Queen Mary 2 - Iberian Adventure
Land ahoy!  Now the day before we sailed, Ray Aylott (who I got to know via Twitter after Steve Read died), and his wife set sail on Arcadia, destination Funchal for the 2nd November.  Just like us, it would be straight there instead of stopping at Vigo or somewhere.  Course, unlike us, they would then head to the hotter climes of the Caribbean while we tootled around the Canaries then onto Iberia before heading back to freezing Southampton!  Both of us were puzzled as to why they had three seas days to our two, but it turns out all Vistas are sluggish, even those purported to be liners.  How come Arcadia isn't classed as a liner when the hull for originally built for Cunard before being handed over half-built to P&O?  Could it be because it's all PR crap?  Never(!)  They've even made the superior Aurora take as long now.  I told him a few months earlier last one there's a cruise ship, but had a feeling they'd win on a technicality - docking first then having our fat bum looming over them all day!  We would definitely have the better view of the nearly-Queen from the real thing!  I thought I was going to miss it, thanks to the stupid way they serve breakfast in the Britannia.  Unlike other lines where you get what you order when you're sharing a table, Cunard have to be snotty and serve it in courses!  The damn place didn't open until 7.30am for a start, they didn't take orders until the table was full twenty minutes later and so I got mine at 8.15am, by which time we were backing in to dock!  Bloody ridiculous.  Outside it was pouring and the deck was like a paddling pool.  Occasionally it stopped but only briefly, pelting down as they raised the flag.  My feet were squelching in my shoes.  Not many brave souls (idiots?) ventured out in the rain.
Back to dry my feet and shoes!  I'd grabbed some fruit en route and was surprised to find a banana which hadn't had the stem hacked off.  Can someone please tell me why all cruise lines do that?  It's very unhygienic because air then gets to it if it's cut to short, and then there's the mess on your fingers as you try and get into the damn thing.  Cruise lines, a plea - PACK IT IN!
My dad had texted to say someone from the dentist had called about my appointment on the 11th, so I phoned and spoke to Pam, the receptionist, now I had a land signal.  She was surprised I rang during the cruise but she explained he wouldn't be there now so we rebooked for the 14th.  Since the weather was foul, I decided to go back to sleep and hope by the time I woke up, it was better and I could be dry going into town.  They were doing a 'routine electrical test', which basically shut most things off, including the lifts.  It became eerily quiet.  But when I woke up, I had a sore throat from the aircon blasting out cold air.  It APPEARED to have dried up somewhat so I took a chance and headed to the shuttle.  The terminal was new - and annoying!  It opened in 2010 and now led to it taking longer to get to the shuttle.  It strongly reminded me of Barcelona.  There were absolutely no directions so you just followed people then had to ask at the bottom because there were a couple of ways out.  It's very nice but I prefer the old gangway system along the dockside.  You're off and at the shuttle or coach for your tour - simple!  Arcadia had gangways and walked to theirs.  Not very functional then.  We were also barricaded from each other on the new walkway and below on the dock.  It was so much better before, especially for photos of your ship.  I wandered along to the end and spotted Captain Oprey coming down a gangway then look like a Liliputian as he walked along the vast bulk that is Her Obeseness.  Why couldn't we have used that instead of via the Grand Lobby on deck 3???
The shuttle took off with just me, a crew member and someone dropped off at traffic lights.  The driver didn't even wait a few more minutes after pulling up and us getting on.  It was still spitting occasionally as I wandered around.  I recognised a few places but some of it had changed after the devastating floods and mudslide in February 2010.  The Madeiran people bounced back and their island is restored to it's natural beauty.  I had a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich and Pepsi in a cafe overlooking the port, which cost €4.50 and chatted to a couple from Birmingham who were on Arcadia.  It was their first cruise and they were loving it so far, despite today's weather.  They had former TV cook, Rustie Lee, onboard as entertainment, which they said was hilarious.  We had serial killer and past royalty lectures.  Can we swap?????  Because of my back, I couldn't venture as far as I'd have liked, and the new terminal caused me a few problems, so I returned to the shuttle as a P&O one pulled up behind.
Now here was why the terminal should be bulldozed forthwith.  It didn't tell you which way to get back to the ship, and there were several doors.  They had locked the one we'd come through originally and there was no one to tell us which one to use.  Some crew walked to the other end of the terminal, past shops, and found the walkway.  As tours were returning, the queue to reboard was horrendous and it was raining again so at least it was useful for keeping us dry!  NOW they used the one on the dock Captain Oprey walked off, while the one attached was for boarding only.  If they had ALL been gangways, they could have erected another to get people on faster, as P&O did with Aurora nearly four years earlier.  After more than half an hour, I was back on the ship - yay!  Anyway, being stuck on there gave you a good view of the dent from her kissing the dock in Zeebrugge a couple of years ago.
My aircon was still blasting out cold air, resulting in a freezing room, so I went to the Purser's desk to report it and one of the UK sockets not working.  As I made my way to the lifts at Stairway B, I passed a cabin with bedding being put in plastic bags, crew wearing masks and which had an awful smell coming from it.
I ordered the cheeseburger from room service which wasn't very nice then popped down to the Golden Lion for a Coke.  The weather hadn't changed and it was still pouring.  I thought the Canaries was meant to be sunny all year round???  That's what cruise lines tell you anyway.  When I returned to my cabin it was warmer - woo!  Socket hadn't been touched though.  I went up for our 6pm sailaway and during the pre-departure spiel, there was no mention we'd be passing Carnival Magic (which was sailing from Gran Canaria towards Freeport, Bahamas), even though they had been told about us.  We left first and won both horn battles before a squall and strong wind came in.  Arcadia left about twenty minutes later.
I went to the Golden Lion about 7.45pm and there was nowhere to sit with all the pre and post-dinner drinkers but a waiter got me a chair, which was nice.  David Copperfield was in there talking to Trevor Marriott, who was doing the serial killer lectures.  I had my photo taken with David, since I'd had one on my first Lizzie cruise, but I still wasn't going to his show.  For second sitting, it was 10.30pm anyway, so a bit late with tours in the morning.

