The delightful cruise ends….

LOCATION: Last day on the Queen Elizabeth. Docked in Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Mild, high 70

We departed from Walvis Bay, watching huge jellyfish swim next to the ship in the harbor. We learned that only about 6 cruise ships dock here a year, so it hasn’t become very commercialized yet.

The seas almost immediately became rough. We just have one more day at sea before we reach Capetown. Many of the passengers are going on to Australia from here— 3 more weeks!

We tried to take advantage of the ship’s offerings one more time before we go….

A glimpse into one of the ship’s nice restaurants…

One final afternoon in a cozy nook to read a bit..

A final visit to the pub for a pint and trivia

We couldn’t resist this photo. This Thai waiter reminded us of Kim Jong-un – in both looks and personality….

A final show in the theatre….

These are the nice people, all Brits, who have been our dinner tablemates for the cruise. We had the 8:30 seating which we liked, although it made for late nights if we did a 10:30 show after dinner

This kind man, a Filipino, has been our waiter every night. He knows I like hot sauce and sets a bottle of Tabasco next to my place setting each evening….

George and I checked out the Churchill Cigar Room. He bought a Cuban cigar when we were in Tenerife, then enjoyed it under the guidance of Churchill…..

Boy – did it stink!

Saying a final goodbye to my good friend, the Queen, as we disembark, after 17 days together on the high seas.

Next stops – Capetown, the South African Wineland Area, Botswana, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg, then……???? No plans yet.

BOOKS: The Crowded Grave, another French mystery by Martin Walker. Again, I like his books as they remind me of the village where we housesat not far from Bordeaux. 5 stars out of 5

Namibia….What a Pleasant Surprise!

LOCATION: Docked at Walvis Bay on the SW coast of Africa. Sailing on the Queen Elizabeth from England to Capetown, South Africa

WEATHER: Nice. High 72. Mostly sunny

We docked in Walvis Bay, a port town of about 85,000 people in the country of Namibia. I have to admit I didn’t know much about this new country before. We were not expecting much, but were very pleasantly surprised. Here is its location.

We had splurged on one of the excursions offered by the ship. We had reservations on the Sandwich Harbor 4X4 trip at noon. So, with the morning free, we took a shuttle from the ship to a shopping mall. I was surprised to see a vibrant community with no obvious poverty. The mall had a few shops, but more importantly offered a coffee shop with wifi. (Hence, the last grouping of blog and Facebook posts.)

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at this little market where locals were selling some of their handiwork.There were 48 who had signed up for our trip. We were split into 8 groups of 6 each, in various 4×4 jeeps. It is customary to travel in convoys in case one of the jeeps gets into trouble.

Our first stop was a bay where there are thousands of pink and white flamingos. Just beautiful…Then, a few miles to Africa’s largest salt producers. There are hundreds of acres of flooded areas where salt is mined. This is our jeep driver showing us one of the salt rocks..in the pink water…After about a mile, the hardened salt road ended and we started our off-road adventure. Away we go!!!

We followed the beach, driving just inches from the sea. We passed several seals sunbathing, and a jackal just waiting to grab one of the seal babiesThe entire area is a national park. We stopped at a pit stop where our driver cautioned us that this would be our only opportunity for a toilet.Then the fun really began. Our convoy turned inland toward the massive sand dunes. We went up and down – like a roller coaster.. Some of the angles were more than 45 degrees. A bit scary.One of the jeeps got stuck going up one of the steep dunes, and had to back up and start again. The trick is to zoom up fast.

We stopped at Sandwich Harbor. This entire coastline is called the Skeleton Coast, as so many ships in the past crashed along the seashore.Another stop was an unexpected lunch. The jeep drivers brought out tables, nibbles, beer, wine, pop, and water. Quite civilized in the middle of the desert!Our driver/guide was quite good. He spoke English to us, but Africaans to the other jeep drivers.

On our way back from the 4-hour trip, we passed some springbok and these ostriches….One of the other guests in our 6-person jeep was one of the lecturers from the ship. She is a well-known BBC reporter, and has presented lectures from her reporting in Afghanistan, Korea, and Russia. She seemed very nice, and politely reminded me to fasten my seat belt during the scariest parts of our dune excitement.

Back on board, we showered, and shook out about a cup of sand from our shoes. The cruise offers each of us comfy terrycloth bathrobes. We popped open the bottle of champagne that I had won dancing one night, and celebrated the end of a very nice afternoon.The captain makes general announcements every day. Today she spoke about the demographics of the ship’s population. Of the 1900 guests, about half are Brits. Next is Australians with about 25%, and the rest of us represent 25 countries. There are 30 Americans; we have met 4. About half of the 1000 crew are from the Phillipines. The others come from 47 different countries, with just one from the USA. Quite an international group!

