Author Topic: Malcolm's diary of QE2's final world cruise.  (Read 74274 times)

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Offline Malcolm

4 April 2008
« Reply #200 on: Sep 09, 2009, 01:29 PM »
We were very late getting up this morning. We missed breakfast and that meant I managed to finish yesterday’s report. I was able to email it from our cabin again! I wonder what it is about this part of the world that makes wireless signals travel further. I didn’t turn the antennae on the laptop off when I’d sent it; I’ve just looked at the network status and it’s showing only limited connectivity now so I suspect I was lucky.

Carol Thatcher is the Guest Lecturer onboard for this section. Her first lecture, “Consorts: From Evita to Carla Bruni”, was this morning. In many ways it wasn’t about consorts at all, in many others it was all about them. I think she used the concept of consorts as a way of talking about the subjects that interested her. Whatever, her talk was very interesting and filled up fifty minutes very nicely. She talked for just under half the time and then used the remaining time to invite question from the audience. Not surprisingly most of the questions were related to her family and life in No 10 although there was one question asking her about consorts in other lives. She came across as very devoted to her parents and her father in particular and was quite willing to accept that things in her early life were not usual, or even occurred once, to other people.

After the lecture it was time for our Ship’s Stores tour. Warren had telephoned earlier this morning, while I was at the lecture, to say that Thomas would be conducting the tour and that we should meet him at 11-000 am in the Midships lobby. I had arranged for my father to do the tour as well so the three of us met the other couple in the lobby just before 11-00 am. Thomas was already waiting so it was about 10-55 am that we all set off.

We first caught the lift down to Five Deck (eek!) and then walked along about a third of the ship. Thomas then directed us through the big double door, just past the Car Lift, marked “Crew Only”. From there it was down another two decks to meet the officer in charge of the stores, Gregory Dorothy. Gregory then took us on a tour through the stores areas. We started in the dry goods store, then the frozen fish, raw meat, fruit, veg and ice cream freezers; the banana store, the housekeeping store and the spirits, wine and beer cellar (They still have the tanks that were used to carry beer but they are no longer used). We got to see one of the goods lifts from inside and the store under the hatch in the foredeck. It was also interesting to hear stories about the stores and to know that the ship won’t run out of butter before reaching Dubai (because of an ordering mistake).

I had thought I’d have managed to write much more than a single paragraph about the stores. I’m not sure what else I can say about them though. I do have lots of video showing the vast piles of potatoes, the storeroom with boxes of pineapples going from floor to ceiling (not just pineapples but strawberries, melons, Kiwi fruit, asparagus, cauliflowers, bananas, almost every vegetable or fruit you could name). Pictures do not do justice to the sights of the stores; you really need to be there to understand just how much stock is held there.

I did see one sight that will gladden the hearts of most Cunard passengers – there was a place in the wine cellar for keeping Pol Acker. There was only one bottle left. Unfortunately, when I commented on this, I was told that there are four places around the ship where it is stored and only this one was empty.

The entire tour lasted just over 1 ½ hours so I missed Captain Perkins’s midday message (although I have it on good authority that he did make one). Yesterday he had told us that he would be giving the approximate times through the Panama Canal – we missed those as well although we weren’t too bothered as we’d been told they’d be in the Daily Programme.

The Nautical Auction was due to start at 2-00 pm. Its preview was due to start ¾ hour before, 1-15 pm, we didn’t have time to go into the restaurant for lunch so decided to make do with a snack from the Lido. It was good (by motorway service station standards) but the atmosphere was still that of an up market transport caff; with as large number of people, all trying to eat as much as they can, in as short a time as possible. I would not have chosen to eat there had there been another alternative.

After lunch I stopped for a coke and Paul a smoke in the Chart Room. We got to the Grand Lounge at about 1-20 pm. The preview was already underway however as it was only a couple of tables, in front of the stage, we hadn’t missed anything.

The Auction consisted of 66 lots. These lots were arranged either on the stage or on the tables. There was an A4 sheet detailing 63 of the lots in the auction. The lots consisted of things like: a glass globe given on the 2004 WC; a 1000th voyage pin; the souvenir books from the 1977 and 1982 WCs; an Azimuth ring; an old porthole; a used piston ring; etc. There was also a selection of items from the Wardroom: Polo shirts, Rugby shirts, tie pins, lighters, plaques; etc. To finish off there was a miscellany of items: a pilot card from 1982; a megaphone found on the bridge (nobody knows “when it was used or what it was used for”); various courtesy flags from countries the ship has visited and won’t be visiting again; a house flag and the World Cruise Chart – a map of the world showing the full route of the World Cruise, every port we’ve visited and signed by both Captains and the Bridge team.

About twenty minutes before the auction was due to start two officers went through the collection of items to be auctioned and described them. Some of the lots were so “unusual” that they had great difficulty in describing them. I was particularly interested in the crew items (a towel and a set of mugs); the Wardroom items (Rugby Shirt, Polo Shirt, Tie Pin, Belt and Cummerbund); the Final World Cruise Banner (there was also the 25th WC Banner and the 40th Anniversary banner); the ship’s plaques and, of course, the World Cruise Chart.

The first few items went fairly cheaply – the 1000th voyage pins fetched US$ 40.00. Then the prices started to go up. The Christmas Gift of 1997 went for US$ 100.00 and the crew towel for US$ 90.00. I bought the 1977 souvenir book for US$ 120.00 and that was the last thing that went cheaply.

There were two 40th Anniversary Cruise Banners; they went for US$ 500.00 and US$ 520.00! The Rugby shirt for US$ 240.00; the lighter for US$ 400.00 and the Azimuth Ring for US$ 650.00. Even the rather battered megaphone went for US$ 200.00. The courtesy flags started to go at US$ 150.00 and went up to US$ 750.00 for Australia. The Blue Ensign went for US$ 1100.00; a lifebuoy for US$ 1300.00 and the porthole for US$ 1850.00. The final item, the World Cruise Chart went for US$ 6000.00! For ¾ of the auction (1 ½ hours) the prices were so high that it felt like there was no point in being there.

After the auction Paul and I got as far as the Chart Room. We experienced problems trying to get a drink – there was neither steward nor server working. When a steward came into the bar to put out ashtrays we got our drinks. I got a second drink with no problem. Then it came to the third drink (Paul’s second); the steward had vanished again but the server was still on duty behind the bar. I went to the bar to order and showed my Cruise Card with the Soft Drinks Package sticker. I was asked if we both had stickers and I replied in the affirmative. She then demanded to see them both (ignoring the fact that we had previously ordered drinks form her (via the steward) on two occasions within the past 15 minutes; I had to go and get Paul’s card off him to prove that we were both entitled to the drink. Whilst we were in the Chart Room we met Leone who should have been invited to the Farewell party tonight. She had been and was so cross with the invite she had torn it up! The invite had been to all passengers dining in the Mauritania Restaurant.

I nipped back to the cabin to put away my 1977 souvenir guide and then it was off to the Final Ensemble Travel Cocktail Party of the World Cruise. This time Peter Crimes (the Destination Lecturer) and his wife had been invited. He gave a short talk on how and why he had got to lecture on cruises.

As parties go this one was quite good. Paul got there and ordered a whisky with water on the side – it arrived with the water in a separate jug. My father ordered the same and was told that they no longer serve water on the side! I asked for a separate glass of water and was told that was alright (why?) and then pointed out that Paul had been served with a jug of water, the steward just shrugged and said that he’d been told not to serve them.

Although we still didn’t have the timings for the passage through the Panama Canal we’d been told that we would be starting early and decided to have as early a dinner a possible and then head to bed. We were through dinner by 8-30 pm and were heading to bed by 9-30 pm. The Daily Programme arrived shortly after that and informed us that our arrival at Miraflores Lock was scheduled for 6-40 am. Wanting to be on deck long before that we sat an alarm for 5-00 am and went to sleep.

Offline Malcolm

5 April 2008
« Reply #201 on: Sep 10, 2009, 04:13 PM »
The alarm rang at 5-00 am. Neither of us wanted to get up but we did want to see the canal and so were on deck just before 5-30 am. It felt funny to be walking through a quiet ship (or at least that’s how it seemed) carrying sun hats and glasses ever although sunrise wasn’t due for another ¾ hour. The ship stopped feeling quiet when we got to Boat Deck. It was thronged with people all searching for the best place to put their sun lounger for the day. We went to the walkway beneath the Bridge and claimed the last two places looking out over the bow. We stayed here until 9-00 am, when we were through Miraflores Locks and we decided to go for a late breakfast.

