Maiden Festive Voyage on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth

10/01/2011

Wishing all our friends and supporters a very Happy New Year!

Special Christmas and New Year Edition Dec '10 - Jan '11

Article 1 by Gina Chrysanthou, Article 2 by Amita Chatterji

Article 1

It is thanks to my grandmother's very thoughtful and generous gesture asking my mother and I to accompany her along with my uncle that we left behind the British cold winter and sailed off on a special cruise on board the prestigious new Cunard Queen Elizabeth liner in December returning January.

The QE is a remarkable luxury liner with modern Art Deco revival interior throughout with the most attractive features being the Grand Lobby and Queens Room with opulent decor and fabulous chandeliers and drapes ideal for evening ball room dances and formal functions.  Service on the QE ship was impeccable and every member of staff we met during the cruise was extremely courteous and helpful at all times and the service lived up to Cunard's first class reputation.

Apart from the joy of cruising on Queen Elizabeth on her first festive voyage, the other exciting aspect of this grand journey was arriving at the pretty port of Funchal in the Portugese island of Madeira then eventually sailing across the Atlantic ocean to the Caribbean islands which was a tremendous treat discovering the beauty and essence of each island being Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Dominica and Tortola.  The Caribbean islands so picturesque and island inhabitants friendly and welcoming it is easy to understand why the Caribbean is such a popular travel getaway destination.

Dressing up to dine was one of the most pleasurable activities on the ship with a great variety of food - I particularly enjoyed the daily soups, fresh fish, Lobster Newburg, Lobster Thermidor, ice cream selections and Creme Brulee dessert in the Britannia restaurant.  The grilled beef burgers made from premium Argentinian beef were delicious, equally enjoyed freshly made pizzas/pastas and selection of salads, fresh fruits and desserts at the Lido restaurant.  One thing was for sure, you could never be hungry as food was available around the clock!

We enjoyed the onboard entertainment attending several shows at the Royal Court Theatre and especially enjoyed the ‘Hotel Royale' a lively colourful cabaret musical and the high energy dance show ‘La Danza' with a line-up of formidable performances from an exceptionally talented cast of international dancers.  Both the artistes and the productions were as good as any West End show.  It was a pleasure going to the elegant theatre to see shows and even the popular TV personality Des O' Connor hosted a special show at the Royal Court Theatre on Boxing Day.

Whilst on the cruise we were kept informed of world news watching TV in our stateroom and guests kept saying to one another how fortunate they were to have left London just in time to escape the snow and treacherous weather which had caused havoc in many parts of UK.  A lunar eclipse took place on 20 December between the hours of 3.30-5.30am which people stayed awake to observe outside on deck.

Away for the first time during Christmas felt unusual but blissful surrounded by glistening ocean and tropical scenes during the festive period which made a really refreshing change.  It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable ways of celebrating Christmas and New Year with family and, the first time I'd lounged outdoors in the sunshine having a splash in the pool and hot spa on Christmas Day and feeling so carefree.  I also managed to take a break away from my mobile phone, computer and Internet for a 3 week period...this hasn't happened in years! I did however visit the Internet centre on the ship for half an hour on Christmas Eve just to update my Facebook page and post a Christmas message to friends and family.  On our return to London I was keen to communicate with friends and tell them about my wonderful cruise experience.

Whilst in the midst of preparing for the cruise my mother and I still ventured out during a snow flurry to take photos of some of the Christmas lights and displays in central London which can be viewed along with our huge cruise photo collection below.  Spent quite some time sorting, editing and selecting collection of photos for you to see and enjoy.

© By Gina Chrysanthou

Please read on...

Article 2

A Caribbean Adventure - Maiden Voyage on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth

Christmas arrived early for once last year when Gina and I were very kindly invited by my mother to join her and my brother on the ‘Festive Debut' cruise.  The historic voyage was a cruise on one of Cunard's grand Queens, a new liner Queen Elizabeth making her maiden Christmas/N Year voyage sailing from Southampton to genial warmer climes of the Caribbean via Madeira Portugal.  The latter we found in serious festive mode, Madeira a Christmas wonderland its harbour glittering in decorative Christmas light while rows of trees sparkled like bright stars in the night.

