Queen Elizabeth_e

aller à la version française fr

Journey diary

2014 Southampton Puntarenas via New-York and Panama on board M/S Queen Elizabeth

All pictures of the journey here

2013 qe limon_2

…and those of Costa Rica after disembarkation here217162194247_044431

…and to see from the bow of M/S Queen Elizabeth here203_schubert_pos_mini

March 2013
The journey starts much before the embarkment. The booking on the ship is almost closed one year in advance. We rapidly book one of the last stateroom available with sea view and with no lifeboat in front of the window.
The organisation of a journey on a cargo ship is much more complicated that this one. You have to establish medical certificate and to contract a deviation insurance (see the journey diary on HS Schubert). On the Queen Elizabeth, nothing of that since a medical service is available on board due to the large number of passengers, which is obviously not the case on the commercial ship.
The journey
The itinerary of the vessel is precise to the hour unless a freak wave hits the ship, thus modifying the previsions…. Moreover, the route of a cruise ship is easier to schedule than a freighter because those often have to wait for a berth place in the harbours, or to start the commercial activities.

Date    Arrival    Departure    Port
10.01.2014    –    20:15    Southampton
11.01.2014    –    –    sea day
12.01.2014    –    –    sea day
13.01.2014    –    –    sea day
14.01.2014    –    –    sea day
15.01.2014    –    –    sea day
16.01.2014    –    –    sea day
17.01.2014    –    –    sea day
18.01.2014    06:00    21:00    New York
19.01.2014    –    –    sea day
20.01.2014    –    –    sea day
21.01.2014    07:00    21:00    Fort Lauderdale, USA
22.01.2014    –    –    sea day
23.01.2014    –    –    sea day
24.01.2014    09:00    17:00    Aruba, Dutch Antilles
25.01.2014    –    –    sea day
26.01.2014    07:00    18:00    Limon, Costa Rica
27.01.2014    06:00    16:00    Panama canal
28.01.2014    –    –    sea day
29.01.2014    07:00    17:00    Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The ship

The Queen Elizabeth was built in Italy and launched in 2010 as the third ship in Cunard’s fleet and a sister ship to Queen Victoria, which entered service in 2007. Both sisters’s hulls are based on a blueprint shared with numerous other vessels in the Carnival Corporation family, among them several Costa ships and Carnival Cruise Lines’ Spirit-class vessels. So, essentially, Queen Elizabeth is a cruise ship in design, not an ocean liner like Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2.
The QE is equiped with two Azypod electric motors. An interesting feature is that the two 5 meters diameter propellers don’t push the ship but pull it. Moreover, the motors can pivot by 360°, and with the help of the three bow thrusters, with a total power of 10’000 horse power, the vessel is completely autonomous to manoever in the harbours.
The ship is equiped with stabilisers that provide a smooth sailing particularly in rough weather. The stabilisers fins are 6.6 meters long and 3 meters wide. They are controlled by a gyroscope that measures the speed and direction of the rolling motion. When not used they fold into the ship’s side to reduce drag.

The QE in a few numbers:
– length: 294 meters
– width: 36.6 meters
– maximum speed: 45 Km/h
– time from full ahead to full astern: 300 secondes
– turning circle attained at 21 noeuds: 55o meters in 7 minutes
– tonnage: 91’000 tons
– fuel capacity: 3’500 m3
– autonomy: 17 days
– total generators power: 64 Megawatts or 85’000 HP
– passengers capacity: 2175, which is half  the capacity of a big cruiser like a Costa.
– crew: 1000, as much as a Costa with 4000 passagers…
– freshwater consumption: 500’000 liters are produced every day.

December 2013
Preparing the journey
The quantity of luggage is unlimited. Needless to say that some passengers, mostly ladies take with them clothes for round the world tours of four months. The only constraint is that no piece of luggages must exceed 20 kg and a strict labelling is required, this being justified by the fact that luggages of 2000 passengers must be distributed in the staterooms in a few hours, without mistakes.