Mary – your email didn’t reach the cabin until the middle of the night. I didn’t get to read it until first thing this morning. I hope the timings I posted were of some use to someone. I went to the computer centre to post those times; whilst I was there I saw a new notice saying that there was a shortage of paper on the ship and that things should only be printed if absolutely necessary. I wonder if this will mean a reduction in the number of pointless flyers from the shops and the beauty department.

At 5-30 am it was still dark. Paul had difficulty photographing the Bridge of the Americas as there was not enough light to get a good picture. He also had difficulty getting his camera to focus, until he wiped the lens – coming from an air-conditioned ship to humid Panama quickly had caused condensation to form on his camera. I was not so lucky. My camcorder would not work for the first hour because of condensation on the tape heads.

As we sailed into the entry of the Canal we could see the tall buildings of Panama City in the distance on the starboard side. It wasn’t long before we saw the entrance to Miraflores Locks. There were boats heading upwards in both directions and it seemed to take ages before the boat on the starboard side had locked out of the lower chamber. I was surprised when the canal authorities immediately started to empty the chamber again for us. Despite there being no time lost in the handling of the ship it was still turned 9-00 am when we departed Miraflores Locks (we had been advised 8-00 am in the Daily Programme).

Paul and I went to breakfast and then headed back to the cabin to rest a little so we missed our passage through Pedro Miguel Lock (Missed? We saw it from the cabin – that in itself is an experience) [What you see are the walls of the lock. After months of seeing sea with the occasional bit of land the walls were really disconcerting!]. We were back on deck again in time for our passage under the Centennial Bridge to the north of Pedro Miguel Lock. We took photographs from the area under the ship’s Bridge and then started to walk around Boat Deck. All the outside decks were packed. I think there were more people on deck than I‘ve ever seen before – even Christmas day in the Caribbean or the three ships sailing from New York.

We walked around Boat Deck for a while vaguely hoping to find a seat. We weren’t hoping very hard because, as I’ve already said, the open decks were packed. However we were lucky. As we walked round the stern of Boat Deck there were two empty chairs right by the water cooler. Better still one of the good stewards from the Chart Room came past and managed to get us both cold lemonade. It soon became obvious why those chairs had been vacated – the seats were in full sun and had no breeze to cool them. We stayed there for the next half hour until the ship had almost entirely passed through the Gaillard Cut – the work that was required to dig this is unbelievable. It’s only a short stretch of waterway but a mammoth construction task.

Once the ship had started to emerge into Gatun Lake Paul and I did another partial circuit of Boat Deck before we decided that it was too hot and deck and we’d head back to the cabin for Paul to doze and me to catch up with this journal. It was incredible to sit in the cabin and see big container ships passing so close.

We had been due to start locking down Gatun Locks at 1-30 pm. As we were an hour late leaving Miraflores Locks I guessed that the same would still apply. At 2-00 pm I went on deck to have a last look at Gatun Lake before we began our descent. As I left the cabin Captain Perkins was making an announcement. He confirmed the hour’s delay in sailing but then went on to say that we had been delayed further and that there were four boats to lock down in front of us. He was not optimistic about our making Cristobal this afternoon and will give a final decision when he knows how quickly we make it down the locks. His reason for missing Cristobal is that we need a speed of 28.5 knots to get to Cartagena in time. I do wonder why we can’t increase that speed to 31 knots (we’ve done that a couple of times under this captain) and delay our arrival in Cartagena (we aren’t due to sail until 9-00 pm; There are no tours scheduled to leave before 10-00 am and non due back after 6-00 pm so I don’t think that a delay of two hours would bother any of the passengers).

It’s half past three. They’re just starting to get the first of the Gatun Locks ready for us. I think that the Captain will have a hard job announcing that we will not be going to Cristobal.

At 4-15 pm Perky announced that we would not be going to Cristobal after all. I feel sorry for him. (Really, I do ;) ) He was so uncommunicative at the start of this contract that he is now automatically getting the blame for everything.

It’s now 6-45 pm and Cristobal is far behind. I’ve got a question for Perky: Why are we doing just under 21 knots? I assume that for whatever reason we’ve not been able to get into Cartagena early so we’re going slower to economise on fuel and arrive when we should. However if two extra hours means we can drop our speed by 7.5 knots (remember – Perky told us that we needed a speed of 28.5 knots to make Cartagena in time) we would not have made the next port in time had we stuck to the original schedule and speed. There may be a reason for this reduced speed. For example: we would need 6 ½ engines so we do half the distance with 6 and half with seven or there are restrictions in navigations around the Panama Canal and that reduces our speed, we’ll speed up later. We’ll have to see.

Two hours later and I must apologise to Perky. We have increased in speed. We’re now doing 21.1 knots! I think my question still stands. (At 9-05 pm the speed was down to 20.9 knots) I think what makes this a major problem is that it is not the first time that the passengers have been told a half truth to cover up (cover up what I’m not quite sure, sometimes it’s financial, but others I’m not so sure about). 9-30 pm and the speed’s now 20.8 knots.

Why do some waiters serve water on the side and yet others have been told not to? The number of staff who are rude are in a very small minority – Cunard Management refuse to accept that their staff can be rude. When we went to the Caribbean Cunard informed about half the guests (the other half were left to find out when they got on board) that some of the ports would be tender ports rather than a dock 24 hours before those guests travelled; The Captain said Cunard had known for over a year. I know what happened with the Gala Dinner photograph and the host at the table, yet I’m told the host disagrees with me entirely but I’m given no chance to dispute his word. Why do they sell far too many tours and then seem surprised when it all goes wrong?

Am I just grumbling for the sake of grumbling? Have I become fed up with the World Cruise Is four months onboard too long? I don’t think so.

[I still ask myself that and I am coming up with a broadly similar answer – four months is an awfully long time to be on holiday and that had an effect on my feelings but a lot of the problems were Cunard related and there was nothing I could have done to have avoided them]

I don’t want the end of the cruise to come quickly. These are all fairly minor events but when something like this happens every day you start to expect the problem to come out of Cunard doing something to help itself rather than putting its passengers first.

On a slightly nicer note when we got back to our cabin this evening there was the final World Cruise “Gift” waiting for us. It is a 2” x 6” miniature picture. The picture starts on the left with the Farewell World Cruise logo and behind that is a section of the globe showing Asia and the North Pacific. To the right half of the picture is QE2 travelling against a blue background of sea and sky. There is a letter from Carol Marlow calling it a “water colour”; however on the back a label calls it a “miniature print”. It is a very nice souvenir and one that we shall hang on the wall when we get home.
« Last Edit: Sep 11, 2009, 07:45 PM by mrkpnh (Malcolm K) »

Offline Malcolm

6 April 2008
« Reply #202 on: Sep 11, 2009, 07:55 PM »
I woke at 6-00 am this morning and put the TV on to check our speed – 20.0 knots. I don’t want to think that Perky is telling porkies (note to all people not from the UK – porkie = pork pie = lie) but he is certainly not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (part of the oath in a British court). I am sure that there is more than a couple of hours delay that was the reason for missing Cristobal.

We docked in Cartagena at about 9-30 am. I was surprise (although I’m not sure why) to see another ship docked beside us – the Celebrity Constellation. That is an ugly ship. From our porthole I can’t see any endearing features about it at all. It may however explain why the tours are so restricted at this port. I suspect that Celebrity has all the coaches booked for the morning and our ship has had to take second place again. (I was later told that it’s not unusual for there to be four or more ships in, I can’t see any other reason for the lack of tours though)

As our tour is not until this afternoon there isn’t much we can do this morning other than hang about the ship. Staying on the ship in this port is just like a sea day except you’re not actually moving. As there are almost no tours this morning there are lots of people about. We have been advised by both the port lecturer and the tour office that Cartagena is not that safe to walk about on your own.

It’s now 11-30 am and I’m looking for something to do. We’ve walked on deck – it is very hot and humid; we’ve filled our water bottles at the pavilion; we even got to the restaurant five minutes early for lunch! In the end it was half past one and we thought we might as well make our way down to the dockside and wait for the tour. We didn’t have long to wait; as soon as we were on the shore we were put into a coach. We’d set off by 1-40 pm.

Our first stop was at La Popa Monastery. On the way to the monastery we passed through some areas where regular Carthaginians lived – this was nothing but a shanty town and it was reminiscent of some of the poorer areas of Dakar. It seemed as if we only stopped for ten minutes but we were probably there for twenty. There are three reasons for stopping at the monastery: the view – a very good view over the city but really not much different from many views we’ve seen over the past four months; the gold altar – Paul thought it impressive, to me it looked garish; and the monastery courtyard – very attractive with bougainvillea and other flowers in abundance but alone not worth the journey.

