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John and QE2 in September 1982. QE2's new post-Falkands grey colour-scheme survived only about 9 months!
ItineraryShow Map
2nd October
- Fly to Naples and embark QE2
Monday-Palermo, Sicily
Tuesday-at sea
Thursday-Lisbon, Portugal
Friday-at sea
8th October

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QE2 in Palermo; now back in her more familiar charcoal-grey colour-scheme

Show Picture Full Size Just after the Falklands War in 1982,
I took John to Southampton to see QE2 following her refit. He had never seen a liner before and had dismissed any idea of going on a cruise, thinking it would be just like a cross-channel ferry, only for longer! However, when we got to the dockside (this was in the days when Port Security would still let you get that close), he gazed up at the enormous sight in front of him, awestruck, and said simply, "When are we going on it?" So, we went home and booked!

Sunday 2nd October 1983
Our First Cruise and my First real Flight!

John had travelled abroad before but I had only ever flown as far as Luxembourg, so this was my first real flight "with food" (apologies to Joyce Grenfell!) albeit pre-packed, plastic and tasteless!

The other Cunard passengers seemed a motley bunch and I couldn't help noticing the "difficult one", wearing jeans and a velvet jacket, who drank like a fish and consumed his "individual fruit pie" in an equally individual mouthful!
(right) Gatwick to Naples - British Island Airways Flight KD5311. Crossing the Alps into Italy
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Naples, Italy
We landed in glorious weather and to an almost seering heat that I had never experienced before! Our luggage was spirited away and we were met by a funny little Neapolitan guide who spoke only pigeon-English and who whisked us off on an unexpected whirlwind tour of Pompeii and Naples.

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Intrepid Me! House in Pompeii The Ruins of Pompeii
Mount Vesuvius in the background

During this breakneck tour, we were bundled into a little restaurant and we were joined at our table by a man and his wife. It wasn't until the following evening on board that we realised that the man we had been talking to was none other than guitarist Bert Weedon!

After a "trinket-stop" at a cameo factory and through chaotic Italian traffic, we arrived at the ship in the dark, to be greeted by the enormous illuminated stern of QE2 towering above us! In a 'Mussolini-era' Terminal building straight out of a Hollywood spectacular, we checked-in.....

Show Picture Full Size Sunday evening 2nd October
All Aboard for our First Cruise!
We had booked a J-grade outside twin cabin 3169 but on checking-in, we were were told our cabin was F-grade 2053.
(left) The Midships Lobby & (right) Our F-grade Cabin 2053
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Without realising it, we had been upgraded to "First Class"! Our luggage had already been taken from us at the airport and had gone onto the ship with all the wrong labels on, so it was all the more amazing that it was already in our cabin when we got there - just as well, because we only had an hour to unpack our things and dress to go into Dinner in the rather plush Columbia Restaurant!

Show Picture Full Size We were already acquainted with excellent cuisine on land and we were a little surprised that aboard QE2 it was by no means exceptional. But it was very good; service was polite and efficient and there was a tangible atmosphere of excitement and high-living! Show Picture Full Size
The elegant entrance to
The Columbia Restaurant
Menus: Our First Night Dinner Menu >> & Typical Lunch Menu >> The First-class
Columbia Restaurant

We were naturally apprehensive on meeting our table companions for the first time but we soon discovered them to be a happy, friendly group and really easy to get on with. Our Table Group >>

Show Picture Full Size On my first night at sea, I slept beautifully and knew that I had discovered what I had been looking for. Full of excitement, we were up early next day and witnessed dawn over the Tyrrhenian Sea as we approached Palermo, our first port-of-call.
Monday 3rd October
Palermo, Sicily
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After watching all the activity while docking and then enjoying a huge breakfast, we set off on our 3-hour organised sightseeing tour, costing all of 5 each! In fact,
this being such a short cruise, we were lucky to get tickets at all for an excursion on our first day, but this one showed us the city sights around the sprawling city of Palermo and then took us up to the hillside town of Monreale and its cathedral, where the cloister was technically closed but on greasing the right palm, our guide was able to get us in. "In Sicily, Mafia is omnipotent" she said!

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An enormous Queen Elizabeth 2
alongside Palermo Stazione Marittima
Monreale Cathedral Palermo
The Bonanno Gardens

After lunch back aboard, and braving warnings of "villains and footpads", we ventured ashore on foot to do some exploring on our own. To be honest, we were not that impressed with Palermo; much like Naples, it was noisy, dirty and very dilapidated and yet the people seemed so well-dressed, healthy and attractive! We felt quite brave and adventurous when we returned!

After we had watched the fascinating activity ashore and on deck and the departure from Palermo, we went below and saw 2 lost Korean passengers wearing life-jackets in the corridor. It was then we realised that we had completely ignored the special Boat Drill for passengers joining in Naples!

Tuesday 4th October
A Day at Sea in the Mediterranean
It was glorious at sea! After a huge breakfast, we changed and took photos, then changed again because at 11.30am there was a special Captain's Cocktail Reception for those of us who joined in Naples; handshakes with the Captain, followed by champagne and caviar; and all before lunch!

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The view astern Boat Deck John QE2's iconic
Signal Mast
Me. What legs!

We were somewhat overawed by QE2's sumptuous and cavernous interior. As well as vast lounges and numerous bars, there were even shops and a casino, and no fewer than 4 swimming-pools!

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The elegant Queen's Room
and Oscar Nemon's bust of HM The Queen
The impressive
Double Room
The first-class
Columbia Restaurant

There were also 3 other restaurants, apart from the one we were assigned to, the First-class Columbia Restaurant. Our competent young senior steward, John, was very good but his assistant was a surly youth called Shane, who did not endear himself to John when asked to replace a dirty fork! Service was in those days very "British", heavily unionised and notoriously erratic. But we knew no better at the time and were content with the vast array of choices and generous portions!

