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Queen Victoria

G’day Sydney

February 26, 2009

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Queen Victoria

There are very few harbors in the world that can welcome Cunard Liners quite like Sydney. In fact for me it is up there with New York and Venice for sheer breathtaking views. I have sailed in to Sydney quite a few times and despite having to get up at 5.30am, to watch the sun rise over iconic structures like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, it’s always worth it. But before I get in to this last week on Queen Victoria’s World Cruise, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 27th February to the 5th March

February 27 2001

Pamela Conover becomes the first woman at the helm of Cunard when she is appointed President and Chief Operating Officer.

February 29 2008

Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Port Douglas.

March 2 1950

Caronia transits the Suez Canal for the first time.

March 5 1975

QE2 makes her maiden call at Kobe, Japan.

So back to our arrival in Sydney; I would have been up on deck early anyway but this time I had to call in to a local radio station to describe the sail in which of course was very easy with so much to see. As it turned out however, they were more interested in Queen Victoria. There is no question that there is something special about Cunard and our ships, that when they arrive in ports around the world, there’s always a tremendous amount of interest. It was also great to see so many of our guests on deck listening to a commentary from the bridge (ours I might add – not the harbor Bridge!) I managed to get on deck as dawn was breaking to take this picture of two of the most famous landmarks in the world with the Cunard house flag in the foreground fluttering in the gentle daybreak breeze.

We are too tall to fit under the Harbor Bridge, so we docked at Circular Quay, which is a perfect place to start discovering Sydney with all the ferries coming and going from there, as well as trains and busses etc.Yet again we were so lucky with the weather with Sydney enjoying its best day of weather for a week or so. This picture shows not only what a stunning place this is to be berthed, but also puts Queen Victoria’s size in to perspective against such an incredible backdrop.

There is so much to do in Sydney and our guests were lucky to have two days to do as much sightseeing as possible, with a few trying the now famous Harbor Bridge Climb which I can thoroughly recommend. There’s a ferry to take you to the beautiful beaches at Manley or a bus to the famous Bondi beach which definitely has a strong English seaside town flavour to it – just a little warmer! There’s a lot to discover and much of it is within a short walk of the ship, such as the historic Rocks district where amoungst all the carefully restored old buildings on George Street, I discovered what claimed to be Sydney’s oldest pub – The Fortune of War.

Convicted of theft, Samuel Terry arrived in Sydney in 1816 and his fortunes definitely changed as he established the pub twelve years later. As he built his property empire he gained the name of the “Rothschild of Botany Bay”! However it burned down and what we see today is a building built in 1922 which means according to the staff at The Lord Nelson up the road on Argyle Street, that they are in fact the oldest hotel in continual use as the same building!

It was built in 1842 and gave me an excuse to have one of their beers brewed on the premises! Then it was time for a bit of shopping and yes I did buy a didgeridoo. I know what you are going to say but – well, I didn’t have one and it seemed a great idea at the time and at least I am not flying home! Little did I know how hard it is to play or even get a sound out of it. However that night back on board Queen Victoria, we had invited a local show featuring Aborigine music and dance, to perform for our guests. I met the leader of the group called Gambala (though for some reason he said I could call him Paul!),

He showed me the technique of how to play this incredible instrument, which is thought to be one of the oldest in the world. He showed me how to play it, but I still couldn’t despite his best demonstration. It takes incredible mouth and diaphragm control as well as loads of practice. Like all things it looked a lot easier than it was – still it’ll look very nice somewhere in a corner at home! The show with the dancers was wonderful as they illustrated how the Aborigine culture can communicate through dance.

They looked fantastic and it turned out to be very much a family affair. With a great deal of pride they showed us how they pass on their traditions through the generations.

All too soon it was time to leave this amazing city, but yet again the crowds gathered to see us off for another year. As we waved our farewells we all had another chance to add to our photo collections – I mean it doesn’t get much better than this does it!

We had two days at sea sailing along Australia’s eastern coast to get to Queensland and the port of Yorkey’s Knob (and before you ask – it’s named after the man who apparently came here at the beginning of the 20th century and saw a hill that resembled a door knob). It is a small port that serves as a gateway to the City of Cairns, which is a popular destination for tourists. It is also one of the best access points for the Great Barrier Reef which unlike the Great Wall of China, can actually be seen from space. It’s a beautiful part of the world and we just got everyone on board that evening before it started to rain. Wow we have been lucky with the weather – again!

The next day turned out to be Shrove Tuesday which meant another World Cruise tradition was going to take place. It was time for interdepartmental rivalry as 17 teams of the ship’s crew gathered to see who was going to take the crown from the Musicians who won last year. I’ll avoid the obvious jokes about pancake tossing, but I can tell you, so fierce was the competition, that the Britannia Restaurant waiters were divided in to two teams (upper and lower level). After a stewards enquiry as to whether the pancakes had been flipped sufficiently (oh yes it was very competitive!), in the end it was the Britannia Tigers who won the crown. Here are the victorious team pictured with Captain Wright.

Well that’s it for another week but I’ll get you some more news soon as we progress north. Alas as we approach the Equator again on the 27th our summer will be over again but we will have ports such as Nagasaki, Hong Kong and Shanghai to look forward to. Until then all it leaves me to say is thanks again for reading and for all your comments – keep them coming! Cheers for now, Alastair

  1. Christine Wellhausen says:

    Hello Alastair,

    I’m looking forward to traveling on the Queen Victoria sometime in the future and am enjoying reading your blog each week. As a musician myself (pianist), I am very interested in learning about some of your in-house entertainment and entertainers, and am quite sure many of your readers may also be interested. I would much appreciate if you could please talk a bit about them in your blog sometime soon? Thanks!

    Christine in Minnesota, USA

  2. Martyn Green says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I guess you will remember me from times when I was the Destination Lecturer with you on Victoria. I was very pround to have been the Destination Lecturer on the Last Voyage of the QE2.
    Quite a number of passengers asked if they could have copies of my lectures as ‘keepsakes’ I have gone one better, I have produced a 1hr. 15min. DVD with over 400 photographs of that final voyage, showing the sail-away from Southampton, all the ports of call and the arrival in Dubai. Anyone wanting a copy can reach me at baronmg@aol.com or via my website http://www.portlecturer.com Great blogg, keep up the good work……

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