Queen Elizabeth (II) - Short Break to Hamburg
A great way to relieve stress is by going on a cruise.  Original holiday plans didn't come to fruition thanks to not getting enough hours at work due to management hiring people through four agencies for Christmas work, which is no fun when they get fixed contracts and you're on zero hours.  So in the end, what with Christmas and everything, all I could afford was the four night cruise on Betty with my friend Oskar Osmundsen.  But things worked out well and it would mean I will have sailed on all four Queens built during my lifetime, which having the QE2 as my first cruise was perfect since we both debuted in 1969.  We booked a guarantee oceanview on the 16th December and it was sold out the following day.  Cunard do make it difficult if you are foreign travelling with a Brit.  There is no option for other countries when online booking so he had to use my address despite being able to change it later for his in Norway in the Voyage Personaliser.  This is another annoying issue with P&O running them because they do the same.  We were allocated oceanview 4110 with an obstructed view.  I also pre-booked the Verandah Restaurant for the 7th, since it was formal night.  You had to pay $58 dollars up front, which was for two people.

Oskar flew in on the 5th and now we were raring to go.  I'd had an eleven hour nightshift and had no sleep before heading off to meet Oskar.  Betty was in Ocean Terminal and Oriana up in Mayflower.  We were given Grey letter A for priority check-in, which began at 11am and onboard around 11.20am.  Dropped our stuff off at the cabin then up to the Lido for lunch while our steward finished it off.  We popped to the Golden Lion afterwards and I bought the soft drinks package.  It said it WAS available on 2, 3 and 4 night cruises so someone should tell the div on Vicky who told me they weren't.  We also had more food.  Well, we were on a cruise!  Muster was at 3.45pm and our muster station was in the Card Room.  We were on a table with two other people.  It was Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge.  She didn't half drone on.  She'd say a bit then pass it onto the German host to repeat and this went on for what seemed like ever.  Having been awake 26 hours by then it was a definite sleep aid which they should sell as an insomnia cure and make a fortune!  As with Vicky, no one paid attention to the request of letting those needing assistance have priority in the lifts.  Perhaps they should have a crew member in one to make sure they do.  

And so up to sailaway!  Oriana was sailing at 6pm so we were due to go first.  However, before 5pm, Captain Inger came on to say there was a technical problem and because Hamburg wasn't too far they could afford to stay alongside a few more hours.  That sounded ominous and reminded me of when her predecessor, QE2 (the ONLY Lizzie until she is scrapped) had engine trouble alongside the QEII Terminal while I was onboard.  Back inside and time for a doze before dinner.  We'd been allocated first sitting at 6pm but when the alarm went off, I couldn't be arsed so Oskar went alone.  Captain Inger came on again around 6.30pm to tell us the fault was with the Voyage Data Recorder (black box) and it had to be working by maritime law to be allowed to sail.  Another half hour we were told we'd be leaving at 8.30pm.  Oskar returned and went with me to the Lido to get my own dinner.  He then went to the Golden Lion for Patrick Patton while I stayed for sailaway, which ended up being 9pm.  A German I spoke to was boarding Vicky in Hamburg.  

Shopping then I found Oskar.  Spending an evening in the same room as your ex can be awkward for both but it wasn't.  After a while I felt a tap on my back, turned around and saw Denny and Stan Jones, who I had met on Mary back in 2013 when we were in Olden.  I had no idea they'd be there and apparently there were a group from Facebook as well.  Doing nightshifts keeps you out of the Facebook loop so this was a pleasant surprise.  Patrick finished his first set at 9.45pm and we did the quiz.  Initially surrendering because we weren't doing so well, we ended up with 6/13 points and there were people with less so that made us feel better.  Declan, best known from Mary, was now part of the entertainment staff on Betty.  Patrick was back at 10.30pm and continued until 1am.  Denny and Stan left not long after he resumed while Oskar enjoyed it despite being only twenty.  He did appear to have a pensioner groupie though who was a man sat at the next table with his wife.  After chatting with Patrick a while, including both of us educating the groupie about Bea Muller being an evil witch, we went back to the cabin to go to bed.  The info channel still had us in Southampton.

