Queen Victoria (Iberian Highlights)
Due to the parent company of Voyages of Discovery, All Leisure Holdings, going bust on the 4th January 2017, I had to look for another cruise between the 4th-17th November.  Originally, my bambina Voyager was a fly cruise to Tenerife, calling at a couple of Canary islands as well as three islands at Cape Verde and had no single supplement.  The main lines don't like small ships or going to interesting places.  They'd rather build monsters with few ports they can get into and try and get as much money as possible.  Since I'd already booked those dates off work, I looked around for something else and opted for Queen Victoria from Barcelona to Southampton, booking a KC guarantee single cabin, which they allocated on the 26th September.  I was given 2006, which ironically was the year I began cruising on her predecessor, the Queen Elizabeth 2.  This was my first as a Diamond World Club member.

Early start for my flight to Barcelona, which had been brought forward to 7.25am and Cunard wanted you there three hours before.  I'd stayed in the Park Inn at Bath Road for Terminal 5 and used the Hotel Hoppa, a frequent terminal/hotel bus service at Heathrow's terminals.  You can buy a return the day before, which is useful.  The first bus was 4.16am, which was late and got later as the driver kept telling people it was full then let more on.  When we arrived, the board said check-in desks B and G.  Cunard rep told us to go to G.  Neither were open until 5am.  As we moved forward, some of us were told to go to F, which was the Madrid desk.  We did get through much quicker though.  I was given seat 1F, which was perfect as I had requested through Cunard an aisle seat near a toilet due to my stoma and parastomal hernia, and had been supposed to have been sorted in April.  Security wasn't too bad then time to get breakfast.  Most places were still shut, including Boots which I needed to go to.  The gate was B34 and we boarded at 6.45am.  My friend Maureen Hunt had requested assistance and had an awful time.  First of all, they gave her a wheelchair but her elderly friend Val had to push it, then they took it away and she had to struggle using her stick.  The assistance is outsourced so beware.  We had a problem with the cargo hold door so waited for it to be repaired.  Thankfully it was only a 20 minute delay and we had a very smooth flight, landing at 10.50am.  

There were loads of police in Barcelona airport.  Security forced everyone to the self-service passport scanners.  Cases took ages to come and some smelly English bloke in a flasher mac who looked like Albert Steptoe plonked himself next to me for a while.  When mine came, I headed out to find the Cunard reps.  Like Heathrow, this was badly organised.  As you came into the arrivals hall, you were greeted on both sides by reps from Azamara and Regent Seven Seas.  Where was Cunard?  I walked around and saw a crowd of people.  That was Cunard.  Crossed your name off then you had to follow everyone out of the building to the coaches.  I'd forgotten what a long walk that was, which is crippling with a hernia straining your back with the weight.  The transfer onto the coaches was an absolute nightmare.  The rep kept vanishing!  There didn't seem to be any designated just for Cunard as coaches would come and go for the other cruise lines while we just waited and waited and waited.  Some of our lot had to load their own luggage into the coach while the drivers stood around talking.  I was at the front of the queue but our rep was nowhere yet again  The remainder of us must have stood there for an hour or so all told before a coach for us finally turned up.  It had the mobility assistance people onboard already, including Maureen.  Thankfully with this one the cases were loaded by a porter and it wasn't full so I had a seat to myself.  At 12.30pm, we finally headed towards the cruise port and it was an absolute relief to get there.  I've done Celebrity, NCL and Princess transfers in Barcelona and until now, NCL had been the worst.  Cunard's made NCL look perfect in comparison.  Yet I've had no issue with Cunard flights and transfers in Hamburg or New York.  We were in Terminal C, the only one bar those the other side of the bridge, I hadn't been in.  Security was first then there were no signs saying where to check in and there were lines to the left and forward on the right.  It turned out Grill and Platinum/Diamond World Club were to the right.  Cunard have required your PIN instead of swiping your card since July 2017, and would take $100.  Then up to board and there was a crew member offering a glass of cold orange juice which was most welcome.  There were no boarding photos.