From there it was back onto the coach and the short journey to the Fort of San Felipe de Barajas. The fort was started in the 17th Century as a method of deterring pirates from raiding the town – then an important silver area. The fort is very tall. The tourist access is similar to the access to get to the acropolis in Athens however there is far more climbing involved! Once at the top we had a five minute breather before we had to return to the coaches at the bottom. This fort is a World Heritage site and would be a reason for visiting Cartagena without any of the other sites on the tour. We could quite easily have spent half a day here without having to visit any other sites as well.

The next stop was Las Bovedas. This is a section of casemates that are now used as shops selling Colombian handicrafts. This stop was supposed to be 20 minutes however we left after 15 because everyone was back on the coach and waiting to leave. We left both shopping stops early. I think that there was only one person on the coach who bought something at one of the stops.

The coach then dropped us at one of the gates to the old town (or walled city).The whole area is pedestrianised so it was not possible for the coach to take us any further. This is a very picturesque area of Cartagena with lots of wooden balconies, narrow roads and open squares. The walking tour took us through Simon Bolivar Square before ending up in the Church of San Pedro Claver – the patron saint of slaves.

Before we left the old town we stopped at the Naval Museum for a (very welcome) bottle of water and a ten minute sit down. We were then briefly taken through one of the museum’s displays charting the development of Cartagena and its forts.

The last stop was at the Pierino Gallo Shopping Mall – an open air building with two levels of shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts, leather goods and emeralds (there were about a dozen shops selling emeralds). We were supposed to be at this mall for half an hour; after 25 minutes everyone was back on the coach so we returned to the ship.

Despite the shopping stops being slightly shorter than planned the tour still over ran by ten minutes. I think that there was enough subject matter in this tour to have filled a tour twice its length. We certainly saw as much in this four hour tour as we did in the 9 ½ hour tour of Shanghai.

One thing that we noticed about Cartagena was how safe the areas we were in appeared to be. The old city itself was very quiet with only a few street traders about. However everywhere we went was surrounded by a ring of armed guards. I am sure that the authorities had decided that they wanted to encourage tourism and were therefore making certain that nobody got hurt at any of the tourist sites. The areas outside these sites appeared ropey at the least.

The day had been so hot and humid and the tour had involved so much hard walking that by the time we got back to the ship all our shirts were soaked through with sweat. Where as you might expect dark areas around your sweaty bits these areas had joined up so that they were no longer separate. (It did mean that when we got back onto the air conditioned bus clothing became very cold and clammy).

When the tour got back to the ship we both returned to the cabin. I left Paul there while I nipped back to look at the shops in the cruise terminal. There wasn’t much – a cafe, a bar, somewhere selling perfumes and spirits, an ATM, several souvenir shops and a tourist information centre that had shut – so I was only about ten minutes before I turned round and headed back to the ship.

Before I kicked my shoes off I thought that I’d better check that my booking for tomorrow morning in the gym (they seem to have forgotten to carry it forward so many times already). I was quite correct. They hadn’t booked me in. We are now so close to the end of the cruise I’m not going to bother about reminding them again I’ll just keep booking myself in.

We were both ever so disappointed to find that the Lido wasn’t open for dinner this evening. This disappointment was mitigated by finding that there was a Barbeque at the Funnel Bar from 6-30 pm to 8-30 pm. We were sitting in the Chart Room enjoying a pre-prandial when we realised it was 8-30 pm and we’d missed the barbeque. We were so disappointed :D

On the stairs down to the Britannia Grill there is a sign which says that gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie to dinner. As the dress code for tonight is Elegant Casual the “and tie” part had been covered over with sticking tape!

We didn’t do anything exciting after dinner. Today has been so tiring that we just went back to the cabin and to bed. We were asleep by 11-00 pm.

Offline Chris Frame

Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #203 on: Sep 12, 2009, 03:07 AM »
The Celebrity ships really are ugly aren't they. I think it's a combination of design and decoration - their livery leaves a lot to be desired.

Offline Malcolm

Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #204 on: Sep 12, 2009, 08:27 AM »
The Celebrity ships really are ugly aren't they. I think it's a combination of design and decoration - their livery leaves a lot to be desired.

I think that it's something to do with there being nothing about their ships that can be called nice. Externally (I've never been inside and so can't comment) there's nothing that's even plain  :o

Offline Malcolm

7 April 2009
« Reply #205 on: Sep 12, 2009, 08:32 AM »
Today's entry comes in two parts. We had to keep the second part, our bridge visit, quiet until we were off the ship. Now we are off the ship, well off the ship :(, I've put it back in chronological order.

Offline Malcolm

7 April 2008
« Reply #206 on: Sep 12, 2009, 08:32 AM »
The sea was quite rough this morning and the cabin floor was not that stable. I looked out of the porthole and it was pouring with rain. Once I was back from the gym the rain had stopped and the seas were calming slightly. By the time I was back from breakfast the sun was shining although the seas were still quite rough.

There was a knock on the cabin door at about 9-15 am. It was Glen Peters, the Ensemble World Explorers representative. He was bringing a “small gift” from Ensemble to mark the end of our voyage. Both Paul and I have got leather “Change Tray” for use on our dressing tables at home.

Peter Crimes was lecturing on Jamaica this morning. Whilst his talk didn’t make it sound quite as bad as I had thought I am still glad that we are doing a tour there. I have heard so many uncomplimentary comments about Jamaica I wouldn’t be going ashore if it wasn’t on a tour. We were sitting in the balcony as usual. About 25 minutes into the lecture someone started to snore (I think it was a man but it could have been a woman with a deep snore). That went on for about five minutes and ended with the entire balcony in laughter. We never did find out who was snoring though.

No Perky again at midday. We just got the Officer of the Watch today at 12-04 pm. It was just as well really; I’d had a long email from Myles that I wanted to reply to and I wanted to send emails to both Karie and Kathy. It didn’t strike me at the time but Myles asked “How does it feel to be nearly at the end?” We’re seeing Kathy in New York; her email ended “Looking forward to Saturday”. Both these set me thinking that the end is almost here? When I read on the calendar that tonight is the last formal night before NY I was thoroughly upset and cannot ignore the fact that this trip is now almost over.

I think my biggest feeling at the moment is one of fear or dread; almost a fear of the unknown. I’m not too bothered about what will happen when I get back – that will sort itself out in time. But how will I manage without someone to bring me tea each morning? Make the bed? Cook all my meals? Do my washing? Being on this ship for so long has had a very institutionalising effect and I am scared of what will happen when the ship is no longer there to look after me.

After lunch we had the second part of the Stores Tour that I’d won at the Spring Fair. However as they say “It would be appreciated if you would keep this invitation private and not discuss it with fellow passengers” and there are a lot of fellow passengers who are reading these notes I’m not going to say where the tour finished up until we’re all home again.

The medical centre called Paul in the mid-afternoon. Would he go down and see them and collect his x-rays. He went to see the nurse and she asked his name. She then went away only to return after five minutes and ask his name again! After finding his records the nurse said that the x-rays he’d just had taken were ready for collection. Paul hasn’t had any x-rays since before Valparaiso and told her this. The nurse said that he had and, presenting him with a DVD, here they were. When Paul got her to check her records she reluctantly agreed that those were the ones taken before Valparaiso and that Paul did indeed have a copy. When he got back Paul wanted to send an invoice for his wasted time! In the end we decided not to bother - that it was so good of Cunard to think that we might have some spare time and to find something for us to keep us occupied!

Paul took the immigration forms for the US to the pursers. Whilst he was there he also wanted to upgrade his Platinum World Club membership card to a Diamond one. The pursers were quite happy to cut his old card in half to stop it being used and then, having destroyed the old one, to say that they couldn’t issue a new one. They suggested that Paul try the cruise sales office. They say that one should be on its way soon (given that neither my parents nor myself have ever received a new membership card I doubt it).

Offline Malcolm

7 April 2008
« Reply #207 on: Sep 12, 2009, 08:36 AM »
Our “stores tour” was divided into two sections. The first, the actual tour of the stores, had already happened. We got a letter on Friday 4th April regarding the second part. It was from Andrea Kaczmarek, the Captain’s Secretary. The letter was conveying Captain Perkins’ wish that we be invited onto the bridge on Monday 7 April. It also included the sentence “We would appreciate it if you would keep this invitation private and not discuss it with fellow passengers”. As there were (I’m writing this on the 8th and an having great difficulty saying were and not are) people reading this from the ship I felt it only fair to leave details of this invite until everyone has left the ship.