Let’s imagine that we are leaving Southampton in winter and we will be entering the tropics twelve days later, therefore we have to pack three wardrobes, warm winter clothes, t-shirts and shorts for the summer and dressy eveningwear for the formal dinners.

January 2014
The departure time has come. On January 8th 2014 Peter and Claudine drive us to Neuchâtel train station at 11:30 am.  We take the train to Frasne to catch the Lausanne – Paris Gare de Lyon TGV, than the Eurostar to London from Paris Nord station. Because of our 4 pieces of luggage we order a taxi on board the TGV, which is a good decision to avoid the cumbersome metro transfer from Gare de Lyon to Paris Nord.
We finaly arrive in St Pancras International on schedule at 8 pm, then 5 minutes walk to the Kings Cross Inn just opposite to the station. Tired by the journey, we visit  the  nearby McDo to have bite and then go to bed – yes ! Philippe and Corinne in a McDo is so rare… only the fools do not change opinion.

We spend the day of the 9th visiting London, with emphasis on Oxford Street where we do our last shopping before boarding.
The learning of this story is that next time we should do our shopping here instead of in Switzerland because sales are on and the prices are very attractive.
We walk through Hide Park where school boys play soccer in the mud wearing white shirts, ties and pans, then we end up in Piccadilly Circus.

Embark Simone !

Day 1: 10 January 2014
The next morning a Cunard representative is waiting us at the Eurostar exit gate in St Pancras where we get acquainted with our future cruise companions, then we board in a Cunard coach destination Southampton.
The first stop to the Queen Mary II terminal where she waits her passengers while our Queen Elizabeth is berthed on the other site of the basin. A large committee of Cunard staff  composed of third age hostesses is welcoming us and clear our boarding fomalities, i.e.: questionnaires, passport control, imprinting credit cards, distributing access cards and finaly we get our hands desinfected… before boarding.

Both ships will leave tonight for a world tour, the Queen Mary to the east and the Queen Elizabeth to the west, and will meet in a couple of months in Asia
We discover our stateroom number 1082 situated on deck 1, the lowest located in the hull of the ship on port side. A bottle of champagne is waiting for us nicely cooled in an ice bucket. After having stored our luggages in the cabinets, we sail in the evening under a firework to celebrate the departure of the two ships on their respective world tours, as well as the 10 anniversary of Queen Mary II.
A table of six guests is designated to us, nicely located aft of the ship near a window with views of the wake. We meet our table companions for the next 19 days, Ann, Elizabeth, John and Roger, all British and therefore speaking English. We will have an English immersion, to the sorrow of Corinne who will have to abandon her Spanish for a few days.

Day 2: 11 January
The first day rises after a night in a bed finally comfortable after the one in the hotel in London which was very miserable.
The navigation was fairly calm, we are leaving the Scilly islands on starboard with the Bishop Rock lighthouse. We sail on course 240° at 18 knots of speed.
My first discovery while exploring the ship is that the carpets are decorated with green lines on starboard and red on port side – too logical but essential to find his way on the vessel.
The flat-screen TV in our stateroom has more than 40 channels, including movies in French, German and Spanish, as well as in-house channels on which the port and enrichment lectures are rerun, as well as passenger  worthy to be interviewed. On channel 42 we follow the real time information from the bridge, i.e.: the route, the speed, the weather and sea conditions, and the distances from departure and to destination. It is actually the only channel we have ever watched during the whole journey.

The wind increases during the day and the forecasts are not good for the coming night. Corinne must take anti-seasickness chewing gums because the vessel moves more and more and the stabilizers can hardly cope with the job and cannot fully compensate the ship rolling.
The evening is very shaky on board and the people swing and stagger while walking along the corridors.
The 12 o’clock Captain’s report indicates that we currently have a wind of 8 beaufort with 5 meters waves which will go up to 7 meters in the night. The north Atlantic is ragged and offers an extraordinary vision – obviously my opinion is not shared by everybody on the ship… the boat groaned in all parts and a lady even broke an arm. I just retained an older lady at the self-service counter who was projected into the flower boxes, hopefully she was light.
In the evening, Captain Wells invites the passengers to the traditional formal evening with Officers presentation, champagne and photo shooting in the Queen’s room.

