Arrived at Ocean Terminal (Southampton), berth 45/46, at 12.30. Stopped in the “drop-off” lane (as we didn’t take our own car), greeted by a porter who took the large luggage, which was delivered to your cabin. We went into the terminal building with our hand luggage, up the escalator and collected a ticket, then waited until the letter on the ticket was called over the tannoy. Then proceeded to check-in desk to show e-tickets, passports and register a credit card. Received cruise cards and then through security (before obligatory boarding photo!) and boarded ship – about 1.15pm. Instructed to go to buffet on deck 15 until cabins were ready, which was announced over the tannoy at 2.30pm. Hot and cold buffet available, and free tea & coffee. Prices for bar drinks and ice-creams around the ship seemed reasonable, about the same as you’d pay at home. Lifeboat drill was at 4.00pm – nowhere near any lifeboats, our muster station was in the Arena theatre!. A band played on the dockside at 4.30pm, and the ship left harbour at 6.00pm. Our cabin (R259, balcony on Riviera Deck) had tea and coffee making facilities, boiled sweets, biscuits, plenty of information about the ship and ports of call, a map of the ship, and the first of the daily ship’s “newspapers”, called “Horizon”. Bathroom had soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. Plenty of hangers in the wardrobe space too. Met our cabin steward Roy, very friendly and helpful. We had a table for two in the Baytree restaurant and opted for the second sitting, at 8.45pm (either 8.30 or 8.45, check in the daily “Horizon” paper, delivered to your cabin each evening with a “what’s on” for the next day). Choice of 3 starters, 2 soups, 6 main courses, 3 puddings (or ice-cream), cheese and biscuits, coffee with a petit-four and then, if you wanted, a weird something to finish off, such as a date wrapped in bacon? Dress casual. Went to the late theatre show at 11pm, very good comedian/impressionist, Steve Tandy.
Sunday 26th September – At Sea
Tried breakfast in the Baytree restaurant, no allocated tables. Breakfast here is not a self-service buffet, everything is from a menu, including full English, Continental, a “dish of the day”, for example Eggs Benedict, cereal, toast, fruit juice, tea, coffee etc – all waiter served. Full breakfast is a good size, all other servings are on the small side! Browsed around decks 6 and 7 at various shops, bars, photo gallery etc. Went to 40 minute presentation on the ports of call in the Arena theatre at 11.30am. Buffet lunch in the Beach House (food available here, or next door in Waterside, 24 hours a day, but can be very busy, try to find a table first!). Explored deck 5, library has books and a few magazines and newspapers to borrow and some to buy. Internet centre nearby, costs £2.50 to initialise your account, then 50p per minute, or you can buy a package of hours. 4 page British “newspaper”, and a daily crossword, available on this deck, as are fresh flower arrangements to buy. Stopped off for a cheeseburger and hot-dog at Frankies grill, very nice! Later went for afternoon tea in the Saffron restaurant 4.00pm, very nice – finger sandwiches and small cakes already on tables, waiters serve scones, crumpets and toasted teacakes in rapid succession – eat quickly! Visited Metropolis bar high up at stern of ship, video wall displays different vistas every evening (Paris today) and sat looking forward along the length of the ship, great view. Saw dolphins! Went to see “Saturday Night Fever” in the theatre, very good. Dined at 8.30, excellent meal, dress casual. After dinner went to Havana bar, live music and then excellent (off the TV!) comedian, Andy Ford. Late night hot chocolate in the buffet (Horlicks also available).
Monday 27th September – At Sea
Watched “Robin Hood” (2010 version with Russell Crowe) in the Arena. Bought 2Mb SD card (the only size of SD card they stock) from photo shop for £8. Bought stamps from reception for use in Madeira – stamps are available for the next port of call only, so you can’t buy them for the whole cruise in one go – and they only take cash (sterling) when buying these, they are not charged to your cruise card, as everything else is. There is also a post box at reception with last posting times for all ports of call. Tonight is first gala night, all invited to Gala reception before dinner, formal dress tonight. Shower has plenty of power and hot water.
Tuesday 28th September – At Sea/Madeira
Watched poolside games 2.30pm. Saw dolphins. Docked in Madeira 6pm after day at sea. Took free shuttle bus ashore, 10 minutes drive to drop-off point. Walked around Madeira, then walked back to the ship – 25 minutes walk at normal walking speed. Went to watch Dance Magic Dance in the Arena, only average. Then went to watch Jayne Middleton as Annie Lennox in the Havana, excellent. Alcoholic drinks - 500ml bottle of Old Speckled Hen beer £2.70, 568ml of Magners pear cider £3.95.
Wednesday 29th September - Madeira
Breakfast available 30 minutes earlier today (from 7.30am) to allow for those going on shore excursions. Went ashore on shuttle bus. Walked around Madeira (indoor market and parks well worth seeing), took shuttle bus back to ship at 12 noon. Loads of free shuttle buses available, leave and return every 10 minutes. Posted cards on ship. Joined “Scenes of Madeira” tour at 1.30pm. Visited three viewpoints for photographs, good commentary en route. Then short visit to Madeira wine tasting (Blandy’s) for 2 free tasters per person! Tried medium dry, medium sweet and sweet – preferred the medium dry. Back to ship for 4.30pm, ship left harbour at 6pm. Used (free, except for soap powder, we took our own) launderette for first time. 10 minute wash took about 25 minutes by the time it had washed, rinsed and spun. Tumble drier (free) dried jeans in 25 minutes, shirts took less. 4 washers and 4 driers in “our” launderette (Riviera deck), 4 ironing boards and irons as well (free). Not busy when we used it. Tonight is tropical and/or pirate night, casual dress – plenty of Hawaiian shirts around! We had a 4 foot inflatable parrot, a pirate tie, pineapple sunglasses and a concertina pineapple (all from ebay)! Snails and pigeon on the menu!
