Author Topic: Malcolm's diary of QE2's final world cruise.  (Read 74270 times)

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Offline Malcolm

10 March 2008
« Reply #160 on: Aug 14, 2009, 05:25 PM »
The most important thing I need to say first of all is that I’VE GOT MY COMPUTER! I don’t need to share Paul’s anymore I can work on my own whilst he works on his. What a relief.

However, before I got my computer, I was up early. Very early – at 1-00am I tried to check emails with no joy – web pages were inaccessible and the network logged me of the internet without asking. By 1-30am I’d given up and gone back to bed. It’s now about five days since I’ve been able to check or send emails.

 I was up again by 6-30am (I couldn’t sleep because I was going to get a new computer), had showered and was at breakfast by 7-10am. After breakfast I went and filled our water bottles, at the Lido this time as the Pavilion had no water there at all. They’ve got chilled water on tap at the bar serving coffee, tea, fruit juice, etc. After a day in a water bottle it doesn’t taste as good as the water from the bowser in the Pavilion but it’s still far better than normal tap water. Paul was up and about by this time and the morning tea had arrived but, as they hadn’t announced that the ship had cleared customs I went off in search of Lisa to chase our gifts and passenger lists. Lisa wasn’t there (although there were several other full worlders who hadn’t received anything either and were interested in the outcome of my enquiry) so I left a message with Enrique that he will pass on to Lisa when she’s back.

They announced that the ship had cleared customs at 8-10am and Paul and I went to get off the ship. It was the first time he’s been in his wheelchair for days. As we were just going to go computer shopping in the morning and then return to the ship we weren’t sure if he needed it or not. In the end we decided that we would be safe rather than sorry – just as well as things turned out – and took the chair. The gangway was on 4 Deck, G stairway. There wasn’t a queue to get off (we’d been worried there might have been) but it was sickly amusing to find that people at the end of their trip were struggling down there with all their luggage, expecting to be able to get off, only to be sent back to the public rooms and told to wait. We had intended to get a taxi into central Singapore but when we found there was a shuttle bus leaving at 8-30am we decided to take that instead.

We were in the city by 9-00am. We got a taxi (they are cheap – 9.00 SN$ for the journey) to Sim Lim Square (the shopping mall that deals with computers, cameras and all things IT related). When we go there almost every stall was closed. We asked at the security desk to be told that most of the stalls wouldn’t open until 11-00am, even the coffee shop didn’t open until 10-00am. We decided that we would reverse our plans for the day and start by visiting some of the tourist sites, leaving time for computing at the end of the day.

We started by catching another taxi (Really cheap – only SN$ 3.00) to the Old Government House area. This was near the place where Sir Stamford Raffles first landed, a site that is marked by a statue. The area is very photogenic (and full of tourist). It is a mixture of Late 20th and early 21st Century sky scrapers and mid 19th Century Houses and shops (most of which have now been turned into restaurants).

From there it was only a short walk past The Fullerton Hotel (originally the GPO) to Boat Quay and the Merlion. Boat Quay is picturesque enough, with some lovely views. The Merlion on the other hand is a concrete gargoyle that spouts water. It was put there in 1972 to symbolise tourism in the city. It is not worth going out of the way to see, as we were passing we stopped.

From Merlion Park we headed across the Singapore River and back into the Colonial District. We stopped at St Andrew’s Cathedral. It is a bright white building but is not otherwise remarkable as a church. Once we’d visited the cathedral we stopped in the shopping centre to look at some of the shops. Prices were cheaper than in the UK although not by a lot.

By this time it was about 1-30pm. It had been spotting with rain when we left the cathedral and when we came out of a shop it was pouring down. We got a taxi back to Sim Lim Square and started looking for the things we wanted. The store is amazing. There are seven floors, each with between 30 and 40 stalls per floor. Even discounting all the stalls selling just cameras, software, industrial supplies, etc there was still about 15 stores that sold laptops per floor. The only way I could decide which store to buy from was to pick one that looked reasonable and go with that. I’ve paid just under SN$2000.00 for a laptop running Vista Home Premium (I think – I’m in the Chart Room at the moment and can’t find out how to check the OS), with Office 2007, both wired and wireless network connections, a card reader and various other things I wanted. I think that it was cheaper than the UK but only slightly [With hindsight I was wrong. I think that had I not been so desperate for a new computer I would only have paid half that]. The one place that I thought there was a big saving was in the software. Had I known before coming away that I would be buying a computer I would have thought carefully about what software I could use and would have planned to buy it [I wasn’t wrong about the software – it was very cheap].

Back to the ship then – via a taxi to the Hyatt Hotel and the shuttle bus from there. Once back on the ship we just collapsed until it was time to get dressed for dinner. After dinner Paul went to bed whilst I went to the CC meeting to welcome those joining in Singapore. There were only two people joining us here – Jim and Ruth – they hadn’t turned up by 11-00pm. One nice surprise was to meet David – the person that I had hoped to meet after Sydney but had missed. At the maximum there were probably about ten CCers in the Yacht Club tonight.

When I got back to the cabin there was a letter for me congratulating me on becoming a Diamond member of the CWC and stating that I could go tomorrow and change my Platinum card for a Diamond one (I did that when leaving Sydney). The letter also said that membership benefits would not apply until after tomorrow. I guess that means they have not allowed me the full internet credit – I’ll have to check tomorrow.

Offline Malcolm

11 March 2008
« Reply #161 on: Aug 15, 2009, 02:03 PM »
I went to the pursers first thing this morning to get a copy of my account. Guess what? They’d only allowed US$ 90.00 internet credit for a package that had cost US$ 164.85. I’ve asked them why. It’s not as if there is an internet package that costs exactly $ 90.00. They’ve said they’ll look into it and get back to me. I’ll ask again this evening as I don’t think I’ll hear anything.

Secondly breakfast and then to the Boardroom. Firstly I wanted to see Lisa about various things; secondly it’s a wireless hotspot. My main concern for Lisa was Costa Rica. Some people say that we are going whilst others say that it will actually be Columbia that we go to. Lisa isn’t aware that any change has been made to the programme although she will check. She also gave me the answer to my WC gift and passenger list enquiry. Apparently the gifts are only monthly and not per sector and the passenger list will now only be distributed four times during the cruise and not every sector as previously (in that case why were the last two issued per sector?)

I’d just got back to the cabin and the phone rang. It was the pursers. They admitted that they had got the amount wrong; I was told that it was now corrected and they said that a revised account would be sent to my cabin. To complete the surprise later in the morning a revised account that clearly explained how the error had been corrected. I am in shock! It is not that someone made a mistake or that it was corrected; it is that the pursers did it at first request without making more of a mess.

Today Paul started moving around the ship with just the one crutch. I hope he is still going to take the chair ashore but I feel its use is getting less. We both wanted to go to the Destination lecture although that wasn’t until 12-15 pm (I’m not sure why but everything that should have been in the Theatre this morning has been moved into an afternoon slot) so, as Paul is walking without needing me there, we agreed to meet in the Chart Room at midday. I was ready early and got there for just turned 11-00 am, Paul was slightly later and got there for about 11-15 am. At 11-30 am someone walked up and asked “Is it Paul and Malcolm?” It was Jim (cajim) who I’d hoped to meet last night. He had gathered from this blog that we’d probably be in the Chart Room before lunch and had popped by to introduce himself and say hello. We chatted for a bit and I said that Judy would be in the Yacht Club at 3-00 pm to meet him.

Then it was off to Peter Crimes’ Destination Lecture on Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. The Theatre was full again for this talk, with people standing in the aisles.

After Lunch RADA was doing a presentation of their version of Noël Coward’s play Private Lives. This was a cut down version of the full play and lasted for just under an hour. I had expected this to be just another filler provided by Cunard to enable them to say they were providing something that was approaching serious (like their classical concerts where they don’t say what will be played until the show). How wrong I was. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen on the QE2 and rivalled most land based professional productions.

Although the play was cut down it lost none of its wit and humour. It retained all the life expected from the full play and being cut down made it very suitable for an afternoon performance aboard ship. The performance took place in the Grand Lounge. That room has the reputation of having very poor acoustics and that has been given as the reason why everything is over amplified and that level of over amplification is always increasing. Today’s performance was without any amplification and I did not hear anyone complain that they could not hear the performance. I think it goes to show that the acoustics are not as bad as Cunard would like its passengers to think but the quality and projection of the voices of the acts are getting worse.