After just four hours sleep thanks to the aircon drying my throat out resulting in coughing, I got up and had a shower while Oskar carried on snoozing.  It was the first of two lazy sea days where you eat more than usual.  The weather was a bit on the rough side but also raining.  When Oskar was awake we went on deck for the noon whistle.  This is a Cunard tradition I still love and it was amazing to find a door not barred.  Afterwards, he said he wanted to have lunch in the Britannia.  Because it opens an hour after the Lido, we sat on the stairs to wait.  Denny and Stan appeared so we sat together.  Stan says some hilariously outrageous things and can get away with them.  Bought the boarding photo and Oskar ordered a copy which is all done digitally now.  How clever!  We also checked the booking in the Verandah Restaurant and the Maitre 'D said it was a good job we pre-booked because they were full.  

Afternoon tea in the Queens Room.  Surprisingly people were already at tables rather than waiting to be let in.  We sat with a Scottish couple and had a lovely chat but the food ran out pretty fast on the trays.  Oskar went to Friends of Dorothy for 5pm while I went to see Patrick Patton in the Golden Lion.  He wasn't singing during this set so the place shouldn't have emptied as fast as it did!  Seriously, this is a problem with having the bars so far from the dining room and dinner at 6pm, particularly on formal night.  I remember the fabulous Crystal Bar on the QE2 which had the entrances to Princess Grill and Britannia Grill as well as the Mauretania Restaurant while the Chart Room was close to the Caronia Restaurant.  On Mary the Golden Lion, Chart Room and Sir Samuel's are adjacent to the Britannia Restaurant while Queens Room is on the other side.  A few remained, including myself and Oskar appeared too.  

Our reservation at the Verandah Restaurant was 8.15pm so we had a nap before getting ready.  The set-up for this is confusing if you've pre-paid.  Basically, you order a la carte up to the amount you've spent and anything else is charged separately.  That's fine but you do NOT get a refund for what you don't spend so perhaps it should just be a pre-booking  Service was absolutely atrocious.  It took nearly half an hour before the waiter returned with my Pepsi and Oskar's bottle of wine from the Britannia.  Until your drinks arrive, you don't even get any bread then when you are finally offered some, it was like they are doing you a favour.  Mind you, the one I had did give us a giggle on 'classy' Cunard.  The starters were served 45 minutes after we'd first sat down after some melon thing.  This was followed by champagne sorbet to cleanse the palate before the main course arrived 25 minutes after the starter.  

By now it was almost 9.30pm and I'd had enough especially after my sea bass was drowning in chicken gravy while the vegetables were rock hard.  Oskar stayed a bit longer but I went.  I'd certainly not book this again and it definitely wasn't full.  It doesn't help media on freebies rave about everything or no more free cruises so waiters bend over backwards.  Perhaps it's time press trips had to be part or completely paid for and anonymous in normal cabins so no preferential treatment and an honest report at the end.  I spotted Denny and Stan as I was leaving so chatted with them a while before taking their photo.  We didn't want the karaoke in the Golden Lion so just chilled.

Land and Vicky ahoy!  She was the massive blob on the webcam we were following down the Elbe.  Christine Davidson from Facebook was aboard her.  Since we were awake far too early, Oskar ordered room service, which arrived about 4am and about an hour later wrapped up warm and headed onto the deck.  It had snowed during the night so the crew were clearly up the decks.  We went on the games deck which was sopping wet.  We decided to wait in the warm until we were closer so sat in the Commodore Club and one of the cleaners put the lights on for us.  Because the boots I'd taken had decided to annoyingly fall apart, I ended up wearing my flats which leaked so I ended up walking around barefoot.  Oskar went to try and snap the Airbus factory as we passed while I went back up to the games deck, where Oskar joined me later for a while before returning to the cabin to warm up.  We had assistance and as soon as I realised we had slowed right down and the bow began to turn starboard, I went to the aft of the Promenade deck for our docking as we were pulled astern.  As we neared Altana terminal, I could see ice in the river.  It was far too cold to stay for the docking so I went back inside.


© Patricia Dempsey 6th-10th January 2016
Not to be reproduced without permission