Queen Elizabeth Eastern Med Cruise Nov. 2013
Michael Doyle | October 4, 2013 | Cunard | Queen Elizabeth
This was only our second ??longer?? cruise on Cunard (wife and I); most of our previous Cunard experiences have been on short channel itineraries. We have otherwise been on a number of P&O cruises in recent years. We prefer travelling ex Southampton, largely because with both of us still working, we need the first few days at sea to ??unwind??. At ports we want to make the most of them and get ashore reasonably early.
This time our desired destination was to visit Israel and there was opportunity to do this either by taking a much longer cruise ex Southampton on Arcadia or to fly cruise to Rome and pick up the QE. We chose the latter primarily because of the limited time we could take off work. Being cost conscious, we usually book inside rooms on Getaway and this time we were pleased to be upgraded to obstructed view. Though we could hardly see any more than the lifeboat it was good to see some daylight.
Check in at Manchester, arrival arrangements at Rome, subsequent transfer to Civitavecchia and check in there went very smoothly and the Cunard staff were most impressive. They noticeably made special effort to escort those very elderly, infirm or confused. Delay to the return flight to Manchester was disappointing.
Our stateroom was clean and tidy with cases already deposited. Soon we were to meet the steward who was to service our room so meticulously and to engage with us so graciously in the corridor during the rest of the trip. The free bottle of sparkling wine in the room was an added benefit that we now enjoy as returning cruisers. Our only niggle is that we would far prefer to have tea and coffee making facilities than have to resort to waiter service.
Cunard caters for a more international clientele than P&O. The majority are British but also a good number of Americans and Japanese amongst the nations represented. Everything is priced in dollars and some terminology used is American and needs translating.
Having done two short cruises on Queen Victoria, we were reasonably aware of the basic layout and facilities of the ship. There seemed a little less Cunard memorabilia around but otherwise very similar with colour schemes and d??cor which give the impression of a traditional British luxury liner. The major external differences appeared to be an extended sports area (upper deck forward) which encompasses bowls, tennis, and croquet and the shape of the stern is more abrupt compared with the slightly slanted QV.
The itinerary took in first: Katacolon (for Olympia). The captain determined that conditions would not permit him to dock safely so he abandoned visiting this port, which was not for us particularly disappointing but enabled us to have an extra relaxing day at sea. Santorini followed. This is a tender port and here we booked a half-day excursion to the village of Oia via a winery. Both were excellent places to visit. The local tenders were efficient and we did not observe any queuing problems.
We were originally to have called at both the Israel ports Haifa and Ashdod but this was changed some time in advance of travelling to be two days in Haifa. We booked two full day excursions, one covering Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the other covering Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum and other places recognisable from the Bible. Both tours were excellent with very competent and informative guides and good lunch venues with splendid food and wine. Our Bethlehem guide took us right into the ??stable?? where Jesus was born. With long queues and a tight timetable many other guides do not bother.
There are always comments about the cost of excursions but for many this is the least stress free of the options available for touring an area and with Cunard there is the certain knowledge (for us) that the tour will be of a high standard with the benefit of an interesting lunch venue with bottles of wine to accompany excellent food.
Limassol, Rhodes, Herakleon (Crete) and Naples were further ports of call, all of which with the exception of Limassol are a short walk from the ship. Shuttle coaches for the ten minute journey at Limassol were satisfactory from our perspective and all these places are interesting to walk around if you are reasonably fit though a first timer to Naples would be well advised to do an excursion to Pompeii and/or the Amalfi Coast/Sorrento.
The food on the ship was excellent. We dined in the Britannia restaurant throughout but had breakfast and lunch in the self-service Lido. We felt that the food here was better presented than many cruise-ship self-service restaurants. We had booked a table for 2 in the Britannia which we got, but in common with our experiences on Azura we were so close to the adjacent tables for 2 that we might just as well have been on a table for 6. Nevertheless those either side of us were most engaging.
Entertainment was to a good standard and the guest artists were without exception quite agreeable. One comedian??s take off of Captain Wells brought the house down.
We are never quite so impressed by Cunard??s own productions as we are with the excellent P&O Headliners but I am sure that is a matter of taste.
Around the ship there were many pianists and a good string quartet but we were disappointed by the lack of a good jazz band such as the Colin Bryant quartet which was our all time favourite aboard QE2 in 2007.
In summary a splendid itinerary, an impressive ship, excellent staff, good quality food, satisfactory entertainment, good quality excursions.
In addition the holiday arrangements are superbly handled by Bolsover Cruise Club staff.
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