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Cunard Queen Victoria 2022
Western Europe Cruise Part - 1
Map Embarkation and Southampton La Coruna - Spain Cadiz - Spain Malaga Changed to Gibraltar at last minute Lisbon - Portugal
Hover over a Port or Area for more information then click or use the links above

Background to the Cruise

This round-trip cruise from Southampton is our 19th voyage on the Queen Victoria. It was the last cruise before Christmas so one benefits from almost the entire Christmas experience, the ship is decorated, the Gingerbread village is being built, there were Carols on arrival in the Queens lounge, there would be more carols in the lobby lead by the officers and so on. The advantage is that one does not pay a huge surcharge for a holiday over the Chrismas holiday period. It was also a holiday which was rich in ports with few days at sea as it barely penetrated into the Mediteranian and one had several overnights in port. There was a last minute change from Cartagena to Gibraltar with an additional overnight in Cadiz which suited us. The reason was that some work was needed to replace a propeller blade on one of the Azipodes and that was scheduled for Cadiz.

Having travelled to Southampton and stayed at the Novotel the previous day we departed from the Mayflower Terminal which is so close to the Novotel one could walk across in the summer. It had not changed greatly since our last voyage, except that boarding was delayed slightly probably due to the extra cleaning they are obliged to do. Although Diamond members had priority, we joined the even more special group who had a stateroom in the Grills. So we joined the ship soon after boarding was allowed. Once aboard we rapidly found familiar faces and were greeted by name by many of the staff who remembered us from previous cruises. Our stateroom was low in the centre of the ship rather than one our favourite staterooms, at the Bow of Deck 5 - a concession to the passages through the Bay of Biscay in the winter.

It is only one floors above the Grand Theatre, shops and library and a reasonable climb of 5 flights to the Lido and Gym and Coffee making facilities, although they do supply a pod machine as well as a kettle in the Grills rooms. Regular readers will know we like our coffee and bring our own ground coffee and filter mugs rather than use room service or their machines. Our stateroom was also almost right below the Grill Lounge and the Princess Grill and Queens Grill Restaurants, which are on Deck 11. Our table for dinner was in the same place to the last cruise beside a window. Perfect. We will not say a lot more about the Queen Victoria as we have written at length already about previous cruises and in the page which is specifically an Introduction to Queen Victoria

The main problem on Cunard ships is putting on weight, the food is generally very good even in the main Britannia restaurant and in the self service Lido where everyone has an option of a very early breakfast or even a late lunch in port. The Grills restaurants are even better, and have the advantage of our reserved table being always available; the Britannia has two fixed dinner sittings. The answer to all this food 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 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, it kept the damage down about a pound by the time he was home, most cruises he actually loses weight but that is near impossible in the grills.

The first thing we always did when we got on board (after lunch that is!) is to go down to the Pursers office and purchase our favourite Theatre Box for one of the shows. To our delight these have been reinstated. It is first-come-first-served for bookings and comes with a the champagne cocktail and accompanying stand of truffles, mini icecreams and cookies in a lounge before going to the box where a further half bottle of Lauren Perrier awaits along with additional truffles - very good value for $60 for both of us. We often book our free lunch at the Verandah Restaurant - a benefit of being regulars with Diamond status (over 150 days), in our case by quite a margin. The meals in the Verandah have a fixed price supplement for three courses, $25 for lunch on sea days and $45 for dinner, and are well worth the extra once or twice during a voyage. There are only 4 days at sea on this cruise. A serious long lunch does not fit well with a special formal evening celebration menu. Most of the contact between passengers and the Captain and Senior Officers has resumed but there are still none of the usual cocktail parties.

La Coruña, Spain - December 2022

We like La Coruña very much which is fortunate as this was our sixth visit to La Coruña. La Coruña is located on the top left corner of Spain, in Galicia. It is the port closest for tours to nearby Santiago di Compostela. La Coruña is smaller than nearby Vigo, and is the second largest city in Galicia. It was the capital of Galicia from 1563 to 1982. La Coruña is called the 'Crystal City' because of the glass-enclosed balconies, miradores, of the 19th century buildings facing the harbour and in the old town. Overall it is a pretty city and the people are friendly. Looking back all our visits have been in December so it says a lot that we have such fond memories. The journey to La Coruña was, compaired to many times, rather boring. We have been through th Bay of Biscay when there were reflections off the sea and other times when it has been rather more lively. We still remember when the Port was opened for us on Christmas Day in 2013 after a slow and rough trip across the Bay of Biscay where we were hove to at 6 knots for 3 days - we should have been having Christmas day in the Canaries.