Since my arrival in London in 1954 this was my first Christmas ever outside the UK and Gina's too.

Having visited the Caribbean islands of Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica and Tortola, these isles "stepping stones" to South America was an enriching experience meeting friendly islanders and exploring the land on shore excursions.  We got a flavour of Caribbean life and culture learning about the historic heritage of islanders past & present living on these idyllic isles surrounded by azure coastal waters where one can easily lose oneself and float into Black Beard's infamous adventures and skulduggery of the pirates of the Caribbean.

While on tours in the Caribbean I marvelled at the lush and lovely landscapes of the isles so intensely green, mountainous, misty and mysterious abounding with tropical plants and colourful flowers.  Even got caught up in a tropical storm and torrential downpour "tears of joy" we were told by a jovial tour guide; some of the islands' tour guides were excellent and well informed.  We also sampled bottled nectar the islands produce from sugar cane - some old gold, soul-warming, mature, hot rums and others crystal clear and in various flavours including peanut, coffee and coconut and of course, we tasted their ever popular rum punch.

Every island lovely with its own delightful attractions but I recall the long and fascinating tour of Barbados through Bridgetown up, over and across the island to the cliff top Edgewater Inn with its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, rock formation and vegetation.  Further afield, our visit to the restored Sunbury Plantation House from the 1660's where Gina and I with video & camera in hand excitedly wandered through the elegant rooms filled with antique mahogany furniture, paintings, memorabilia, impressive silver ware, china, collection of dolls ghosts of the past and, antiques of every description items once used by people of bygone days depicting colonial life.  Here we also enjoyed traditional afternoon tea and chatting to Jacqueline Hodgson the very friendly Q. E's Hotel Manager after which we took to the Cellars where Gina and I discovered old buggies (means of transport) and yesteryear machinery and instruments before we took a stroll through the exquisitely maintained gardens - a fond memory.

In Dominica, particularly loved seeing and walking through its drenched, humid rainforests leading to a trio of breathtaking, spectacular waterfalls at Trafalgar Falls.  And, hidden deep in the tropical rainforests of the National Park we found the Emerald Pool so named by the Caribs.  The waters of the Emerald Pool known for its rejuvenating qualities - this pool of eternal youth evoked the image of H. Rider Haggard's ‘She' the beautiful, ethereal Ayesha whom I imagined immersing herself in the magical waters of the Pool.  Gina and I however, didn't venture in instead we captured the mystic, scenic beauty of the Emerald Pool, its waterfall and surrounds in our photos and video. Dominica's wild, beautiful landscapes and dramatic dark forests also conjured up tropic ‘Jurassic Park' type territory with roaming terrifying dinosaurs, a real adventure playground for the daring - we left enchanted.

On our return journey from the Caribbean Gina and I went ashore for a walk along Ponta Delgada harbour in the Azores (short stop) and in a cafe we each indulged in a rich, thick, dark chocolate drink topped with fresh cream which made up for the dank day.

The cruise ‘at sea' days offered much activity on board and a daily programme produced for guests provided information on various activities: exercise, games, dancing, grand gala balls (mother loved watching the ballroom dancing as she was once a very keen ballroom dancer herself) also musical shows, dramas and lectures guests could enjoy - even a casino on board and stylish boutiques, bookshop and library to meander in.  Saw some excellent after-dinner entertainment in Q. E's luxurious Royal Court Theatre and, if that wasn't enough guests could drop in to the late-night club or pub on different decks for a drink, talk or even a midnight walk to the Lido for a late snack.  Who could ask for more, we were spoilt for choice.  Still reflecting on the sumptuous and lavish Christmas Lido buffet and banquet - a wonderful display of sweet sculptures made of chocolate, fondant icing, fruits and ice created by the ship's team of chefs and fit for any Queen.

