Friday, July 31, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015 – Corfu, Greece – Partly Cloudy – 83F

Port Background. Corfu (Greek: Kerkyra) is the most northern of the Ionian Islands.  It is the second largest of the group next to Cephalonia and has a population of approximately 115,000.  The island is 39 miles long and densely populated.  Albania is only two miles from the tip of Corfu.  About one third of the people on Corfu live in Corfu Town, which has narrow streets and alleyways, several churches, and still displays a Venetian influence.  There are two forts in Corfu Town – the Old Fort dates to the 6th Century; the New Fort was built by the Venetians in the 16th Century.  The economy of Corfu depends primarily on tourism, but agriculture (olives oil, wine, and vegetables) also plays a role.

It’s a warm and humid day on the island of Corfu. 

There are great views of Corfu town and the bay from the back deck of Queen Victoria.

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Views of the Area from the Ship

We are not on tour today so our plan is to walk to and around Corfu Town (alternatives would be cabs and the city bus – the bus provided by the ship would have cost us $12).  The walk is approximately 1.8 miles so we will need to find as much shade as we can.

As we begin the walk, we are able to get a great picture of Queen Victoria from the other side of the harbor.

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Queen Victoria Docked

Our route took us through the neighborhoods surrounding Corfu Town – narrow streets with a variety of small stores and shops.  We found a market and purchased some cold bottle water for a euro or so.  That would tide us over on our trek.

 20150608_on our way to Corfu town (Small)

20150608_enroute to Corfu town (Small)

Finding some shade on the way

We finally arrived at the City Center, which today, was bustling with both tourists and residents.  Parks were full and the restaurants were packed with patrons ready to chow down.  I sort of remembered the town from our last visit but quite a few shops had changed.

 20150608_Town Square Corfu (Small)20150608_Corfu Town vendor street (Small) 

Corfu is Packed Today

Walking to the end of the City Center, we came upon a large old building that appeared to be a kind of palace.  That’s exactly what it was.

The Museum of Asian Art is a museum within the Palace of St. Michael and St. George. It is the only museum in Greece dedicated to the art of Asia (Chinese art, Japanese art, and Indian art)

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The statue of Adam, built in 1837 and supervised by a local Corfiot (interesting term for a resident of Corfu) sculptor, sits near a fountain in the front of the building.  The statue is somewhat confusing because this Adam is wearing a robe instead of his traditional plant garb.

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Adam Statue

One way out of the city center is through an archway attached to the Palace (below). 

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Archway of the Palace of St Michael and St.George

A combination of heat and walking persuaded us to get a taxi back to the ship.  We ran into some other passengers also looking to get back so we shared a cab (our portion 5 Euros).  It was worth it – it was still pretty hot outside.

After a quick lunch and some rehydration, we were back outside on the open deck – reading and enjoying great views of Corfu Town and the island.

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Snapping some good shots of Corfu Town

Without much warning, the partly cloudy day turned dark and the rain came down in buckets.  I just pushed my chair under a lifeboat and watched the skies open.

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The Rains Came to Corfu

While pretty heavy, the rain didn’t last all that long and soon a cloud covered Corfu Town was once again visible.

20150608_Corfu Town (Small)  

We stayed out of the deck until it was time to get ready for dinner. 

Tonight is Informal but a coat is still required in the Britannia Restaurant and most of the ship.  Our good luck with seating continued as we secured a table for four just for us.  On the menu tonight:  Pan Seared Snapper (waiter removed skin and squeezed lemon juice) – Cream of Broccoli Soup – A custom made green salad and Crepes Suzette for dessert.  The dinner was delicious and the service was quick but not hurried.

The headliner tonight was a British comedian from Liverpool.  John Martin was an absolute hoot even though I had to struggle with his accent.  Don’t ever be late to his shows.

After the show, we went up to the Commodore Lounge and introduced ourselves to Clarolyn.  She remembered us and recalled that I lectured about criminals – close enough.

