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Canberra at Funchal, Madeira.

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Itinerary = ports at anchor
Saturday 13th May-Southampton
Sunday-at sea
Monday-Vilagarcia, Spain
Tuesday-Lisbon, Portugal
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
Friday-Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Saturday-Funchal, Madeira
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 23rd May-Southampton

This was my first cruise exclusively with Dad and he was concerned that I might not cope with having to share a cabin with him! Thankfully, his fears proved groundless.

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Boarding in Southampton
We drove by car to Southampton and boarding could not have been smoother; in fact, by the time we arrived at the Mayflower Terminal, even though we were in plenty of time, most passengers had already gone aboard and the waiting hall was almost empty!
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(above) Loading the luggage. (above right) The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals provides a traditional sailaway, with streamers!

Show Picture Full Size Four years earlier, when we left Southampton aboard QE2, we were disappointed not to have any streamers for our send-off. Thankfully, P&O were still maintaining this popular tradition for Canberra and on the crowded Promenade Deck we listened to the band of the Royal Corps of Signals give us a rousing sail-away.
Our Twin Cabin A3 Deck Plan >>
Our H-grade cabin was in the old 1st-class forward part of the ship, with twin beds, en-suite bathroom and a fabulous view of the bows >>
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Our restaurant assignment was Table No.68 in the Pacific Restaurant. Situated forward, this was the smaller of her two restaurants and was originally for her First-class passengers, seating about 550 in one sitting. Served by a common galley, there are now two sittings in both restaurants and the menu and service are the same. The largely "homestyle" cuisine was reliable and quite good but while service from her traditionally Goan stewards was efficient, it perhaps lacked a little finesse.

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Our table companions proved an eclectic group; an elderly scottish widow, a mother and daughter (who was an air-traffic controller) & an elderly gentlemen who examined his menu through a magnifying glass!
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Menu 1 >> Menu 2 >> Menu 3 >> Menu 4 >>

The Traditional Lunchtime Curry
Something of a P&O tradition dating back to the days of the Raj and the Passage to India, was that the lunch menu always included a curry, which would be served together with all the trimmings and condiments. To this day, this tradition has proved popular with P&O's British passengers and we enjoyed it too! In fact, Dad & I much preferred to enjoy a relaxing lunch in the main restaurant, rather than the hectic "Cafeteria-style" of the self-service buffet in the Island Room. See also a Typical Lunch Menu >>

Sunday 14th May
The Bay of Biscay
On a grey and blustery day, we were shadowed across the Bay of Biscay by Fred Olsen's little Black Prince. Occasionally, she would plunge into a trough, sending spray over her bows; Canberra just plodded on, steady as a rock!
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Show Picture Full Size The stoical steadiness of Canberra was reinforced by the reassuring sound of the "pips" at 7 o'clock from the BBC World Service on the in-cabin radio. It felt like the ship was anchored in the 1960's! However, somewhat surprisingly, there was no Captain's Cocktail Party tonight - but this didn't stop us having our portrait done!

Monday 15th May
Vilagarcia de Arosa, Spain
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Passing Cape Finisterre (from the Latin "Land's End") in the early hours, we dropped anchor off this small fishing town in the heart of rural Galicia and embarked the tenders. The main reason for Canberra's call here is for passengers to visit the historic city of Santiago de Compostela.

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Tendering ashore Santiago de Compostela
Palacio de Rajoy
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
at Vilagarcia (The City Hall) El Obradoiro
The West Facade
Nave, Altar & Shrine of St James Swinging the Botafumeiro

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela takes is name from its claim to be the resting place of the body of St James The Apostle. In the Middle Ages, no shrine was more highly venerated and pilrims flocked from all parts of Christendom to take The Way of St James. Even today, it is a pilgrimage thousands still take as a form of religious penance.

