September 27, 2011
We Are Cunard
Guest Blog – Mike Perkin – Guest on board Queen Victoria’s Pearls of the Black Sea Voyage
This was our seventh cruise with Cunard, taking us to nine historic cities in five countries, across four famous seas (the Adriatic, Aegean, Ionian and Black Sea), and two Continents. If that sounds daunting, cruising provided the answer, waking up each morning to find our 5-star hotel having re-located itself overnight! After a short flight from Heathrow to Venice, we transferred to Queen Victoria and quickly found ourselves at home. Our stateroom had the customary welcome pack and additional “goodies” to celebrate our wedding anniversary. After a splendid dinner, the day ended with the sailaway party and a welcome show in the Royal Court Theatre.
A day and a half later, we anchored off Katakolon in an idyllic bay at the Southern tip of Greece, and visited Olympia to see the historic beginnings of the Olympic Games.
Sailing overnight through the Dardanelles, we arrived in Istanbul – a huge, bustling city with hundreds of mosques, ornate palaces, a famous bazaar and two modern suspension bridges across the Bosphorus. For us though, the “main event” was to visit the Crimea, recalled from history lessons years ago. In Yalta our shore trip was to Sevastopol’s Panorama building, where we saw a 3D recreation of the defence of the city. Outside the city, looking down from Sapoune Heights, where Lord Raglan had observed the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade, our guide Olga recited the whole of Tennyson’s famous poem of the battle – a stunningly poignant moment. By complete contrast, we then drove to Balaklava for lunch and a tour of tunnels that housed nuclear submarines of the Soviet Black Sea fleet during the Cold War – amazing!
Day 8 brought us to Odessa and a tour of the Soviet Partisan Catacombs and several of the architectural highlights of the city viewed en route from the coach. That evening, sailing south across the Black Sea, we were blessed with another glorious sunset. The following day we were again able to see Queen Victoria’s funnel creep under Istanbul’s two suspension bridges and, as the day ended, see the monuments on the Dardanelles that commemorate the many lives lost in the Gallipoli campaign of the Great War.
Our next port was Kusadasi, on the Asian side of Turkey, to visit the archaeological sites at Ephesus, Miletus and Didyma. Our amusing guide Oz gave a great account of these ancient places.
Having sailed overnight to Naples, we took a hydrofoil trip to the nearby island of Capri. “In Capri we don’t need driving lessons, we need imagination”, said our comical guide as we sped away, threading our mini coach through the eye of several needles up the hilly landscape. Here were great views, a pleasant lunch, if a bit hot indoors, but another fine destination to tick off the list.
Throughout the voyage, we had faultless service from our Princess Grill waiters and superb food. We relaxed while at sea, in between talks by newsreader Nicholas Owen, readings from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen by Robert Powell, listening to some of the musicians around the ship, and occasional retail therapy. We always go to the evening shows, they may not all be to everyone’s tastes but with great costumes and backing music, the performers clearly enjoy what they do and work so hard that we are rarely disappointed. On other days we saw fine musicianship from Kenny Martyn but best of all were the comedy juggler, Pete Matthews, with his great skill and hilarious interaction with the audience, and comedian Allan Stewart who had us in stitches!
Finally, they say the sign of a good company is how it responds when things go wrong. After another super cruise with Cunard we faced chaos and confusion when checking in at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for our flight home. But sensing the mood as we boarded, BA’s cabin services director gave an immediate, comprehensive and heartfelt apology that received spontaneous applause from all on board; “If you’re going on a business trip I hope it’s a successful one, if you’re in transit I hope it’s a smooth one, if you’re going on another cruise may it be a Cunard one and if you’re flying I hope you’ll fly with BA”. As Cunard’s preferred flying partner it was good to see them striving to maintain the high standards that both companies are known for, so many thanks to Cunard and BA for a wonderful holiday.