[As the wish to keep the bridge visit private no longer exists I’ve put it back in chronological order]

We met Andrea on Boat Deck at A stairway and were escorted through the door opposite the entrance to the Queens Grill and past the Captain’s cabin. I assume that Perky was there because there was a curtain drawn across the doorway but the door was not shut. We went up another level and through a double set of doors designed to prevent light being let onto the bridge at night every time someone came through the door from the rest of the ship.

We first spent a long time on the Bridge itself. We were shown the instruments at the back first by a Second Officer who answered any questions we put to her. Then the tour moved onto the instruments at the front of the Bridge and the windows that overlook the front of the ship (with a first class view). I got a chance to sit in the Captain’s chair (we were told that he doesn’t sit in it that much unless he has to spend a long time on the Bridge as the view and access are better if you’re standing up.

Then it was out onto the port Bridge Wing. This was the first time that I’ve been out there while the ship has been underway. It is a very strange feeling to be standing at the end of the Bridge Wing, to look at the side of the ship and to think just how much water there was below you!

Finally we returned to the Bridge proper for five minutes before returning to the land of normal passengers’ below. We never did get out onto the starboard wing – there just wasn’t enough time. I would think the entire visit took just over half an hour although I could quite happily have spent all that time just on one Bridge Wing.
« Last Edit: Sep 13, 2009, 05:47 PM by mrkpnh (Malcolm K) »

Offline Malcolm

8 April 2008
« Reply #208 on: Sep 13, 2009, 06:00 PM »
Why did Cunard choose Jamaica as the last port of call for the World Cruise? (At least it’s the last port for a sizeable minority who are getting off at Fort Lauderdale.) It’s an anchor port with a dubious safety record. Having seen Jamaica I wonder why Cunard didn’t pick somewhere with a bit more for the tourist to do other than sunbathe or look at very minor sights.

Today was the day of the final Ensemble World Explorers tour and we were due to meet in the Yacht Club before 8-30 am for a departure at 8-30 am. Both Paul and I had been rather worried about my mother taking this tour. We had been told that it involved extended periods of standing (one in excess of 30 minutes) and required walking a moderate distance. Five of six of the people who were entitled to go on the tour had cancelled, fearing that the levels of physical exertion would be too much. The tour was graded at level 4 with level 5 requiring the most exertion (Perth had been a level 5 and my mother had managed that although there were no warnings given about the length of walks or stands).

Mother had arranged to meet the group at the gangway to the tenders so, at just turned 8-30 am we all set off. Tendering out was very easy and we all got on a tender almost straight away. The entire tendering process was quick and we were ashore by 9-00 am. There were two coaches, each seating 22 people, provided. I am very pleased that my parents, Paul and I got one coach whilst the poison dwarf got into the other (She and Paul had sat and pulled faces at each other in the Yacht Club!)

Our first stop was on the Tryall Golf Course. This was about a half hour drive from the ship. It was at the site of a sugar factory that had burnt down a long time ago. The waterwheel from the factory was still standing and water was running over it. Whilst it was a picturesque spot we both hoped that the island had something better to offer. On a positive note there were several stalls there selling rather nice items in carved wood – we bought a couple.

The coaches then took us back towards Montego Bay to visit the Alpha Arts Pottery Works. This is a small studio with one potters’ wheel and one pot decorating table. Both were demonstrated. The studios are situated in nice beachside gardens with views across the bay to the QE2. There is a small shop at the pottery where they sell the items they have produced. We were given a glass of fruit punch and had plenty of time to browse in the studios before it was back on the bus.

It was about 11-20 am by this time. Our guide announced that our next stop would be for lunch at the Day-O Plantation Restaurant. By 11-30 am we were in our seats! We were first served a drink, either fruit or rum punch, and then a drink with the meal, wine, beer, soda or more fruit punch. The main course was three different Jamaican specialities (jerk chicken, ackee & codfish and fried snapper). All were interesting, the chicken and snapper the tastiest.

During lunch Paul Hurlock (the owner of the Day-O) played music, sang and provided entertainment. Once lunch was over there was a dance/acrobatic troupe also providing entertainment. Unfortunately this entertainment went on for far too long. Once the troupe had finished their act they invited the guides and then anyone they could get from the diners up on stage to sing and dance. Including this entertainment lunch took just over two hours!

The scenery deteriorated when we left the restaurant and now started to become rather dry and tired. We passed back through Montego Bay and saw some of the hotels that cater for a lot of the tourists that come to Jamaica. We passed several theme pubs and speciality bars that were designed to cater to the tourist – I’m very pleased that they didn’t cater for us!

The last stop on the tour was at the house that Johnny Cash used to own and live in when he was in Jamaica – Cinnamon Hill. Although this might have been of great interest to Johnny Cash fans it was of very little interest to us. It was just a mansion that was kept as it had been (even down to the washing-up on the draining board) 40 years ago.

Then the coaches started to return us to the ship. The scenery heading north from Montego Bay is certainly much better than that to the south – the north is lush and green whilst the south is dry and rubbish strewn. It wasn’t long before the coaches were caught up in a traffic jam. What our guide said should have taken ten minutes ended up taking an hour.

The last tender was scheduled to leave the port at 4-00 pm. We didn’t reach the port until 3-59 pm. The bus however did not drop us off at the tender dock where it had picked us up in the morning. Instead we were dropped at the Cruise Terminal and made to go through security before getting onto another bus to take us to the tender point. We ended up getting back onto the ship at about 4-30 pm, the time at which we were due to sail. I don’t think we were the only people caught in the traffic – the ship didn’t actually sail until 5-45 pm (I found out that some tours were delayed until 5-30 pm).

Offline Malcolm

9 April 2008
« Reply #209 on: Sep 14, 2009, 09:31 AM »
I am feeling miserable. This trip is coming to an end and I’m miserable. It’s not home sickness (although I freely admit that I’ll be pleased to see home again I’m not that bothered if it’s next week or next month). It is like the feeling of sitting by someone’s hospital bed knowing that they’ve been given a very short term prognosis and waiting for them to die. Today’s a sea day so there’s even more time to just sit and brood?

We were sitting in the Chart Room at midday. Perky failed to make his announcement (again!). At 12-07 pm we did get the navigational information announcement made by a “Cadet”. Perky leaves the ship when the refit starts and Captain McNaught takes over when the refit is complete. He will then stay here until he takes her to Dubai. As Perky’s been with the ship for so long I suppose he’s feeling sad that he won’t be seeing her again after Southampton. At least I still have October to look forward to.

We went to the pursers to cash the last of our travellers’ cheques. They managed it with no problem at all. Whilst I was there I asked how much was outstanding on our account and said that I wanted to pay some off. The purserette did a very quick job of convincing me that I shouldn’t pay anything off using a credit card until we reached Southampton. I asked for a copy of the bill and checked the amount due. It’s only US$ 5828.24 for over four months! Remember that I did pay US$ 3000.00 off at the beginning of February when they took the cheques the hospital in Valparaiso wouldn’t accept so our total invoice amount stands at US$ 8828.24. (GBP 1000.00 per month? or GBP 250.00 per week? For two people! I think that’s a bargain) I had thought that I’d need to pay of more than that to leave a significant balance.

I’ve just been swimming (very quiet and as pleasant as any exercise can be). Once I was out of the pool I went to the lift to bring me back upstairs and got talking to a man who was waiting. The lift didn’t come, when the button was pushed the light came on but, when it was released, the light went off. This turned the conversation to the number of staff that is riding in the public lifts. It is not just for luggage on the evening before departure. There are regular occasions on A & E lifts that the entire lift is in use by a cleaning trolley; D is used for general furniture and C is frequently used by staff going to work in the Caronia Restaurant and Princess and Britannia Grills. Regularly A, D, C and E are used to move large quantities of dirty laundry. Both of us thought that this use of lifts was another thing introduced by Carnival that went to the detriment of the passengers.

We were invited by Chris and Rob to help them drink their bottle of Champagne (NOT Pol Acker). Theirs is the big Q2, the one without the balcony. We spent an hour and a half there. When we finally left it was past the start time for the Cruise Critic farewell party for Sharron and Jerry who are leaving us tomorrow in Fort Lauderdale. The numbers of full world cruisers are dwindling. Leone has worked it out: on the way back to Southampton there’ll only be six of us left.