Sweeping alterations in the 16th & 18th Centuries hide the fact that the present Cathedral dates from the 11th Century, having been built over the crypt of an earlier chapel. One of its many significant features is its Botafumeiro or incense-burner, the largest in the World and one which is
precariously raised and swung above the heads of congregation, to grand effect. Indeed, we were told by our guide that P&O had made a "donation" of 35,000 Pesetas for it to be Show YouTube video-clip
specially swung for our benefit! Mind you, they do this every day for the "Pilgrims"! Show Video

An Alarming Incident!
We are about to leave Vilagarcia at about 5.30pm and the Captain announces that we will be late in Lisbon because the Authorities have asked us not to pick up the pilot before 10.00am! "A combination of reasons", he says. They are still bringing-up the anchor at 6.45pm when all the alarms go off on board. The Captain comes on and says, "We have a small electrical problem that is under control." (He means a fire, of course!) Then at 8.30pm, he announces that we have "lost" the starboard engine (it's burnt-out!) and we are proceeding on one engine at 16 knots, so we'll be even later arriving in Lisbon, where 4-5 hours of repairs will be needed!

Tuesday 16th May
Lisbon, Portugal
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True to the Captain's word, by 11.00am we were sailing up the River Tagus towards the impressive Salazar Suspension Bridge, now renamed the 25th April Bridge after the 1974 revolution in Portugal. When opened in 1966, it was the 5th longest suspension bridge in the World, with a main span of 3,323ft (1,013m) & an overall length of 1.4 miles (2.28km).

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The Belem Tower
Monument to the Discoveries
& St Jeronimos Monastery
The 25th April Bridge
& Statue of Christ the King
Canberra ties-up

This was Dad's first visit to Lisbon, so we had booked a short morning tour of the city, but as we were now late, we had to skip lunch to take the tour which then proved to be a disappointment. It barely paused at any of the main sights; the Monument to the Discoveries, also known as the Monument to Henry the Navigator because it was completed in 1960 in time for the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator; the 16th Century Belem Tower, on an island in the River and once part of Lisbon's medieval defenses; and the Jeronimos Monastery.

Moreover, everywhere we went there were road-works; in fact it seemed that the whole of Lisbon was being dug-up and reconstructed. I wrote in my diary, "I thought the Earthquake was in 1755!"

We abandoned the coach tour down town to explore on our own and after ice-creams, we made our way back to the ship by way of the local train that runs along the front past the Cruise Terminal.

Wednesday 17th May
At Sea - South to the Canaries
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After a strenuous day being independent tourists, not to mention missing our lunch yesterday, a relaxing day at sea was a welcome respite. The weather seemed to be improving too!

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The Bridge "Wedding Cake"
Signal Mast
A game of cricket on
Sun Deck
Her iconic
Twin Funnels
The Bonito Pool
The old First Class Sun Deck

During the morning, we watched "Mr Motivator" being filmed by the TV crew for GMTV's "Shape-Up for Summer" programme. He had plenty of passengers as recruits! View Video >> Show YouTube video-clip

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Canberra's Promenade Deck, protected from the weather and sheltered by her lifeboats slung inboard, proved a popular spot for passengers seeking a little shade from the heat of the sun.

The Cricketers' Tavern (right), dates back to the Tourist-class days of the 1960's but to this day remains popular with many of Canberra's staunchly British passengers! Neptunes (below left) began life as the Tourist-class Smoking-Room, the Peacock Room. The underwater pool-viewing windows were added when the ship became one-class for cruising in 1974. Show Picture Full Size

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Neptunes Night Club
with windows to the pool
The Meridian Room
Promenade Deck
Spiral Stairway The Crow's Nest
Observation Lounge

On Promenade Deck, the Meridian Room (above), was the main Lounge for First-class. It still has its adjacent Cocktail Bar, the Century Bar, as well as its exclusive spiral stairway leading up 3 decks past the First-class cabins to the main Observation Lounge, the Crow's Nest, still popular today.

A weakness shared with ships of her period, however, is that Canberra has no proper Show-Lounge and to accommodate the modern concept of "Production Shows", they converted the old First-class Sports Deck, The Stadium, into an improvised venue, giving birth to the Stadium Theatre Company which today produces the shows on all P&O's ships. Read more about Canberra at the Canberra Ship Gallery >>

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Thursday 18th May
Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
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We dropped anchor off the southern tip of the island of Lanzarote and again we were tendered ashore in the ship's boats.
Our landing was the small harbour of Playa Blanca. Until recently little more than a fishing village, this quiet little "nowhere" was in its early stages of development as a resort. (right) Sleepy Playa Blanca >> Show Picture Full Size

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Timanfaya National Park Restaurante El Diablo
A demonstration of "Montanas del Fuego"
Cultivated volcanic terraces &
the north-east coast from

Mirador de Haria

Timanfaya National Park is the busiest tourist attraction on the island and is the product of a series of volcanic eruptions in the 18th Century which resulted in a third of the island, including 11 villages, being buried beneath 33 ft of lava. The camel-rides are optional!