Day 3: 12 January
Against all odds, the ship moves less this morning however the bridge reduced the speed drastically from 18 down to 15 knots to avoid not only a massacre among the passengers but also the suffering of the ship. The kitchen and service activities become extremely perilous in these conditions. The accesses to the outside decks have been locked for security reasons, and all shows in the theatre have been temporarily cancelled and postponed.

Atmosphere on the Queen Elizabeth
Who sails on Queen Elizabeth depends on where the ship is going. Ex-Southampton cruises inevitably attract a lot of Brits.
Everywhere you turn, there’s beautiful artwork, rich Italian marble, polished wood and soft light, diffused by glittering chandeliers. The rippling sounds of a harp, mellow piano or string quartet throughout the public areas enhance the whole feeling of old-fashioned glamor.
There’s no neon or glitz on this ship, and there are few gimmicks. Instead of capturing the public’s imagination with waterslides and high-tech nightclubs, Cunard cashes in on its impressive heritage, a sense of occasion and old-fashioned pursuits like ballroom-dancing, lawn bowls or afternoon tea in the Garden Lounge.

At breakfast and lunch time we deliberately choose tables with four chairs to increase the chances to meet new people, which is often successful.

We discover an amazing population traveling on this ship, which could easily become the subject of a book. This lady who boarded with 14 suitcases. Also, this Vietnam veteran, haggard and bristled with medals who walks with difficulties throughout the ship, and this young half French half Russian lady, with a disillusioned mood, a little bit  daughter of an oligarch, a little bit photographer and a little bit translator, who is aligning two world tours in a row, this one and the next one in 2015. This eccentric lady traveling alone on the world tour, who dresses like a bird, every day feathers of different color on the head who does not care where the ship stops. Also, this young violonist who is on board with his music teacher and rehearse every day. Fascinating, this couple of retired workers who choose the most expensive stateroom, on a world tour of 80’000 Euro for two, and finance the trip by selling their own jams and vegetables on the parisian markets.

The distractions on board are extraordinarily varied and multiple, and are communicated on the four pages gazette printed by the print shop every day.

The animations are very eclectic and take place all over the ship, from conferences to painting courses, bridge courses, oenologic seminars, whisky tasting sessions, karaoke, trivial pursuits and music hall shows – there are largely enough activities to kill boredom !
Artists and troups of all sorts board on the ship to present their performances for a few days and disembark afterwards.

Since we sail west, we are requested every night to set our watches back one hour, thus making our nights longer.

Day 4: 13 January
The sea was very rough last night and the speed reduced again down to 13 knots. The wind and the waves keep increasing. The North Atlantic Ocean in winter did not fail its reputation and I am happy not to sail on a 12 meters long sailing boat.

The Captain, in his 12 o’clock daily message reports that we are 650 miles ahead of cape Finistère and will cross São Miguel in the Azores, accompanied by a strong wind with peaks at 9 beaufort and waves of 8 meters. Occasionally some of them hit our stateroom window which is quiet spectacular.
The swimming pools have been emptied by the crew before they get emptied all alone by the rolling and pitching motion of the ship.

Day 5
Unchanged situation this morning with enormous 8 meters waves. We left the Azores archipelago 350 miles on port side in the night and still have 1843 miles to go to reach New-York.
We register on the tour « Queen Elizabeth behind the scene » for 120 $ per person, which is fairly expensive and dissuasive, but probable on purpose to avoid having too many people interested – I can hardly imagine 200 persons visiting the bridge.

During the day the vessel strongly hits the waves and slows down at several occasions which forces the bridge to further reduce the speed to 12 knots.