I’ve just come back from the Computer Learning Centre. I wanted to send some of the five days’ reports that I haven’t been able to send and have a look at and The internet was so slow it took me over half an hour to compose a short message, attach the first three pages and sent them to Penny, Mary and David (and I suppose I’ve got to say the cat as well). I was just about to click send when the internet cut out. I gave up and will try again later.

Paul and I left our cabin and headed towards the lift at D so that we could take it up to Upper Deck for dinner. As we approached the lifts the old woman that Paul had stopped from pushing towards the front of the queue at Freemantle got there just in front of us. She called the lift and then stood in front of one whilst we stood in front of the other. “Her” lift came first and she got in; when Paul and I followed her she muttered that she’d “rather wait” and got out. She is obviously determined not to be anywhere near Paul or I (good ;) )

Online Rob Lightbody

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Re: 11 March 2008
« Reply #162 on: Aug 16, 2009, 04:14 PM »
Malcom (& Everybody) - the following extracts from your diary made me think....

Then it was off to Peter Crimes’ Destination Lecture on Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. The Theatre was full again for this talk, with people standing in the aisles.

After Lunch RADA was doing a presentation of their version of Noël Coward’s play Private Lives.That room has the reputation of having very poor acoustics and that has been given as the reason why everything is over amplified and that level of over amplification is always increasing. Today’s performance was without any amplification and I did not hear anyone complain that they could not hear the performance. I think it goes to show that the acoustics are not as bad as Cunard would like its passengers to think but the quality and projection of the voices of the acts are getting worse.

.... wouldn't these 2 events be better swapped about?  The Theatre had superb accoustics and sightlines, and would surely be better for a play?  The Grand Lounge's poor sight-lines and accoustics, wouldn't matter for a location talk surely?

Just a thought... I always thought they used the Theatre wrongly...
Passionate about QE2's service life for 37 years and creator of this website.  Worked in IT for 27 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Malcolm

Re: 11 March 2008
« Reply #163 on: Aug 16, 2009, 04:49 PM »
.... wouldn't these 2 events be better swapped about?

I don't think that Peter Crimes would have been better in the Grand Lounge. His talk called for a lecture theatre and that is what the Theatre was.

The Grand Lounge's poor sight-lines and accoustics, wouldn't matter for a location talk surely?

The poor acoustics of the Grand Lounge is a myth. I had no difficulty and didn't hear of anybody who had difficulty understanding what was being said. I believe that Cunard were perpetuating this myth to excuse their putting on third rate acts.

(The talks were illustrated with slides so a decent view was important :) )

I always thought they used the Theatre wrongly...

I think they could have used it a lot more than they did. It's main uses seemed to be the port information and the Destination Lectures on the WC, showing a video, "Classical" recitals and as an assembly point for tours. The latter was a use the room definitely wasn't suited to! ::) I think that having several things running there regularly meant that the room couldn't be used for another purpose as well.

Offline Malcolm

12 March 2008
« Reply #164 on: Aug 16, 2009, 04:57 PM »
Ho Chi Minh City is somewhere I want to go back to. However I would be very reluctant to go on another Cunard tour, although we didn’t (and still don’t) think there was any other choice yesterday. We had booked the tour because Ho Chi Minh City is 2 ½ hours away by coach (or so the tour book said) and we didn’t feel that we wanted to be that far away without the security offered by a tour. The tour had been scheduled to run from 8-00 am to 5-45 pm, although on 28 February we’d got a letter changing the times to 7-30 am to  5-30 pm. Yesterday’s Daily Programme gave a meeting time of 7-25 am for our tour; there were five other tours with meeting times ranging from 7-10 am to 7-45 am. There were over 600 people on these tours and I don’t think that scheduling so many people to all leave within 35 minutes of each other, from an anchor port, could work. The reason I am detailing these arrangements is that the tendering arrangements did not work.

[When we got home we found out that there is a high speed ferry service from Vung Tau to Hi Chi Minh City. Why didn’t Cunard use that? They did in previous years].

Paul decided that he wouldn’t take the wheelchair today and that he would manage with just his crutches. I was delighted. We both wanted breakfast before we set off and, as cabin breakfast wasn’t available until after we’d gone, both went up to the restaurant at 6-30 am. We were dressed, through breakfast, water bottles filled and ready to go into the Theatre by 7-10 am. Paul went and got a seat in the Theatre while I went to go and find the end of the queue for tickets. I found it in the end – the queue went from the Theatre, through the Casino and ended up halfway down the Grand Lounge! I would guess that there were between two and four hundred people joined it after me. This queue did move fairly quickly and after about ¼ hour I got stickers for bus “Silver 5” and went to join Paul. We sat there for over an hour.

When we were finally called to the tender Paul and I were lucky in that Paul had gone to the Golden Lion for a smoke and we were therefore starting from a forward position. We got a lift down to Five Deck and got onto the tender straight away. We then sat on the tender for about ten minutes whilst we waited for more people to come and fill the boat. Again we were lucky that we had got one of the catamarans. This was able to make the transfer in only 20 minutes! The normal boats used as tenders were taking at least 30 minutes. Once ashore we were put onto coach 4 and told to take our “5” stickers off. The coach filled and left within two or three minutes.

It would be an understatement to say that the traffic in Vietnam was heavy. The journey to Saigon was given as 2 ½ hours in the tours brochure, to include a rest stop. On the outward journey it took 3 ¼, including a rest stop of five minutes at maximum. We then drove though outer Saigon before heading to our first stop.

Reunification Hall was the palace built for the French Governor before the North and South were reunited. At this time it was renamed “Reunification Hall” and turned into a museum and Convention Centre. There was a monument there featuring the first two tanks reputed to be involved in the final battle and the bunker that would have been used in an emergency for the president to run the country. Paul did not come down to the bunker – it involved too many stairs. I went and felt that we were rushed through without being given time to have more than a cursory glance at a couple of exhibits.

From there we drove past several significant sites (including the site of the American Embassy that was one of the points in the Vietnam War). I am sure that we passed lots of other important sites, and that they were pointed out, however we went past them so quickly that I do not remember what they were. We stopped at The Rex Hotel and the City Hall. We got the opportunity to get off the coach and take photographs here – for five minutes! Our final morning stop was at the Post Office and the Roman Catholic Cathedral. Again we got five minutes to photograph the sights.

Once everyone was back on the coach we were all taken to a local hotel (I never got chance to find out what it was called) and told that we had half an hour to get into the hotel, get upstairs to the function room they were serving lunch in, help ourselves to three courses from the buffet and get back on the coach! The buffet lunch was very good but unfortunately we could not do it justice in half an hour. Unfortunately it was a case of eating as quickly as possible to make sure that we were back on the coach in time. There were also Vietnamese singers and dancers to provide entertainment during the meal. They appeared good but I did not have time to watch them.

After lunch it was off to the Sea Goddess Temple. A typical but otherwise not particularly noteworthy Chinese temple. Again we felt that we were rushed here.

From the temple it was off to the Lacquer Factory and show room. Paul and I missed the demonstration of lacquer making, because it was upstairs, and went straight into the showroom. They had many things on display that we would have liked. They were all of good quality and were a lot cheaper than they would be if we tried to buy them in the UK. Unfortunately we do not need, nor do we have space for, another large chest of draws, even more chairs and tables or a Vietnamese Galleon in full sail. I had to make do with buying a small trinket box.

Our final call was at the National Museum to see a display of Water Puppetry. This is a traditional Vietnamese art form that involves puppet operators standing behind a screen and waist deep in water. The puppets appear in the water on the other side of the screen. The operators cannot see their puppets while they are working them. These shows are worth seeing once. However, like Prague’s Black Light Theatres, they seem to be put on for tourists and are not worth watching more than once!

We did complete the journey home in 2 ½ hours. This was without a comfort stop and with the driver going well over the speed limit. We were back on the Quay by 7-00 pm (we had been due to sail at 6-00 pm) and were then kept waiting for over ¾ of an hour sitting on the coach. Once we were allowed off the coach we were able to join a queue for tenders for another 20 minutes! The tour office had managed to get a hydrofoil to take passengers back to the ship and that reduced the queue greatly; however it was still turned 8-30 pm before we got onboard. My parents had not gone with us; they had done their own thing in Vung Tau. When we were not back by 6-30 pm (we had been expected back by 5-30 pm) they had begun to get worried. They were only able to find out part of what was happening by speaking to their steward, bar staff, etc. The Captain made no announcement as to why the ship was late sailing.

