March 26, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 198 days
I know I was going to post my pictures about Queen Victoria’s call to Shanghai, but today I received some great pictures and Guest Blogs from Peter Shanks and Captain Nick Bates, sharing their amazing few days with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Archbishop joined Queen Mary 2 in Port Louis, Mauritius on 20 March and I’ll let Captain Bates take up the story:
Guest Blog – Captain Nick Bates
On 21 March Queen Mary 2 was at sea between Mauritius and Durban, and of course since it was Sunday, part of the Captain’s duties is to officiate at the Cunard Interdenominational Church service. This has been a tradition on Cunard ships for over 170 years. As usual as I stood on the stage of the Royal Court Theatre adjusting the microphone, making sure my order of service was properly arranged. I looked up to a packed house, only to spot Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself sitting just a few rows from the front of stage. Well I thought “no pressure here this morning”. Thankfully the service went very well with the Staff Captain Alan Nixon reading the first lesson and for the second reading, Bill Gibson one of our very talented musicians gave a beautiful rendering of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. After the service I invited the Archbishop and his wife up to the Bridge to blow the ships whistle.
What an absolute delight he and his wife were, their lively sense of humour had us all enjoying the moment on the Bridge and something we will all remember for a long time to come. To commemorate the occasion he was also kind enough to sign our Visitor’s Book.
Cunard’s President and Managing Director joined Queen Mary 2 in Durban and he continues the story:
Guest Blog – Peter Shanks – President and managing Director, Cunard Line
I thought I would share my experiences of South Africa this week where I joined Queen Mary 2 as she travelled from Durban to Cape Town for her maiden calls. We had Archbishop Desmond Tutu travelling with the ship and it has been very special indeed for all of our guests.
It is the first time I have been In South Africa since living here as a child many years ago. A country of enormous change, huge challenges but when you are here you sense an overriding sense of hope, not least with the Football World Cup fast approaching.
I joined the ship on day 79 of her 103 World Voyage, with New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney behind her and Cape Town, Rio and Barbados still to come. I realised even from my short visit that in going on a World Voyage you really do get an insight into so many cultures and experiences right around the world.
Archbishop Tutu had agreed to do a lecture onboard as part of our Insights programme. We have had some famous and influential people sail with us in the past, but here we had something very special indeed.
You could have heard a pin drop at the two of his events in a packed Royal Court Theatre. At the end of each session we witnessed a truly emotional standing ovation; he touched all of us just briefly but left his mark for ever. It is not often we are lucky enough to be in the presence of a world statesman. He really does not hold back. It’s not my place to express any political views, but I wanted to share with you some of what he shared with us.
Archbishop voted for the first time when he was 63; can you imagine how that must have felt after so many turbulent and difficult years. He told us of his visit to see Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the White House where he asked for sanctions but nothing happened. He told us of his visit to Margaret Thatcher in London in 1987. ‘We spoke for 50 minutes; me for 20 and she for 30. Nothing happened; the lady was not for turning’. He then spoke of February 1990 when the South African Government announced change and the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years in captivity. ‘Wonder of wonders, we kept pinching ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming; don’t wake me up I love this dream’.
He went on to speak of the 27th April 1994 as ‘a magical day – a day like no other when all races of South Africa voted in the first democratic election and for President Nelson Mandela who was free at last’. At that moment in the theatre, we went from silence to an instant round of applause; it was quite a moment.
He had shared with us some of the stories from the bad old days. One of the lighter moments was when he described an early visit to London with his wife. They were lost and went up to ‘a London Bobby’ to ask for directions. ‘The policeman called me Sir and my wife Mam, so over the next few days we kept asking for directions even when we knew where we were going’
I am a big rugby fan and there cannot be many people who don’t remember Nelson Mandela wearing the springbok jersey as they won the world cup.
Now things are so much better and it was very moving to hear him talk of the future. ‘Young people are amazing, they will make poverty history, they will care about the environment’ And as for the rugby, well he proudly told us that South Africa have won the world cup twice , have a black coach and the recent best player in the world accolade went to a black South African player.
He finished the lecture by saying ‘You know things in South Africa could be a great deal better, BUT – things in South Africa could have been a lot worse’. And then he stopped. Everybody in the theatre sat stunned in silence, in awe of what they had heard in the last hour, in awe of a great man and reflecting on the privilege of being in the presence of such a decent, warm and generous human being. And then a standing ovation that took everybody by surprise.
Two days later, whilst at sea between Durban and Cape Town, he entertained us all during a face to face interview with Ray Rouse, our Entertainment Director.
Some of the fun moments from that included;
As he was introduced wearing one of those modern headphone microphones he said ‘I look like Madonna’
Asked about whether South Africa would win the Football World Cup he said ‘Patriotically Yes – Honestly No’
He spoke of the importance of laughter. He is famous for his wonderful laugh; ‘laughing keeps your head the right size’. He went on to tell how once he was in San Francisco and an excited couple rushed up to him and said, ‘Pleased to meet you Archbishop Mandela – that made me laugh – two for the price of one’
Each year on our World Voyage we take our full cruisers ashore for a thank you dinner in a spectacular location. This year it was in Cape Town in a beautiful vineyard for over 700 of us. Archbishop and his wife joined us for dinner and the setting was perfect. Imagine the moment, a beautiful setting for dinner, surrounded by beautiful scenery and mountains, beautiful young local dancers and Archbishop stood to give a moving grace. As he spoke my eyes fell not upon our many loyal guests, but on the many young local waiters and waitresses, mostly school children and students. It was when I was looking at them, bursting with pride and listening intently that I realised that this country has a great future and that we really were in the presence of a great man………
I walked Archbishop and his wife out to their car towards the end of the evening to say our goodbyes and thanks. When I got back to the table I discovered he had written in my menu card ‘God Bless You Peter’
There is no more to say.
Best Regards, Peter Shanks
Thank you Peter and Captain Bates for you Blogs, certainly a remarkably historic occasion to be a part of. Peter mentioned Queen Mary 2’s World Voyage Dinner and I hope to have some pictures from that wonderful event soon. Meanwhile I’ll be back on Monday with the promised pictures from Shanghai and then later in the week, an interview with Queen Elizabeth’s Staff Captain, Hamish Sunter. Hopefully we’ll also have some new pictures of Queen Elizabeth in Italy, very soon. Cheers for now Alastair.