When we went back to our cabin after dinner we put the lights on. There was a bright flash and then the only lights that would come on were the concealed lights by the window and by one of the wardrobes. I called the pursers and they got an electrician to come, set the fuse that had tripped and replace the bulb that had caused the trip within about 15 minutes – it was less than five minutes from my call to the electrician arriving. I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect faster service.

Offline Chris Frame

Re: 9 April 2008
« Reply #210 on: Sep 14, 2009, 01:21 PM »
We were sitting in the Chart Room at midday. Perky failed to make his announcement (again!). At 12-07 pm we did get the navigational information announcement made by a “Cadet”. Perky leaves the ship when the refit starts and Captain McNaught takes over when the refit is complete. He will then stay here until he takes her to Dubai. As Perky’s been with the ship for so long I suppose he’s feeling sad that he won’t be seeing her again after Southampton. At least I still have October to look forward to.

David Perkins was aboard QE2 when I was there in September 2008. We were aboard for his last voyage and farewell announcement.

Offline Malcolm

Re: 9 April 2008
« Reply #211 on: Sep 14, 2009, 01:43 PM »
David Perkins was aboard QE2 when I was there in September 2008.

When in September? We had McNaught for both the Autumn Colours and the Round Britain. I'm fairly sure that McNaught took her for everything else until Dubai. Did McNaught board immediately before Autumn Colours and Perky have her until then?

Offline Chris Frame

Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #212 on: Sep 14, 2009, 01:55 PM »
Ian McNaught boarded after Mediterranean Sojourn which was the voyage before Autumn Colours.

I do think he was aboard from the April refit 'til sometime mid-year when David Perkins came back for a few months.

Offline Malcolm

10 April 2008
« Reply #213 on: Sep 15, 2009, 05:19 PM »
We had decided to have breakfast in the cabin to save time before going through immigration. Breakfast was delivered at 7-45 am, the earliest in-cabin breakfast is available. Before this there had already been three calls for passengers disembarking the ship to wait in the lobby by 2 Deck, G stairway. They will not be able to go through immigration until all the luggage has been landed – something that has not happened yet. Apparently in-transit passengers will not be able to leave the ship until all disembarking passengers have gone. There was a fourth call at 8-00 am for two families who hadn’t turned up and yet another call at 8-25 am for the remaining husband and wife to leave the ship immediately. In-transit passengers were finally called at about 8-35 am.

The cabins on Deck Two were scheduled to go through immigration between 8-30 am and 9-00 am; we left the cabin at 8-50 am. The gangway was from the Midships Lobby so we didn’t have far to walk to get into the terminal. When we got there everything stopped. There were three queues and four immigration officials. One queue was for US citizens – this never had more than three or four people waiting. The other two queues, for non US citizens, must each have been about 100 people long. We spent over half an hour standing in this queue to get a stamp out in our passport. Whilst we were standing in this queue we were asked five times if we had our blue immigration cards although these were not checked at any point until we left the terminal (They weren’t checked at all on our return).

I cannot put the blame entirely on US Immigration (although why they have to perform so many and such useless checks ashore are beyond my comprehension) as many people were not obeying the written times they’d been given for their deck. (Had I been on Five Deck I’d have objected to being told I couldn’t get off the ship until after 10-00 am.) Once ashore we had to walk the length of the terminal three times in order to get to the taxis.

There were taxis waiting and we got into one straight away. We wanted to go to downtown Fort Lauderdale and were almost there when the engine stalled. We were in the third lane of a four lane highway (Eight lanes in total, four in each direction). The driver tried to start it with no success. By this time there was smoke and steam rising from under the bonnet – Paul and I got out quickly.

We stood by the side of the road whilst the driver tried, without success, to fix the car. After about five minutes we asked him if he’d call a new car in order for us to continue our journey. After ¼ of an hour there was quite a puddle of water on the road under the taxi. At this point a Cuban lady who worked in the First National Bank (I think) was about to go into the Real Estate Agents that was by where we were standing. We ended up having quite a long conversation at the end of which there was still no replacement taxi to let us finish our journey.

By this time the original driver had managed to restart his taxi and had moved it onto an area of hard standing; he left it there while he came to tell us that he had ordered another taxi and it would be with us shortly – although he thought his car was drivable he didn’t want to continue with our journey and was going to take the taxi straight to a mechanic (There was still water pouring out of it and we wouldn’t have ridden in the car even if he had offered to pay us).

The driver drove off; five minutes later (over half an hour in total) we were still standing there waiting for a taxi. We decided that one was unlikely to turn up after this time so I went into the Real Estate Agents to ask for help in summoning another. The lady in there was incredibly friendly and helpful. After talking about where we were from, where we’d been and what had just happened she said that of course she’d call a taxi for us but that Las Olas Boulevard was only two blocks (a five minute walk) away and she’d recommend walking. It might have only been a five minute walk for someone in reasonable shape, for someone with a broken leg it took far longer. About half way to Las Olas Boulevard we sat down so that Paul could rest his leg and arm. Had we seen a taxi then we’d have caught it straight back to the ship. As the day started to improve after that we’re glad we didn’t give up.

We walked on to a lift bridge over the one of the canals. The road went straight ahead and climbed steeply to get to the bridge; whilst the footpath went down the side of the bridge approach and then up a series of ramps to get to the bridge. Walking to the ramps we passed a bar that was just opening and stopped for an orange juice before starting the climb (The juice wasn’t great but the sit down was welcome and the service was very friendly).

Once we’d recovered slightly we crossed the bridge and walked into the Las Olas Riverfront Center. Whilst this is probably a lively and bustling centre on a Saturday evening 11-30 am on a Thursday morning is not the best time to see it. Although it was clean and tidy the whole place had a rather grubby, used and tatty feeling.

As we were leaving there I saw a bus called the Sun Trolley. Here is where the day started to improve. The Sun Trolley is a free service that runs from 11-30 am until 2-30 pm Monday – Friday. It only covers a very short route: from the Center, up Las Olas Boulevard and back again. It is so short that just two busses can ensure a service every ten minutes. We caught it up to where the boutique shops start and then continued on foot from there. We stopped a couple of times along the downtown end of Las Olas Boulevard for more fruit juice as we walked along looking at the shops. We then caught the bus again and did a full loop to see a bit more of the area. We saw a sign to the Stranahan House, one of the few historic sites in Fort Lauderdale, and decided to go and visit it.

The Stranahan house was built in 1901 and was one of the first buildings of Fort Lauderdale – the shack it replaced was the first. The house was lived in until 1971 by one of the original occupants. When she died it was left to the Seventh Day Adventist Church who then sold it to a not for profit trust. This trust restored the house and opened it in 1984 as a museum.

The house is incredibly interesting. I would recommend that anyone coming to Fort Lauderdale should include it on the list of places that should be seen. There are also three other properties, including the Historical Society, that are listed along with this museum. We didn’t get time to visit them but would have done had we known about them earlier.

After we’d visited the Stranahan House we stopped at “The Cheesecake Factory” for a bite to eat. Is The Cheesecake Factory a chain? If so I think it is a good one (and not particularly expensive). We both had a main course (I managed a slice of cheesecake as well) and a 22 oz glass of a speciality beer. The cost was US$ 44.95 plus service.

When we’d paid our bill we asked where we could get a taxi and were directed to the hotel at the rear of the buildings. There weren’t any taxis outside so I went in to ask if they would call one for us. Instead they offered their hotel shuttle to bring us back to the ship for a fee of US$ 22.00. The hotel shuttle turned out to be a minibus that would have seated 12. The shuttle was already at the hotel so there was no waiting and took us directly to the port, much faster than the taxi on the way in had managed. Both the hotel porter and the driver of the bus expressed surprise that we wanted to go to the QE2 but had no luggage – we did explain that we had not been staying at their hotel and had only been visiting Fort Lauderdale for the day. The driver did not seem to be expecting any payment when we got out of the bus – if that was the case then the fare plus the tip must have seemed like a very nice tip indeed!

Before we sailed both Paul and I tried to check our emails with no joy. Once we’d sailed we heard that Cunard had sent some engineers onboard to fix some minor problems with the internet signal. They have left the ship with no internet signal at all and it is now up to the ship’s engineers to fix the problems caused by the specialists.

This was QE2’s last call at Port Everglades and there was a flotilla of small boats to see her off. There were two fireboats sending up plumes of water and a small crowd had formed along the coast. It was not as grand a farewell as some we have seen. I’m thinking about those in Australia (particularly Sydney and Albany) and Osaka, Japan.