See more Photos of the ship's interior at the QE2 Ship Gallery >>

Our fellow table-companions were proving great fun and tonight was the Passengers' Fancy Dress Masquerade. One of the two sisters on our table, Norma, dressed head to toe in paper doilies and went as "A Cheap Frill"; she didn't win but I thought that it was rather a clever idea!

Wednesday 5th October
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Show Picture Full Size A brief moment of drama!
Gibraltar was shrouded in a heat-haze when we made our approach around mid-day. However, the wind and currents were so strong that the tugs could not turn the ship, even with the help of QE2's own bow-thrusters. Suddenly, with a loud "thwack", one of the tugs' hawsers snapped and whipped the air before landing in the sea with a great "splash". It caused quite a stir because seamen have been known to be decapitated in such accidents! Fortunately on this occasion, no-one was hurt. Eventually, the pilot boat took one of the ship's lines across to the dock and QE2 slowly winched herself alongside, with the aid of 3 tugs pushing from the other side!

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John & Me The Cable-Lift John
(From Signal Hill)
View of the harbour
QE2 is just visible on the outer mole

We only had a 4-hour stop here, so we skipped lunch and headed into town for the Cable-Lift, getting-off half way to see the Barbary Apes. It was very hot and humid and John had had enough by then but he will tell you how I forced him to walk the rest of the way to the top!

We did walk up as far as St Michael's Cave, where the uplit stalactites and stalagmites in the auditorium were quite impressive, but after tea and a sandwich, we then took the cable-lift to the summit before finding our way back down to the ship. I must admit, it was rather a long way!

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Barbary Ape The limestone auditorium of
St Michael's Cave
A rousing send-off from
The Regimental Band
The Rock of Gibraltar

The ship left at 5.00pm to the Band of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment playing on the quayside; tugs and cheering, QE2's deafening whistle and Pomp & Circumstance from the band - the works!

The suggested dress-code for Dinner that evening was "Formal" again but neither of us had a dinner suit, just a couple of nice jackets. At our table the 2 sisters cheekily commented that the only difference between our 'formal' and 'informal' outfits was a bow-tie! Show Picture Full Size

Shortly after leaving Gibraltar, we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic. During the night, as we lay in bed, we sensed a new motion of the ship - and a detectable swell!

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Thursday 6th October
Lisbon, Portugal
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Lisbon was only my 2nd foreign Capital and we made a spectacular dawn entrance, passing beneath the enormous 25th April Bridge. As the mast passed underneath, we saw the vehicles humming to & fro above us!

Show Picture Full Size Opened in 1966, the Salazar Bridge, as it was christened, 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). The Bridge was renamed after the 1974 revolution in Portugal. Show Picture Full Size
QE2 passes beneath the 3,323ft central span (1,013m) of the 25th April Bridge over the River Tagus, upon our arrival in Lisbon

On the other side of the River Tagus beside the Bridge, barely visible through the heat-haze, was the great Statue of Christ the King, standing 360ft high, but that was not on our itinerary today.

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Another view of
The Tagus Bridge
Monument to
the Discoveries
The Jeronimos
Belem Tower Tropical Fernery
King Edward VII Park

Our morning tour made various other stops though; 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 close by. With the Carriage Museum and glimpses of the Moorish Castle of St George above the old part of the city, we were enthralled. Our guide was good too and she was well-tipped by everyone!

Show Picture Full Size We joined the ladies from our table for an afternoon tour which, in contrast, took us out to the pretty hillside town of Sintra, with its old royal Summer Palace and Moorish fortress ruins, then after nearly losing the ladies in the shops, back through Cascais & Estoril, resorts along the coast.
(left) The Palace Square in Sintra; on top of the hill are the impressive ruins of the Moorish fortress

Lisbon has so much more to offer the sightseer than we were able to see in one day and we were getting the idea now that while ship's excursions could be a good way to see new places, they didn't give you long enough when you found somewhere you really liked! It was all a bit rushed but we loved it and knew this was a city we wanted to come back to - and in our own time!
(right) In a spectacular sunset departure, QE2 departs for Southampton - and home!
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Our First Private Cocktail Party!
That evening, the 2 sisters on our table, Pat & Norma, had a few friends in their cabin for drinks and we were invited to join them. QE2 was now out to sea and pitching quite noticeably and they all began teasing me that my hopes for a rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay would meet in disaster!

For Dinner that night I had: Hearts of Palm, Tomato Soup & Sea-food Vol-au-vent, followed by Sirloin Steak (rare), Lemon Sourbet, Coffee and Petit-fours! Gosh, I was full after that!

Friday 7th October
A Day at Sea & crossing the Bay of Biscay
As we made our blustery passage across the Bay of Biscay towards home and began repacking our suitcases, we pondered all the wonderful things we had experienced in the last 5 days.

Show Picture Full Size Our senses had been bombarded with new sights, new tastes and new languages; we had made friends among strangers, had experienced our first Captain's Cocktail Party and had been entertained by the likes of Bert Weedon, Tony Christie & even Danny LaRue! Show Picture Full Size
One-deck Pool & Lido Sports Deck

We had slept soundly in our beds with the motion of the sea beneath us. It was a magical world set-apart from the hum-drum world at home and at work. Disembarkation the following day was a long, drawn-out process and we returned home by way of the Boat Train to Waterloo.

I wrote in my diary, "Life can never be viewed as before, once you have experienced such intense enjoyment and serene satisfaction. I am sure I can still feel the ship moving beneath my feet!"

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 2,238 nautical miles

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