Christmas on Queen Elizabeth
Boarding at the City Terminal, Southampton was quick and hassle free. No queues and most polite check-in staff. Also gone is what used to be the obligatory boarding photograph. It was nice to be welcomed on board by the Bournemouth Symphony Choir with their Christmas offering. Our bags arrived fairly promptly by the time we had eaten lunch. Safety drill was also completed quickly and efficiently. Entertainment for the first evening was only so-so. The four resident singers tended to be rather overpowered by the band. The second day at sea was filled by the usual activities such as trivia quizzes, putting competition, shuffle board and ballroom dance lessons etc. The 'Insight' lecture, given by Barry Marcus, whilst on the interesting subject, of Marks and Spencer founder Michael Marks, was simply read from a prepared script with the aid of pictures. An example of 'Power Point' being the death knell of good lecturers. Further lectures by Mr Marks were in similar vein. For classical music buffs there was an afternoon concert by pianist Alan Schiller . The evening show starred 'The FlyRights' who seemed to spend more time shouting at the audience and demanding applause. We hoped the entertainment would improve as time went on. This was not worthy of Cunard in our experience. The following day, another day at sea, gave us another Insight Lecture, this time by Caroline Aston on 'The Royal Christmas'. This was in a different league altogether. A talk without any sign of notes, which was both informative and amusing. Being a Gala Evening and formal (now designated 'Gala attire' rather than formal) most people, as is normal for Cunard do observe the dress code. Refreshingly the dress code does seem to be enforced for dinner in the main dining room. The show, Hollywood nights' was a distinct improvement on previous nights. Day three, again at sea but still with a good range of activities and a very good comedian john martin. Day four with arrival in Funchal, Madeira we did the ship's tour to the volcanic caves of San Vicenzo. Although these tours always seem expensive it was worth it with a good guide (with good English) and saves much hassle and time to be taken there. Next ports of call were Santa Cruz, Tenerife, las Palmas, de Gran Canaria, and Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura. Being Christmas Eve, midnight Mass was celebrated for both Protestant and Catholic faiths. Christmas Day, at sea en route to Lisbon, Had a service of lessons and carols, a Christmas ball (formal,or gala attire if you prefer!) and entertainment in the evening by Il Destino, A day in Lisbon was enjoyable with a visit to Estoril, taking the ship's tour for the same reasons as before. It was noticeable that now, dinner comprises just three courses in the main Britannia restaurant, a clear sign of economies being made. However, service was still of the highest order which was refreshing to see. We mostly used the Lido buffet restaurant for breakfast and for lunch. The choice of fare was very good. Generally it was also easy to select food without the scramble sometimes found in buffet restaurants. It was also nice to see that tables were cleared promptly so that it was always easy to find a table without being occupied by used crockery. The Indian evening dinner buffet here (at extra cost) was most enjoyable with excellent and attentive, but not intrusive. service, It was noticeable that cost savings are still being made as mentioned above and there are not the lavish costumes once seen in the theatre production shows. Perhaps this is a sign of further cuts to the budget. There were also many grumbles about the price of drinks and which all come with a 15% surcharge. Evidence of this could be seen in the lounges with many tables devoid of glasses! Wine was also expensive though a small saving of 15% could be made by purchasing the wine package. The basic package cost $299 for 6 bottles. A more expensive package was available. The reasons for taking this cruise were to get away for Christmas and the fact that we had not been on this ship before. Whilst there were the reservations mentioned above, it did not disappoint in any way.
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