and of course there were the ice carvings, this time coloured brightly and featuring Reindeer. The highlight of the lunch was one of the best Christmas puddings I have ever had from a huge tray - the only thing missing was clotted cream but that was to come with tea. It was time to go and lie in the sun for an hour, it seemed odd sunbathing on Christmas day.
Once a cruise they hold a 'There is an additional charge of $15 or $30 depending on whether you have champaign. We had one without the champaign option and coffee but it did not detract from the experience - the value is questionable under normal circumstances but as a one off on Christmas day, definitely memorable.
We had a few minutes to recover before going to the Queens room for the big screen relay of the Queens speech which was far more popular than we had expected and it was a good thing we got there early. By now 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 - when offered second helpings we had to decline to leave room for the individual Christmas puddings even if they had a job to match the big one at lunch. More of the Chard Farm 'Riverrun' Pinot Pinot disappeared and we started the Cloudy Bay Te Koko. Our waiters and Sommelier have been superb and we finished in time to stagger along and bag our favourite box once more for the show, the others round it went a few minutes latter and still 25 minutes before the Christmas Concert started. It featured the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers and the Royal Court Theatre Orchestra with some guest appearances from the Opera boys. This time we made it back before midnight, just.
Pete did a couple of hours penance for over indulgence in the gym before raising Pauline up for breakfast. Boxing Day was again packed with a Galley Tour in the morning and the the Executive Chefs Chocolate and Ice Afternoon Tea held in Britannia Restaurant - unfortunately people have been learning and the queue was already long when we got there a quarter of an hour early to hopefully get some good photographs before the gannets descended! We used to think the midnight Gala Buffets on the QE2 were unbelievable but this was arguably even more impressive with the Ginger Bread Village and Ice sculpture on the entry before getting to the massive display of food and ice carvings in the centre along with stations producing flambeed fruit and pancakes. The food kept flowing as did the coffee and tea smoothly for an hour or more - very very efficient considering the numbers of people eating, milling around, collecting food and taking pictures.. The lemon cake was particularly memorable and we got lots more pictures even if we only got to eat a few pieces of Christmas cake, lemon cake and some flambees.
We will say very little about la Coruna as this was the second visit on this back-to-back cruise. The day started dull with some of the Dolt's Drench, the local name for the somewhat common drizzle. We waited until it cheered up at 1000 then walked the short (400m) distance across to other side of the Peninsular where there are the two long sweeping beaches, the Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazi which are almost continuous even at high tide. There were good views across to the tower of Hercules. They seem to be building up the beaches with additional sand. We walked along the wide promenade, popular with joggers and cyclists and with kilometre markers in places. Our main objective was the 'Millennium Obelisk', a slim spike we could see from the ship and we also wanted to take a look at the interesting looking funicular to the top of point and the Plaza Eliptica. On the way we passed the football stadium. The funicular looks like a globe but was not in use. We had a close look at the 'spike' which looks as if it is paneled in glass fibre on a metal frame so the sun can shine through and it can be illuminated at night. Further research showed it has 147 rock crystals panels brought from Holland over a steel frame. The bottom 13 metres (of 46) has carved into it the history of the main events and characters of La Coruna,. It is illuminate from within by 142 powerful light bulbs with a total power of 50 kwatts. The night pictures we found show it as a spectacular glowing column whilst the daytime appearance is somewhat dull with the scenes difficult to distinguish.
On the way back we stopped at the new (mid 2012) Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (MUNCYT). We must admit we had not heard of it and initially thought we had found the Science Museum and Planetarium which is actually in Parque de Santa Margarita. It was very modern and spread over 9 small floors in what seemed to be a larger custom building. To our surprise it was free entry although a ticket had to be issued, perhaps because it is a National Museum. There was an unusual area at the bottom with tools so small hands could disassemble common items such as mobile phones and disk drives (under supervision one hopes). There seemed to be a certain randomness in the selections of the items on display - there was no overview of the museums 'mission' in English so we may have been missing something as most of the relevant descriptions were in Spanish with short English translations which did not always seem to closely match the Spanish and sometime seemed totally unrelated - but quite interesting.
Some research when we got back onboard showed:
We then ambled somewhat aimlessly through the centre of town finding many extra streets with some magnificent building, mostly from the start of the twentieth century. The shopping areas were all very busy and even the market was open.
We returned to the ship and wrote up and sorted pictures until the Senior Officers Party. It was then the Gala Dinner (Escargot, Beef Wellington with a half lobster on the side and Creme Brulee. The Gala Dinner on the final formal night always ends with the parade of chefs and everyone is given copies of all the menus - we have them going back for twenty years in case they come in useful.
The final day at sea tends to be dominated by packing but there was a concert by the passenger choir in the Grand Lobby and then a book signing by the captain. We had some on-board credit left despite all the wine and other extras so we bought the new book "The Triumph of a Great tradition - The Story of Cunard's 175 years" by Eric Flounders and Michael Gallaher with a forward by the Duke of Edinburgh as a joint Christmas present and got it signed. We will try to get the signatures of the other Captains added as well but not on fly cruises as it must weigh a couple of kilos!
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