Her set was very pleasant and the lounge is very relaxing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015 – At Sea – Mediterranean Sea – Sunny – 80sF

An absolutely beautiful day at sea…

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I had my first breakfast up in the Lido Buffet.  Wonderful.  Pancakes are made to order as are waffles so they don’t petrify under the heating lamps.  They have cottage cheese and sour cream (although the sour cream is not what we have at home).  They also have those cute little bottles of preserves – including my favorites, Black Currant and Orange Marmalade.  There are plenty of tables with an ocean view and the music is soft and relaxing.  A perfect positive storm for breakfast (and yes, everyone behind the counter is wearing gloves).

Breakfast was delicious.  I brought down a tray for Ellen (they have trays which makes transport of food easier).

Deck 3 is the open deck on Queen Victoria and it is fully stocked with comfortable lounge chairs.  That is where we will spend most of our time on this ship. 

I am reading “Now You See Me” by S.J. Bolton.  This is the first of her Lacey Flint Novels so I read the other two out of order (causing some confusion on my part).  The story involves a modern day Jack the Ripper serial killer.

Most of our lunches will be in the Lido Buffet and most of my lunches will consist of salad bar items and made to order mini-pizzas.  Perfect.

In the early afternoon, we got a special treat as Queen Victoria passed very close to the volcanic island of Stomboli.  The volcano was very cooperative today and put on a “smokin’” show.

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Stromboli and Me

Shortly after, the ship passed through the Straits of Messina.  The visibility today was hindered by haze but I was still able to get some shots of mainland Italy and the island of Sicily.

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Italian Coastline

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The Toe of the Italian Boot

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The Commodore informed us that our sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, would be passing through the straits as well and that we would sound a salute (and get one in return).  Queen Elizabeth was on her way to Gibraltar.

20150607_The QE heading for Gibraltar (Small) 

Queen Elizabeth

I received a message that Sally wanted to tape an interview with me later in the afternoon up in the Commodore Room on Deck 10.  I dressed for the occasion and met her up there.  She asked me about my presentations and a little bit about forensics in general.  It was a very pleasant interview and I think I did better on this one that the one I did on the QM2.  This interview would air on June 9, a few days before my first presentation.

  20150607_Interview w Sally (Small) 20150607_ Interview w Sally 1 (Small) 20150607_ Interview w Sally 2 (Small) 20150607_ Interview w Sally 3 (Small) 

My Interview with Sally Sagoe

Tonight is formal night.  Ellen went to the Britannia ahead of me and spoke to the Maitre D in charge of seating.  She was able to get a seat assignment at a table of six – just the two of us.  It was hot in the dining room so I put my jacket on the seat (after I noticed someone else doing the same).

But the biggest treat of the night was “Vegetarian Onion Soup”, which is about as rare as a four leaf clover.  The magical moment was documented.

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Eating my very special Onion Soup

We also had “Salmon Wellington” – salmon fillet in a bread crust. The dinner and service were both great (including hot decaf coffee)and we had some time to read or listen to music before the show tonight.  We found out that the piano vocalist in the Commodore Lounge (Deck 10) is Clarolyn Maier, whom we first met on our Grand Panama Canal Cruise on the Pacific Princess in 2009.

We went to the 8:30 Show tonight.  The Royal Court Theater is terraced, making all the seats pretty good.  There is also good leg room.  The best seats, we found, were located in the first row beyond the Orchestra Section.  You can see over the small railing and you are only 10 rows from the stage.  Perfect.

The Production Show - “A Stroke of Genius” - included songs inspired by art. My favorite number was “Starry Starry Night”.  The singers and dancers are great – very high energy with some wild choreography (including some gymnastic moves).

20150601_Stroke of Genius - The State of the Art (Small)

“The State of the Art”

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“Starry Starry Night”

20150601_ Stroke of Genius 1 (Small)

20150601_ Stroke of Genius (Small)

20150601_ Stroke of Genius - Finale (Small)


We listened to Clarolyn for a while – she only played – no vocals.

Off to the room to rest up for our first port tomorrow.

