October 2, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Life On Board
Firstly, thanks again for all the viewings and more postings. It’s also great to hear from those of you I have sailed with, on our different ships, in the past. Judging from your feedback, it seems this is just the beginning, so I look forward to hearing more from you and inviting my colleagues around the fleet to Blog as well. We now have a few ideas for upcoming weeks, and thanks to Kazzie for asking about a lecture I did on Queen Victoria, about the building of the ship, which I presented on the World Cruise. I have a few subjects to get to first but will work on that including some fascinating pictures of her construction. Also I will make sure you are the first to hear about the progress on Queen Elizabeth, so as the cliché goes – watch this space.
I know as Cunarders we all share a love of the history of the company, and enjoy taking a nostalgic look back in time. With that in mind I thought we could try a new feature called “This week in Cunard’s History” which I will include in the Blog. So here’s the first one for the week of the 26th September to the 2nd October:
September 26 1934
The 80,744-ton Queen Mary is launched at Clydebank and becomes the first merchant vessel to be launched by a member of the Royal family (Her Majesty Queen Mary). Because of her French arch rival (The Normandie), she was launched with a bottle of Australian wine
September 27 1938
The Queen Elizabeth 83, 673 tons becomes the largest liner ever built. She is launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
September 27 1967
Queen Mary sails in to New York for the last time completing her final transatlantic crossing, with 1,400 passengers on board including the designer John Brown incognito. Shortly afterwards she sails for Long Beach, California.
October 1 1971
QE2 makes her Maiden Call Boston, USA
October 1 1972
Completion of the Queens Grill Penthouses addition to QE2
October 1 1979
QE2 makes her maiden call to Boston, Massachusetts
Before I get to the David Hamilton interview, here’s what’s being going on around the fleet after last week’s milestones.
QE2 has bid farewell to Canada and New England (she returns to New York, just one more time on her final westbound transatlantic crossing beginning on the 10th October), and on Tuesday started her “Farewell to the British Isles Voyage”. We are hoping to have QE2’s Entertainment Director, Warren Smith as a guest Blogger next week, to tell us all about the voyage.
As you know from last week’s Blog Queen Mary 2 completed her 100th crossing marking another key date in her history and is now enjoying her “Autumn Sojourn” visiting New England as well as the birth place of Samuel Cunard – Halifax Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile here on Queen Victoria we have being enjoying new ports of call with our maiden visit to Odessa and Yalta. To get to there the ship had to go through the Bosporus (or Bosphorus) Strait. It is the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation and connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara (which is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea). It is approximately 18 miles long so leaving Istanbul at lunchtime gave us some spectacular viewing and an opportunity to see Queen Victoria going under the two bridges that connect Europe (Rumelia) and Asia (Anatolia). It’s funny how we all instinctively hold our breaths, and may be even duck, as we go under but of course the Captain and Bridge team had planned everything in advance, to ensure there is enough of a gap to squeeze through, and in this case it was just 9 metres!
When we arrived at our berth in Odessa, we had a prime spot, where we could walk straight off the ship and within a short walk were in the centre of the City. This is a fascinating port and although quite a few ships do visit each year, you get the feeling that tourism hasn’t affected the city that much. You certainly felt a little bit more like a fly on the wall watching the locals going about their daily business and routines. Certainly fashion seems to be in a bit of a time warp, so if you want to see mullet haircuts and drain pipe jeans; Odessa is the place for you. It seems they also like their beer rather a lot as I can’t remember visiting a port where so many beers are on offer and in so many places including news agents! Clearly I had to try one or two for research purposes and yes they were very good. The city is undergoing a huge transformation with a lot of construction taking place and clearly they are investing a lot in their city, so I have a feeling it will be very different when we next visit. They have recently completed the magnificent Opera House and I was amazed to see you could go and see “La Traviata” for just £5 ($9), and for the very best seat in the house £20 – what incredible value.
This is the view from the aft lido deck of the ship, of the 142 metre long Potemkin Stairs constructed between 1837 and 1841, which was made famous by the 1925 film “Battleship Potemkin” by Sergei Eistenstein. It’s a very impressive way to enter the city and you can of course walk up or take the small funicular along the side.
The Sailaway was one of the most impressive I have seen since some of the ports on the World Cruise. It seemed the whole city was out to wave us off and as one guest told me as we watched the crowds “I suppose it would have been like this in the old days of the transatlantic crossings”. It was also lovely to see our 37 Ukranian crew being able to proudly show their families around their place of work and show off the ship (this was once we had resolved some rather interesting immigration issues – they do things very differently in this part of the world!). It was great to see families reunited and of course it was an emotional send off for them waving good bye to loved ones as we set sail.
But what a send off, the atmosphere was amazing as a spontaneous exchange of gifts took place from guest balconies and those on the pier. I think our guests were donating their turn down chocolates in return for – well I don’t know what was thrown back but the thought was there and I am sure we will all remember that Sailaway for years to come.
