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| Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
Overall the cruise was 48 days long and took us from Fort Lauderdale to Auckland in New Zealand through an area of the world we had hardly touched in the past. Of the many places we visited all but three were new to us. Not all of the places of interest were 'ports' in the conventional sense and included a 1000 Nm trip up the Amazon, the furthest any ship of our size has been, then the Magellan Straits at the tip of South America, and also two Chilean Glaciers and a long period in the Chilean Fiords. We passed Easter Island and circumnavigated it close enough to see many of the famous Moai, the massive carved figures the islands famous for - they probably represented ancestors. We moored close to Pitcairn Island and over half of the small population came on board giving talks and selling their products. There were many long sea passages which we quite like and there were many excellent speakers covering the areas we visited giving us a much better understanding of a large area of the world. These included Lord King who was up till recently the Governor of the Bank of England who was one of the best speakers we have ever heard with an ability to make complexity simple and directly answer questions without evasion, and all without a single page of notes. We later had a Chilean winemaker on board providing wine tastings and wine dinners which have again opened up a new area to us.
It is difficult to say what were the real highlights, time may help. Candidates must include The Amazon and the Chilean Glaciers and Fiords but Easter Island and Pitcairn Island come close even without landing there. Other things that stand out are Opera Houses deep in the Amazon rain forest at Manaus and the many beautiful churches and stained glass in unlikely places. Disappointments were few, the only one that comes to mind is that there was less wildlife than we expected in such exotic areas. Certainly the ship and in particular the service was to an exceptional standard. Overall a memorable journey with an unprecedented number of pictures - at the last count there were 450 pictures spread over the eleven web pages and we have increased the sizes of the 'popup' images to do justice now that fast broadband and mobile internet is prevalent.
I think that the less said about the journey to reach the ship the better. American immigration has improved but is never welcoming and the hotel and travel arrangements worked for us but we got the feeling we were some of the lucky few. Cunard do so much better in Southampton than the Carneval experience in the USA. Once on board it was however like returning home after a few days away.
Queen Victoria departed Fort Lauderdale at 21.30, sailing towards the next port of Barbados which is 1443.2 nautical miles giving us three days relaxation at sea to look forward to.
Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands and was our first stop in the Caribbean and one of the few ports on this cruise we had visited before. Queen Victoria arrived at 07.00 and there were three other cruise ships in port. It was going to be busy in town later. As we strolled towards the port gate there were already catamarans full of tourists setting off for their morning beach excursion. Barbados is approximately the same size as the Isle of Wight with the Atlantic Ocean on its east coast and the calm waters of the Caribbean sea on the south and west coasts. It is famous for its fine white sandy beaches with gentle swimming on the west coast and fine beachfront hotels. It is also famous for its shopping with a number of highclass stores selling jewelry, designer clothes and electronics. The main industry is tourism, followed by growing sugar cane.
The most popular tourist trips involve the beautiful white sandy beaches - either simply sitting in the sunshine with a cold drink under a palm tree, or swimming and snorkelling in the clear blue waters. On our previous visit in 2011 on the Queen Elizabeth we booked a 5 hour catamaran and turtle tour on the Tiami, the same name catamaran we saw today. The seas around Barbados team with life and a catamaran trip is the best way to see the coast and to snorkel over reefs and wrecks and see and swim with turtles. We first did such a trip many years ago on the Wind Warrior when we used to visit on the Cunard Countess. The first stop was at Carlisle Bay which has many Green and Hawksbill Turtles and a few fishes. As soon as we were in the water we were joined by five or six large turtles which were close enough to touch the shells and for most of the time at least one was in sight - a magic experience - they are so much more graceful in the water than one would ever imagine. The catamaran then moved towards the Hilton Hotel where there was a wreck and lots more fish. The pictures of turtles and fish are from 2011. The beaches at Carlisle Bay are close to the cruise terminal and would be an easy taxi ride. The other popular beach for swimming, Paynes Bay, is further north.
Bridgetown is a large town and the capital of Barbados. Of the total population of 250,000, it is home to about 95,000 people. We walked into town from the ship, but there were lots of taxis waiting at the port gate. At every road junction there were friendly people offering taxis but they understood that we wanted to walk. Founded in 1628 Bridgetown is a bustling centre of commerce and seagoing activity. It was not far to walk into the town along the waterfront, first passing the Pelican Craft Village next to the Bus Station. It was only 2 kms to Parliament Square along the Princess Alice Highway and there were several airconditioned supermarkets where we looked unsuccessfully for local ground coffee. There was also a Fish Market, with a mixture of small fish and chunks of very large fish for sale. Their fishing boats were visible, moored beyond the market. Usually there are wild cats patrolling fish markets, looking for scraps, but here there was a hopeful white egret which the locals treated as a pest. Our target was to reach Parliament Square but turning along Prince Alfred Street towards Broad Street gave the chance to admire the Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society building. The building dates from 1894 and is a recognised historic building and in very good condition. There are many beautiful colonial buildings ion this area. Nearby was an italian coffee shop where for US$12 we bought a large packet of local ground coffee.