Queen Victoria – Mediterranean Cruise – June 3-21,2015

Embarkation Day

While the weather continues to be beautiful in Civitavecchia, we are eager to get on the ship.

Breakfast at the Hotel is interesting and very different from the previous two times we have stayed here.  The best part is the coffee, which is made to order by the waitress/barista.   I am using as much of my minimal Italian as I can so, I tell her:  “Caffe Americano, per favore” and what I get is a real sized cup with espresso diluted with steamed water.  After I put in the milk, it tastes just like the expensive stuff at Starbucks.

There is also corn flakes and granola.  No hot items and the only source of protein we can have is milk and cheese.  Many of the pastries are commercially wrapped – croissants, sweet rolls.  Many of them are good but it is a sugar-heavy pastry type of breakfast. 

Still the Hotel Traghetto is a good deal at 80 Euros/night including the breakfast.  Our room, 402, did not appear to have neighbors – not a sound was heard.  The bathroom was also very nice with good water pressure and a nice shower.  You can walk to anywhere in Civitavecchia from the hotel.

Another new factor is that since the last time we were here several years ago, a new entrance to the port has been constructed.  Instead of walking halfway back to the train station, we just have to walk about 75 yards around the corner to find the shuttle busses for the port.  Civitavecchia is a huge port and you cannot walk to your ship – busses are the only way to get there.

There are other ships here today

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Civitavecchia – Full of Ships

including the Island Princess, an MSC Cruiser, and one of the Sea Dream Yachts. 

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The Queen Victoria from our Hotel Balcony

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A Sea Dream Yacht

After checking out of the hotel, we went to the shuttle bus pickup zone and were delighted to find the bus for the Queen Victoria waiting for us.  We were the only two people on the bus and he took us right to the ship.

We were assigned priority boarding (“Guest Entertainer”) and around 11:30 AM, we checked in with no waiting and a few minutes later we were on the ship.

The Queen Victoria looks like a brand new ship and a very well appointed one, as well.  We did a little exploring to get our bearings on this ship.

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Ellen in the Grand Lobby

 20150606_Royal Court Theater (Small) 

The Royal Court Theater  

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The Queen’s Room

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Britannia Dining Room

After dropping off our walk on bags in the room (4078 – Deck 4 Forward),

20150606_ Stateroom 4078 Forward (Small)

Stateroom 4078

we went up to the Lido Buffet on Deck 9 Aft.  The buffet on this ship is huge and not at all like the one on the QM2.  They make pasta and pizza to order along with a salad bar and hot items.  The lunch was very good – I sampled some pasta and pizza.  The iced tea is also good but I had to get that myself.

Ellen is resting in the room, while I am typing this in Hemispheres,

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Hemispheres Lounge

a lounge on Deck 10 overlooking the Lido Pool

20150606_Lido Pool Deck 9 (Small)

Next to the pool is The Winter Garden with a retractable room to keep out inclement weather.  There are a series of flat screen TVs in there but they are turned down low.  It’s too warm to be in there right now.

20150606_Lido Bar (Small)

Winter Garden

We went to the Britannia Restaurant to inquire about seating.  We were told to come back tomorrow when all of the switching of seats was completed.  Tonight, we are going to have dinner in the Lido Buffet.

After the Lifeboat Drill at 5:00 PM, we met with Liam O’Leary, the Production Manager, about the logistics of my presentations (Sally Sagoe is the Entertainment Manager and Alex MacDonald is the Assistant Entertainment Manager).  I also found out that the other speaker on board was Peter Quartermaine (Maritime History),  The meeting was short but we covered everything.  There would be three presentations in the Royal Court Theater (two at 12:15 PM and one at 11:00 AM).

Dinner in the Lido Buffet was very good – More pizza and a very nice salad bar.

The Sail Away featured a beautiful wife and a beautiful sunset.

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20150606_sunset (Small) 

We attended the “Welcome Aboard Show” at 10:30 PM in the Royal Court Theater.  Sally introduced her staff and then the Royal Cunard Singers (4) and Dancers (12) did a series of numbers.  They are both very good so we are anticipating some very fine entertainment on board.