Once we’d sailed we went back in at A stairway on boat deck to return to the cabin. Most of the lights were off; when we got into the lift about ¾ of the lights were out, there was no lighting in the corridor outside our room at all and the lights weren’t working in the cabin at all! We were met in the corridor by a stewardess with a torch who got us into the cabin, shortly after which the lights came back on again. After that the air-conditioning went off, there was no cold water in either the wash basin or toilet and the ship stopped moving.

We heard the air-conditioning come back on at 6-20 pm, I’ve just got a glass of water from the tap (6-40 pm) and the ship appears to have picked up speed – there’s no way of telling though the details that are relayed from the Bridge are not working!

Tonight’s dress code is “semi-formal”. I thought I’d got out the suit I’d bought for the second half of this trip; unfortunately I’d got out the suit that had fitted me when we came aboard in December. I didn’t realise until I put the trousers on – the waist failed to meet by six inches!

It’s now 7-45 pm. All the fluorescent lights in the cabin have failed and we appear to have stopped again! The light bulb in the wardrobe has blown. I’ve rung the pursers but I suspect that getting the ship going is more important than fixing a light bulb.

Now it’s 9-30 pm. All the lights are working – even the one in the wardrobe! We’re also speeding up. In the space of about five minutes we’ve gone from 16.8 knots to 23.1 knots. We’ll have to hurry to make New York on time. I suspect that we’re hurrying now.

Offline Malcolm

11 April 2008
« Reply #214 on: Sep 16, 2009, 05:07 PM »
We might have been speeding up last night but we’re down to 27.1 again this morning. Both Paul and I were awake at 5-00 am. The ship was very quiet. There was no air-conditioning (although the extraction from the bathroom still seemed to be working) and it didn’t feel as if we were moving. It’s difficult to tell if there’s no land to see. At night it becomes impossible. All I can say is that the speed display had vanished from the TV, there was no noise or vibration from the engines and that feeling of “forward motion” wasn’t there. I think that we lost power again last night and are heading to New York using as many engines as we can whilst the engineers work to repair those not on line.

There is still no satellite signal for the internet. We didn’t get a newspaper this morning, instead a letter apologising for there not being one due to “technical difficulties with the satellite connection”.

It’s now 8-25 am. At 8-20 there was a feeling of slightly increased vibration and our speed has increased to 27.8 knots. There’s just been another slight juddering sensation. I wonder if this feeling is caused by another engine starting up. I wonder if we’ll make a speed of over 30 knots. I wonder if we’ll have to miss out New York.

8-32 am and the speed’s disappeared from the TV screen to be replaced by snow; the air-conditioning has stopped and, although we still look to be moving quite quickly, the ship is rolling quite a lot so I suspect the stabilisers have packed up!

8-46 am and the air-conditioning and the TV readout are back. Our speed’s back at 27.7 knots. I suspect that this pattern is going to keep up for the rest of the day.

At noon Perky made his midday announcement. Not noon exactly, it was actually eight minutes past, but it was still an announcement. He was very apologetic about the engine problems and spoke very highly of the engineering department that had solved them. Everyone was proudly told that, with the aid of the Gulf Stream (I didn’t realise the Gulf Stream reached as far as the east coast of the US), we would be making 30 knots.

He was also apologetic that or arrival into New York is also to be delayed by an hour. I am pleased about this (as is everyone else I’ve spoken to). It means that we can all have an extra hour in bed and will pass the Statue of Liberty in daylight. I am rather puzzled though. He has twice shown on this cruise that the ship is capable of running at over 30 knots for considerable distances. If we are doing 30 knots and he were to increase our speed by three knots (an increase he has done on previous legs) we would have only needed to keep that speed up until 10-00 pm this evening; an increase of only two knots would have meant we’d have caught up by 3-00 am – still leaving us plenty of time to board our pilot at 4-00 am.

One advantage of arriving an hour late is that we’ll also be leaving an hour late. One disadvantage is that there are a lot of people who have made arrangements to meet/visit people in New York. We need to tell them that we will be arriving late. Both the internet and the telephones are down and will remain so until New York at the soonest – unless you believe what the pursers are saying (my advice would be not to), that both services might be fixed tonight.

We met Matthew and Michael and Susan before lunch for a drink in the Chart Room. Michael and Susan are getting off in New York so it was nice to have a chat and to say goodbye. Drinks lasted until well into lunchtime.

After lunch was the first of a series of lasts. I had run out of black socks. Unless I washed some then I would have to go barefoot into dinner. I went to the launderette for the last time this trip (and hopefully for all trips). It was almost as quiet as it was that day in Southampton when the entire ship was changing. It only took me just over an hour to wash and dry two loads. I’ve said the first of a series of lasts but I think the first of those was actually this morning in the gym. Assuming the clocks go forward an hour every night except the last (nobody is able to confirm this) I won’t be back in the gym again either.

I think that Perky is reading this report as I write! I’ve just been for a swim and, when I get back, the speed is up to 31.6 knots. Could we still make New York on our original timings? Or is this faster speed needed just in order to make the one hour delay. As it’s now 6-00 pm and we’re down to 28.3 knots I guess we won’t be there by the original time.

Tonight was the farewell to all those Cruise Critic Full Worlders who are leaving in New York. There are only six of us left now that have been on for the entire trip. It is so sad to think that we won’t be seeing all those people we’ve become friendly with over the past months.

Offline Malcolm

12 April 2008
« Reply #215 on: Sep 17, 2009, 05:55 PM »
The alarm was set for 5-00 am. I was awake long before that and eventually got up about five minutes before it went off. I was on deck by 5-20 am while it was still dark.
There was a small but hardy band of people drinking tea on deck and chatting. The area under the bridge was opened at about 5-45 am and most of the group went to stand up there. As it got light we could see that the sky was clear and, when it got high enough the sun would be shining. It was going to be a beautiful day.

As we approached New York there was a thick black line on the horizon. “Was that land?” people were asking. After a while it disappeared to port (we were turning to starboard but didn’t know it at this point). At 6-30 am Perky made an announcement. We had been approaching the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and had been forced to turn round. We did a complete loop and tried it again.

I missed the bridge entirely. I missed seeing the place where it is and (I’m told) the fog rendered it invisible. Paul and I went for breakfast while we were sailing in. I then went onto the deck to see if there was anything interesting. Suddenly the Statue of Liberty loomed up on our left hand side followed by the towers of Ellis Island. Soon the lower half of the skyline of Manhattan appeared (the upper half was hidden in low cloud).

As we sailed up the Hudson the cloud lifted. By the time we reached pier 92 the sun was shining although there was still a lot of cloud about. It took over an hour to tie the ship up and to call passengers to disembark. They called all self-help passengers and then, only a couple of minutes later, they called all in-transit passengers. When we got to the Midships lobby we were grateful our cabin is located forward. The queue of people waiting to get off was as big as it was in Perth. It stretched right round the lobby and off towards the stern at both sides. There was almost no queue to join from the front of the ship.

We weren’t clear of the terminal until 10-20 am (we’d been due to meet Kathy and Gene at 10-00 am but I had rung them to warn them). We got a taxi immediately and were with Kathy and Gene by 10-30 am. Kathy had already bought tickets for the sightseeing bus so we were off to join the queue for the downtown bus. This was a long queue and it wasn’t until the third bus came that we got places on the top, in the open air. The other thing she had bought, for which we were both (but especially Paul), were extremely grateful was a packet of pipe cleaners. She uses them to “clean the spider eggs out of the furnace jets”; we were astonished that American non-smokers would even know what they were.

The tour started by heading from Times Square through the theatre district, past Macy’s and Madison Square Gardens. We passed the Empire State Building, the Flatiron building and the site of the World Trade Center en route to Greenwich Village.

We then walked through the Village. It is so different from the rest of New York. The roads aren’t numbered and don’t go in a grid pattern. Most of the buildings are low, only a few floors high. It has a very definite, uncitylike, character. Whilst there we took the opportunity to see the Stonewall Inn (the place where gay men first stood up to police en masse and where the struggle for equal rights first started). As a pub it’s slightly disappointing. It looks no different from countless gay bars in the UK; however as a sight I am very pleased to have seen it.

We then continued, on foot, through Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy. It was funny to pass shops here selling “real” fake Rolexes and other junk that had been offered in many of the places we’ve been for much less.

Then it was back on the bus; up the east side of Manhattan, past the UN, The Waldorf Astoria and onto Central Park. We got off the bus again at Central Park to walk a little way and look at the park. We got lunch here, at a restaurant named after and originally owned by a famous baseball (I think) player. We all had burgers. Kathy and Gene had turkey and vegetarian burgers whilst Paul and I had steak burgers. Both Kathy and Gene were surprised when we were asked how we wanted our burgers cooked, that we both said “well done”. In the UK it is not normal to have a beef burger cooked in any way other than well done.