Two of the things that were noteworthy about the journey were the roads (large sections of the central reservations were beautifully manicured with flowers, topiary, floral displays, etc whilst the verges were often just a belt of scrub that was festooned with litter – plastic bags and bottles, paper, empty cartons) and the motorbikes (they are everywhere. It was quite frightening to see how close they got to our coach and how good our driver was at avoiding them!)

About a dozen of the bike riders had met us at the first comfort stop. They were the street traders who followed us form venue to venue. As we reached the end of our tour the prices (both asking and accepted) dropped substantially!

I have tried to keep the reports specific to the day they are about. However I am including a bit of what I did on the 13th as I believe it is relevant to the events of the day.

I’ve just been to the Tour Office to complain about the numbers of people and the way we were treated. The first man I spoke to would listen to my complaints about the tour (I didn’t really have any – it was rushed but other than that was good) but refused to recognise that our delay in getting ashore had been in any way a problem. In the end he passed me onto the Tour Manager, Gail Seymour. She did understand the problem but explained that her hands were tied. She said that she had been aware that it was an anchor port and that the numbers getting ashore would be restricted however Cunard wanted to sell as many tours as possible and would not let her limit the number of tours sold. She attributed this to them wanting to make as much money as possible. She claimed the responsibility of getting the hydrofoil to take passengers back to the ship although she was concerned that Cunard might not feel it necessary.

She also said one further thing that was of interest. Her preference would have been to let the tours continue and then time could have been spent in Saigon rather than waiting for tenders. It was Captain Perkins who overruled her and insisted that all the tours were brought back to the ship as quickly as possible.

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Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #165 on: Aug 16, 2009, 05:13 PM »
Just to say - for those of us who use 'view recent activity' to look at the posts - this function doesn't show any attached photos!  Malcolm's been going back and adding photos to his posts - worth a look for the 'big picture' of this world cruise.
Passionate about QE2's service life for 37 years and creator of this website.  Worked in IT for 27 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Malcolm

13 March 2008
« Reply #166 on: Aug 17, 2009, 01:27 PM »
Today is a day of rest after yesterday. Both Paul and I (but particularly Paul) feels that the waits of yesterday have taken their toll of us. After breakfast I went to the Tour Office – see yesterday’s notes for the result. I then went back to the cabin to collect Paul before we went to Peter Crimes’ talk on Hong Kong.

Once the talk was over we went and sat in the Chart Room, Paul to continue working his way through something G&S related and I to start to catch up with these notes. I didn’t realise that it was midday until a couple of minutes after midday when the Third Officer’s announcement was made. How odd! No Captain’s address. Captain Perkins didn’t make any announcement yesterday about the delayed sailing. I do hope he isn’t ill.

I thought I’d check emails this afternoon. I was delighted to find that the internet was much faster. I actually managed to catch up with all the reports I hadn’t sent (Sorry Mary, Penny and David. Cat – I hope your paws drop off with typing :) )

The internet service was much faster until it cut off abruptly. The advice was to return in an hour and see if it had started again. When we returned the internet was back but much slower than previously. At least we’ve had half an hour of fast internet (fast for this ship). Whilst I was wailing there I met Veronica. We had a little grumble about the internet speed, our late departure from Vung Tau and she passed on some gossip that the QE2 will be late for Hong Kong. We haven’t heard a squeak out of this captain since he boarded; I wonder if he’s trying to hide something? Veronica also gave me the address for her blog of the World Cruise. It is She’d be delighted to get more visitors.

Captain Perkins has just made an announcement. This announcement was broadcast throughout the entire ship including cabins. Because of our late departure from Vung Tau our arrival at Hong Kong will also be delayed. He now expects us to arrive at the pilot station at about 8-00 am, alongside at 9-00 am and passengers should be able to go ashore by 10-00 am. To compensate for this he has made arrangements for us not to leave until 10-00 pm. At the moment we are doing 29 knots, Captain Perkins hopes that we may be able to speed up slightly and arrive sooner.

Once he had delivered this message twice he said that Gail Seymour would make an announcement about tours as soon as he had finished. We waited, listening, but there was no announcement. Then we heard faintly the tail end of Gail’s announcement. It had been broadcast only through the corridors! I went up to see Lisa, the WC Concierge, and ask her what the announcement had been. She wasn’t there but Enrique and Rowena (the steward and stewardess in the Boardroom) were there and gave me the gist of it. They were able to tell me that the Tour Office was open and said that I should check tour details with them. I did and was told that the arrival time should be between 9-30 am and 10-00 am and that our tour will leave at 10-45 am but will still be for the same duration. I was also told that as we will not be sailing until 10-00 pm there will be a shuttle bus from the Ocean Terminal to the Kwai Chung Container Terminal with the last bus operating at 9-00 pm. The tour will be able to drop us in Kowloon on its way back to the ship. I was not the only person to miss the announcement; on the way back to our cabin I met Susan who also wanted to know what had been said.

Once I was back in the cabin Gail Seymour repeated her announcement, this time through all the cabins as well. She confirmed all the details already given except that the last shuttle bus will now be 8-30 pm. When it comes to important announcements I really wish that the Tour Office, the Tour Office Manager and Percy could all agree their details BEFORE they give them out.

This evening was an evening of firsts. After Dinner Paul and I had decided to go to the show. As we didn’t finish dinner until 9-45 pm and the exit from the restaurant is on Upper Deck we didn’t want the fuss of getting to the Chart Room for only 20 minutes so we decided to stop and have a drink in the Golden Lion. Previously we have only ever passed through there in an evening and thought how dreadful it is; now I can confirm that it is as awful as it appears! When we got there the Pianist was playing. There was a group sing-song taking place with songs like “Knees-Up Mother Brown” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. It was the kind of activity that you could imagine taking place on the bottom deck of a steamer taking victims of the Irish Potato Famine to their life in the New World!

The Pianist finished at 10-00 pm (thank goodness) and was replaced by “Me n’ Jenny” who were hosting the Karaoke. They started by singing (very badly) the first verse of a sing to encourage others to join in. Then a man sang “Nellie the Elephant” (!/?). He was the worst singer I’ve ever heard. He was followed by another man who wasn’t the worst I’ve ever heard – we’d just heard him – but was still one of the worst. We managed about halfway through his song before making our escape. This was my first time at Karaoke and I hope will be my last!

We do not normally bother with the evening entertainment in the Grand Lounge. It is usually either a third rate entertainer or the onboard troupe doing an old show that we’ve already seen and is getting very tired. However the troupe of dancers changed a few days ago and there were a couple of things that encouraged me to go and see them. Firstly there were eleven in the troupe rather than the eight there’d been previously and secondly the show “On The West Side” was a new show - one we have not seen previously.

The show was described as “Romeo and Juliette featuring the songs of West Side Story” and “songs delivered with a fresh and innovative approach using R&B, Jazz and classical musical styles”. I am not normally fond of tampering with productions – I believe that something should not be altered greatly from the way in which it was written – and West Side Story is one of my favourite musicals so I was a little worried about what they would have done to it. As it turned out I need not have worried. The sound was still over amplified and the music was recorded, not live, but that was made up for by the freshness of the routine.

They had made space on stage for the extra three dancers by doing away with the band and using that space as an extra stage area. This meant that, as well as there being more dancers, there was a lot more room for them to move about the stage. That the music was recorded did not make any difference the amplification was so great.

My favourite saying at the moment is that Cunard is consistent only in its inconsistency. I now know that applies to its shows as well. We have gone through three months of poor shows and then we get two together (Private Lives and On The West Side) that are both above average. I am pleased that I have seen On The West Side; I wouldn’t rush to see it again but I did enjoy it for what it was!

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Re: 13 March 2008
« Reply #167 on: Aug 17, 2009, 01:32 PM »
At the moment we are doing 29 knots, Captain Perkins hopes that we may be able to speed up slightly and arrive sooner.

 ;D Having that amazing turn of speed readily available must have made schedules easier to keep.  A cruise ship that cruises at 19-20 but maxes out at 22-23 doesn't give anything like the same flexibility...
Passionate about QE2's service life for 37 years and creator of this website.  Worked in IT for 27 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Malcolm

14 March 2008
« Reply #168 on: Aug 18, 2009, 04:04 PM »
Today started with a leisurely morning. We went down for breakfast at 8-30 am and watched as we sailed through the islands around Hong Kong. We don’t need to meet for our tour until 10-30 am so we have plenty of time to get ready before going ashore. As we approached our dock the security officer made his usual announcement about not crowding the gangways until it is announced that the ship has cleared security. Oddly enough there was no announcement from our captain.

