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Cunard Queen Victoria 2016
Spain & Morocco and Canary Islands Celebrations
Map Embarkation and Southampton Days at Sea Lisbon - Portugal Cadiz, port for  Seville - Spain Malaga - Spain Tangiers - Morocco La Coruna - Spain   Map In Transit at Southampton and some days at sea Vigo - Spain Christmas Day at Sea - includes some other Christmas Celebrations and the Decorations round the ship Casablanca - Morocco La Palma Tenerife Gran Canaria Madeira, at sea for the Fireworks and News Years day activities including Party, Verandah Restaurant and Theatre Box Lisbon - Spain, second visit
Map Map

Introduction to the Cruise and Embarkation at Southampton.

This comprised two cruises back to back with a brief return to Southampton in the middle meaning we had four passages of the Bay of Biscay in late December and early January. The second cruise which cover the Christmas period and then Madeira for the Fireworks was booked a long time ago and was 14 days long and was routed From Southampton. Much later we decided that it was a bit short and as there were some offers we looked at adding on the previous cruise and to have a Princess Grill cabin. We had one right at the front which is not ideal for rough weather but the cabin was larger than usual to compensate and we had a very enjoyable 10 days of luxury and even better service and food than one gets in the Britannia Restaurant and that is excellent to start with. The initial cruise took us from Southampton through Lisbon, Cadiz into the Mediterranean for Malaga, and on to Tangiers, La Coruña and back to Southampton - the second continued through Vigo and Casablanca, down to the Canaries for La Palma and Tenerife, Gran Canaria then to Madeira for the fireworks, Lisbon and back to Southampton -24 days in total.

Both cruises had a large number of 'port days' giving a restricted time to write up and we also visited Lisbon twice, once on each cruise and we have lined those two visits together in our writing up. Most of the ports we have visited several times on similar cruises to the Canaries and whilst starting and finishing cruises in the Mediterranean and we spent a lot of time walking in those ports - five hours on average! There were two new ones, namely Tangiers and Casablanca, both in Morocco where we took organised excursions to get an overview and Pauline has done new and comprehensive write-ups of both .

Changes to this write-up. We have decided to write this up a little differently to usual in that we will have a separate page for each port which will each have our 'standard' introduction and general information on what we have done in the past (ie a reusable section) to which we will add the particular and extra things we did this time. There will also be couple of extra pages covering the Christmas Celebrations throughout the cruises and the Days at Sea which will be at the end and will probably concentrate on the food and entertainment. There are several themes which run through this write-up namely:

The Christmas theme. Much of our time ashore had a Christmas theme and we visited many Spanish churches which were all highly decorated for Christmas with many of the statues dressed in rich robes. Some had nativity scenes within the churches and we took many pictures with a Religious and Christmas theme within and outside the churches including decorated streets of the metal pyramid style Christmas trees. We always visit the local markets and again we have additional pictures reflecting some of the extras available in the Christmas period which we have added to the standard introductory write-ups of ports.

The theme of Beléns - is a fascinating part of the Christmas theme. We made a special point of seeking out Beléns which are extravagant Nativity Displays. We knew little about their importance to the Spanish culture previously so it is worth giving a little background on an area which turned out to be one of our major interests in this holiday.

Beléns - Spanish Nativity Scenes

A Belén is a Spanish Nativity scene. Belén translates as Bethlehem and a Spanish Nativity scene often includes most of the town of Bethlehem and what often seems to be much of the rest of Judea. In addition to wise men, angels and shepherds, there are farmers with their ploughs, hunters with strings of game, washerwomen washing and bakers baking and potters turning, often in motion. There are caves and houses and temples, rocks and streams and mountains. Off in the distance, there are the Magi on their camels, and sometimes you will see the soldiers of Herod, ominously advancing with their swords drawn. Normal people and children fill the the scenes, bringing their offerings to the Jesus, sleeping in a straw-filled manger under the gaze of the adoring Mary and Joseph.

The tradition is a very old one going back to the 13th Century. It is said that St. Francis creating the first nativity scenes but it is likely he was inspired by earlier traditions of modeling religious scenes. Christmas, of course, had its foundations long before Christianity, it was a feast close to the winter solstice that had been celebrated not only by the Romans but by other pagan peoples and had significance as the point at which the darkest day occurred and then the days got longer. Christianity then spread through lands that had a long tradition of religious imagery, and paintings and carvings began to appear with earlier images which were reinterpreted by Christian artists, just as pagan feasts were reinterpreted by the Church and the modern Belén has many flexible interpretations on an underlying religious theme. Now many extravagant variations based on local art, culture and faith can now be seen every Christmas throughout Spain and the Spanish New World. Several towns now have Belén trails for people to follow and there are many shops where one can buy figures for your own Belén.

Many of the Belén we saw were huge with complex scenes with figures made over many years. Some had scenes built by the various parishes in the region, both separate in style yet integrated into the whole. Most of the large ones we found were not in churches but were in town halls or in public parks. One was in a private residence where the owner had been collecting old figures through the years and another on a beach with larger than life sculptures in sand.

Many of the models are moving with streams running with waterwheels turning and fishermen raising and lowering their rods. Some scenes are relatively modern and represent various businesses in the area and parts are quite amusing - we saw one scene where the wise men on their camels are being halted at the entry to the local camel parking to pay their well laid out parking fees. Many of the figures are modeled on local and famous people, We saw Picasso painting one of the local celebrities.


Technological theme - Lisbon and its water supplies. We visited Lisbon twice, a port we had also visited many times in the past and concentrated on exploring the water supply system to the city which sounds a very dry subject but turned out to be fascinating. Initially we had only set out to visit the old steam pumping station out of interest in the huge beam engines but were entranced by the scale of the whole system including huge aqueducts reservoirs and tunnels initially leading to a series of ornate fountains from which water was drawn to carry to the houses. We spent most of the two days learning about the system and the two visits are combined into a single page covering our explorations with a small additional 'guide' for completeness those who have not visited Lisbon.

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Content revised: 16th July, 2020