After breakfast decide to go to the cinema to the Royal Theater at the bow of the ship. The theater cracks and groans, the curtains swing. It was a stinker movie on the war between the Japanese against the Americans with a Yakuza story in background. Corinne leaves after 5 minutes just after two Japanese soldiers made hara-kiri, and I forced myself to resist two hours until the end.

Day 6
Change of scenery this morning. The sky is blue and the ship barely moves since the wind dropped down to 1-2 beaufort. In the afternoon, Corinne, our Cunard French hostess organizes a free tour of the kitchens of the Britannia restaurant.
The highlights of the visit are that the menus are repeated after 24 days, the food procurements are adjusted to the client nationalities, e.g.: if there are more Germans on board they buy more sausages. The whips and stirrers are 1.5 meters long. Another curiosity is the service tourniquets where the waiters enter and exit the kitchen. They turn very fast and therefore no mistake are permitted. If a waiter would slip while passing the tourniquet it would lead to a disaster.

Day 7: 16 January
After a calm day and night, the sea wakes up again with 6 beaufort and waves of 2.5 meters but the speed remains up at 19 knots.
The Captain reports that last night at 2 am we cruised 20 Km south of the place where the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912. However he reassures us saying that in this season the icebergs don’t wander so southern !

Day 8: The Queen Elizabeth behind the scene
We are finally 16 persons registered on the « Queen Elizabeth behind the scene » tour for 120 $, under the guidance of the friendly et mythic Laura.
The visit starts with the back stage of the Royal Theatre. We see the make-up room of the artists and the collections of costumes.

The next step is the hospital where two doctors are practicing. The most senior takes care of the passengers and the youngest of the crew members. The latter guides us through the facility. There is a radiology equipment and a small surgery room for benign interventions. They do not practice dental interventions, however they have everything needed to relieve threats and pains of the patients until the next harbour. There is also a morgue with four drawers which we won’t see…., our doctor-guide tells us that there are fewer deaths than what we can imagine. He also tells us that the overall health state of the population on board is, in average, better than the society like in Great Britain, no wonder why !

Next part to visit is the engines control room where the Chief Engineer receives and entertains us for 20 minutes and distributes handouts describing the main features of the vessel.

The printshop and the incinerator are the next places we visit.

The logistic Officer guides us through the numerous refrigerators which are enormous as it can be imagined, as big as a supermarket. In principle, they purchased very few goods during cruises.

The highlight of the tour is obviously the bridge where a group photo is made in presence of the Captain. He explains the difference between a Cruise Ship and an Ocean Liner. The latter is a ship designed to transport passengers from point A to point B. The classic example of such a voyage would be a transatlantic crossing from Europe to America. Because a ship could encounter any type of weather on such a voyage, an Ocean Liner must be built strongly, thicker hull  thus heavier. Their bows are long and tapered to allow them to cut through the waves. They have a deep draft in order to be more stable. In addition, in order to make the voyage within a reasonable time, they are built so as to be able to go fast.

We conclude the tour with an aperitif with sandwiches served in the Commodore Club.

Day 9: New-York
The bad weather of the last days postponed our arrival in New-York which is excellent news because instead of arriving by night at 6 am we will arrive by day around 9 am. The approach turns magic with firstly our pilot boarding by 5:30 am at Ambrose Lighthouse. I discover with satisfaction that our stateroom is located right above the access door where the pilot boards on the ship, therefore we will assist to the operations every time it will take place on port site.
We continue a few minutes later under the Verrazano bridge at 6:30 am, than we pass by in front of the Statue of Liberty on port side, finaly we majestically sail along Manhattan as far as Pier 88 of the Manhattan Cruise Terminal at 9 am, exactly up to Time Square.
The disembarkation is laborious, obviously managed by Big Brother. The ten fingerprints and pictures of all 3000 passengers and crew members are taken to be definitely stored in the computers of the masters of the world. It takes more than three hours and does not really enchants me to have my profile known by the US Defense Dpt.
Moreover, we are under the USA jurisdiction, therefore no more alcohol must be served under 21 years old and the vessel is checked thoroughly.
Delirious vision of these US soldiers patrolling in the ship with machine guns and bulletproof vests.
Approximately 500 passengers will definitely disembark in New-York and will be replaced, which will inevitably modify the atmosphere on board.