The entire cruise on the Queen Elizabeth was delightful and making all this possible was an excellent crew and teams of staff overseen by the ship's Master, Captain Julian Burgess a charming, amiable, family man and great role model to all his staff - nothing was too much for them.

The voyage aboard the Queen Elizabeth gliding (not always...) across seas and majestic ocean was simply unforgettable and a unique experience - a time for forging new acquaintances and sailing into a New Year also a new decade.

© By Amita Chatterji - January 2011

© Photos by Amita Chatterji & Gina Chrysanthou

Below: "Sweet sculptures made of chocolate, fondant icing, fruits and ice created by the ship's team of chefs"

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Below: QE Christmas carol singing & Christmas functions

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Above: Gina with Margaret dressed in costume for the Queen Elizabeth ball

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Above: Amita in QE's gallery & Gina in shopping boutique arcade

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Above: Gina after attending the Cunard Ball

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Right: Gina with Captain Julian Burgess on deck

Below:  Photo collection of Queen Elizabeth functions    

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Above: Gina in QE's Brittania Restaurant & Grand Lobby

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Left: Amita & right: Sherlyn & Edward in Britannia Restaurant

Below: continued sweet & chocolate sculptures

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Above: QE staff singing carols on Christmas Eve in Grand Lobby

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Above from left: My Grandmother Maya, Uncle Sudhin, my mother Amita & myself Gina on Christmas Day

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Above: 'Pasa Doble' dance presentation in the Queen's Room

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Above: The Cunard Ball in the Queens Room & my grandmother and me outside QE's Brittania Club

Below: Amita & Gina outside on QE decks

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Above: 'Serious Sounds' band, guests Dinah & Mary at Deck Party

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Above: Gina beside Pavillion Swimming Pool on Lido deck at night

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Below: NY Eve dining & celebration at Britannia Restaurant

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Below: NYear's Eve celebrations with Captain in the Grand Lobby

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Above: guests Anne & John  

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Above: Pianist Carlo & QE's Entertainment Director Alaistair

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Above: the Chef's presentation in QE's Britannia Restaurant

Below: The stylish QE Yacht Club 

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Above: stunning sunset views from QE deck 

Below: Photo collection - Funchal harbour, Madeira in Portugal 

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Above: Christmas choir singing outdoors in Funchal Madeira

Below: Outdoor nativity scenes display in Funchal Madeira 

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Caribbean Islands photo collection below:

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Below: Emerald Pool, water falls in Dominica

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Above: Guide showing edible fruits of tropical palm tree

Below: Breathtaking views of Trafalgar Falls in Dominica

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Above: Canon ball tree and right giant Palm tree

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Above: Museum of Antigua & Barbuda & Market street

Below: Views of Sunbury House Plantation in Barbados

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Below: Port of Antigua & shopping district

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Above: Museum of Antigua & Barbuda

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Above: Night time island views of Antigua

Below: Carnival displays at Rum Distillery tour in St Lucia 

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Below: Scenic views from 'Edgewater Inn' in Barbados 

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Above left: Barbados island locals at Edgewater Inn

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Above left Edgewater Inn & right Sunbury House Plantation continuing below:

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Above right: Gina with QE's Hotel Manager Jacqueline Hodgson at Sunbury House Barbados

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Below: Rainforest trail leading to 'Emerald Pool' Dominica

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Below: Series of wall murals depicting island life in Tortola

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Below: 'Pusser's Landing' marina, Tortola Virgin Islands

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Below: Last port of call Ponta Delgada Portugal & QE on right

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Below: Southampton dock & from left Diane daughter of Art Historian/Author Christine Roussel (middle)& Poet Amita Chatterji

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Above: Fab sunrise in port of Southampton on our return to UK

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Above:  Amita Chatterji, Captain Julian Burgess & Gina Chrysanthou

Below: Christmas lights and displays in central London Dec '10, photos by Amita Chatterji

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To view full photo collection please click link below: http://www.pukkapr.com/gallery/view.aspx?cat=CunardQueenElizabethMaidenFestiveVoyage

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