Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Queen Elizabeth's 2017 World Cruise.

Our final cruise designed to get us away from the worst of the UK's Winter weather started when we joined Queen Elizabeth's 2017 world cruise on the 7th January.

We had booked this way back around March 2016, and it was our intention to complete the first two sectors of her 120 night voyage - 28 nights on board to San Francisco, which included a night on board there before disembarking, followed by a further 3 nights at the Handlery Hotel, Union Square, and then a flight home on a scheduled United Airways flight to London Heathrow. Also included in our package, booked through was a full day's wine tasting tour to three wineries in both Sonoma and Napa County. Around 600 guests were on board for the whole voyage.

Having completed two P&O Cruises just prior to Christmas, one on Azura to the Caribbean and the other on Oceana to Spain and Portugal, followed immediately by this on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, I can make comparisons, but be aware these are our own opinions only.

A spectacular fireworks display to mark the world cruise's departure from Southampton

Also prior to departure we were treated to a display from a military band on board in the Queen's Room.

Our Winter TransAtlantic crossing was in the main calm and sunny.

A staircase reminiscent of the ocean liners of days now long gone...

The ship's casino - not our thing...

The fabulous Atrium.

More sunny but chilly TransAtlantic weather.

Plenty to do in the evenings. This is a ball - held in the Queens Room.

During every sector of the world cruise a passenger choir is practiced - with a short performance towards the end of the sector.

Before I describe our experience on board Queen Elizabeth, I will say that in general, we found the detail and service etiquette unexpectedly superior on the P&O Cruises. Of the three main dining restaurant experiences, we also unexpectedly found P&O's Azura to be the best, both in restaurant service and the general offering of the food quality. As a result, we have now booked a 35 night cruise aboard P&O's Oceana for 2018. The main reason for this choice though is that it doesn't include a long haul flight home, which I am tiring of these days.

Our itinerary for this last cruise started with an eight day sea crossing from Southampton to New York, arriving in daylight around noon on the ninth day. We were to have the benefit of an overnight stay, which should have meant one and a half days to explore the city before moving on. However, it was unfortunate that the US immigration procedure dealing with 2000 passengers as well as crew took most of the rest of the afternoon and nobody could go ashore until they had been spoken to face to face by US immigration officers, and more annoyingly, once that was done nobody could go back on board until the whole process was complete. This resulted in a wait in a chilly warehouse ashore. It may be of interest to note, that unlike our previous US visits, this time we were advised that we must have in our possession "government issued" photographic I/D - in our case our passport, while ashore.

Our spectacular sunny arrival in New York......

Then Margaret said turn around, and this was the view from the starboard side.

Ashore in New York, and a must see is Times Square.

And the ice skating in Bryant Park, mid-town Manhattan.

Most unusually both the weather during the TransAtlantic crossing and our time in New York was exceptional for January.

After leaving New York it was on the Fort Lauderdale where things warmed up considerably.

By Fort Lauderdale the climate was warm.

And at Fort Lauderdale the free shuttle bus took us to a shopping mall.

We then progressed to Curacao, a lovely island in the Dutch Antilles, where we docked for the day in the capital city of Willemstad.

Docked in beautiful Curacao.

Town was just a short stroll through a classy shopping complex.

Sunny, and now hot days at sea so......

Only one thing for it......

A pleasant chilled lager - or two.

This is an end of sector ball, again in the Queens Room.

Then it was on to Cartagena, Colombia prior to our transit of the Panama Canal the next day, a beautiful town which we have never been to before.

In Cartagena, Colombia, we chose to join the raucous fun bus tour - which included rum, coke, lager and water - as much as you could drink.

Cartagena's skyline.

If you want to, from 3.30pm treat yourself to a luxurious afternoon tea, provided by white gloved waiters. No additional charge for this.

The new, wider locks of the canal are now open, but as yet only to commercial traffic, so we used the original and more interesting 1914 locks, with the necessity to make minor alterations to the ship's tender  mountings to narrow the beam and allow safe, uninterrupted passage.

Once in the Pacific Ocean heading North, we made our way to Huatulco, Mexico, a beautiful custom built holiday resort. We spent our time here at a beach bar known to us from a previous visit, with the ship right in the background just a short walk away.

Docked at Huatulco, Mexico. A spectacular port of call.

A Huatulco Beach Bar we have visited before....

Our penultimate port of call was Cabo San Lucas, also Mexico. We found this to be a stunning location, and the ship anchored in the bay while we sailed ashore using her tenders - all efficiently done by the excellent crew.

And this was the view from the port side of the ship as we arrived at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The photo does not do it justice.

A spectacular Pacific sunset at sea......
Followed by an equally spectacular sunrise arriving in port.
Finally, we made our way up to San Francisco where we enjoyed one last day on board while in port, but again had to complete US immigration before we could go ashore.

Once we left the ship, we found our hotel transfer vehicle, again provided by iglucruise, and found ourselves at the Handlery Union Square - right in the centre of town, in no time at all. Our allocated room was huge.

Our spacious room at the Handlery Hotel, Union Square, San Francisco.

Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf SF.

The next day we were free to explore on our own, so we discovered China Town, Macy's and The Cheesecake Factory, as well as slick stores such as Saks of 5th Avenue.

Our visit to the Cheesecake Factory at the top of Macy's Union Square, across the road from the Handlery.

And of course the famous SF Street Cars. This one is on a turntable.

Another famous SF landmark - Coit Tower.

China Town SF.

The following day we were collected as promised at 8.15am for our full day of wine tasting in the Napa Valley, around an hour's drive out of town. Copious amounts of wine was dished out with no vessels available to dispose of it once tasted. Never mind, just swallow and smile. 😉

One of our calls at three Napa Valley wineries.

All too soon our final day arrived and we were collected to go to the airport after lunch. Our flight on a United Airways Boeing 777 was very comfortable as the flight was less than half full, and we seemed to be fed and refreshed during the whole flight. Our total trip was 32 nights in duration.

So, why do we still prefer P&O Cruises?

We found the detail in service was somewhat lacking in both the Britannia main and Lido Buffet Restaurants. Plates were cleared from some who finished before others on our Britannia Restaurant table for 6. The serving of condiments such as ground pepper and sauces was somewhat hit and miss, and we both found the quality of the cooking of the foods somewhat inconsistent - sometimes undercooked vegetables and potatoes, sometimes way overcooked to a sloppy mess!
The Britannia restaurant service was also occasionally very slow - sometimes half an hour between ordering and service.
In the Lido buffet restaurant where we had breakfast and lunch, we often experienced waiters would walk past a pile of dirty plates from our previous course, occasionally leaving a pile of all three courses for us to fight around. It could not have been that they were too busy, as we always attended at quiet times to avoid the "bunfight" between passengers that can be experienced in the buffet sometimes. Not what we expected from a premium cruise line such as Cunard.

Finally the drinks prices. Extortionate! We usually attended a bar for pre-dinner drinks. Our order was the same every evening - 1 X Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic, and one strawberry cider. The price of this round? Over $16 - as every drinks purchase on board attracted a further 15% service charge on top of the auto added tips at over $12 each per day. Somewhat of a rip off in our opinion, and hopefully this will never be taken up by P&O Cruises. We simply couldn't afford to have wine with our meals in the restaurant too.

However, all things taken into consideration we did have a fabulous cruise. But we do think P&O Cruises offer far far better value for money, which for us is what it is all about.


  1. Totally agree P&O every time for us we enjoy cunard ships but it's never as good as P&O. It's such a shame as we all expect a premium service on cunard


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