We wanted to get some Hong Kong Dollars so I went to the exchange machines to buy some. Those machines are expensive however they are convenient when you only want a small amount of money quickly. The machines could only offer Singapore Dollars – no use or Japanese Yen – not needed yet. I wasn’t the only person there looking to buy HK$ but we were all out of luck. I went to the pursers and asked if they would sell them – the answer was “No. You’ll have no problem using US$ anywhere”. This was not what Peter Crimes had said in his lecture yesterday. Yesterday the Tour Office had told me that the tour would drop us in Kowloon and we could catch the shuttle bus back later if we wanted. I asked the pursers where the shuttle bus pickup point was and was told the same place it drops you on the way in. When I said that we weren’t getting the shuttle bus in I was told that they couldn’t help.

Then it was off to the Theatre to join our tour. The tour was scheduled to leave at 10-45 am and we were to be in the Theatre at 10-30 am at the latest to meet it. We actually arrived at 10-10 am to find that we were on the last bus – everyone else had already checked-in! We were called to the bus at 10-25 am and were on our way by 10-40 am.

The reason it took ¼ hour for us to get underway was that we had another run in with the pushy old woman (I met her in the Launderette, Paul had a run in with her going on a tour and she got out of a lift we were in). Paul is still walking on crutches and finds being in one of the front seats of the coach makes it a lot easier for him to get on and off. When we got to the coach one front seat on either side was occupied. An elderly lady was sitting in one of the pair of seats behind the driver and the old, crabby, woman was sitting by the window on the other side. I took the seat next to the old lady whilst Paul went to sit in the seat next to the poison dwarf (she’s only about 4 foot high).

She first claimed that the guide was sitting there and therefore Paul couldn’t have the seat. Unfortunately (for her ;) ) the guide was standing just outside the coach and when he heard this said he was quite happy to give up his seat for someone on crutches. Then the shrivelled hag (her skin looks like old leather that’s not been cured properly) demanded that Paul let her out as she wasn’t willing to travel on this coach and demanded that she be given a place on another. Paul offered to change places with me and I offered to change places with her – neither was acceptable. She was making such a fuss that in the end Gail Seymour was called. Gail was another one who could not understand why this woman would not sit anywhere other than in the front seat on her own. The woman told Gail that Paul could walk better than she could – she is slow but doesn’t even need a cane! Gail’s response to this was to say that Paul was walking with crutches and ask if the hag hadn’t noticed. In the end she was told that she could get off the bus if she wanted but, as this was the last bus for this tour, she would forfeit her place on the tour and would not get a refund. Very grudgingly the woman accepted the solution we had put to her in the first place and she consented to change places with me. Whilst she had been off the bus complaining two people had spoken to us saying that she had been a pain on the tour bus already.

The tour started by driving to the Man Mo Temple. This Taoist Temple is far more impressive that the Sea Goddess Temple in Saigon. It is larger and busier; there is so much incense being burnt that you can hardly see across it and smoke billows out of every door and window. We had about 20 minutes there which was sufficient time to view it. We did not feel rushed in any way.

It was then back onto the bus for the journey to the Victoria Peak Tram. There was a long queue for this funicular but it was worth the wait. The journey time of the tram is about 8 minutes and some of the views on the way up are spectacular. They are nothing compared with the views once you get to the top. There was a haze so the views over both Hong Kong and Aberdeen Harbours weren’t as good as they can be but they were still good –from the top of the tram (not the actual summit). The summit is reached after a 20 minute walk – something we didn’t try today) we walked downhill slightly to the car park where the coach met us and carried us down the winding road to Aberdeen Harbour itself.

We got off the coach by a series of jetties where we caught the ferry to the Jumbo floating restaurant (a journey time of no more than two minutes). The restaurant had laid on an excellent (and unhurried) buffet for us. This consisted of mainly Chinese but also some Japanese, Indian and western dishes. There was plenty of food and it was prepared from top quality ingredients and to a very high standard. I do not think that it would have been unfit to serve in one of the main restaurants on the QE2.

When lunch was over and we’d appreciated the views from the top of the restaurant we caught the ferry back to the jetties where there were a series of sampans waiting to take the group for a short (½ hour) trip around Aberdeen Harbour itself. I was last in Hong Kong 14 years ago, when the harbour was full of sampans being used as homes. These have now mostly gone and the harbour is no longer the picturesque place it was but instead looks as if it’s seen better days (which it has!). The vast reduction in boat numbers means that Aberdeen Harbour is not somewhere I’d class as a “must see” for Hong Kong anymore.

After our boat trip the coach took the group round to Stanley Market. This was the one truly disappointing part of the tour. 14 years ago the market had been full of life and had sold goods of use to locals and tourists. Today it only caters for the tourist and sells only cheap, tacky, souvenirs and budget clothing. The market used to have a very ‘native’ feel. This has now gone: most of the walkways have been paved with modern sets, the area is clean and tidy and the stalls are well kept. There is no hope of finding something unusual – all the stalls sell the same things. I was looking forward to going back to Stanley Market; now that I have been back I wouldn’t be bothered about returning again.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Hong Kong. We were not going to book a tour and only did so because we were docked a fair way out of the centre. I am beginning to wonder if I should review my opinion of Cunard tours. I think it would be fare to say that they are all expensive (this one was US$ 174.00 per person!) but the full day tours seem to do a lot of things. If you want to see as many sights as possible, either without having to plan or because you cannot go on your own, a tour is worth considering. For two people a taxi would still work out the same and for four people would be much cheaper!

Our sightseeing was not over though. The bus returned via Kowloon and the pickup point for the shuttle. The guide did know where the pickup was, when the last one would be and how often it would run and was very helpful in saying what shops would sell what things (He could tell us where to go to buy some replacement whisky as our stocks have run out! Alcohol in Hong Kong is not cheap – it’s about the same as the UK, although it is still cheaper than if bought from a bar onboard).

Once we’d got the whisky we walked a little way through downtown Kowloon. Night had arrived by this time and it was wonderful to experience the bustle and see all the neon signs. We couldn’t make it as far as Nathan Road (the main shopping street and the street with most illuminated signs) but what we saw gave a good idea of what the main roads would be like.

The shuttle buses went from just outside the Ocean Terminal. There were two ships moored there. One could well have been a gambling ship but the other was the Star Princess. I think that’s a normal cruise ship. I wonder which line owns her. When we got back to the ship we were exhausted. When we got back to the cabin there was an invite to the next Ensemble World Explorer Party; for Monday 15th March. Why do I suspect that Cunard have had a big hand is sending out the invitations? (It’s Saturday 15th March and Monday 17th) Tonight was another occasion when we were only too pleased to be able to eat in the cabin.

After dinner I went to check emails and got the messages about Costa Rica/Colombia.[These were from various members of CC and our agent informing us thst Costa Rica had been replaced by Cartagena] Interestingly the ship still hasn’t managed to confirm where it is actually going yet!

We had a very enjoyable, it tiring, day in Hong Kong. Don’t tell Cunard but I’m glad the ship was late in arriving. It meant that we could have a leisurely morning, do a full day’s sightseeing and see Hong Kong after dark. What would have been even better is if they had extended the day in Vung Tau meaning that tour departures could be spread out and everyone could have had their full tour of Saigon without the mad rush at the end.

Offline Malcolm

15 March 2008
« Reply #169 on: Aug 19, 2009, 12:26 PM »
I went to the gym again this morning. I was rather annoyed to find that I’ve not been booked in for today or any day in the future and that someone else has now booked the 7-00 am slot. Luckily the other man and I were able to sort it out – had I relied on the gym staff I would just have lost my slot.

The day before yesterday we had to race to get from Vung Tau to Hong Kong. At one point we made a speed of 29.8 knots before we dropped back to 27 knots. It is nice to know that they were pushing the ship as fast as she could go in order to make up the required time (LOL). Today we are back at a much more respectable speed: 16 ½ knots! Even Vicky could keep up with us today.

