The ship was very luxurious (like staying at a 5star hotel on the water) and although there were 1600 cabins we didn’t notice the large number of people except if we ate at the buffet at meal times. We ate mostly in the dining room in the evenings where we had a reserved table for 8.30pm (the second sitting) and the service and food was excellent. One of our restaurant wait staff Sylvia was an Australian middle aged woman from Sydney who wanted to try something different, Jay Jay from South Africa,Visham from Mauritius and Marco the Sommelier from Romania. The service staff was comprised of many nationalities but the majority were Filipinos. Everyone we encountered were very professional and friendly at the same time and Dada from the tours desk gave us very informative and interesting information about the tours available in each port.
It sank in what organisation and team work must go into running a cruise ship.

We were given a credit type card which we could use anywhere on the ship for purchases from drinks to diamonds (not that we bought any of the latter). There were several dining options (some for an extra charge) and several lounges and a two storey library. The art deco style and decor was beautiful. The Queen Elizabeth was built and fitted out by an Italian company ‘Fincantiere’.

We sailed for three days and Cunard offered a myriad of activities on the ship from Deck sports to theatre performances, indoor games, dance lessons etc.
One day we experienced the formal afternoon tea in the ballroom and were served by white jacketed waiters with white gloves. They served a selection of sandwiches (as well as a raft of other savouries), cakes,scones with jam and cream and very good tea. I had missed my dancing from before we left home years ago so I took advantage of going to the ballroom after dinner to refresh myself with ballroom dancing and the jive. The dance partners from the ship ranged from geriatric to a younger couple who were all good dancers.

We had lovely weather and calm seas through the Bay of Biscay and on to Madeira, our first port of call and only Portuguese one we were to visit.
Funchal it’s capital is named after the Portuguese name for fennel (a variation thereof) which was found all over the island when it was settled.

We opted to do a tour in each place, not having been there before. We went on a jeep excursion for 4 1/2hours with only two jeeps and about 12people which suited us as we went where a tour bus could not go and therefore we had a very quiet time up in the mountains and had a good guide in David who took us to various viewpoints in the interior of the island and then along the south coast to Camara de Lobos. He gave us much information about the island and it’s inhabitants. Some of the narrow two way roads were very steep but the
offroad portions which looked very much like the bush tracks in Australia were not as bad as expected. Much of the mountains were covered with Australian Blue gums which have proved to be a curse but the island has started in the last few years to fell the trees and send them to mainland Portugal to make pulp. We stopped at a very local bar and tried the ‘poncha’ a mixture of rum, honey and orange or lemon juice and I tried the middle dry Madeira wine for which the island is famous. The island is very mountainous and most of the arable land is a patchwork of either banana, sugar cane or vines which were turning a redish/brown colour. The farmers have a hard life trapesing up and down many steps or paths to tend their crops,most of which are planted on mountain slopes. Some farmers wisely cover their houses with the vines for shade in Summer and other vines grow at least a metre from the ground so that potatoes or other vegetables can be grown underneath. Bananas seemed to be the main fruit exported from the Canaries.
We were returned to the ship and we could then walk back into Funchal to wander the streets. It was very quiet as it was a Sunday and people were having their siestas. Most of the shops even on weekdays closed in the afternoon only opening at 5pm.

Our next port of call was Santa Cruz on La Palma where we again docked within walking distance of the city. Our tour here was on a coach which took us up to the ‘Caldera de Taburiente’ in the national park which was unusually not a crater made by a volcano but from an enormous landslide millions of years ago. The island had been covered in palms but now these had mostly been replaced with pine trees. We saw the remains of a fire which had swept all of the Canary islands with varying degrees of damage. La Palma’s main crops were again bananas, sugar cane and Avocados. Just off the old airport runway we stopped at an old 17th century farm for some local refreshments. The garden was beautiful with the most amazing crop of Strelizias (bird of paradise) plants which the owner cultivated and sold. We later stopped at the ‘Mirador de la Concepcion’ to take in the wonderful views along the coast and to the north of the island. We had a stop at the ‘Santuario Virgen de Las Nieves where we could buy a coffee or relax for a while. We were again returned to the ship and later walked into town with our friends to have a look around the city.
We saved money as the shops were closed again for siesta so we used the internet at a local cafe before returning to the ship at dusk.
The internet on the ship was a little too expensive for us $48 for a couple of hours.

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