We disembark at 1 pm and meet our French friends Cécile et Guerinno who do not speak a single English word, so we will be their guides today to visit New-York. We walk south-east on 47th street but we decide on the way to take a taxi because Guerrino hips are struggling him. So we end up in Grand Central Station.
We wander through the legendary station and take a sandwich on the go. Then we walk to Time Square where the sunshine warms us by infiltrating along the avenues. We end the visit with the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park. We renounce to visit the nearby Frick Collection where the queue is still endless at 3 pm, with few regrets because on the ship we didn’t receive positif feedback on the place.

While enjoying an excellent meal seated at our table 419, exactly at aft of the ship, we slowly leave Manhattan along the sky scrapers illuminated by the full moon – unforgettable experience !
The Queen Elizabeth being something very special in the maritime world, she is benefiting of a great deal of y, therefore we are escorted by police boats and an helicopter, all flashing blue lights lit. Even the tour operators of Manhattan add a loop by the pier 88 to see us and take pictures of QE.
After the disembarkation of our pilot in Ambrose Lighthouse, same place as this morning, we sail south towards Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
We cross a whale sanctuary where the speed is limited to 10 knots.

Day 10: 19 January
The night was quiet and the temperature still chilly, as in the beginning of the journey, but it should rise to 20 °C once back to the Gulf Stream. The wind picks up strength to 5-6 beaufort.
After the breakfast we go to the presentation on Port Everglade / Fort Lauderdale given by the Cunard travel office.
Today, gym for me and hairdresser for Corinne, who is happy to have found an excellent Hungarian hairdresser, she will miss him…
Ann and Roger, our table companions, invite us for an aperitif in their stateroom.
We learned at dinner that our South African waiter has his birthday anniversary the same day as our son Guillaume but is one year younger. He will get married on May 1st.

Day 11: 20 January
Another calm night brings us to the morning. We are sailing full south as of New-York. Everybody is getting impatient to switch to short mode. The temperature is 20 °C and will climb to 25 °C tomorrow, however the chill effect of the wind makes it unpleasant to stay outside – let’s be patient !
We assist to an excellent lecture on Captain Cook and the title is Those Who Changed Their Worlds, given by Professeur Derek Frazer.
Prior to the dinner we take our traditional Kir Royal in the Garden Lounge accompanied by  an excellent Dixiland jazz Band.
Day 12: Port Everglade – Fort Lauderdale
We land at Fort Lauderdale, and since we are still on USA territory, we receive a one-day pass without formalities, because we already went through the whole process in New-York.
We choose to visit the city on our own. A shuttle bus chartered by Cunard brings us to « La Galleria » mall downtown, where we board on a water taxi for 25 $ for the whole day. We join Chris et Aleck, she is ex-HR Director of a 4000 employees hospital and he is…we are not so sure what !
Our choice to take the hop-on hop-off water taxi to visit the « Venice of the USA » was an excellent option, although less romantic than the original. The water taxis look strange, like buses to which we would have taken the wheels off, and than put on the water.
Fort Lauderdale is one the biggest leisure harbour in the USA. The maintenance of the private boats is the largest employer of the city et tourism in second position. Moreover, Fort Lauderdale hosts the largest boat show in the world. We pass by palaces of super-rich people with their super-yachts anchored just before.
Further out we discover a quarter where the binomial house / yacht are of a more reasonable size.
Our pilot / guide shows us Spielberg’s yacht, the Seven Seas, 221 feet long et 220 mios dollars – now I know where my money goes when I buy a cinema ticket…

Day 13
Today will be a sea day. We sail towards the north coast of Cuba that we see on starboard, as far as Haïti. Then we turn south to head through the Windward Passage, the strait between the two islands towards Aruba.
The temperature, for the first time on this voyage, is higher outside the ship than inside. Therefore, some places inside have become unbearably cold and totally uncomfortable for non-americans used to hyper-freezing air conditioning.