Oddly enough as I was writing in yesterday’s entry about Costa Roca/Colombia a letter from Perky was pushed under the cabin door. It tells us about “a change to our planned itinerary”. In the letter he says that “Puerto Moin is historically not a good port to run a launch operation, and recently the port has experienced easterly swells, making it unsafe for ships to run their launch service.” Why have they changed the port? We were scheduled to dock so launch operations being unsafe shouldn’t affect us. Why did I find out about the change through Cruise Critic/Cunard Critic (a very apposite name) and personal emails long before Cunard thought to tell any of the passengers? Why has this change only been made now? They cancelled the WC visit last year and cancelled the QM2’s visits for this year last December – well before this cruise even started. Have they only just worked out that they cannot get in? In the letter Percy says “The decision to make this port change is purely to enhance your Cruise experience.” I don’t believe him. I suspect that Carnival’s profits are at the bottom of it. [Rereading this Diary in May 2009 I can’t help but wonder if this change of port was the reason they were so reticent about the Yellow Fever immunisations]

I went to ask Lisa about the problem. Lisa is the best person to ask about anything. I believe she has access to most of the crew – if she doesn’t know she will try and find out. If she can’t find out at least she will tell you that and not tell you a half-truth to get you to go away! Her comment was that she had not realised that is was scheduled to be a docking port; she will email several people and find out. With regard to Yellow Fever inoculations she does not think that it has been that well researched. Again she will check and find out.

Perky did make a noon announcement today. At least to part of the ship! Paul and I were in the Chartroom. We got an announcement saying that the horn would be sounded on the open decks (unusual to hear if you’re not on the open decks) but then both the Captains announcement and most of the announcement from the Third Officer were only played through the stairways. The announcement was not relayed to the rest of the ship until the closing words. I would have believed that this was a fault with the PA system in the Chart Room except for the fact that my parents, who were in the Queens Grill Lounge, reported the same thing.

From what we could tell of the announcement we need approximately 3 ½ engines running to get us to Shanghai on time. We will do 16 ½ knots this morning on three engines and then speed up slightly when a fourth engine is started.

In the afternoon I took our unironables to the Launderette. It was busy but not that busy. Most of the users were men. I wonder if that explains why there was no fighting.

Late afternoon was our Ensemble World Explorers Cocktail Party. It was another very enjoyable event. Having these Ensemble Travel events seems like a big added bonus to the holiday. Paul and I were talking to another invitee. She was telling us how the poison dwarf was claiming that a man in a wheelchair had tried to kill her. This invitee said that she was sure that it wasn’t Paul – until we told her the story of the tour in Freemantle! Paul’s comment was that if he had tried to kill her he would have succeeded!

One thing that we have found about cocktail parties in general, besides ordering what you want (including cocktails), is that you can order a double (or a quad, etc) and get it. If you order a double brand (for example a double Bombay Sapphire and tonic) you will get it. (Hic!)

We saw our captain for the first time last night. Last night was the CWC party for all those who joined in Singapore. Perky had been there to welcome members. Once the party was over he came and sat in the Chart Room for a drink with three other people.

After dinner Paul and I went to the Show again. The turn was Phillip Hitchcock, a “Comedy Magician”. He was OK but not wonderful. I would place him as above average on the pub and club circuit but still on that circuit – still not even a second or third rate entertainer. Although Cunard have done a couple of decent production shows I don’t think that their average level of entertainment has actually increased.

« Last Edit: Aug 20, 2009, 04:44 PM by mrkpnh (Malcolm K) »

Offline Malcolm

16 March 2008
« Reply #170 on: Aug 20, 2009, 04:46 PM »
I am pleased to be able to report that we have speeded up. We are now going at 16.6 knots and not 16.5 as we were yesterday! All that extra speed gives a feeling of great importance to everyone onboard.

I am also very pleased to report that the internet is back up to its full speed. I’ve finally managed to download a virus checker for my laptop (I haven’t managed to get any updates yet though). It only took 45 minutes – My previous two attempts took that long and got nowhere. Once I’ve got those updates I should (with luck) be able to download emails instead of having to read them on the web.

The pursers have just made an announcement throughout the ship. I am in the Chart Room and so I cannot say if it was made in the cabins as well. It was made by someone who’s spoken English was not that good. The gist of the announcement was that photocopies of our passports will be certified by the Chinese authorities and then placed in our cabins. We should carry these ashore with us in Shanghai and hand them in on our return to the ship. He then went on to add that if we haven’t already returned our Chinese Health Declarations would we please do so immediately. This announcement was then repeated, the broken English totally confusing the message. The whole announcement took about four minutes. Why couldn’t this information be put in the daily programme? We’ve been at sea for over 24 hours – they must have loaded the stamps etc in Hong Kong so why do they have to treat is as if they have only just found out about the entire thing?

Ten minutes later: There was a second announcement by the same person, in the same broken English and saying the same thing. Again he further confused his message by repeating it twice. Following this we had two separate messages in Japanese and one in French. I assume they were saying the same thing but I don’t know. Why do the pursers decide to take it upon themselves to disturb the entire ship?

Today marks an important anniversary. It was three months ago today (at about 2-00 pm) that we boarded this ship for the first time this trip. It doesn’t actually feel like three months – over a month, but not long over, and forever. I’m feeling that there’s only just over a month to go :( Why am I feeling sad? That’s still ¼ of the trip.

We went to the show again this evening. As we only had about half an hour to pass we didn’t bother going further than The Golden Lion. I can see why that bar has an appeal to a lot of the passengers – it’s just like a working man’s club – but it still does not appeal to me. We stopped for a drink to pass ten minutes before it was time for the show. Tonight’s act was Annette Wardell. She was billed as an opera singer however more than half of what she sang was from Musical Theatre (Things like Showboat, My Fair Lady, etc). In her introduction we were told that she was world famous and that she was the world’s most important up and coming opera singer. I have never heard of her; if she is still hoping to make it in the world of opera I suspect she’s left it a bit too late!

Offline Malcolm

17 March 2008
« Reply #171 on: Aug 21, 2009, 04:06 PM »
Today is the 17th March. That means we must be in China! We are going to so many fantastic places and doing so many different things it becomes very easy to become blasé about the changing experiences. It becomes easy to think that it’s just another port!

We’d booked a tour in Shanghai. Going on all these tours are against my normal philosophy about tours but Shanghai city is an hour from Shanghai port and one of us has a broken leg. The idea of doing it on our own seemed a bit daunting so we’d given in and decided on an organised trip.

After breakfast I’d gone to fill our water bottles at the bowser in the Pavilion. On the way there I met Gail Seymour and stopped to thank her for her help in Hong Kong with that woman. She asked if we were going on tour today and if so which one. When I told her she said to make sure that we told them when we checked-in for the tour and they would ensure the front seats in the coach were reserved. I returned to the cabin and collected Paul. On our way to the Theatre we met Michael from the Tour Office. He had obviously just spoken to Gail and told us again that they would reserve seats if we told them at the desk.

Our tour start time was published as 8-45 am; we were due to meet in the theatre at 8-25 am. We actually got there at about 8-20 am and were on our way by just after 8-30 am. We had decided that as part of the tour was walking we would take the wheelchair although Paul wasn’t riding in it. We thought it might come in useful later. Paul went and got a seat by the exit to the Theatre whilst the chair and I went to check-in. There was a small queue and once I’d checked-in there was Michael taking our bus number (no 7), saying he’d make sure seats were reserved and telling us to go down when they called bus 5. Sure enough when we got to our bus there were the two front seats reserved for us. This level of communication and helpfulness is what we expect from Cunard staff. Why can’t they always be this good?

I checked with the Guide about the amount of walking there would be (she said about half an hour) and about the wheelchair access to the Yu Gardens. I was told that there was the odd place where Paul would need to get out of his chair to clear a couple of steps but other than that there would be no problem with using a wheelchair on that part of the tour. This we accepted and the driver only got the wheelchair out for that section of today’s tour.

Shanghai reminds me of East Berlin soon after the Berlin Wall came down. There is the same amount of new building, similar numbers of major constructions and the same differentiation between rich and poor. There is also an air of hope and expectation although it is nothing like as strong as it was in Berlin.

The tour started with an hour’s coach journey from the ship to the new area of town. From here we got to see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (famous) and the Jin Mao Building (not famous) from close up. I doubt we walked 100m from the coach to the view point before returning.

Then it was back on the coach for the transfer under the Huangpu and to the Monument to the People’s Heroes for the view down the Bund with its view of the elegant architecture. We stopped here for about 20 minutes. Long enough for us to get off the coach, have a quick look at the monument, take a photograph and get back on the coach. I could have quite happily spent half a day on the Bund.

Once back on the coach we made the short transfer to the Old City. This is where the guide was taking the group on a walking tour and I was to push Paul. The arrangement worked fine (although I found that I didn’t have much time to take photographs) until we got to the Yu Gardens. The area of the old town that we walked through was very interesting and, despite the numbers trailing thorough, was unspoilt by tourists. The stalls were selling the kind of thing I remember from Stanley Market in Hong Kong 14 years ago. I would have loved to be able to spend a lot more time here rooting through the many stalls. I’m sure I could have found something I really needed but hadn’t realised I hadn’t got!