It was casual but it was amazing how many women poshed up.  Can they read, brought nothing but posh frocks or just thick????  I tried to explain to my table companions who David Copperfield was by mentioning Tracey Ullman, but they had no idea who she is.  I thought she was massive in the States and everyone was supposed to have heard of her!  Clearly PR at work again.  Margaret told us she was now at the other table permanantly while Helena suspected she'd requested to be.  Wouldn't be surprised.  She was having conversations on that one whereas Helena liked to dominate on ours.  For the second night running I had to constantly ask for the following nights' menu.  Afterwards I tried the internet but it was so flipping slow and crashed so headed to the Golden Lion.  This was undoubtedly my favourite bar, although I hadn't spent any time in the others bar Sir Samuel's for that awful lunch.  Not as cosy as Lizzie's but the atmosphere was fantastic, as were Roxana and Natalia, which is what matters.  Don't you just love it when people come into a room, look for somewhere to sit amongst the empty seats, then bugger off again?  I tried the internet again at 12.30am and it was faster - yay!

Because of our 9am arrival and a couple of ships, I decided to try room service for breakfast and hoped it was better than the Britannia the day before.  One irritation is the earliest time you can have it delivered is 7-7.15am, which I opted for but it turned up ten minutes early.  One thing I like about Royal Caribbean is they phone to let you know it's on the way so you're not in the shower or on the toilet when there's the knock at the door.  Thankfully neither was I, but I did have a gob full of toothpaste.  It was a lovely breakfast.  I'm not one for fried eggs but cruise ships cannot get scrambled right so I gave it a go and was impressed.  The fruit plate was yummy and my separate banana sliced in a bowl and covered in clingfilm.  I'd definitely have room service again.  Then it was up on deck for our arrival and we were about to pick up the pilot for another first call since the maiden voyage in January 2004.  Balmoral had already arrived and would be sailing about 10pm.  Liberty of the Seas was also listed to be with us and it would be nice to get her in daylight.  When she arrived as new in Southampton back in April 2007, it was hazy but she left in lovely sun.  I was on Celebrity Constellation then so my dad took photos of that.  A few weeks earlier while I was on Norwegian Epic, it was beginning to get light in Livorno for arrivals and sunset for departure, Civitavecchia was fog for her arrival then dark when we left first and Naples was dark both ways.  There was a gorgeous rainbow over the mountains which was there seemingly forever.  To my surprise we went bow in, when I thought we'd turn and reverse.  We also berthed by the entrance, meaning Liberty had to pass to get to hers.  A police boat saw off a rib, which had been hanging around right at the entrace as we arrived.

Due to having to meet in the Royal Court Theatre at 9.20am for my 9.45am tour, I couldn't stay to watch her dock.  The queue was horrendous because they had starboard door in, port door out.  David Copperfield and (I assume) wife were waiting for bus 10.  I was on bus 7 for the Northern Panorama, one of two buses on this excursion.  I had taken a tour in January 2008 which was pretty boring and wanted to see something of the island.  There would be a crew drill at 10am so many would miss that.  As we were leaving the port, I spied another ship back in past Fatso!  Voyager of the Seas was on a repo to New Orleans but diverted due to bad weather in the Azores (where she was meant to be the day after).  Bonus and it meant two Royal Caribbeans!!!!  Liberty had met Navigator in Southampton but I missed it due to being on Constellation, so this went some way to making up for that.  I couldn't wait to get back from the tour now, even though the walk along the dock would take ages, but it would be worth the pain!  Now I knew why Balmoral was docked over the other side instead of with us.  Poor baby had been pushed out by three monsters.
Our first stop was the Playa De Las Teresitas beach, which is a short drive from the cruise port.  We had about fifteen minutes here, which was a bit daft considering there wasn't anything much to see and definitely nothing to do so most people just got straight back on the bus after taking a couple of snaps.  It was lovely and hot and a contrast to the cool arrival.