DINNER: George had beef and I had a vegetarian Indian biryani. We chatted excitedly with our tablemates who had taken different excursions today and compared notes.We went to a comedy show, and then an early night.

Cruising the South Atlantic from Equator to Namibia

LOCATION: Slightly south of the Equator, along the coast of Africa – Libya, Cameroon
WEATHER: More sun, High 90

There are a lot of sun-burned Brits on board. One of our tablemates is brown as can be. She spends almost the entire day, each day, lying in the sun.

Today was a food festival. One of the chefs carved an ice sculpture on deck in about 15 minutes. Fascinating, and it must have been very challenging as the ice was quickly melting in the hot sun.

Then, there was an exhibition of other chefs’ handiworks in the ballroom. There were various stations – vegetable food carvings, pastry sculptures, bread artwork, and a sushi station.

I was invited to help make sushi rolls.

We could taste from each station. I passed on the patisserie and chocolate fondue stations, but made a bit of a pig of myself with the sushi.

There are beautiful live and fresh cut flowers all over the ship. The arrangements in the main lobby are especially impressive. They are changed every few days.

Each day we receive the “Daily Programme” with the following day’s offerings. It is always exciting to see what is up next.

In the last few days, we have enjoyed some excellent lectures on topics such as African Bushmen, Elephants, Moon Space Program, and Britain’s early ships.

We even had a lecture about Salvador Dali, and learned that he was a good friend of Walt Disney…..who knew? They even collaborated to produce a short (really weird) film.

There was a series of 3 lectures about Japan.

There are other things we don’t participate in, such as a darts tournament….

Nor gambling….

One afternoon, we watched a “Float Your Boat” contest to see which tiny ship, made by passenger teams, would float the best. Outstanding work!

And another day, we participated in a wine festival, tasting wines from around the world…

Meals continue to be great. Some of our recent entrees have been seared tuna, orange roughy, veal, and mahi mahi. One night, we skipped the sit-down dinner and ordered pizzas from the informal dining room.

The performances continue to be excellent. We attended the musical “Top Hat” performed by the ship’s actors and a vocalist who sang songs by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The ship has its own orchestra that accompanies each of the guest performers. They are superb, too.

Graduating from Pollywog to Shellback, then on to Namibia

LOCATION: Along the western coast of Africa sailing on the Queen Elizabeth.
WEATHER: Sunny. Hot. High 90

Today we crossed the Equator, around 2:00 PM, and the ship went all out for a big celebration. Years ago, the early sailors conducted an elaborate and somewhat dangerous ceremony for the crew who crossed the Equator for the first time. Now, the ship puts on a bit tamer, but similar, ceremony.

King Neptune ruled, and was elegant in his speech, with playacting pirates who had captured our ship. All a part of the “Crossing the Line” Ceremony.

We were 2 of the lucky 36 pollywogs (those who haven’t crossed the Equator before by ship) who volunteered to be in the show. We were warned to wear our swimsuits and to be prepared for a lot of goo. Almost everyone on board (2000 folks) gathered around the pool and upper deck to watch the ceremony.

We 36, in small groups, were seated around the pool while a “court” with a judge proclaimed we were guilty of a myriad of sins. After being judged guilty, we were doused, and I mean doused, with huge globs of food. The food, like bins of rice gruel, pudding, and noodles had been sitting in the hot sun for a few hours, so it was good and ripe. They dumped buckets of this warm, slimy food onto the 36 of us. It started smelling and feeling like vomit. Then, we were allowed to jump into the pool to wash off. (The pool soon turned into a gooey mess, too). At the end, we kissed a fish, which was also part tof the ceremony. All great fun as we evolved into Shellbacks – those who have crossed the line and survived.

5 Days at Sea Between the Canary Islands and the Equator

LOCATION: Traveling 3000+ miles towards South Africa, on the Queen Elizabeth
WEATHER: As we near the Equator, each day gets longer and warmer. High 75 – 90

Each day on the high seas is different. We have 3 restaurants from which to choose – a buffet restaurant, an elegant sit-down venue, and the British pub. We switch it up daily, sometimes carrying a sandwich to the deck to listen to a live band next to one of the swimming pools for our lunch. The sun-loving Brits are out sunning themselves all day, every day, often with a hot cup of tea in their hands.

I read the daily “programme” daily to determine the day’s schedule. George and I have found that it is best to go our separate ways, attending sessions we are interested in, then joining up periodically.