Then we got to the Yu Gardens. I had asked the guide specifically about these before the tour started and been told that they were wheelchair accessible except for a couple of places where there were a few steps. The gardens cannot be classed as accessible to anyone with mobility problems. There were lots of steps, bridges, uneven surfaces, narrows, stepping stones, etc that, whilst they make for a picturesque garden, make wheelchair access impossible. As Paul is able to walk with crutches we tried to see if we could leave the chair at the entrance for collection later – there was nobody there who would agree to look after it. In the end I had to push the chair whilst it was folded and Paul had to manage with his crutches. His comment at the end was that, whilst he was grateful for the chair on the way to and back from the gardens, it had been such a problem he would rather have walked the entire way.

Despite those problems the gardens are well worth seeing. They are a set of traditional Chinese gardens laid out in the 16th Century. There are various pavilions that are used as museumettes and for assorted displays. The gardens are another place I could have spent a long time. Our visit was nothing like long enough. Despite it being winter and most of the trees being bare (the exceptions being the Magnolias and some of the Flowering Cherries) the gardens looked to be kept with all the detail you would imagine.

On our way back to the coach we passed through another part of the old town. This was narrow pedestrianised streets lined with traditional houses, temples, etc. You could not tell if these were well preserved or heavily restored originals or if they were new buildings designed to attract the tourist but attract the tourist they did! The streets were packed with people. It’s becoming a familiar comment but I could have spent more time here as well. It did not deserve anything like as much time as some of the earlier areas though.

By this point it was time for lunch and we were off to the Jin Jiang Hotel. A 5* hotel that is probably better known by its old name of Cathay Mansions. Here we were served a traditional Chinese meal. We were seated at tables of eight and dishes were placed on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table. To start with there was an Hors D’Oevres. This was seven cold dishes of things like Tofu with flavourings, bean sprouts, a salad of tomato and cucumber. This was followed with eight hot dished such as sweet and sour pork, chicken with spring onions and ginger, special rice, etc. The hot dishes were brought to a close by the serving of sweet corn soup and pork dumplings. There was then a tray of watermelon as a pudding.

After lunch we visited the Jade Buddha Temple. This temple contains two famous sculptures of Buddha. One is a reclining Buddha the other is sitting up. They are both carved out of White Jade. Our guide book says that “it is not one of China’s more spectacular complexes”. This may be true but we still found it very interesting. Once we had seen the statues of Buddha we were given a tasting (with the hope that we would then buy) of teas blended by the temple. We tasted a total of five teas. They ranged from tasting of nothing but hot water to disgusting! I could not have drunk any of the teas on a regular basis. Needless to say we didn’t buy any.

Our penultimate call (and the last call mentioned in the Shore Excursions Programme) was going to be to the Children’s Palace. On the 15th we got a letter from the Tour Office saying that the Children’s Palace would be closed because of government activity and the kindergarten would be substituted. At the Children’s Palace we had expected to see various children between the ages of 6 and 16 singing, dancing, etc. This use of children does not interest us however the building is reported to be of interest. It was built between 1918 and 1921 as a private residence and still contains many of its original features. The building for the kindergarten was built mid 1990s and was not architecturally of note. After we had been taken into several classrooms containing children aged 4 and 5 Paul and I, along with several other members of the group, decided that this was distasteful and left. I believe the rest of the group went on to see several other 4 and 5 year olds who could play a musical instrument, sing, etc.

This activity showed how the Chinese state will misuse its children to present an image to the outside world. The tour was kept well away from the poorer areas of Shanghai. We were told, but of course could not see, that the poverty outside the cities, in the countryside, is extreme. I wonder what else was put on as a front? What else was kept out of our sight to prevent us forming opinions that the authorities would not like? Had we been in China for longer than a day what else wouldn’t we have seen?

The final port of call was at a factory that made silk products. Our tour guide said that people on the coach were asking for an extra shopping opportunity. She said that the coach would only be able to go to the silk factory if everyone agreed – we weren’t all asked. Despite this being an unscheduled stop there were several other Cunard tours there. The prices for their clothing did not seem a lot cheaper than in England. It would be very difficult to compare their duvets as they didn’t give measurements for heat retention in the same way.

We enjoyed most of our tour of Shanghai. The kindergarten and the silk factory could have been missed and more time given at some of the other locations but that is a fairly minor complaint. If we went again soon we would not do a general tour and would decide on what particular bit we wanted to see. The tour let us see as much of the city as was possible in one day and had to cater to all tastes. I accept that some people would have loved the kids and the silk factory and not been that interested in the architecture of the Bund.

On our return to the ship there was a letter from the pursers about Japanese immigration. Attached to it were a health declaration, a customs declaration and a combined embarkation/disembarkation form. We had to fill these in and attend Japanese Immigration in the Grand Lounge in the morning.
« Last Edit: Aug 21, 2009, 04:14 PM by mrkpnh (Malcolm K) »

Offline Malcolm

18 Mach 2008
« Reply #172 on: Aug 22, 2009, 06:52 PM »
The ship was almost deserted this morning. I put it down to being the day after a port day and the clocks going forward this morning. When I got to the gym I wondered if it was actually open. The door was unlocked but the only light came from the emergency lights - the sight of heads floating backwards and forwards in the pool was surreal! I don’t know who had opened the gym this morning but they had forgotten to turn the lights on, start the fans and switch on the televisions.

Once I’d been to the restaurant for breakfast I turned on the television for firstly the speed (28 knots) and then the Breakfast Show. There we were told that we should take our Customs Declaration and Embarkation/Disembarkation Card to the Grand lounge but NOT our Health Declaration – that would be checked as we left the ship tomorrow. When we got to the Grand Lounge we got a third set of instructions. This time we were to take our passport and Embarkation/Disembarkation Card and nothing else. As Cunard already had our passports in the Grand Lounge the instruction to have your passport ready caused some confusion. When we collected our passports we asked about the confliction instructions. The receptionist said that they had asked to see our Health Declarations to make sure we had filled them in correctly. When we pointed out that their notice gave a third set of instructions she said “Oh”!

The Embarkation/Disembarkation Cards were mostly precompleted and only needed Country and City of residence and occupation filling in. However for port of disembarkation there was a date. On most people’s it was the date they joined the ship, however for anyone who joined before 31 December 2007 the date was given as December 2008! We questioned this and were told “Oh dear; we’ve made a mistake; I didn’t realise”!

On the way back to the cabin I went to see Lisa to see if she’d got anywhere with Malaria, Yellow Fever and Puerto Moin being a port where we’d been due to dock. She has emailed someone at Cunard Head Office about both the Yellow Fever and Puerto Moin. She’s had a reply about the Yellow Fever – it’s not needed – but the person failed to reply about PM. She will email them again.

As usual Peter Crimes’ lecture was good. I hadn’t realised that there was so much to see within only a short distance of Osaka (Kyoto is only 1 ½ hours away). He who never books tours and actively discourages people from doing so went to the Tour Office to enquire if there were any and if so what tours they had left. It turns out they are still able to offer both the tours we’d be interested in so I think it’ll back to the Tour Office to book one when it reopens this afternoon. It means we won’t be able to go on the Ensemble tour tomorrow but we think that seeing several World Heritage Sites is going to be more fulfilling than a tea ceremony.

The couple we were sitting next to related their tour of Shanghai. It was the same one that the old woman had been on except she was on a different bus – one for people with walking difficulties and who required an easier tour. Apparently she was not happy about being put on a bus with all the people who had walking difficulties. She said she did not like being included in this group. She raised a stink saying that she was quite able to walk (This was the woman who said Paul, with a broken leg, cold walk better than she could). I am pleased to say that the tour guides did not give in and kept her on the bus for the immobile.

Perky missed his midday announcement again (It could be that it just wasn’t broadcast where we happened to be but, as we moved from the tour office, down G stairway to Quarter Deck, though the Queens Room and into the Chart Room, we didn’t hear it. It might be that Perky suddenly has a lot of urgent things to attend to and therefore can’t make these announcements as well, or that  I wasn’t used to these announcements at Christmas and therefore didn’t notice their absence but I’ve got to wonder if Perky isn’t worried about passenger feedback and therefore keeping out of the way.

