October 30, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Updates
Tandem Crossing 17th October 1st day at sea
Waking up on the first sea day is like waking up on Christmas morning. Today the excitement is still present and my porthole frames the reason why – QE2 sailing beside us. I wasn’t expecting to see her right next us and outside my window so I’m thrilled to see her slipping along, majestically gliding her way through the water.
This morning, I meet with the publisher to give her a guided tour of the ship. There are so many places to see on board and I’ve promised to keep the tour to an hour. Trying not to sound like an estate agent or a proud parent, I pick out the highlights I want her to see: Illuminations with its threefold purpose (theatre, cinema and planetarium), the library and bookshop (suitably poignant given our on board discussions), Todd English with its sumptuous setting and tempting menus, the outdoor sports areas, the spa and my favourite view point: The Commodore Club at the front of the ship.
Later, on calm waters, I take the time to walk around the deck. We’re sailing through a cross wind, which leaves me experiencing the microclimate on deck 7: port side is windless and the sun is trying to break through, but as I turn the corner and make my way back starboard side, the wind blows hard against the side of the ship and the spray has dampened the floor. It’s just a small reminder of how powerful and mischievous the elements can be, a metaphorical post-it note:“Remember, I’m the boss”.
This evening was the first of the Commodore’s cocktails and I arrange to meet my guests in the Queens Room. Outside guests are mingling, waiting to meet Commodore Warner in person as he greets them individually and poses for photos. I creep around to the starboard side not wanting to take up his time instead of the guests on board. But in true White Star fashion, no one is left out. At the other entrance I’m greeted by Johanna the Assistant Entertainment Director and introduced to Trevor Hall, our Staff Captain. Embarrassed to be given the “special treatment” not wanting them to feel they have to put on any special ‘show’ for a colleague I explain I work shoreside and I’m on board hosting a guest of Cunard’s. I should have guessed this made no difference at all; the White Star credo is part of the on board staff genetic make-up. They all seem genuinely pleased to see me and with sincerity wish me a wonderful voyage and ask me to let them know if I need anything whilst on board. It’s a humbling experience, but it does really make me feel special.
Commodore Warner is the ultimate host. He is warm, witty and welcoming. He’s resplendent in his uniform. His easy, professional manner is reassuring with none of the intimidation that his rank may denote. Perhaps it’s his confident and calm manner that makes me feel he could have been a success in any job and in any industry. Whatever it is, I’m sure this is one of the reasons he is now Commodore of the Fleet. At the reception, I have the pleasure of meeting a new member of the crew, Wendy a nurse on board. She used to be a paramedic nurse but the lure and romanticism of Queen Mary 2 seduced her to join up and sail as a member of the Cunard family. Her children have grown up and she is now experiencing her Dick Wittington moment. I also meet a lady called Gerry who is travelling alone and has been delighted by the Bridge lessons and the Creative Arts classes. It’s the first time she has travelled alone and now she wonders why she didn’t do it sooner. Music to my ears.
On my way out, I meet up with the actors from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Some of them have been coming on board from the ship’s launch date. I take the time to catch up on their news and hear all about the successes of their new shows on board. Leaving the Queens Room I decide to wander through the ship whilst guests are dining. My favourite times on board are when you can hear the buzz of conversation in the background but still experience the ship as though she were empty. As we move across the ocean, she cuts through the water. The sound is the ship breathing.
Tandem Crossing 18th October
Today we are screening the World Premier of the American version of the ‘Monarch – The Royal Family at Work’. New and unseen footage will be screened. The BBC UK version gained controversial coverage with the promo footage of the Queen “apparently” losing her temper with the American Photographer Annie Leiberwitz. The real footage which we see on board shows the whole version of events, very differently to the advertorial version. Robert Hardman the series writer and Royal Correspondent, introduces the first episode and I now realise what a coup this is for us to have on board. The theatre is full and the footage, seen on the large screen is fitting and appropriate for a Queen.
Travelling on the opposite side, QE2 can be viewed by guests residing in starboard staterooms. Today the water has a new rhythm. In the sunshine, the black hull in the distance is shiny and looks nothing like 41 years of sea faring age. Her red funnel is majestic and glamorous. It’s difficult to comprehend that she is a working liner and in reality how many guests must be on board looking back at us.
Tandem Crossing 20th October
Today I have an opportunity to walk around the ship and observe the Entertainment staff.
Joining me for dinner was Clive Kneller, Director of the RADA group on board, his fellow actor and regular RADA contributor Mark Inman and Julian Jacobson our Classical Pianist Guest Entertainer for this voyage. It’s an ideal time to reflect on the previous successes and highlights of the past months as well as to discuss new ways to improve the RADA offering on board. Julian, a lecturer at the Royal College of Music joins us all in the Commodore Club and for his love of playing, offers our resident pianist a brief break whilst he entertains us.
The past two days has been filled with an array of entertainment highlights, which include Jon Courtenay, a fantastic pianist, entertainer and comedian; a matinee show of Richard III by RADA condensed into one hour and renamed “The Bottled Spider”; a classical concert in Illuminations with Campbell Simpson; a talk by our Royal Astronomical Society speaker Dr. David Whitehouse on “The Story of the Moon” and The Royal Ascot Ball in the Queens Room. All of this is hosted by our talented Mr David Pepper, Entertainment Director who seems to defy the three laws of motion and appear at multiple places around the ship: introducing shows, talks and events, shaking hands outside the Royal Court Theatre and phoning guests to wish them a personal “Happy Birthday” from the ship’s company. I cannot imagine anywhere else I could see, hear and take part in such a high standard and range of entertainment all hosted by The Talented Mr Pepper.
Tandem Crossing 21st October
The sunshine is streaming down on both ships today. QE2’s bow is pushing out from the water and in the light of the sun she has a sharper profile and more alive than her years prescribe.
Moving closer to the UK, the buzz we felt on embarkation day returns. In the afternoon, port side, dolphins swim beside the ship. It is the first time I have seen them so close in all my times aboard Queen Mary 2 and rarely have I been fortunate enough to see them this close to the UK. It is a touching sight and a privilege to witness. Once again, our backdrop is QE2 and I wonder if this clever species has come to say farewell.
This morning the theatre is full for Barry Brown, our Film Historian and Documentary Film Maker on board. We are all in attendance to hear about “Hollywood’s Master of Suspense – Alfred Hitchcock” with famous clips and intelligent narration, Barry tells us all about the Hitchcock genre and the mater’s life. Sinking in to the deep, plush chairs in Illuminations with the Planetarium dazzling above, we are all captivated by Barry’s knowledge and insight and lulled along by the dulcet tones of his BBC voice.
At 16.30, it would appear that nearly everyone is on deck seven, eight and twelve. QE2 and Queen Mary 2 have drawn closer together and there is now only a third of a mile between us. It is close enough to hear the excited shouts from our Sister at Sea. (I found a video posted on Youtube filmed by one of the guests on board which captures this fantastic moment and have included this below). The Commodore makes an announcement recognising QE2 achievements and Commodore Warner leads us in our “Three Cheers for QE2”. Across the water we hear our fellow Cunarders cheering back at us, throwing their caps in the air and waving their arms frantically. Further forward and members of the crew jump out to have their photos taken with QE2 as the backdrop, guests are emotional and tears well up and I hear fellow travellers recounting proud tales of trips aboard the World’s Most Famous Ocean Liner.