November 20, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Before I tell you about the first few days of this wonderful voyage, I’ll cover some other news.
Firstly I am pleased to announce this site has been rated with 4 stars by the “Best Blogs At Sea” website. So my thanks go to you our readers for your part, and for those who support me in filing these blogs. This is a great site of fellow ship bloggers which I think you’ll find very interesting. www.bestblogsatsea.com.
It was great to read your comments again last week as well your questions which I’ll now do my best to answer Firstly in answer to Anthony Gaiani Jr’s question regarding the Queen Elizabeth and her progress, I’m afraid I don’t have anything to tell you at the moment, but I am looking into getting you some news very soon on her progress. However I do understand she is still on schedule for her launch in the autumn of 2010 and can assure ‘We Are Cunard’ bloggers will be amongst the first to know anything.
Thanks you as well to Steve Pedersen for his question about the glass panel on the floor of the bridge wings on both Queen Mary 2 and on Queen Victoria. If you are not aware of these panels, thanks to Scott Cameron, I have a photograph of one from the Queen Victoria.
The panels are located on each bridge wing and are made of toughened glass. Contrary to rumour they are not trap doors used to eject unwelcome guests, but an added aid to assist in docking the ship. Fully enclosed bridge wings were introduced to many ships in the late 90’s as the amount of technical equipment located on each wing increased, and the need to protect it against the elements. The panels were introduced as a means of improving visibility for Captains as they brought the ship along side. In fact the next time you are on board, walk along the pier side and look up at the bridge wing and you’ll see the panel is located at the point exactly above the edge of the pier. I hope that answers your question Steve, and please feel free to keep asking more and if I don’t know the answer I know one or two people who will!
Now it’s time for this week in Cunard’s History for 14th to the 20th November.
November 15 1997
QE2 makes her maiden call Miami, USA
November 19 1968
QE2 moves to her dry-dock in Greenock before beginning her first sea trials. Prince Charles becomes the first “civilian” passenger to board the ship.
Now to this week’s blog as the day finally arrived for TOGS around Britain (and some beyond) to come together and join a voyage of a lifetime on board Queen Victoria. TOGS I hear you ask……………….. Let me explain! TOGS actually stands for Terry’s Old Geezers and Gals – Terry (or more appropriately Sir Terry Wogan), is probably Britain’s best loved radio broadcaster who’s morning show on BBC Radio 2 has more listeners (over 10 million daily) than any other show, and as such he has become a national institution in his own right. You can find out more about Sir Terry and his breakfast show by following this link.
Sir Terry will be joining us later in the voyage after the incredibly successful fund raising night on Friday 14th of November for ‘Children In Need’. This is an annual event which aims to raise money for literally hundreds of Children’s charities. There were some who thought that the current financial crisis around the world would mean last year’s total could not be matched, yet alone exceeded. Thanks to the ever generous British public and all those involved in fund raising events around the country, and at BBC Television centre (hosted by Sir Terry), a staggering £20.9million was raised. To find out more about the work ‘Children In Need’ does and how you can still donate (hint, hint!) you can click on this link. www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey
I was asked if I would join the group to assist with the smooth running of the voyage and the various TOGS activities. So apart from relishing the opportunity to be a part of this great event, it was also worth it to escape the new season of “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here”! It was also a rare chance for me to travel as a guest on board so I was looking forward to seeing things from a different perspective which is always valuable. The festivities started with a special welcome party for all TOGS to gather in the Winter Garden. The ship had done a stunning job in preparing the venue and making it very special for the TOGS reception. In fact the very talented on board ice carver even made a giant Pudsey Bear (the ‘Children in Need’ mascot), out of polystyrene as a centre piece, which soon became a photo opportunity for TOGS’ scrapbooks.
I had the pleasure of introducing Charles Nove who many of you will recognise as one of Terry’s intrepid team. Not only is he a much loved broadcaster he is a keen wearer of cardigans and a fan of the Route Master double-decker bus – yes an interesting character! You can find out more about Charles on his blog - http://charlesnove.blogspot.com.
He set the tone of the voyage by welcoming the TOGS, who were already enjoying the special TOGS cocktail (designed by the on board bar staff especially for the voyage), and finger desserts to live music. We soon found out that many TOGS were embarking a ship for the very first time so it was great to welcome them, as well as a few familiar Cunard faces who were already sharing their nautical know how. It had been a long day for everyone but there was so much to chat about and catch up on that no one actually got the early night that they had earlier promised themselves!
It was an early start the following morning as we all gathered for the TOGS shore excursion to Meteora. If you have never been there – I can really recommend it, and although it sounds a bit of a cliché, seeing really is believing. We set off from the port of Volos (which apparently – for those familiar with Greek Mythology – was where Jason and his Argonauts set off in search of the Golden fleece in probably somewhat different conditions to that of the luxurious Queen Victoria; I doubt Jason had accommodation with a bath and balcony! Our guide was fantastic in giving us a potted history of the region’s incredible past featuring names I tried to remember from my history lessons. There was so much to absorb, but this was possibly overshadowed by our guide trying to get to grips with who or what TOGS were, let alone explaining the innuendos of the Janet & John stories, which we discovered didn’t translate very well in to Greek! To tell you briefly about Meteora; it is a region of incredible rock formations, which survived as vast pinnacles, towering above the surrounding landscape millions of years ago. Around the 9th century hermits in search of solitude, climbed the faces of these formations and created caves which are still visible today. These hermits were later brought together in monasteries which were built at the top of these rocks and were virtually impossible to get to, in fact they were created by lowering baskets on ropes and the building materials were painstakingly lifted up one basket at a time. This was the normal access method for new joiners to the monasteries whose faith was probably put to the ultimate test as they hovered in nets hundreds of feet above the ground in a process that took up to half an hour. We were offered the same route, but most of us were delighted to find out that steps were carved in to the rocks in the early 20th century. Sadly, today only a handful of the original 26 or more monasteries survive. They are truly incredible and you may recognise this one, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (Aghia Trias), as the location of the dramatic ending of the James Bond film, ‘For Your Eyes Only’ starring Roger Moore.
What a great day it was; mind you after a superb Greek lunch buffet the conversation on the way back to the ship seemed to transform in to gentle snoring from around the bus as we prepared for the formal night ahead.
Our next TOGS event comes in a few days time, and we’ll soon be welcoming more guests from Radio 2 including Sir Terry, so we’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening on board with some more photos. Don’t forget to listen to Radio 2 (you can also listen to this on line), on the 27th and 28th of November for the live broadcast from Queen Victoria’s Commodore Club between 7.30am and 9.30am GMT. In the meantime I am happy to report that everyone is having a wonderful voyage and are gradually introducing the TOGS concept to the crew and other guests of Queen Victoria with varying degrees of comprehension!