We went to the Tour Office at just turned 3-00 pm. We had decided either to book the tour to Kyoto (rates as most walking) or Nara (substantial walking). Peter Crimes had recommended Nara but had said the tour included a lot of walking. We went to the Tour Office to seek advice before booking. The first person we spoke to said that one was rated most walking whilst the other was rated substantial walking; that meant that one involved a lot of physical activity whilst the other didn’t involve quite as much. He was not able to tell us anything further than was already in the booklet. He suggested that we spoke to either Michael or Gail.

Michael was available (but not serving – that’s why we hadn’t asked him first) and he suggested the Kyoto tour because he had done that tour and knew that the walking was possible. He had not been on the Nara one and said so. He checked with Gail who said both tours were similar in a different way and could not put one over the other. We have ended up booking the Nara one as there is not a shopping trip scheduled onto it whereas the Kyoto trip had an hour spent at the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. If the tour office were always as good as Gail and Michael we might book more tours (I’m not sure though – they are still very expensive!).

I also got two more bits of news: Firstly the tours are now out for Cartagena. There is nothing that is of great interest on any of the tours so I suspect we’ll end up taking a taxi for a few hours. [Oddly enough we ended up taking a tour there; it turned into one of the best tours we have ever had.] Secondly, and most importantly, they have cancelled our stop in Brooklyn. It has been replaced with Manhattan. We are going into the centre again. I suppose that means another early morning to watch our arrival.

When we were late leaving Vung Tau and had to rush to get to Hong Kong we were told that the QE2 was being pushed as fast as she could. We only reached speeds of 29 knots. Today we are not racing (as far as I know) but our speed seems to have increased. Before lunch we were doing 28 knots and this afternoon we managed 29 knots. Paul’s just turned the TV on and we’ve hit 30 knots. 30.3 to be precise. We have already dropped to 29.3 knots but at 5-25 pm we did pass the magic point of 30 knots.

After dinner there was another new show that we’d decided to attend. Once dinner finished and before the show began Paul and I wanted to go for a drink. As The Golden Lion was just at the top of the stairs from the restaurant Paul wanted to stop there. Not for long, we’d hardly sat at a table before I was able to persuade Paul that the pianist singing “Little Brown Jug” at the top of his voice was not the best entertainment! I think it was pointing out that it was Karaoke shortly that actually got him to move.

The show was another new production. It was not as good as the one based on West Side Story but was still far better than the previous shows had been. It was titled “Fiesta Latina” although it seemed to have little to do with either Latin American or fiesta music! It started slowly – halfway through the second song I whispered to Paul that I would leave when he wanted. My opinion of the show changed fairly quickly. By the end of the third number I wanted to stay and I was sad when the show ended.

When we left the Grand Lounge we passed back through the Red Lion. Karaoke was in full swing. Oh dear!

The seas had been getting a bit choppy this evening and when we got back to the cabin we turned the TV on to see what speed we were doing. 31.6 knots! We’ve passed the 30 mark again! So much for the rumour that was going around after leaving Vung Tau – that the Captain had tried to speed up and had been forced to slow again because of the way the ship was shaking herself to bits.

Offline Malcolm

19 March 2008
« Reply #173 on: Aug 23, 2009, 12:10 PM »
Our tour was scheduled to leave at 8-15 am. The tour was to meet in the Theatre at 8-00 am. We went to breakfast at just turned 7-00 am. Our plan was to go straight from breakfast to the Theatre so we left the wheelchair (We thought it was better to take it and not use it than not take it and want it) outside the starboard entrance when we went down to breakfast. Breakfast was over by 8-45 am and I was in the queue for tickets (I left Paul in the Golden Lion where he could have a smoke). Michael radioed to Gail, who was with the coaches, and got her to reserve us a couple of seats and then told me that we could go straight to the coach. The gangway was on Two Deck but Thomas, who was marshalling the queue to get off, sent us to the gangway on Five Deck where there were no steps.

When we got to the coach we found that a woman had taken one of the reserved seats. There were two reserved signs but because only one had a name on she had assumed the other one was vacant. She moved across to the front seat on the other side of the coach and was quite happy. The Cunard Rep (I think another of the Gentleman Hosts but I’m not sure) said a few words, basically don’t be late, but said it in a far more pleasant way than the host in Shanghai. We were underway by 8-10 am.

The drive to Nara only took 40 minutes; we had been advised that the drive was normally about 1 ½ hours and to “expect traffic congestion and delays”. We were delighted to arrive at the Horyuji Temple (Buddhist) before 9-00 am. The Horyuji Temple was our first World Heritage site of the day. It contained some of the oldest wooden structures in the world and was divided into three parts: The Western Precinct, the museum and the Eastern Precinct. Paul and I explored the Western Precinct and the museum. We did not venture into the Eastern Precinct because it had started to rain and we decided walking slowly back to the coach would be enough for us. We were not the only people who thought this – when we got back to the coach most of the passengers were already there!

From there we travelled to the Kasuga Shrine. This is a Shinto Shrine that was first built in 768 AD and is notable for the large number of stone lanterns (upwards of 2000) in its grounds. It is another World Heritage Site. The rain eased as we got here but soon started to pour down again.

Lunch was served at the Nara Hotel. The hotel is a modern building very close to the Kasuga Shrine. We ate in the hotel’s main dining room and got a four course lunch (smoked salmon, pea soup, roast chicken and strawberries and ice cream) with coffee. We were all seated at tables of either four or six. Paul and I ended up sitting with Jo Ann (from CC) and a friend. This good company made it a very pleasant and enjoyable meal stop.

The rain stopped during lunch. Just down the road from the hotel was our third World Heritage Site of the day; the Todai-ji Temple and we considered not taking our umbrellas. We decided that we would and it was just as well as the rain started again when we were about half way round. The Todai-ji temple (Buddhist again – temples are Buddhist and shrines are Shinto) was built around the second largest (16m) cast Buddha in the world. (It was thought to be the largest until a larger one was discovered in Tibbett recently). Work started on the temple and the Buddha in 710 AD. This temple is the largest wooden structure in the world.

From there it was back to the coach. We left at 3-30 pm and were back at the ship by 4-40 pm. The return journey was another very pleasant and relatively traffic free event. We feel that Japan has been one of the highlights of the cruise so far. All the sites that we saw were of world class standard. Driving through Osaka (and modern Nara) they looked just like any other big city, full of tall grey buildings. The continuous rain did not help this impression. However that there are such important and spectacular sites more than mitigates the rain (and the grey buildings).

When we were almost back at the ship our guide pointed out the local shopping centre; it was about two minutes walk from the ship. I took Paul back to the cabin (he was very tired. He hadn’t used the wheelchair all day and on at least two occasions had walked a few steps without even the help of crutches) and then set off to spend the last of my day in Japan window shopping. It was a decent sized shopping mall with a major food court. Had I had the time (and the appetite) I could easily have eaten at a lot of the restaurants there. The shops were interesting although there was nothing I wanted to buy – (not quite true. I did get a pair of shorts for the gym as those I’ve brought with me have shrunk). The mall struck me as shops for locals rather than directed at the cruise ships that call. I had to rush from the mall after only half an hour to make sailing; I could have spent much longer. One thing struck us about Japan – how few places accept credit cards. If you want to be able to buy anything then you must have Yen (There is an exchange just inside the terminal, much cheaper than the machines on board).

I think that our impression of Japan came from the tour. By way of contrast I am going to describe briefly my parents’ tour. They started at 10-30 from the Yacht Club. They had a short drive through Osaka to the Umeda Sky building – two 40 floor skyscrapers with a bridge connecting the two towers. There is a garden on the top of this bridge with views over the whole of Osaka. Unfortunately they didn’t get into the garden because it was raining so hard. They got a traditional Japanese lunch – “interesting, filing and bland”! – and a traditional tea ceremony that lasted for 15 minutes. There was a short talk about the kimono before a return to the ship. They were not impressed and said this was the worst Ensemble tour there has been on this trip. Paul and I are both very glad that we decided to change tours at the last minute and go to Nara.

The mall had balconies at the back (overlooking the QE2) running the full length of the building. People were already starting to gather along them while I was still shopping. By the time we sailed they were crowded. It was still pouring down but that did not appear to affect the numbers on shore; it greatly reduced the numbers on deck though. The sail from Osaka was not grander than the sail from any of the Australian ports but it came close. It is wonderful that so many people turn out to say goodbye to such a famous ship.

The clocks go forwards tonight so after dinner it was a case of checking emails and then going to bed.

[Osaka was the other port in our top two. I could not decide which I’d put first – Easter Island or Nara.]