I enjoy zumba and line dancing. The ballroom evolves from dance classes to ballroom dancing at night. Our dinner tablemates tell us that they do High Tea each day in the ballroom every day, accompanied by a harpist, and they say that it brings smiles to their faces.

The theatre is used for a lot of different purposes, too. Here we are listening to a lecture about ISIS. (Quite depressing). Every day, there are several guest lecturers, many of whom are excellent. Some other topics have been – North Korea & Russia threats, a series about safaris and game reserves in Africa, NASA, life of the royals, crocodiles, Japanese culture, and early steamship travel. It is also a movie matinee venue. Movies we have seen are: Poms, The Greatest Showman, and Bohemian Rapsody.
Then, at night it turns into a venue for really fantastic shows – Broadway-type musicals, various singers, a flautist, show bands, magician, and opera diva.

We had the second and third of the 3 gala nights. One had a masquerade ball theme and the other featured King Neptune. We sat at one of the cocktail lounges watching the parade of beautifully dressed men (in their tuxes) and women (in their sparkly evening gowns) pass by.

We also enjoy the pub, for both meals and for different musical and trivia programs.

The plentiful cocktail lounges offer outstanding music. One of the pianists is especially good. We also have enjoyed a harpist, violin and piano duo, string instruments, and pop groups.

There are several very high-end shops on board, and I am surprised at how busy they are – jewelery, clothing, gifts.

DINNER: The chefs do an excellent job. I was happily surprised one day to see sushi and sashimi on the lunch buffet. Free! (haha) Some of our dinner items: duck confit, sea bream, pork tenderloin, seafood curry, steak, pheasant, ceviche, British Sunday roast, chicken tikka masala, venison, haggis, orange roughy, seafood crepes, and I could go on…..

BOOKS – There are a lot of quiet areas to sit and read. I check out different cozy spots in the afternoons when George naps. So far, I have read – “Crowned and Dangerous” – part of a British mystery series by Rhys Bowen. 4 stars out of 5.
“The Dark Vineyard: by Martin Walker – part of a French mystery series. I like it because it takes place in one of the areas where we had a housesit – in the Dordoynes (outside of Bordeaux). 5 stars out of 5
The ship’s library has several Martin Walker books, and since my home libraries do not have many of his books, I am reading as many as possible. So another …..”Black Diamonds”. 5 stars out of 5

I LOVE Spain!

LOCATION: On board the Queen Elizabeth, docked today in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands – Spain
WEATHER: Very pleasant. Partly sunny. High 72

We docked about 9:00 AM. Again, we had decided not to do any of the offered excursions, but to explore on our own. So off we went to the city center.

We found one of the nice pedestrian streets leading away from the harbor and up to the main part of the small city. The street we selected was lined with shops and coffee shops. We stopped in a coffee shop for a “cafe con leche” and wifi. It was good to speak Spanish again.

We wandered around some more, then discovered the market. The top floor was an open-air market full of fruit/veg stands, lots of cheese and meat shops featuring local island goods.

We stumbled upon a wine shop where the saleslady offered us samples and suggestions. We left with 2 bottles of Canarian wine – one white, and one red.Then, we hit the jackpot downstairs – the fish market!

We spotted one popular seafood market that also sells seafood tapas.

We were lucky to score a seat at the bar and ordered glasses of white wine, like the locals were doing. Even though I can speak Spanish, I had forgotten the words for some of the seafood we wanted to try. I (somewhat brilliantly, I thought), took photos of the items we wanted to taste and ordered them by showing the waiter the photos.

First up was scallops. This is the photo I showed the waiter…

And this is what they looked like after being broiled slightly in a very garlicky butter sauce.

Next was abalone. Before….

And after…..

Final tapa was sea urchin. Before…..…and how it was served…

The Spanish custom is to eat tapas like these around noon or 1:00 and then eat a big mid-day meal at about 2:00. By this time we had escaped from the more touristy area and found a cute tapas bar to call lunch.

The tapas were displayed along the walkway.

Some men stood at the bar snacking on some tapas with their wine. We sat at an outdoor table and ordered our food and Canarian wine.

We shared two dishes – a smoked Canarian cheese and a platter of local octopus served with tiny potatoes.

This cute sign was on the wall

I lived in Spain for a year as a university student. Being here today makes me want to return for a long stay. I just love the language, food, culture, and wine!

The ship departed about 6:30, and now we are off on an 8-day voyage to Africa. Next stop Namibia.

DINNER: Instead of eating in our assigned dining room, we went to the British pub. We participated in a couple of trivia games (extremely popular among the Brits), and had pub food. George had an Indian lamb shank meal and I had a very good hamburger and chips (aka French fries).