Finding my cabin was relatively easy as I knew it was where part of the casino had been.  There is a small door tucked away but there is a mobile dead spot around there.  There are only 9 single cabins, one of which is an inside (2012).  2002 and 2004 have a different layout.  They are really spacious with plenty of storage and a big picture window.  My only complaint is the size of the bathroom.  It's a bog standard one with tiny shower cubicle and fixed shower head.  These are fine when you're healthy but if you have a physical problem, as I did with my parastomal hernia, it could be a nightmare.  I would have to check it out and hope for the best.  Lunch beckoned.  After the hellish transfer, I couldn't be bothered going to the Lido so headed "across the road" to the Golden Lion for Chicken Tikka Masala and chips.  Yum!  I still remember the QE2 days when the pub served lunch on sea days so daily was a vast improvement since I returned to Cunard in 2011.  My case was delivered in good time while my steward Benny came back on duty later and introduced himself.  The pillows were very squashy meaning you were practically flat so I asked for two more.  I missed the ones the other cabins still had which are unbelievably comfy.  Since my stoma reversal and hernia repair were currently 7 months overdue, I needed to rest as much as I could but hopefully relax after a hellish year.

Muster was at 5pm and the muster station was down the road in the Queens Room.  I met Patricia from 2014, the cabin I have in January.  Marcus was next door to me while creepy bloke from the airport was in 2010.  Creepy bloke was on first sitting.  The rest of us were on table 313 during second.  Cunard now scan your card which was long overdue since they and P&O UK were some of the last bastions not doing a roll call.  Then up for the departures of the other ships.  I had missed MSC Fantasia and Sovereign must have gone during muster.  That left Saga Sapphire, Oriana, Azamara Quest and Seven Seas Explorer.  As I waited, I got talking to Sarah, an American from the Entertainment team who was standing in for whoever did the sport.  She was so nice and had come from Adonia.  By the time the Azamara sailed, there was a storm over the Med but no rain or thunder, just sheet and fork lightning.  It was a spectacular light show and for once I managed to get a shot of lightning.  It slowly moved over us and it only started to rain after Seven Seas Explorer sailed so I went back in.  Dinner was great.  It was a table of solos except Sandra and her friend Jill.  As well as them, Marcus and myself, there was John from Stockport who worked in Waitrose and was an amateur actor and Jean from Miami with 27 Cunard voyages under her belt.  A Blackpool girl originally, but you'd never know it with her strong American accent.  Patricia hadn't come which left four empty places but there was some interesting conversation between John and Marcus (who worked for Tesco).  Our waiters were brilliant, as was our Sommelier Dave, who I nick named Pop Up Dave due to him popping up when you least expected it.  Bless him.  The couple on the next table were dressed casually, him in polo shirt and jeans despite being jacket required.  I wish Cunard would bring back casual for the first and last nights.  It had been such a long day I decided to have an early night.  Benny had brought the extra pillows which were rock hard but would do well behind the soft ones.  Also my Diamond World Club badge was there.
Early start for the arrival of Norwegian Epic and Rhapsody of the Seas.  Europa and Veendam were due for 8am and 10am respectively.  It was only Continental breakfast in the Lido so I grabbed a quick bite then went back out for Europa.  Proper breakfast while waiting for Veendam, a ship I'd never seen before.  The creep from the airport and two doors away decided to join me and started chatting me up and generally trying to impress.  He went on about how he's a Mason and would ask every bloke he met if he was as well.  He claimed the French immigration thought he was Charles Clark, MP.  He said he was a company director yet wouldn't say what sort of business it was.  He claimed to be an expert dancer and could teach me.  He said he was a widow yet changed his daughter to step-daughter during the conversation as well as her age.  He'd also go on about all the women he's meant to have had.  He wanted to take my photo to show his friend when he went home and told me he must bring his camera next time.  Veendam in the distance gave me my escape route since he wouldn't take no for an answer!