Now it’s time to chat to Queen Victoria’s Hotel Manager, David Hamilton and before I get to the interview this is his story so far:-
Brought up in Salisbury, Wilts, where he still lives, David attended a prep school on the Somerset coast of the Bristol Channel, and later Allhallows School on the Devon Coast. His first seagoing employment was with Union Castle Line, for whom he had worked on shore for some four years before “taking the plunge” and joining Pendennis Castle as Assistant Purser in January 1974. In 1976 he transferred to the Windsor Castle and remained with that ship until 1977 when Union Castle ceased operating and David joined Cunard, being appointed to the Cunard Countess, where he spent many happy years sailing the Caribbean gaining experience and promotion. In 1990 he was appointed relief Purser of Cunard Countess/Cunard Princess, and spent the next three years sailing the Caribbean on the Countess and the Mediterranean on the Princess. In 1994 David was appointed Purser of QE2 although he sailed aboard Vistafjord, Sagafjord and Dynasty around this time, later progressing in 1997 to relief Hotel Manager of QE2. In 2002 he was promoted to Hotel Manager and assigned to the Caronia (formerly the Vistafjord). In 2004 he returned permanently to QE2 and remained with her until August of 2008 when he joined Queen Victoria. His hobbies include cycling, backgammon and looking for his golf balls in the more remote parts of golf courses. Although he still has an apartment in Salisbury, David spends much of his leave time with his partner Kelly who lives in Australia and whom he met aboard QE2.
Firstly please could you describe your role on board?
As Hotel Manager I have overall responsibility for the smooth running of hotel operation of the ship. With over 650 members the hotel department is the largest department and in simple terms, with the support of our colleagues in the marine and technical departments, delivers the guest service, entertainment and experience both on board and on land. Victualling, entertaining and providing the creature comforts for 2000 guests and 1000 ship’s company whilst moving them from port to port, safely and on time is no small achievement and I am proud to be a part of the team who accomplish this every day.
Probably a combination of ‘ How long have you been at sea ‘ and ‘do you still enjoy it’ The answers are 34 years and for someone who only ever intended to go to sea for a couple of years – I think that’s a given
What were your feelings about leaving the QE2 for the last time?
Definitely sadness and some disappointment that I will not be there with the many friends, both guests and ship’s staff, who will be on board for that final and historic voyage but at the same time, not entirely unhappy to miss the more sentimental moments.
Would you have liked to see the ship to the end?
Although there are some great occasions and therefore memories yet to happen, I am comfortable to have disembarked and left her the way I will always want to recall her, ready for sea.
What were your thoughts as you walked up Queen Victoria’s gangway, what were your pre-conceptions about the ship?
I don’t think I had any pre-conceptions, because I had visited Queen Victoria on two occasions prior to actually joining her and I had seen the magnificent interior designs, but her size, comfortable atmosphere, elegance and the scope of the guest facilities continue to be a source of pleasure and pride.
What were the most surprising aspects of Queen Victoria you have discovered since being on board?
I think most impressive is a better term – however the answer would have to be the detail that has gone into the design and building of the ship the richness of the public areas.
Could you describe the reaction from guests you have sailed with before who you have now met on Queen Victoria?
In a number of ways similar to my own – we will always have and be able to share fond memories of QE2, great voyages, great people but we are experiencing and creating what will be the future – Elegant, Memorable and Legendary to borrow a phrase.
Where is your favourite place on board?
I think the answer to that one has to depend on the time of day and whether one is looking for a lively show, a quiet and private dinner or simply a chance to watch and listen to the sea but it takes a lot to beat the views from the Commodore Club.
What message would you have for QE2 guests who have yet to experience Queen Victoria?
Having been aboard for just over a month now, I have to say that I feel very much at home and indeed was made to feel very welcome from day one. Yes there are some things that are not exactly as they are aboard QE2 but Queen Victoria is a beautiful ship and it’s great to see many familiar features from QE2 developed to be even more stunning on Queen Victoria such as the Queens Room, Golden Lion Pub and the Royal Court Theatre is nothing short of spectacular. Above all the friendliness and morale of the ship’s company (quite a number of whom you will know from QE2) are as we know and expect them to be on board a Cunard ship, and I am confident she will become another legend.
Take time to experience and enjoy somewhere that I hope and believe you will find quite amazing
What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?
To me it means an acknowledged standard of excellence in behaviour, service and people – a yardstick to judge how something should be presented, provided and operated. In other words “The White Star Way”.
If you could pick any shore excursion to go on what would it be?
I have always wanted to take the Garden Route in South Africa.
Where would you like to go in the world that you haven’t been to yet?
When you are on leave; what is your perfect night?
An extravagant seafood dinner with my partner Kelly
Do you have any dreams you have yet to fulfill?
I have always admired people who play musical instruments, especially the piano, so although it may be a little late I would love to learn to play the piano.
What is your favourite quote and who said it?
It’s only those who never do anything who never make mistakes – Sorry I don’t know who said it!
Thank you David for taking the time to chat – I’m always amazed how many things a Hotel Manager looks after, which is a huge responsibility.
Well that’s it for another week – keep the comments and postings coming in and I look forward to sharing more of the Cunard world with you next week, where QE2’s Entertainment Director, Warren Smith will be a Guest Blogger reporting from QE2’s busy “Farewell to the British Isles Voyage”. I am sure we are all looking forward to seeing the pictures and sharing the experience.
Cheers for now- Alastair