The Queen Victoria was berthed in La Coruña in her usual place, so we could admire her reflection in the glass of the Palacio de Congresos. The ship was rapidly cleared and we could easily have disembarked before breakfast had finished. The Centro Commercial seems to have even fewer shops and we first headed for the Palacio Municipal planning to visit the large Belen which opened at 1100 and also go to the nearby information office. We stopped to visit the Church of San Nicolas which is on the path of of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The Palacio Municipal is in the Plaza de Marie Pita was all decorated for the Christmas celebrations. Maria Pita, full name Maria Mayor Fernandez de la Camara y Pita, is the symbol of the defence by the citizens against the attack by Drake in 1589. She seized the English standard and raised the alarm. In the corner is the Church of St George.

The opposite side of the Plaza has a Tourist Information Office and we asked about other local Beléns worth visiting. They advised that there was another interesting Belén at the Grande Obra de Ataocha which was nearby but did not open until 1800. We obviously had plenty of time and we first went into the Belén in the Palacio Municipal with its enormous tableau, constructed in 2001, and stretching around three walls of a conference room. The detail of the people and animals are really excellent with several local personalities incorporated. These famous personalities had cards prepared so they could be spotted in the scenes. It was our original inspiration which led us to seek out Belén tableau in other places and in other cities. Many of the pictures below are from an earlier visits.

Having achieved the first of our targets we left the Belén and looked into the adjacent Church of St George before walking across to the useful market in the Plaza de San Agustin to buy some of the local cheeses to take home, several have the 'shell' symbol of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. We then crossed to the two long sweeping beaches, the Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazi which are almost continuous even at high tide. It is only 400 metres from the port side of the town to the beachfronts on the opposite (North) side of town. We had a view of the tall pointed Millennium Obelisk in the distance to the west where one can also see the funicular up to the observatory.


This was all familiar ground ground to us and is covered in our "Introduction to La Coruña for New Visitors" which I have updated and added at the end of this page. We have many ports and few days at sea so we have decided to concentrate on new activities in the ports and use and update existing information where possible for this cruise. It takes a lot of time to do a new write up every time for ports we have visited so we have gradually been writing 'Virtual Visits' with an accumulation of the best of previous visits to which we can add a summary of each extra visit and update with some of the best of our new pictures.

This cruise had so many port days we could not even keep up with our pictures - we take plenty of pictures, both on cameras and now on Pete's mobile which handles simple scenes better than the camera. In particular churchs with lots of gold actually come out better on the phone than either of our cameras but any zoomed pictures require a camera. We also take plenty of pictures of information boards to aid identification as well as for the information. They are all transfered to a computer where the best are selected and 'polished' for what we call a print file although it rarely ends up printed these days but forms a slide show. The best then get further processing for the web. Our print file (slide show) for this cruise is fairly typical with just over 300 pictures of which ~50 may make it to the web.

We deviated from our normal routes and decided we needed some exercise so we returned the long way, right out around the headland past the aquarium, a 3 or 4 mile walk. The alternative would have been to explore the Old Town, which is interesting, but we have been there several times. There is a good guide to the old town provided by the Tourist Information Office. There are narrow cobbled streets and traffic is rare. The Old Town area is covered at length in our "Introduction to La Coruña for New Visitors" below.

It was a pleasant walk and we had not done the section from the beaches to the tower in the past. It was too late to actually go up the tower. Initially built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, it is the only lighthouse of Antiquity that is still in operation today. The remains of that lighthouse were incorporated into the present building in 1788. It is large and dominates the hill, each of the four sides measures 11.4 metres and the tower is 59 metres high and has magnificent views, again an earlier visit is covered below.

The way back to town is on a wide promenade beside the sea which has interesting cast lamp standards and is marked out with distances for joggers and cyclists. We cut back into the the Plaza de Maria Pita and on to the gardens of Mendes Nunez, by the Kiosko Alfonso and La Terraza. We passed through the Avenida de la Marina which is full of tall 19th century houses whose frontage is almost entirely miradores and glazed balconies. The street is the first seen when arriving in the port and it is easy to see why La Coruña is called the Crystal City.