Thursday 30th September – Gran Canaria
Went ashore, easy walk, no shuttle busses. Large shopping centre on dockside, has a C&A!. Lovely beach on far side of town. Plenty of shops in older part of town, including large department store. Returned to ship for lunch, then ventured out again around dockside. Ship left port 6pm. Browsed around newly opened Christmas shop! Tonight casual dress or 60s/70s attire. Listened to one jazz instrumental, then watched Chronicles show in Arena 11pm.
Friday 1st October - Tenerife
Early breakfast, then out to coach for tour 8.45am. Visited viewpoints, orchid garden with free wine, then some free time in Puerto de la Cruz. Back to ship for lunch, then walked into Santa Cruz. Very high humidity. Takes about 20 minutes to walk into centre at leisurely pace, shuttle bus only available for disabled passengers. Formal night tonight. Wine costs £3.95 to £6.35 for a 250ml glass, plenty of choice.
Saturday 2nd October – La Palma
Walked into town. Best town so far, not too touristy, and clean. Bought few gifts, 70cl banana liqueur €7.95, 35cl honey rum €3.95. Contrary to expectations, bottles weren’t taken from us on embarkation. Back to ship on free shuttle bus – bus only goes from ship to dock gates and back. Had oriental buffet in Waterside, very good. Watched comedian Ray Turner, very good! Watched Lulu impersonator, not bad singer, poor impersonator! Stayed for three songs from Chilli Gold (known as country and western, but not singing that style tonight).
Sunday 3rd October – At Sea
Bought large tub of chocolate raisins, sat eating them and reading magazines in library. Watched “Fun in the Sun” pool games 2.30pm. Went on (very quick!) galley walk-through 3.30pm. Watched singing by passenger “choir” 6pm. Formal night tonight, black and white theme. Watched “Masquerade” show in the Arena, very good.
Monday 4th October - Cadiz
Joined tour to sherry tasting and Andaluzian horses. 4 types of sherry to taste, 3 not nice, sweetest just about ok! Horse tour ok, more horses on view would have been nice, and no photos allowed inside show ring or stables. Back to ship for lunch, then walked into Cadiz, nice town. Back to ship, Feast ice-cream 95p, crisps 80p, Ben & Jerry’s 150ml tub £1.95, 330ml Fanta £1.20, fudge in ship’s shop, 3 for 2, £6.98. Saw Martin Daniel’s show 7.30pm, not very good. After dinner sat in Exchange pub and listened to group and quiz.
Tuesday 5th October- Lisbon
Watched ship cruise up river Tagus, under bridge with only 3 metres to spare! Very noisy bridge, traffic drives over a grating, you can see undersides of cars as you pass under bridge! Took free shuttle bus into Lisbon, about 15 minutes. Could easily spend a day there, it was a bank holiday, so plenty going on and shops still open. Walked to historic area towards river, nice parks in opposite direction but too far for us to walk! Plenty of hot chestnuts being sold. Back to ship and buffet. Watched comedian Ray Turner in Arena, not as good as before.
Wednesday 6th October- Vigo
Walked into Vigo. Shopping centre just yards from the port! Quite hilly in places, but plenty of shops in long main shopping street, but not attractive! Loads of major construction work going on all over. Formal night tonight. Watched “Flash” in Arena, not bad. After dinner there was a parade of chefs and we were given souvenir folder with menus.
Thursday 7th October – At Sea
Given purple passes for disembarkation, due at 9.00am.
Friday 8th October – Disembarkation
Disembarked 9.30am after watching new Queen Elizabeth. Different terminal, Mayflower, Dock Gate 10, Berth 106 due to Queen Elizabeth. Note there’s only one male and one female toilet in disembarkation lounge!
Ships clocks don’t always reflect correct “ship’s time” and some are either completely wrong or not working, so make sure you keep track of the correct time, especially on days when clocks need to go forward or back!
Lifts poor, one forward lift not working for entire cruise, and don’t always respond to a push-button call.
Although we managed to amuse ourselves, there wasn’t really enough variety of things to do on days at sea.
Frankies is a hidden gem, not many people seem to eat there, but they serve “fast food” that is cooked to order and really good, eg pizzas, burgers etc. Try it instead of the buffet, you’ll be hooked! No charge except for the ice-creams. Note it is split into two parts, each end of one of the swimming pools, pizzas at one, burgers and hot-dogs and chips etc at the other.
19 out of 20 people found this useful
Times cruised before: 1-2 Sailed: September, 2010
Occasion: Annual/regular holiday
Quality of Food
Breakfast in Baytree (average) or buffet (more choice), lunch in buffet (average) or Frankies (excellent), afternoon tea in Saffron (excellent), dinner in Baytree (good).
Good comedians and acrobatic dancers, impersonators quite good, other shows average
As always a touch expensive, but good commentary en route. A bit rushed in places, and some viewpoints not particularly photogenic. Sherry tasting and Royal Horses the best excursion, scenic Madeira the worst, but enjoyed doing our own thing more than the excursions.
All staff were excellent, no execptions.
Did not use any.
Not a great deal of variety, but no problem finding a sunbed! Pools ok, never overcrowded. Lectures and talks most days (and bingo!), and there was a casino. However, a lot of "special offers" were simply trying to sell Spa treatments, jewellry, works of art etc. Be aware that smoking is allowed outside, but only on one side of the ship.
Very good cabin, everything we wanted. Kept clean and tidy and re-stocked. Excellent steward (as were all the staff we came into contact with).