My parents went to Afternoon Tea in the QGL. They said that they had never seen it so busy; that there was a queue of people waiting for seats with the Maitre d’ marking tables as reserved as soon as they became free and then showing the waiting people to tables. I suppose this is yet another sign that our holiday is coming to an end.

After that late lunch it was into a taxi and back to the ship. There was no delay in getting back to our cabin; we were back by about 4-45 pm. We had a cup of tea and a rest. Then it was almost 6-00 pm and it was time to go back on deck to watch us sail. At 6-20 pm the ship was still firmly tied up and the bunkering barge was still secured to our starboard side. At 6-30 pm Perky made an announcement to the effect that bunkering had now finished ant that we should therefore sail at 7-00 pm. We finally sailed just after 7-30 pm.

This late sailing was not an entirely bad thing in that it meant that whilst the sun had started to go below the horizon and the lights had come on there was still enough light to be able to photograph the buildings as well as the lights. By the time we reached the Statue of Liberty however there wasn’t enough light to get a good picture with the camera without a tripod and a long exposure and the ship was moving too much to be able to use a tripod. The main problem was that, with not passing the Statue of Liberty until 8-30 pm, there was only half an hour to get to the cabin, change and get to dinner!

Although there were a few tables that didn’t come to dinner last night most of the people there were unfamiliar. We have become used to seeing the same people each night, we say “Good Evening” to them and they to us; pleasantries are exchanged with diners as they pass through the restaurant. We managed to eat dinner quite quickly and headed back to our cabin.

Paul was energetic and went to see if the internet connection was back up. It was so he went to download his emails. As we were both up early and had walked a long way and therefore ate a quick dinner and headed off to bed. We both slept like logs.

Offline Malcolm

13 April 2008
« Reply #216 on: Sep 18, 2009, 05:12 PM »
We were both awake by about 7-30 am although we didn’t get out of bed (except to get the tea) until almost 9-00 am! Then I went to get emails before we put away the clothes that had been accumulating, tidied the cabin and sorted out the Daily Programmes that were for the last sector. I left the cabin at about 10-30 and headed up to the Chart Room to continue with yesterday’s diary entry. Paul said he would check emails and would join me shortly.

The ship is very busy today. Every table in the Chart Room was occupied by 11-30 am. Everywhere one goes on the ship today there are crowds of people with unfamiliar faces. To say I resent all these people taking over my ship would make me sound unfriendly and I certainly don’t mean to convey that impression. However the combination of being so close to home and having become so familiar with the ship makes it very hard to tolerate those who’ve jus come aboard for the first time and still haven’t found their way about.

I hadn’t been sitting there for more than five minutes when this man walked along. He paused and then asked if I was Malcolm. It was David (dak). I am delighted that I can put yet another face to a name. He joined me for a drink (he was drinking ginger beer and me lemonade) and a chat. We hadn’t been talking long when Babette (Ocngypz) came past. As David and I had just been talking about good travel agents I was delighted to introduce her to David and continue our conversation.

Meanwhile Karie (Travel-to-go) had gone to our cabin to deliver the pipe cleaners we’d also asked her to bring (she uses them to make tree trunks!). I’d obviously not been there but Paul had been in to take delivery. They had spent quite a while chatting before Paul had gone to the Computer Learning Centre to download emails. There he met Marc (Karie’s husband). Karie then came up to the Chart Room to join the group there.

Perky did make a midday announcement. He said a little about the anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking (tomorrow) and then went on to say that tomorrow the weather will be a little rougher than today but should calm down for the second half of the crossing. First thing this morning there were blue skies and sunshine, later on there had been slightly rough seas with fog. The horn has been sounding for most of the day.

David left (he’d only meant to stop and say hello) and Paul joined the group. All of a sudden it was 1-00 pm and lunch time. We actually got to lunch at 1-20 pm.

We were through lunch within half an hour and Paul and I headed back to the cabin. On the way back I was telling Paul that there was a CC meeting planned for 2-00 pm in the Yacht Club. When we got back to the cabin I said I was going to try to download the issue of the Design Magazine that related to the original designs of the QE2 (www.xxxxxxx   – a link that Karie had given me  ); Paul gave me an odd look and asked if I realised that it was 2-05 pm already – the meeting had been due to start at 2-00 pm!

(The following was added as a footnote at this point:   I will post this link once I’ve checked that the link I’ve got goes where it should! [I’m sorry but I have no idea what this link was anymore :( I hope that someone from the QE2 Story knows it and can post it here :) ] )

I felt that the meeting was very much divided into two parts. There was the group who had been on the ship for a while and were generally more active on CC (subdivided into those who had done the full world cruise and those who hadn’t) and those who were just doing the transatlantic crossing and were often less active. Maybe this dividing came about from the feeling of strangers in our midst.

We passed the housekeeper in the corridor. I asked her if she could get someone to look at our air-conditioning as it was now blowing too cold and explained that earlier in the cruise the opposite had been the problem and her predecessor had arranged for the reheater to be disconnected. She promised to get someone to look at it. When the a/c man came to look at it I did tell him that the reheater had been disconnected; he said that wasn’t possible and would make some adjustments outside. The cabin is still no warmer.

I went to afternoon tea with my parents (Paul stayed in the cabin). The QGL was packed. Whereas in the past on this cruise there’s always been plenty of space there were people waiting for tables again. I suspect that it’s the new influx of people – all hungry and looking forward to good food. They haven’t had time yet for their appetites to be damped by all the food available.

At 5-45 pm I decided to go swimming. I didn’t even stay at the pool long enough to get my trunks wet! The newbies have found the gym as well – there were six people in the pool (my pool? It was only last week that I had it all to myself).

I feel that the staff are giving less of their time to serving those who have been on the ship a while and are devoting much more to the newly joined passengers. I think that I can understand this – those of us that have been here a while have developed routines, the staff know who to expect and where, whereas someone who is new to the ship has to experience as much as they can in six days.

We went up to the World Cruise Lounge for a coffee. This was somewhere we could be sure of not meeting newcomers – the lounge is only available to those on the full world cruise. It has been busy; we’ve stopped going in because it’d become impossible to get a seat. Today there were only three other couples in there and lots of empty tables.

I do not mean this to be a rant against new people joining the ship and I feel that is exactly what this is becoming. This is the final leg of the world cruise; today Paul and I were discussing the final gratuities that we’ll be giving; the six full worlders from CC have been discussing or final lunch together; we’ve planned our final Heritage Tour with Thomas; there have been plans made for the final Cabin Cavalcade (it’s tomorrow. I don’t think any of the full worlders are going – we’ve all done three and don’t really want to do a fourth. I don’t think that many people who joined before New York will be going either.). There’ve been a lot for finals today and that has left me feeling glum and ready to pick fault with anyone who doesn’t act like people did a week ago.

While I’m in a grumbling mood I’m going to grumble a bit more! It was the first of the Captain’s Cocktail Parties for the people who joined in New York. Tomorrow will be another Captain’s party; the day after the World Club Party (for the new passengers) and the day after that the Senior Officers’ Party (again for the new passengers). We had our last cocktail party 11 days ago. It annoys me that those who’ve been on the ship for three months don’t get any parties whilst those who’ve only just joined get three in succession.

Offline Malcolm

14 April 2008
« Reply #217 on: Sep 19, 2009, 10:15 AM »
Another sign that we’re almost home – it was British immigration this morning, when Paul and I went the queue was quite long (there weren’t two queues, one for EU and one for non EU citizens, just the one for everybody). It took us just under ten minutes. When my mother went there was no queue at all.

After immigration we wanted to hear Ron Warwick speaking on his trip to view the wreck of the Titanic. I had guessed that there would be a lot of people wanting to hear him speak and we were there about 15 minutes early. We weren’t the first but were amongst the first 20 to take seats in the balcony. By the time the lecture started the balcony was full. It was a pity that the lead had come out of the back on the laptop that Ron Warwick was to use. He spent a very frustrating ten minutes trying to adlib whilst the technical staff tried everything on the keyboard to make the laptop work!

Ron Warwick admitted that the lecture had been put together as a last minute thing once he was aboard the QE2. He did not have plans for a talk before he boarded. Unfortunately this showed – the talk looked as if it had been hastily assembled from what he had already had rather than having been thought through carefully. It did not show Ron Warwick in the best light.