We then drove up the mountain to the El Bailadero viewing point.  We had a little longer here to admire the view and it was a shame it was hazy.  Many of the concrete blocks along the road have substantial gaps between so a simple nudge or slip and you'd be in trouble.  A proper barrier would make more sense.

At around 11am we arrived in the village of Taganana, where both bus groups had wine (or fizzy orange) and goats cheese.  There was an option to go and see a church but most were old people with mobility difficulties who then complained about the walk up a hill to it!  I stayed in the restaurant and I would have even without a bad back.  Nearly every flipping tour, no matter where you are, includes a sodding church!  At least this was one of the rare times you had a choice instead of being dragged inside kicking and screaming like Damien from The Omen.  The toilets were awful.  One had no seat and the other had no toilet paper.  Ugh!
We got back on the bus then it waited for the stragglers from the ruddy church to arrive before we headed to our final stop of Pico del Ingles, which is a viewing point.  Now with several buses and a very small, rocky, uneven area, it's not exactly ideal to see the views with everyone jostling for position.  There should have been some sort of order rather than free for all, especially with all those old people who could slip and sue.  It was flipping cold up there and I wished I'd taken my cardie.
And so back to the port at 1.45pm after another boring tour of Tenerife.  Next time I'll take the shuttle!  Once I got off the bus it was time to wander along the dock to get as up close and personal as possible to these grand floating things.  I also wanted to know what time Voyager was sailing, hoping it wouldn't be after us.  Phew, it was hot but windy too!  Tucked away the other side was the 99 year old former mail ship, La Palma.  I don't know whether she had been thee in January 2008, but Aurora was docked further down so I wouldn't have noticed.  This little vessel was being restored and was built in Middlesbrough, where she was finished on the 10th April 1912.  Her licence to carry mail for the Compañía de vapores Correos Interinsulares Canarios was granted on the 16th June.  She would also carry 190 passengers.  She had a long and varied career until being sold with the intention of scrapping in 1981 but was saved and after five years, was purchased to be restored.  She reminded me of our very own tug tender Calshot.  And so back to shippy business.  The security guard for Liberty didn't even realise Voyager was parked up their bum, let alone what time she'd sail.  A crew member dashing between Voyager and Liberty said it was all aboard by 4.30pm and the security guard at Voyager said the same then was vague about a time.  It was the same as she'd had if she'd reached Ponta Delgada.  As we talked, two elderly American men flashed their cards and walked through, then the guard realised they were going on the wrong ship!  I bet that happens a lot with so many ships the same these days but there are a couple of things they ought to have noticed.  1) It has VOYAGER OF THE SEAS on the bum (which is the first thing they'd have seen upon entering the port).  2) It said Voyager of the Seas at the security checkpoint.  3) Voyager has a blue go-faster stripe.  4) Liberty is nose to nose with a huge black and white lump at the other end!  How difficult can it be to get the correct ship?  Well, this cruiser went back to the black and white lump a very happy ship nut so I phoned my dad to tell him to watch Fatso's webcam from 5pm.
I'd ordered a tuna melt from room service which didn't but was very nice anyway.  It didn't take anywhere near as long to arrive as I'd been told.  At 4pm the Captain came on to announce we had reports of norovirus!  Not a surprise after seeing that cabin further along my deck the day before.  First reported in Madeira, he said, and more cases today.  He was going to make a further announcement before sailaway for everyone who'd missed it.  I went up about 4.15pm for Voyager's departure.  Bit early but I was glasd I did because there was another rainbow, this time over Mary and ending in the sea.
Two crew appeared, having rushed up, one who did nails in the spa and another was from I can't remember.  The nail lady, Charlene, had come from Oceana, like the one in Clarendon's, but had also been on Balmoral when she started with Fred Olsen.  She told me about the various issues with the maiden being cancelled while they brought her to Southampton to be fixed then the trips afterwards.  The rainbow sadly didn't last long but it was a gorgeous sight.  We'd been lucky with those today, partly thanks to the odd rain shower.  Voyager left twenty minutes late, giving one parp as she left the dock and then blasting her melodic horn to Liberty, who promptly farted back.  We also got in on the action, saluting Voyager as she passed.  Great stuff!  We had some music on the dockside but lucky for them, they brought umbrellas because a squall went over, which Voyager sailed into!

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© Patricia Dempsey 30th October-10th November 2011
Not to be reproduced without permission