After dinner we go the show « Hotel Royale » presented by the Queen Elizabeth Troup. The musical comedy style one-hour show is of excellent quality and very professional.

Day 14: hygiene on board
A massive epidemic is haunting on board. Everything is undertaken to avoid the misadventure that happened to the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship, in January 2014, where a gastroenteritis struck about 20% of the 3,071 passengers and roughly 5% of the 1,166 crew aboard. So the measures in place on board QE are that when entering any restaurant facility crewmembers squirt a drop of disinfectant gel in the hands of all passengers. Moreover, every time new passengers board on the ship, the sugar, salt and pepper sachets are removed from the table for a quarantine of 3 days, then put back if no suspect bacteria are detected. During these 3 days quarantine there is no more self-service in the different buffets so the passengers are served by the crew.
Also, when meals are taken outside the ship in excursion for instance, Cunard sends inspectors on site to verify the hygiene conditions of the facilities.

Day 15: Aruba
After two sea days we moor in Oranjestad, capital of Aruba a small 40 Km long desertic island belonging to the Netherlands. We choose the « highlights » tour by bus from 9 am to 13 am. We drive around the island with a funny driver, native from the place, who presents all aspects of his country while muttering into his microphone.
Some interesting facts are that the official language is Dutch but the locals have invented a language called the Papiamento, which is a mixture of Dutch, Portuguese, English and Spanish. Nothing is produced on the island except fresh water, all the rest is imported. The most prestigious Swiss watches are sold downtown, even some brands that are not necessarily available everywhere in the world. Interesting that Aruba is probably the only country in the world having square coins. As said, fresh water is produced on the island by evaporation because it only rains 25 days per year. The good news is that the island is protected from the hurricanes and typhoons by the colombian mountains.
There are not many things to visit, however, we stop to a few spots of interest such as « the Collapsed Bridge », « the Lava Rocks », the « Alto Vista Chapel » and the « California Lighthouse ».

A curiosity is that a few dozen of freighters and tankers which, according to the driver, are presumably « waiting their turn… » especially on the weekends. They stop and anchor here by 40 meters deep where parking is free.

We sail at 6 pm, 10 minutes behind the Noordam of Rotterdam cruise ship, in a small exit channel stuck between the port and an island.

Day 16
As expected and announced Yesterday a wind of 6 beaufort is pushing us full west direction of Puerto Limon to a point that our own fumes are pushed back on the ship, which is not very pleasant, we burn fuel that is closer to tar than to diesel, therefore, loaded with sulfur.
However, the sea is beautiful, silver and very rought which is not disturbing from behind,  and our wake in turquoise.
We take our lunch on the aft deck but the heat is so strong that we limit our stay outside to the minimum. Nevertheless, we are surprised that, today, people spent hours sleeping in full sun, how courageous they are…
We attend an interesting lecture on the Panama canal, which gives us a good feel of what we will see. It seems that we have a time of passage booking.

Jour 17: Puerto Limon
We are berthed at 7 am in the port of Limon beside the cruise ship Celebrity Equinox of 4000 passengers, mainly americans since the vessel is coming from, and is going back to Fort Lauderdale on a cruise of 10 days.
We disembark to visit the City by foot, a typical small Caribbean town with a smell of reggae. Unforunately everything is closed on this Sunday but a clone of Harry Bellafonte is interpreting « Matilda » before a bistro, which perfectly fits here.
The most lively place on this Sunday is the internet office, just after the port, explainable by a wifi cost of 5 $ per day against 75 cents per minute on the QE. Many passengers and crew members rush there and the tenant does not know where to turn.
While wandering around outside downtown we discover very picturesque and colorful houses, some of them in very bad shape if not destroyed.
An air of gospel escaping from a church reaches our ears. We approach the place and are kindly invited to enter. The Sunday school is going on inside under the direction of black women, probably issued from communities who came from Jamaica to build the banana railway in the beginning of the 20th century. After a having spent very friendly moments full of emotion, we leave the church abundantly blessed by the priests.