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At the Restaurante el Diablo, they cook steaks over an open volcanic pit. Just 2 feet below the surface it's 460 degrees celsius; a demonstration with a bucket of water down a hole proved it!

From the viewpoint at Mirador del Rio (left) in the north of the island, we had a fantastic view across to the tiny island of Isla Graciosa.

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(above) Steps descend to a series of volcanic tubes & caves revealing an underground lake & an auditorium beneath tropical gardens

Show Picture Full Size Our all-day tour included lunch; a rather feeble affair of soup, fried fish and watered-down wine but it was a beautiful day and still a good tour.

Unfortunately, by the end of the day, Dad was beginning to feel poorly - the onset of a bad cold!

(left/right) Canberra's not the only thing that looks good in white!
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That evening aboard Canberra, they held a Tropicana Party on the open deck - in spite of the fact that the temperature had fallen to a chilly 10 degrees! Nothing stops a "Compulsory Happy Time"!

Friday 19th May
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
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Raising the anchor at 10.15pm, we covered the short passage 125 miles through the night, to arrive in the capital of this the largest of the Canary Islands.

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Docking in
Santa Cruz
Plaza Espana
Spanish Civil War Monument
General Franco Monument Garcia Sanabria
Municipal Park

(right) Circle of Friendship Bldg (1855); (far right) Church of Our Lady of Pilar

Here a half-day excursion up Mercedes Mountain provided a visit to the historic city of San Cristobal de La Laguna, at one time the administrative capital of the island. Because of its abundance of preserved streets of historic houses, La Laguna has since 1999 been listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
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San Cristobal de La Laguna
In the distance, Mt Teide rises to 12,194 ft
La Iglesia del Cristo
and its solid silver altar & reredos

The precariously winding road continues through the Anaga Mountains in the north of the island and through a tunnel built in 1996, you can reach the isolated settlement of Taganana, where low cloud clinging to the mountains can create an entirely different climate from just a few miles away.

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The settlement of Taganana
Until a tunnel built in 1996, limited to access by donkey
The Georg Stage
The Danish full-rigged sail-training ship

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Saturday 20th May
Funchal, Madeira
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Discovered in 1419 by the Portuguese navigator Joao Goncalves Zarco, Madeira is quite seperate from the Canary Islands. Its benign climate has made it a popular winter retreat and it has been called "The Island of Flowers".
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(above) Captain Rory Smith on the Bridge and (above right) The harbour of Funchal; in the centre, Forte do Pico overlooks the city

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The Cathedral
from the sea-front
From the Marina
Avenida Arriaga Parque de Santa Caterina
the walls to the sea-front a cascade of flowers

Today, Dad wasn't at all well and had to visit the ship's doctor for some antibiotics. But he insisted I carry on with our planned excursion, the "high point" of which turned out to be quite literally that!

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It may not be Madeira's highest peak but at 5,964ft (1,818m), it's accessible by coach, albeit via a somewhat precipitous road! But the view above the clouds on a good day can be truly spectacular and the air here is so clear it's almost intoxicating!
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Sunday & Monday 21st-22nd May
At Sea - The return to Southampton
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On our way back to Southampton, the Captain took the opportunity of a quiet Sunday to permit passengers a Visit to the Bridge.
(Right & Below) Canberra's iconic 35 year-old Bridge & Signal Mast
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Junior Officer Port Bridge Wing Bridge Telegraphs The Main Bridge
& Steering Position
Chart Room

Show Picture Full Size Monday - The Traditional Daily Mileage Sweepstake
Yesterday's visit to the Bridge must have improved my luck for today's ship's mileage sweepstake, because I won 30.50 for a stake of 2! I calculated the ship would cover 545 miles from noon yesterday to noon today but I spread my bet to win with 543 miles!
(left) The Ship's Bell, hanging aft and displayed above the A-Deck Promenade

Canberra was becoming an old lady by this time. Although she had been refurbished following the Falklands War in 1982, it had taken its toll on her engines and her plumbing and electrical services. She was finally withdrawn by P&O in October 1997. Read more about her at the Canberra Ship Gallery >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,359 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 48,888 n miles

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