Then, to the theater for an excellent hour of music performed by some popular British musician – violin, piano, voice and guitar.

Life on the High Seas

LOCATION: On the Queen Elizabeth. Between Portugal and the Canary Islands
WEATHER: Sunny and warmer. High 70

We have a few daily rituals, like our morning stretching fitness class, but otherwise each day is different. There are many different lounges, for coffee and reading during the day, and for cocktails later.

Today, after breakfast, we went our separate ways. George attended a talk about Marco Polo and another one about tyres (tires, to us Americans). I started my morning by watching the fencing class lessons…

Then, I did a zumba class. It was a lot of fun, and easier today as the waves are calmer. After that, I watched an Indian cooking demonstration

I sat by myself at lunch, and was quickly joined by a nice British couple. People are very friendly, and often ask to share a table. They are also curious about us, being the odd Americans on board.

I checked out the library – with 8000 volumes and a full-time librarian. You see a lot of people walkiing around with books and others doing puzzles together. Very stately.We are going south and consequently it is getting sunnier and warmer. A lot of people hung out at the swimming pool.

George and I reunited in our room, then went to explore other parts of the ship. We watched a ping pong tournament, paddle tennis, some games that we weren’t familiar with, and a croquet match. On the Titanic, they dressed up a bit more for these activities…

There is a chess set on top of the ship

I went to a movie matinee in the very elegant theater. The movie was “Poms” – it was terrific. I used a lot of tissue, crying from laughter, then sadness. Highly highly recommend. (Especially if you are a Diane Keaton fan).

We joined up again in our room to dress for cocktails and dinner.
George donned his cork cap that he bought in Lisbon…Then, he became “uncorked” when he took off his cap and popped open a wine bottle with a real Portuguese cork.

We checked out the Churchill cigar room

Then, drinks in one of the lobby bars. The bartender was not busy, so spent a lot of time chatting with us and made George a special gin drink, all while we enjoyed some classical piano music.

We listened to a great saxophonist in yet another music venue lounge…

DINNER: A tomato/basil salad to start. Main for me was a goat cheese tart. George tried the frog legs for a starter, then grilled sea bass.

I cozied up in bed while George attended a ballet performance.

Climbing Lisbon

LOCATION: On board Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. Docked today in Lisbon, Portugal
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. Very pleasant. High 63

We arrived in Lisbon in the early morning. We watched the captain negotiate the docking, with a rainbow welcoming us to Lisbon.

There were several excursions available, but we opted to explore the city on our own. Our housesitting friends Darcy and Jack had sent us travel guide Rick Steves’ suggestions for a day trip in Lisbon. He recommended taking a taxi up to one of the high points in the city, an old castle, then meandering down the hill back to the harbor. So, that was our plan, except we were too cheap to use a taxi, and could not locate the tram or bus that would have taken us up. So…….up we walked! And up! And up!

The good thing is that our walk took us through the Old Town, with narrow alleys, laundry hanging from the balconies, and beautiful Portuguese tiles

Our climb was rewarded by a beautiful view of the city below. Here is our Queen Elizabeth, seen from above

Also at the top were the buses we had been looking for….

And the tuk-tuk taxis

Oh well…..the hike gave us some needed excercise and whetted our appetite for lunch.

We selected a tiny restaurant advertising local seafood.

Lisbon is famous for its cod. They say that there are 365 different ways to cook cod here.

We shared a seafood tapas platter……cod fritters, grilled sardines on toast, cod ceviche, and fresh tuna spread. All excellent. The waiter/owner gave us some nice olives as a starter, and a complimentary taste of ginchacha, a local cherry liqueur.

All accompanied by some nice Portuguese wines.

As we walked back down, we discovered beautiful plazas like this one. The tiles on the walls are unique to Portugal.

Unexpected music greeted us in the oddest places

Nervous Nellie Karmen wanted to return to the ship with plenty of time before it departed. The ship will not wait for anyone. Scheduled departure was 4:30, so I made sure we were back by 3:30.

We attended a Sailing Away party with a fun band. These proper and posh British change personality when the music starts – especially music from the 60s and 70s. Several were dancing along with the Mamma Mia song.

We passed under this famous Lisbon bridge. It didn’t look like the ship would clear the bridge, but we did.

Cocktail hour was spent watching the ballroom dancers. Many are really excellent; others appear to be still learning – you can tell as they are mouthing the steps as they maneuver the foxtrot or whatever. Then, we went to another lounge in the aft (front) of the ship to watch the sun set. At 5:45, the waiter reminded us that jackets and smart attire are required after 6:00, so we skedaddled.