An Introduction to La Coruña for New Visitors

This is an amalgamation of previous visits to save new visitors having to seek out information in several places. Overall we have had six visits and have always spent our time on foot. The usual mooring is very close to the town and one can be in the nearest shopping centre within a couple of hundred metres from the gangway. The berth also overlooks the marina and beyond to the glass-enclosed balconies and miradores of the 19th century buildings facing the harbour. It is easy to see why it is called the Crystal City as the sun comes up on a clear winter morning at about 0900. The weather is not always perfect however. When we visited on the Queen Victoria in 2013 we suffered memorable cold and windy weather and it was a great relief just to arrive on Marco Polo on 25 December 2013 having been in the Bay of Biscay in ferocious weather for days - we should have reached the Canaries for Christmas. We were in La Coruña for Christmas on the Queen Victoria in 2016 and we did comprehensive write-ups of the Christmas and the various Beléns (Nativity Scenes) which are not included in this general introduction.

We normally leave once the sun is up and stroll around the old town, using as an excuse the need to find some local cheeses and even wine to stock our fridge and take home. The easiest path is to cross the gardens of Mendes Nunez, by the Kiosko Alfonso and La Terraza, then stroll from the Avenida de la Marina into the narrow streets.

The old town is interesting to explore. It is nice to walk to the San Carlos Gardens to see the tomb of the British General Sir John Moore, who died in 1809, which is reached by climbing up the road from the Castillo de San Anton. The Archive of Galicia, set up in 1775, is the building behind the tomb. Our map showed a row of churches, St Dominic, St Barbara and St Mary, which we successfully found and could look inside. St Dominic's church provided a leaflet in english, and we were reminded that the first Dominicans arrived in La Coruña about 1280. The present church was built between 1763 and 1787. The chapel of the Rosary was started in 1676 and finished in 1684. The carving of the Virgin and Child dates from the 16th century. The church of St Barbara was hidden nearby -- it is a Nuns convent. St Mary's is the church of the sailors and traders guilds. In 1494 it became an Abbey.

Looking over the coast is a park area and the Military Museum. Without going into the museum you can have a quick look at some of the old guns which used to protect the fort area and also look at the foundations of an old convent which had moved into what is now part of the museum complex. The next interesting area was the Plaza de Maria Pita, which was reached by descending lots of steps. It is a large square, presently full of children rides and a large conical Christmas tree with the Town Hall at the end as well as St George's church. In bad weather the Plaza de Maria Pita can be reached directly from the Avenida de la Marina.

The map showed that it was not far to walk north to the beaches on the other coast, and see the Stadium on the far side of the Playa de Riazor. Again one can go straight to beaches at the Playa de Riazor or then go back into town. If one returns into town one can visit the church of the Capuchins. There is a useful supermarket in the same street, which is also within sight of the Market of San Agustin. The supermarket is open all day (not Sunday) but the market is not, so we purchase our cheeses early to make sure we had them. Everywhere in Spain closes from about 1230 until 1500 or later.

On a pleasant day it is better to first walk to the Torre de Hercules lighthouse. It is best to approach along the Calle de Torre. There were orange pylons for the tram system along the road, but no sign of any trams. Entry is from a large car park, on the edge of a public park, and by a gentle ramp. It was only 3 euros, and half price for seniors. The entry is at the basement level and explains the building of the original foundations; it is important to pass through this part slowly because the tour route ends elsewhere. As the leaflet explains: Built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, it is the only lighthouse of Antiquity that is still in operation today. The remains of that lighthouse were incorporated into the present building in 1788. It is large and dominates the hill, each of the four sides measures 11.4 metres and the tower is 59 metres high. The lantern room was built in 1804. Climbing the internal steps to the top is a significant climb, but at each of the three floors there are rooms to halt and admire the views. Above, the Round Room, topped with a dome, was built in an original roman rotunda and retains the original roman floor.

The views from the top were good, and we planned our route back to the port by a different route which continued along the promenade, towards the the two long sweeping beaches, the Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazi which are almost continuous even at high tide.

They seem to be building up the beaches with additional sand. One is now only just the other side of the Peninsular to where the ship is moored and one can go straight into town from here. However if you are still full of energy one can continue along the wide promenade, popular with joggers and cyclists and with kilometre markers in places. If you come straight here from town you will find there were good views across to the tower of Hercules. It is now a nice walk on as far as 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 Coruña,. 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:

After a short stop to once more admire the surf and the two long sweeping beaches, the Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazi, there should still be time to amble through the centre of town where there are many extra streets with some magnificent buildings, mostly from the start of the twentieth century. It is then time for a last walk through the Plaza de Maria Pita and along the Avenida de la Marina to the Cruise Terminal.

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Content revised: 3rd January, 2023