Alastair Holden

Al Holden

Alastair Holden




Europe » Portugal » Lisbon & Tagus Valley » Lisbon April 12th 2019

Lisbon 11th April Our final port of call and we were arriving a good couple of hours late due to fighting head winds all day yesterday as we came out of the Mediterranean Sea, through the straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean. Normally we approach quite early in the morning so it gave us a chance to see the coastline in the daylight as we sailed up the river Tagus to our berth. We berthed at the newest terminal prow to prow with the Aurora, our next cruise ship which will take us to the Caribbean in January 2020. Lisbon is Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city. From imposing São Jorge Castle, the view encompasses the old city’s pastel-colored buildings, Tagus Estuary and Ponte 25 of April suspension bridge. Since our visit last year they ... read more
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Europe » Spain » Catalonia » Barcelona » La Rambla April 10th 2019

Barcelona 9th April Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and Spains second largest city. Everywhere you’ll see the ornately works of Antonio Gaudi, 20th century Modernism emblematic constructions declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. I make no apology for this Travel Blog turning into a food blog but you cannot come to a city that prides itself on its cuisines, with many different styles including Catalan. So starting out from the statue of Christopher Columbus at the bottom of La Rambla we headed up to the Plaza Catalunya. We were meeting friends for lunch, including 8 other fellow travellers who are travelling with us QM2. But first some sites, including the famous market of La Rambla, Mercat de la Boqueria where all the locals shop in particular for fresh produce including fresh fish, Jamon, meats and all ... read more
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Europe » Italy » Lazio » Civitavecchia April 8th 2019

Civitavecchia 7th April Civitavecchia is a city in central Italy in the region of Lazio, a sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea and about 37 miles from the centre of Rome. For visitors and tourists in the gateway to The Eternal City of Rome. We knew the port was going to be busy, three other cruise ships in, all on turnaround days that is all off and new passengers on including some (a few embarking QM2). So some 10,000 off and 10,000 on makes for one busy port. We have been on the Rome trip before and it is always busy, being a Sunday as well, but just to throw a spanner in the works it was also the day of the Rome marathon. Best to stay away!!!! So, what to do in Civitavecchia, well I ... read more
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Middle East » Cyprus » Limassol April 5th 2019

Limassol 4th April Our first visit to Cyprus and the city of Limassol, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and lies tucked away in the North East corner. The history of Cyprus goes way back with Richard the Lionheart seizing the island on the way to the Holy Land to do battle with Saladin. When he left to continue the Crusade he sold the island to the Knights Templar. Limassol is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus. It’s known for the centuries-old Limassol Castle, home to the Cyprus Medieval Museum and its collection of pottery and tombstones. On the seafront is the Sculpture Park, with sculptures by Cypriot, Greek and international artists. To the northeast is the Limassol Archaeological Museum, exhibiting artifacts from the Neolithic to the Roman periods. As always ... read more
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Africa » Egypt » Lower Egypt » Suez April 5th 2019

Transiting the Suez Canal 3rd April We sailed the Suez Canal back in 2014 and didn’t realise the changes that were coming. Since 2014 a new section has been built which I’ll come onto later. Not a history lesson but a bit of background to the Canal. It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, officially opened in November 1869 and is a sea level waterway that connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea unlike the Panama Canal that has locks because of the difference in sea levels between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s length is just over 120 miles and takes approximately 10/12 hours to go through. The original canal was a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lakes. As I said ... read more
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Middle East » Jordan » South » Aqaba April 2nd 2019

April 1st Aqaba After 3 sea days its nice to get feet back on terra firma. We came to Jordan and in particular Petra in 2014 (you’ll have to go back and read the blog) and it is still the main tourist attraction when you come to Jordan. As you arrive at the berth, you have four countries visible from the ship. Egypt is on your port side (left), Israel to the front, Jordan on the starboard (right) and behind you is Saudi Arabia. Aqaba is the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Aqaba plays a major role in the development of the Jordanian economy , through the vibrant trade and tourism sectors. It is Jordans winter resort on the Red Sea and as we ... read more
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Middle East » Oman » Dhofar March 30th 2019

Queen Mary 2 and cruising to Salalah Great transfer to QM2 and looking forward to 3 days at sea before berthing in Salalah. QM2 has been remastered since our last cruise on her in 2015. So what has changed, exploring shows not a lot. To me she is still imbalanced with the Queens room are the rear of the ship and access is still up and down. They’ve created a lovely Carinthia lounge which used to be the Winter Gardens, a very underused space but now a more airy area!!! So apart from extra cabins on and extra kennels, nothing much has changed, general decor and titivation!! Salalah is a southern city in the Sultanate of Oman, the capital of the Dhofar region I worked here in 1977, more in Muscat but there was a dairy ... read more
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Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Dubai March 25th 2019

Dubai 23rd & 24th March Well its a hard life. Our second day in Dubai (at leisure) gave us time to explore the QE2 more with an afternoon tour (more Structured) to give an insight to what they are going to preserve and what to modernise. It’s a busy ship, I know its a hotel but to us walking up the gangways, you do come on board. Today there were conferences, a birthday party (Paddington themed) for a 2 year old (no expense spared) and business meetings. This evening we were in the Queens Grill for a 5 course dining experience, and it didn’t disappoint. From the Amuse Bouche, Soup (potato & leek), Fish (Sea Bass, curry butternut, samosa, Coriander crusted potato & pickled shallots), a main of Angus Beef Tenderloin (with braised beef cheek, a ... read more
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Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Dubai March 23rd 2019

Saturday 23rd March I now realise why we don’t like flying. Ok, the initial boarding at Birmingham was tolerable, the flight tolerable but when we landed at Dubai so did 22 other flights within 30 to 40 mins and that caused chaos in passport control and immigration. Our accommodation looked good as we circled waiting to land, the Queen Elizabeth 2 looking majestic in Port Rashid lit by a watery morning sun. She looked to all intent and purposes ready to set sail but sadly her cruising days are long gone but from a distance she was looking good. This holiday is to reacquaint us with Queen Elizabeth 2, the first ship we ever cruised on and we jumped at the chance to stay on her when the package was announced a few months ago. We ... read more
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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Worcestershire » Worcester March 20th 2019

A little adventure to warm the bones after a winter in the UK We fly to Dubai tomorrow to stay on the recently refurbished Queen Elizabeth 2, now a hotel. She was the first ship we ever cruised on and so we have fond memories of her, in 2014 when we visited Dubai she was a rusting hulk nestled between two tankers. Then after 3 days we transfer to Queen Mary 2 for our cruise home via Oman, Jordan, Suez, Cyprus, Italy, Spain & Portugal. Back in time for Easter Eggs... read more
Queen Mary 2




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