At the end he was asked questions by the audience. Most of these questions were from people who are far too fond of their own voice however there was one that was of interest. The questioner asked what Titanic commemorations were planned for later today and when would they be. Commodore Warwick’s response was that he was not sure exactly what was planned but he was sure that the Captain (Perky) would mention it in his midday announcement. Paul and I looked at each other and said, in unison, “If he makes one”!

He did make one. He’s told us that we’ll be passing the wreck site at approximately 5-00 pm. That there will be a wreath dropped into the sea, there will be an announcement over the tannoy and there will be a minute’s silence in memory of those who died. He also said that it’s the Mauretania Cocktail Party this evening. It is not. It is only the party for those who joined at New York and are eating in the Mauretania.

We met Babette (Ocngypz) while we were heading to our cabin before lunch. She told us that there was to be a screening, just for CC, of the home movies some people had taken of the tandem crossing. The screening was to be in the Theatre at 2-00 pm this afternoon and that any CC member was invited. When Paul and I got back to the cabin I tried to contact the four remaining full worlders without success.

As Paul and I headed to the restaurant we saw Veronica (Adrenalinejunkie) and Norman (Nadis). We told them about the showing and they said they would be pleased to attend. After lunch (about 1-45 pm) I tried calling Leone (Runaway) and Judi (OldChick) again. I was delighted when they both answered and both said they would be at the showing.

I got to the Theatre at about 1-55 pm to find that Leone was the only other person there. However Veronica, Judi and Norman soon followed. Babette turned up shortly after two and that was it! People were starting to arrive for the talk at 2-30 pm so we all decided to adjourn and move to the Crystal Bar. We had a very pleasant hour chatting and asking all those travel related question of Babette that you always want to ask your agent and never quite get round to! Babette has probably secured a couple of bookings from the meeting as several of us went off to place deposits on future bookings without having to commit to one particular voyage.

Paul slept while I went to Afternoon Tea with my mother; I slept while Paul dealt with a TV repair man who insisted that our TV wasn’t working (it is). At one point Perky announced something. As the announcement was only through the corridors we didn’t hear it. I suspect it was something to do with being over the Titanic and their being about to throw the wreath into the sea. As it was raining we didn’t go to see it.

I have to take back my words of yesterday. We have got a cocktail party invitation. It is to the party of “the Captain and Senior Officer’s”. I do wonder what the Senior Officer has that he wants to introduce us to (and, for that matter, which is the senior officer as both John Duffy and Paul Yeoman are in the list of inviters). A second error on the invite is the capitalisation of the word starboard. The invitation reads “... enter via the Starboard side by the Chart Room”. [I think I might have been a bit pedantic on the second point but the misuse of an apostrophe on an invitation is unforgivable!]

I’m writing this on the evening of the 15th having been to the event. I’m looking back at the invitation and have found yet another inconsistency. The invite refers to “Portside” (their capitalisation) and “Starboard side”. Why is the former one word and the latter two words?

Offline Malcolm

15 April 2008
« Reply #218 on: Sep 20, 2009, 07:27 PM »
We were in the Chart Room by 9-30 am this morning. Life is getting more and more unfair; when we got to the bar there was someone else at our table again. Who do these people who joined in New York think they are? We have sat at that table every sea day since Southampton and these new cruisers think they own the ship!

Thomas was doing his Heritage tour just for Cruise Critic this morning. Paul and I were sitting in the Chart Room when we met Karie. Paul didn’t want the extensive walking so Karie and I made our way to the Midships Lobby for the tour. There were about 30 Cruise Criticers there, ranging from new posters to old friends like Matthew and Karie. Although I have done the Heritage Tour with Thomas quite a few times (three on this current trip alone) the talk he gave both in the Midships Lobby and around the ship was new (although the tour didn’t go anywhere I’ve not been before). I thoroughly enjoyed it; it lasted for longer than the normal hour and a half and I regretted having to leave five minutes before the end.

Noon came whilst we were still on the tour. Perky failed to make an announcement. The navigational information was given by a “Cadet”. Thomas paused the tour whilst his brief announcement was made.

I had to leave early because the six original full worlders were meeting for lunch (arranged by Leone) and Paul and I had invited them for a glass of Champagne in our cabin beforehand. Jerome, or steward, had really done everything he could to ensure that our drinks party was a success. Paul and I had been out of the cabin all morning to give him time to sort things out and when we returned not only had he provided the Champagne and glasses but there was also a tray of canapés. He had made sure that the cabin was properly cleaned (not that it has ever not been), the broken light had been replaced and all the odds and ends that we’ve collected over the cruise were tidied away. I am pleased to inform that we did serve Champagne and not Pol Acker – that Cunard favourite.

After drinks it was straight up to the Mauretania (the only restaurant in which we had contacts and could provide a table for nine) for lunch. As well as organizing the meal Leone had also provided the wine with lunch. Although I have previously eaten in the Mauretania whilst it’s been located on Upper Deck this was before the refit of 1994. I have never eaten in the refitted restaurant either as the Caronia (as it was immediately after refit) or the new Mauretania so I am pleased to add it to the list of restaurants I’ve eaten in.

After lunch it was off to the “Friends of the WCC” as it appeared in the Daily Programme. This was the screening of the videos from the Tandem Transatlantic that some members had taken in January. I admit that I left after half an hour. There were far too many shots of the Vicky struggling in bad weather (Veronica later told me that there was some footage of the QE2 in the same weather – I’d have liked to have seen that).

As the portholes on Deck Five have been closed; Judi tells us that those at the bow of Deck 3 are shut and Tim that the bow of Deck Two are fastened I suspect that this should be taken as a warning of bad weather to come. As I left the screening early I took the opportunity to start packing. This is another thing that really makes it feel that the trip is now at an end. On previous cruises I have said I would give up the last day at sea to avoid the final morning; on this trip I would quite happily have given up the return crossing to have been at home straight from New York.

It was our “Senior Officer’s” party this evening. As neither Paul nor I were bothered about shaking hands with Perky, John Duffy or Paul Yeoman we followed the instructions to “enter via the starboard side”. The queue was almost as long as it was to join the receiving line.

Once we were through the queue we got seats and started to look for a steward. There wasn’t one in sight. Finally I managed to get one (the steward that had refused to get us a soft drinks package at Los Angeles) to say that he would come and take our order when he’d served the drinks he was carrying. On his return he said that he’s already taken two new orders and would come to take our order once he’d served his new customers. We were not happy.

It was noticeable that there was a group of about eight officers standing at the back of the room; they all had drinks. When two more officers joined them they were served immediately. We approached two other officers who were heading towards their colleagues and said that we were having problems ordering a drink and that the steward we had asked had just taken orders elsewhere. These officers shrugged, said we’d just have to wait for a steward and headed off to their friends.

We caught one of the stewards serving Pol Acker and asked him. He said that we would need a wine steward and then said he would ask one to come over.  About five minutes later he did come back to us to check that a steward had taken our order.

Twenty minutes into the party we were finally able to place an order with the steward that had taken another order. We ordered a Bombay Sapphire with diet tonic and a Laphroaig with water on the side and no ice. The steward repeated this. Ten minutes later, half an hour after we’d first got to the party, the steward came back. He’d forgotten the Bombay Sapphire and had a whisky with the water already added, far more water than we would have added ourselves. When we said that we had wanted water on the side we were told that they don’t do that. They have often provided water on the side at parties in the Queens Room; why didn’t the steward tell us that he couldn’t provide water on the side when we finally ordered on this occasion? As this was the steward who had lied to us about the availability of soft drink packages from the Funnel Bar we doubted the veracity of his statement.

At this point we left of the party and decided to go for dinner. It is not fare to put all the blame for poor service onto the stewards. The Queens Room was as full as I’ve ever seen it for a cocktail party and there were only four wine stewards serving drinks. It seems that Cunard have decided that, whilst they still want to say that other drinks are available and for their officers to get what drinks they want, passengers must drink only warm, flat, Pol Acker.

Once we’d left the party we passed through the Golden Lion en route to the restaurant. John Duffy was sitting there drinking with a fellow officer. The event had been so crowded and the service so poor that he had obviously decided not to stay at his own party but to go drink in a quieter environment (the Karaoke hadn’t started by this time).

Offline Louis De Sousa

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Re: Malcolm's diary of the final world cruise.
« Reply #219 on: Sep 20, 2009, 09:57 PM »
We were in the Chart Room by 9-30 am this morning. Life is getting more and more unfair; when we got to the bar there was someone else at our table again. Who do these people who joined in New York think they are? We have sat at that table every sea day since Southampton and these new cruisers think they own the ship!

 :D LOL I wonder did you own the ship?