We continued to Parliament Square with its statue of Nelson and its fountain. Parliament Square was surrounded by a number of government buildings, and proudly flying the national flag. In 2006 the National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament was established in the historic west wing of the Parliament building. Entry was US$5 and included a guided tour of the House of Assembly and Senate. The Museum is self-guided and explores the history of the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth. In 2014 it celebrated its 375th anniversary. The development of political institutions, and the varied personalities who provided leadership are described. Having initially seemed to be a small museum it then opened out to describe the lives and qualities of the ten individuals who have been chosen for the National Heroes Gallery. These are : The Right Excellent Bussa (Born in Africa and killed during an 1816 slave uprising fighting for his freedom in Barbados.), The Right Excellent Sarah Ann Gill (1795–1866), The Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod (1806–1871), The Right Excellent Dr. Charles Duncan O'Neal (1879–1936), The Right Excellent Clement Osbourne Payne (1904–1941), The Right Excellent Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (1898–1971), The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow (1920–1987), The Right Excellent Sir Hugh Worrell Springer (1913–1994), The Right Excellent Sir Frank Leslie Walcott (1916–1998) and The Right Excellent Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers (1936– ). We had been allowed 45 minutes before our timed tour of Parliament and we only just completed our visit within the time allowed. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take photos within the museum because of copyright of the material on display.
The guided tour of the House of Assembly and the Senate was exactly that - the building is on the opposite side of the carpark to the museum and the group climbed up to the room of the House of Assembly with its seats for 30 members. It was like a miniature version of the British House of Commons, which we have visited both as tourists , invited visitors, and to advise Ministers as civil servants. The second House, the Senate, meets in a large room on the other side of the building and it was mentioned that the leader was a lady who was blind. The chandeliers are Waterford crystal. The screens were closed so it was not possible to admire the stained glass windows. It was pointed out that the carpet in the House of Assembly was green whereas that in the Senate was red. It reminded us of the port and starboard colours and that the Cunard ships also have two different coloured carpets, but they are red and blue. It is an excellent museum and it is very interesting to visit Parliament. The Parliament is not open everyday for visitors and is always closed on Tuesdays when Parliament meets. We wished there were information books for purchase, as there are for example about the Beehive in New Zealand. Limited information is found at www.barbadosparliament.com
We crossed over the Constitution River on the famous Chamberlian Bridge and through the arch to Independence Square. After browsing in the colourful shops we were confronted by the old BOAC Speedbird building in art deco style. Barbados used to be a popular destination for aircraft and Concorde flew here in the early days. The park in front of the building gives a good view backto town and has a statue of the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow looking across the river to the Parliament building. He is one of the Ten National Heroes described in the Museum of Parliament.
Then crossed back on the Charles Duncan Oneal bridge, having first looked around the bus terminal and the market. There were interesting vegetables at all the pavement stalls but no special fruit. Everything was locally grown and it must be the wrong season for exotic fruits. A few minutes walk further, St Michael’s cathedral was originally built in the 17th century and then re-built in 1780 in coral rock, like the main public buildings. In 2011 the area beyond the altar was closed for serious renovations but it is all completed now.
This was intended to be the end of our walk but instead of retracing our steps there was time for more exploration. This led us, partly by intention but partly by accident, to the Free Library, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, and the Courts of Justice. The cemetary contains graves which date back to the 1660s and is surrounded by a high wall. It was only when we were directed by locals that we realised we had found the synagogue. The present building dates back to 1833, located on the site of the original 1654 synagogue. The paper celebrating the consecration of the New Synagogue is framed on the wall inside. The building now belongs to the Barbados National Trust but it is not a museum; it is also used as a place of worship.
We mingled with the crowds in the shopping streets along Broad Street. After crossing a small park we reached St Mary’s church, which was open. In 1660 it was the site of the first parish church which was then moved to the present site of St Michael’s cathedral. The building dates from 1825 and it stands on the oldest consecrated land in the city. There were indictations that there would later be a funeral. The ground was prepared and pews were marked as reserved for parliamentarians inside the church, so it must be someone important. Continuing towards the Post Office, there were many outdoor stall and then the Cheapside Public Market. It is a two-storey market, of design similar to the market in Funchal. It was close to the port and there was a glimpse of a funnel at the end of the road and we were already close to the Bus Station and the Pelican Craft Centre.
There was plenty of time for a local Banks Beer at the Cruise Terminal before returning for a late lunch. Barbados also produces rum and the Mount Gay distillery, established in 1703, is just outside Bridgetown. It is proud that it is the world's oldest rum producer. The Queen Victoria sold their standard rum in the Duty Free shop but we paid a few extra dollars at the Cruise Terminal to buy the Black Barrel "small batch handcrafted rum ... finished in deeply toasted and charred Bourbon oak barrels". The bottles are numbered and ours was dated 05Sept2016. Twenty five years ago we noticed that local rum was cheaper than water in the shops, but that is definitely no longer true, at least in Barbados.
Travelling from Barbados to the Amazon Delta gave everyone the chance to enjoy the sunshine. The regulations on duty free purchases and bulk purchase of alcohol in Brazilian waters meant that any purchases had to be done before 2100 on 20 January for collection the following day. We have an unexpectedly early bottle of Drambuie which we will take ashore in New Zealand. Another consequence was that the three cocktail parties (Welcome, CWC and Senior Officers) all took place within the first week, and the Senior Officers Party was at lunchtime on the last available day at sea - very unusual.
The next part covers The Amazon River and Manaus in Brazil including a visit to the famous Opera House and a river trip to see the Meeting of the Waters where the Rio Negro and the Amazon run side by side for many kilometres without their very different waters mixing.