Benny had done the room so I had a nap since I'd been up too early.  Generally lazy day after all the travelling the day before.  Time for sailaway!  Rhapsody and Epic were 5pm, Europa 6pm and us an hour later with Veendam staying overnight.  Rhapsody went first followed by Europa virtually on time.  Epic was 80 minutes late then we went 15 minutes early silently.  I bumped into Patricia who said she went to the Lido the night before.  She wasn't happy about being put on a singles table, having had a bad experience in the past, and said she would complain.  We headed to dinner and creepy Charles was in the Queens Room acting as if he were one of the Gentleman Hosts.  He grabbed me to waltz, despite me telling him no due to my hernia but wouldn't let me go.  It was thanks to Patricia we left for the Britannia and joined the rest.  Despite her protests, Patricia enjoyed herself.  We went to the theatre afterwards to see Worbey and Farrell.  As we were entering, I saw my friend Maureen who told me she'd seen Stevie, a musician who used to be on the QE2.  The show was excellent.  Maureen, Val and I went to the Golden Lion afterwards which had the Royal Court Theatre Orchestra playing Dixieland Jazz with Stevie!  She'd been right.  I'd seen him once since QE2, which was on Mary but not to talk to.  Surprisingly, for 9 years, he remembered my name and about this website.  We had a good natter about the old girl and what he'd been doing.  Then I headed back to the cabin.

The 6th November was Palma de Mallorca.  Up early again but it bucketed down so after making a dash for it, I went to the Prom deck.  As much as I now love the bookends (QV and QE), I hate the fake wooden decks, which are neck-breakingly slippery when wet.  Why they couldn't have used the sort on Mary's deck 6, I have no idea.  We were still far away from the entrance so I went to grab a quick breakfast.  Creepy Charles sat with me again, saying he must bring his camera to take a photo of me and show his friend.  He claimed to be 67 and I intrigued him.  He tried impressing with more tales of women he's meant to have had and books no one's ever heard of.  A bloke came to the table who was travelling with his wife and they had met him earlier in the cruise.  Creepy Charles asked if he was a Mason.  He said no.  We started chatting and Walter Mitty didn't like being ignored, yet didn't try to join in the conversation, so left.  The bloke reckoned he was trying too hard and fake.  We continued chatting to the point I missed the dockings.  A nap then on deck for the departure of Seven Seas Explorer, which was going at 3pm while we were 10pm.  It was a shame my hernia ruined the plans I had in all these ports but mobility wasn't great and pain (particularly my knee from the weight) was worse so I had no choice but to take things easy.  I ordered room service when I returned to the cabin.  My favourite club sandwich was now chicken instead of turkey and the fried egg shrunk.  Dinner was always a wonderful time as we were possibly the loudest table from laughing so much.  After dinner, I went with John, Sandra, Jean and Jill to the Queens Room.  It was Latin night.  Usually, I never bothered with any of this but wish I had.  It was a great night apart from creepy Charles immediately making a beeline for me while grinning.  The great dancer in his suit and dance brogues was the only one waltzing to some latin dances when he managed to find a partner and sat out the rest.  Later we went to the karaoke in the Golden Lion and Charles was doing a very bad Elvis impersonation while schmoozing up to the women nearest the stage.  Some were really good.  I spotted my friend Maureen with her friend Val so went to sit with them.  Walter Mitty found me and got too up close and personal.  Because he kept saying he needed to take a photo of me to show his friend at home, I took control and took one with my phone.  He hugged me tightly like a prize and said he'd give me his email so I could send it.  No way was he getting any photo of me but hopefully he'd forget about his own camera now.  Maureen saw him kissing another woman before he left.  It really is amazing how many men not there being groped defended him as a lonely old man.  If he was sleazing over their other halves they'd soon tell him to fuck off, not that he'd listen.  Having done 33 solo cruises I'm used to being hit on by passengers and crew who think all single women are gagging for it but none made my skin crawl until now.  We all left before the karaoke finished and I was in bed after midnight so turned into a pumpkin.  The info channel wasn't working.

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© Patricia Dempsey 4th-13th November 2017
Not to be reproduced without permission