Online Rob Lightbody

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Re: 18 Mach 2008
« Reply #174 on: Aug 23, 2009, 06:32 PM »
The seas had been getting a bit choppy this evening and when we got back to the cabin we turned the TV on to see what speed we were doing. 31.6 knots! We’ve passed the 30 mark again!

Thats incredibly, it really is.  Basically a full TEN knots faster than QV.  The fact that you had no idea you were going fast in your cabin until you turned on the TV says everything that's needed!
Passionate about QE2's service life for 37 years and creator of this website.  Worked in IT for 27 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Malcolm

20 March 2008
« Reply #175 on: Aug 24, 2009, 06:44 PM »
There were only two people in the gym when I got there this morning. The clocks going on have made the whole ship sleep in! It has been quite rough through the night; they’d emptied the pool in the gym. I could see why when I went in – the carpet was soaked. When you walked across the floor you left dry footprints where the water had been squeezed out.

Breakfast didn’t start until 8-30 am. When I got to the restaurant there were only two other passengers eating. By the time I left I would think that there were only about ten!

After Breakfast I went to see Lisa about Cartagena. Apparently the man at Cunard has asked where she’s getting her information! She has told me that there is no need for Malaria tablets and no requirement for Yellow Fever. Cunard are still remaining silent about the reason why we are not going to Puerto Moin though.

Peter Crimes lectured on Honolulu and Maui this morning. He said that he has lumped the two together because he has never been to Maui and can only give general guidance and show a few photographs taken by someone else several years ago. He also said that he did not yet know where we are to dock in Honolulu. He hoped that it would be by the Aloha Tower, in the centre, but had heard that another container port on the outskirts was a possibility. At this the audience gave a loud moan.

Perky did make his noon message today. It allowed him to apologise for the rough seas we experienced last night. Apparently they were totally unforcast and nobody knew about them until we were into them and to apologise for not having been in more contact with the passengers – the Bridge has been very busy and there have been times when the pilot run has been long. I strongly doubt that there are ports where the pilot needs to be aboard more than 18 hours before we dock. That would be the length of time required to prevent him making a midday announcement. If we have visited any then the Daily Programme, in its Navigational Information section, has made no mention of them.

I went to see Lisa about Hawaii. I suspect that Peter Crimes has caused some headaches by suggesting we might dock at a container port. I am assured that we will dock either at the Aloha Tower of at the other passenger terminal half a mile from the tower.

After that we went to bed and slept. We got up in time for dinner. Once dinner was over we headed back to bed again! The clocks go forward again tonight (and almost every sea day until we reach Southampton) so it’s going to be a month of early nights.

Offline Malcolm

Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #176 on: Aug 25, 2009, 01:26 PM »
What I find interesting at this point is that, while we were still almost a month from the end, we were feeling the approach of that end very quickly :( Four months onboard sounds like forever but when three of those months have passed incredibly fast then you have a horrible feeling the fourth won't last very long either.

Offline Malcolm

21 March 2008
« Reply #177 on: Aug 25, 2009, 01:28 PM »
Another short night and another quiet morning in the gym. The carpet in the gym is almost dry now and is looking much cleaner where it was washed with pool water. What happened to the idea that they’d replace the entire carpet if it got soaked in sea water (a la Alan Wicker)?

When we’d both finally roused ourselves (I fell asleep when I got back to the cabin after breakfast) we went up to the Funnel Bar at about 10-30 am. We took our books and were quite happy sitting, sipping lemonade and reading until it was time for Perky’s noon announcement. We got the warning that in three minutes time the horn would be sounded; we got the horn itself and then the Third Officer giving his navigational information. Yet again no announcement from our glorious Captain! As we are over 900 miles from Japan in one direction and 2700 from Hawaii in the other I cannot believe that it is long pilot runs that have detained him; the weather is only force four so I can’t think that has kept him on the bridge all night either. We haven’t seen Perky since before Japan. Was yesterday’s announcement made by radio? Have we left him behind?

Paul had a sandwich at the Funnel Bar and I declined. I went for Afternoon Tea in the Queens Grill Lounge and Paul declined. About 5-00 pm we both fell asleep and that was it until dinner! There is very little to amuse anybody in a diary that just says “went to the gym” and “went to sleep” and that is what I’ve written for the past couple of days. But that is all we are doing!

Everyone who has been on the entire WC so far seems to be lacking energy at the moment. I’m not sure what is causing it. It could be something to do with us starting to approach the last sector (LA is still 11 nights away) or it could be to do with us starting to feel that we’ve had our fill of different and exciting places. I think it’s due to us having only 23 hour days when at sea. This will happen almost every sea day until Southampton. Everyone has been used to 24, 25 or 26 hour (on one occasion) days and is now still trying to fit a day’s activities into two or three hours less. I think that it will take a while for us to adjust to the shorter day and doing less.

One thing that I can write about is the cabin next door, the one with the adjoining door to ours. The people in there are on the full WC – at least we assume so – they’ve been there since New York at least. We’ve only ever seen them once, going to dinner when they said a quick “good evening” and hurried off but we have heard plenty from them! Nothing like enough to warrant a complaint (and what would we be complaining about anyway?), or even a mention before in this diary. I think it started shortly after Valparaiso, when we were spending a lot of time in the cabin because of Paul’s broken leg. They would go playing Bridge and then come back to the cabin, order a cup of tea from room service and loudly argue about the game and how each other had played. Paul and I started to get annoyed by this and made some loud comments. After a few days (and a few comments) the arguments mostly stopped. Every few days we would hear them trying the interconnecting door on their side.

Paul and I both had the QE2 cough at this point. One night, about midnight, we were both coughing and our neighbours banged on the wall to shut us up! They both have the cough now and we’ve to put up with coughing, snorting and trumpeting all night long.

Then (and this is what reminded me to write now – they’ve just made ‘that’ noise again), a couple of weeks ago, they started doing something that sounded like putting masking tape around the door. These noises lasted for a good ten minutes. I have to say ‘sounded’ because I’ve never been in their cabin and cannot think of any other explanation for the noise although I can’t think that they would spend so much time sealing the door. Now, at least once per day, there is a similar sound but that only goes on for a minute or so. What are they doing? They’re not really annoying us (apart from some homophobic comments they made once) It’s just irritating to hear these peculiar noises and not know what they are! [At the end of the cruise our steward told us that it was masking tape on the door – to keep the pipe smoke out!]

Offline Malcolm

22 March 2008
« Reply #178 on: Aug 26, 2009, 03:46 PM »
This is the first report for 22 March 2008. It was the day we crossed the international dateline so we got two 22nds! The second one is tomorrow :)

Offline Malcolm

22 March 2008
« Reply #179 on: Aug 26, 2009, 03:46 PM »
I can’t even write about the gym or breakfast today. Last night turned into a very late night, we didn’t get to sleep until well past 1-30 am. That, combined with the clocks going on, resulted in my not getting up until 9-30 am and being far too late for the gym and for breakfast.

Even Perky has set out against my having anything to write about today. Come noon he made his announcement. Not that interesting (most addresses aren’t actually that interesting anyway whoever they’re from, it’s just that, on occasion, they can be quite informative, amusing or even educational), just a comment that the weather is improving and a warning to avoid sunburn.

As usual at sea when I don’t think anything important happens something comes along to help the day pass! I am noting today’s happening for Lyn and Margot. I saw the Orange Cat again! And I can now say for definite that it is not the pest that’s got itself banned from CC. I’d got a back view photograph the other day, that indicated it wasn’t our cat, but have been waiting to get a front view shot. I was in the pool and it wandered into the gym with husband in tow! Then, when I’d got out of the pool and was catching the lift back to our cabin she got in it with me. I got the chance of a close up inspection. Unfortunately I was in swimming trunks and a bathrobe; I didn’t have either camera or mobile phone on me :)

I’ve also had an email from Kathy. She has worked out that an email sent to me c/o Cunard comes in hard copy (not difficult to workout but too hard for my confused mind). Mary’s come up with a similar suggestion at the same time. So if anyone’s emailing me please send an email to my normal address but also CCed to with Malcolm Kelly Cabin 2044 in the subject line.

One of the nice things about sailing from east to west is that you cross the International Date Line and get an extra day. We crossed this afternoon and whilst today is Saturday 22 March tomorrow will also be Saturday 22 March. We got invitations to another Captain’s Party, again at the Funnel Bar. I’m sure Perky is only doing it to prove that he is onboard and is not making his occasional announcements by telephone. The party is tomorrow night and the date on the invitation is given as “the second Saturday, 22nd March”!