February 12, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Updates
There are many key moments on a World Cruise, but this week had two of the most remarkable. Within a few days we had crossed the equator marking a transfer from Winter to Summer, and then four days later crossed the International Dateline, meaning that for Queen Victoria there was no 8th of February – weird concept I know, but I’ll talk about that later. Meanwhile thank you again for all the questions and comments as it’s always great to have the opportunity to respond. In answer to your question Christian, I’m pleased to tell you that the Boston Cup is still on Queen Mary 2 located between the Queens Room and the Photo Gallery. Thanks to Andy Fitzsimmons for giving our readers a link to the photo of this beautiful cup. For those of you who didn’t know, the transfer of the Boston Cup on the 1st of May 2004, from QE2 was made to symbolise Queen Mary 2 becoming the flagship of Cunard Line and in effect , the flagship of the British merchant fleet.
Meanwhile before I get in to this week on board Queen Victoria here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 13th to the 19th February.
February 14 1978
QE2 makes her maiden call at Auckland, New Zealand
February 17 1954
Saxonia II is launched by Lady Churchill at John Brown Shipyard, Clydebank and goes in to service on the Canadian emigrant run
February 17 2008
Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Wellington, New Zealand
I promise I won’t talk too much about the weather, given the freezing conditions most of you are experiencing back at home, and I suppose it would be very tactless to mention how many people on board (both guests and crew) are a little sunburned after the last few equatorial days. This leg of the World Cruise does have a lot of sea days so we have been busy with a lot of extra events and activities including matinee performances from RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Graduate Company on board for this leg), and the “Salon Art Culinaire” event. This was an amazing spectacle provided by our team of very talented Chefs. They worked in to the night preparing the Queens Room for a display of their artistry. Overseen by Executive Chef Nicholas Ollroyd (from Yorkshire) and his younger brother (by just 17 minutes!), Executive Sous Chef Mark Ollroyd, the team put together a magnificent display while guests had the impossible task to choose which should win this year’s coveted prizes.
As expected, it was a huge success and gave our guests an opportunity to congratulate the chefs in person for their hard work and talent.
It’s been tradition amoungst seafarers for more than 200 years that every time a ship crosses the Equator, a ceremony takes place whereby King Neptune is asked to grant safe passage to the ship and her crew, and certain initiations are carried out on those who have never crossed the line before (Pollywogs). I shan’t ruin the surprise too much for those of you who may one day take part in this ritual, but what I will say is that I’ve been told it’s all rather tame compared to our colleagues on cargo ships and in the Royal Navy! It is a big occasion and all the ship come out to see “Pollywogs” become “Shellbacks” in what can only be described as a rather messy affair. This photo gives you an idea of what takes place with King Neptune and his Court on one end of the pool and the poor Pollywogs at the other.
Underneath all that detritus (we didn’t dare ask what it was!) are Tony and Trish Heading from March in Cambridgeshire, who believe it or not pleaded with us to be part of the ceremony and recklessly enough said; ”Please go ahead and do whatever you like……..”! We did and believe it or not, they told us afterwards they loved every minute! Then it was the turn of the crew; Oh yes they didn’t get off too lightly either and within an hour the event was over but rather a lot had to be cleared up. I have to say Staff Captain Andrew Hall and the cleaning team weren’t too impressed by the mess we made!
Actually they were brilliant about it, and as usual did an amazing job in having the pool and surrounding deck areas sparkling clean very quickly. So I don’t know if this has encouraged you to admit being a “Pollywog” or not, when you take a voyage that crosses the Equator, you certainly can’t say you haven’t been warned!
As always King Neptune granted Queen Victoria safe passage at later that afternoon we crossed the Equator and began our summer, and despite the old wives tales didn’t feel a bump. Willy Robinson, our Chief Engineer, wasn’t too keen on me suggesting to guests that we all try the experiment of turning on the taps on in our bathrooms to see the water going down the plug the other way the moment we crossed – oh well may be next year!
The Officer of the watch was kind enough to take a photo of the GPS navigation system and the electronic chart the moment we crossed which is always fascinating to see.
You’ll also notice on the chart the international dateline which is a really interesting concept to get your head around and I’m not sure I understand it yet but I’ll do my best to explain how it works and why we miss a day. That’s right we went to bed on Saturday the 7th of February and woke up the next morning on Monday the 9th of February. So how can a day disappear? While the world is divided into 24 time zones, there has to be a place where there is a difference in days, somewhere the day truly “starts” on the planet. Thus, the 180° line of longitude, exactly one-half way around the planet from Greenwich, England; and 0° longitude is approximately where the International Date Line is located. Without the International Date Line, people who travel west around the planet would discover that when they returned home, it would seem as though an extra day had passed. This situation actually happened to Magellan’s crew when they returned home after their circumnavigation of the earth. The International Date Line is not a straight line, either. Since its beginning, it has zigzagged to avoid spitting apart countries into two days. It bends through the Bering Strait to avoid placing far northeastern Russia in a different day than the rest of the country. Unfortunately, tiny Kiribati was split, so as recently as 1995 the country decided to move the International Date Line, so that now eastern Kiribati and Hawaii, which are located in the same area of longitude, are a whole day apart.
What did this mean to us? Well effectively we were the last place on earth to experience the 7th of February and the first to experience the 9th. Maybe I just confused you even more? Either way the day disappeared which I am not sure if this is better or worse than the other way (west to east- which I have also done) where a day is repeated! The missed day does create some anomalies such as; what happens if your birthday lies on the day we missed. We thought that we should mark the occasion with a special party for the three guests and one crew member this affected, so we got a cake and had some champagne to mark a birthday I’m sure none of them ever forget.
A day later (was this the 9th or 10th – I’m getting confused myself now!), we arrived in the island paradise of Tonga. This archipelago of 171 islands has a population of just 100, 000 but its own monarchy with King George Tupou V coming to the throne just last year. Tonga is also known as the “Friendly Islands” because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain Cook on his first visit in 1773. This was our first visit to the island and our welcome was certainly very friendly, and this ship, which was somewhat bigger than the one Captain Cook arrived on, turned out to be the biggest that had ever visited the port of Nuku ‘Alofa.
Tonga is also one of the closest islands to the west of the International Dateline, so we had to celebrate by trying a local beer in the Dateline Hotel.
We are now heading to our next port of call – Auckland so you can expect a distinctly antipodean feel to next week’s Blog. Thanks again for reading this each week and please keep those comments and questions coming in. I’m afraid I have run out of space for the interviews I promised last week, but in the meantime I must apologize for the inaccuracy in last week’s Blog, when I mentioned that I had met Thomas Andrew’s great nephew, Phillip Andrews who of course was the Chief Designer of the Titanic and not the Captain. Thanks to Christian Rey and other readers for pointing this out. Anyway I will hopefully talk to him and others next week.Cheers for now, Alastair