We joined our tablemates again for dinner. Another nice meal. My starter was goat cheese, and main was a pork chop in a pastry shell. We all talked about how we had spent our day.

George went to the 10:30 show – a saxophonist, but I snuggled up in the very comfy bed with a book.

Gala Night on the Queen Elizabeth

LOCATION: On the Queen Elizabeth, Bay of Biscay, NW of Portugal
WEATHER: A little sun. High 58

The seas have calmed a bit, so we are not rocking nearly as much. We got up early again and did our morning fitness class. We have been eating breakfast in the buffet restaurant, as there is such a nice selection. I had smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. Yum! George had English porridge. Not my cup of tea.

After the nice breakfast, I did a Zumba class. It is tricky not to fall over when the boat tips a bit. It was a fun class. Then, a lecture on things to do at our second port – Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands.

I attended a class on how to get a flat stomach. Answer: seaweed! Not sure if that is true, but they would like me to buy their seaweek detox treatments and sit in a bathtub full of seaweed. I think I will pass.

George watched a movie in the theatre, and I attended a lecture in the art museum about a particular painter. Very interesting.

We also listened to a very interesting talk about the stories behind our favorite songs.

There are 3 gala nights, each with its own theme. Men must wear a tux or at least a jacket with a tie. Women are supposed to get glamorous. We sat in one of the bars and watched the parade of beautiful clothing. Tonight’s theme was Black and White.

Then, it was our time to get glammed up. We did our best, without buying and carrying a lot of clothes with us. We clean up pretty well!

We attended the captain’s welcome cocktail party. All very British. The captain welcomed each guest, under the watchful eye of the Queen, of course…

Then, we joined our tablemates for our 8:30 dinner. I had ceviche for a starter, and the tofu with Thai rice for my main, just to see how it would taste. (good). George had duck confit for a starter, and haddock for the main course.

After dinner, we watched the Black and White Gala. It was quite a spectacle. Men mostly in tuxes, white and black, and women in elegant, sparkly evening gowns. Very glamorous!!!

We watched the ballroom dancers from the balcony…..

Tomorrow…..Lisbon!

Rockin’ and Rollin’ on the Queen Elizabeth

LOCATION: On the Queen Elizabeth cruiseship. In the rowdy Bay of Biscayne – off France
WEATHER: Rainy. High 58

It was a very rocky night. The captain has categorized our seas as rough, and warns passengers to hold on. We all look drunk walking around. Apparently this is common in the Bay of Biscayne. One of our water glasses fell on the floor in our cabin during one particularly big wave, and broke.

Each day, we are given a newspaper and a “Daily Programme”, a brochure announcing all of the day’s activities choices. There are too many to do!

We started with a morning stretch exercise class in the fitness center, then had breakfast in the buffet restaurant. There are several restaurants from which to choose. The first activity we did today was to listen to the tour director talk about Lisbon, our first port of call. Then, feeling a little woozy, I lay down for a bit in our room.

We convinced ourselves to get up and get going, thinking that we would feel better out and about. We went to the British pub for lunch. There is something about watching others happily tucking into their fish & chips with a pint that re-invigorated me. We joined the Brits by sharing a vegetable pastry dish and listened to nice guitar music. Much better!

We spent much of the afternoon checking out different music venues. This was a pop group…

Followed by a pianist in the grand lobby (shades of Titantic)

Then, we attended a talk (with complimentary bubbly) in the art gallery. Amazing, original artwork. Due to the rough seas, they had to put the statues away!

George participated in afternoon High Tea. I sat in the balcony and watched everyone enjoying their tea, pastries, and cucumber sandwiches, all accompanied by classical music.

Then, more music a classical violinist and a pianistThen – a harpistThis is how the classy people party!
I attended a makeup session in the spa area to learn how to look 10 years younger. (Not sure about that).

We dressed for dinner. “Smart attire” is required after 6:00. Gentlemen must wear jackets. Women have to have a dressy pants outfit or a dress. I have a lot of mix and matching to do for 17 nights!

We enjoyed a G&T in one of the swanky cocktail lounges before dinner, with yet another pianist.

DINNER: We dined at our assigned table at our assigned 8:30 seating. We noticed that there were a lot of tables empty – guessing that some people were under the weather. One of our tablemates said that he had spent the whole day in bed. I had tuna sashimi as an appetizer and a crab/shrimp canneloni for my main. Our tablemates generally order the recommended dish of the day. Tonight they all selected the stilton & broccoli soup for their appetizer and a 3-bird roast for their main. Very hearty.

We passed up the night’s show, ballroom dancing, and pop music gathering. Just too pooped. We will do it another night.