Day 18: Panama Canal
At the end of the night we are at the entry of the Panama canal. We progress very slowly to the first lock to go up into the Gatún lake at à 9 am. Everyone is on the fore decks, some of them normally closed, have been exceptionally opened for the occasion. Frigatebirds majestically fly around us taking advantage of our turmoils.

The Panama canal already has a long history behind.
Some references:
– length: 77 Km
– « panamax » size limit: 32.3 m wide by 294.1 m length and 12 m deep
– number of locks: 6 on either side of the Gatún lake
– start of the construction: 1880
– opening year: 1914
– conception: Ferdinand de Lesseps and G.W. Goethals
The capacity of the canal is presently sufficient for ships up to the « panamax » size. However those navigating exceeding the « panamax » size are more and more on the oceans, therefore two series of locks are currently being constructed, so called post-panamax size, approximately 50% bigger. It is also planned to build in parallel water saving basins.

Between the upgoing and the downgoing locks we cross the Gatún lake zigzaging between small islands that look pretty wild. The navigation is very spectacular while crossing enormous vessel very close, because the buoyed channel is sometimes fairly narrow.

The crossing of the canal is a very impressive and unique experience that ends under the Bridge of America, nearly under the sky-scrapers of Panama City, equally very majestuous.

The highly expected moment is approaching. My elementary school friend Francis Verdan, who I met in Switzerland last summer told me that he lives just at the exit of the canal on the Pacific side. He wrote me an email a few days ago saying « You will see us right after the bridge, look left, it’s easy… I will take pictures of you and I am following you on www.marinetraffic.com ». Indeed, right after the bridge we looked left and saw a big Swiss flag on his balcony and flashes made with a mirror in the sunshine, which we respond by waving a bath towel. Our neighbors quickly understand what happens and are very amused.

Francis wrote me also that when the Queen Elizabeth is announced, an article is published in the local newspaper, which explains the crowd massed along the canal.

We proceed now on a course towards Puntarenas and we have 300 miles left before disembarkation. We navigate for the first time on a glassy sea which permits to see several groups of dolphins at several occasions.

As a farewell and to celebrate our separation we offer the aperitif to our table companions, Ann, Elizabeth, Roger and John, who were an excellent company during these 19 days.

Day 19: Puntarenas – Disembark Simone !
One last night and our journey will end in Puntarenas, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We enter in the Nicoya gulf, guided by the pilot who boarded early this morning. The sun rises when we approach and moor to the pontoon perpendicular to the Puntarenas peninsula. Very unusual vision of the monster of 90’000 tons moored to this apparently fragile construction.

The excitement increases as getting together again with Anouk,  Gregory, Romane and Clémence is approaching, but before we have an appointment with the Costa Rican immigration authorities at  06:20 am latest. They want to see us face-to-face…! Thus we are 12 disembarking passengers waiting in a salon near the ship main lobby. Three of them are nice girls, singers of the Manhattan Dolls Group who leave the ship after having presented their performances, that we unfortunately didn’t attend to. The Officers arrive at 6:45 am to verify and stamp our passports.
Very excited we take a quick breakfast prior to disembark with our four pieces of luggage.
The walk is short and we quickly see our two blond little darlings at the end of the pier. After one year distance the come together is loaded with emotions, accompanied by a few tears.

After having made an unforgetable picture of the ship with all six of us, we go to the hotel, a few steps away, where the little family spent the last night waiting on us. Gregory didn’t sleep well, excited by our arrival.
Than back home to San Jose on board Sigifredo, the car.