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September 13, 2010

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Company News

Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 28 days

This is my last Blog before heading out to Italy, and it’s always a busy time preparing to go back to work so imagine my surprise, when as I was shopping in my local garden centre over the weekend, I heard a voice saying “32 days to go”. It took me a while to register that the voice came from a regular Blogger and a guest who has sailed with me before, Avril Denmead. It was slightly surreal to be discussing her last voyage on Queen Victoria as I was looking at compost, but it was great to chat to her! Avril is from Portsmouth, but was visiting her daughter in a village very near me, and it was exciting to hear that she and her husband David will be joining us for Queen Elizabeth’s whole Maiden World Voyage; so Avril we’ll see you in January.

And now I’m on my way to Italy to join Queen Elizabeth at the shipyard in Monfalcone. But this isn’t just a visit; I’ll be joining the many crew members who are already there, for the final few weeks of preparation before the ship’s arrival in Southampton on 8 October.

I’ll have the very latest pictures from Queen Elizabeth on Thursday but today I have a great story, which celebrates Cunard becoming a Gold Patron of the Prince’s Trust.

Becoming one of The Trust’s most dedicated supporters means that Cunard continues its commitment to help young lives in the UK. Since the start of this special relationship Cunard’s guests, crew and employees have raised over half a million pounds and have helped change lives of nearly 600 young people. Now Cunard is a Gold Patron, the company have committed to raise £500,000 by 2013.

Recently on Queen Victoria, the ship’s company had the opportunity to get to know one of these young people a lot more, when twenty-year-old Candace Mohamed became a White Star Trainee. Queen Victoria’s White Star Trainer, Dominque Damerell, takes up the story.


 Guest Blog
 Dominique Damerell
White Star Trainer, Queen Victoria

It was such a pleasure to meet Candace who I learned is a Celebrate Success Young Achiever of the Year finalist. When I met her she told me she had always aspired to become a chef on a cruise ship but thought she would never have the chance to fulfil her dreams. Thanks to The Prince’s Trust and Cunard Line, she has just completed a 12-night work experience on board Queen Victoria.


When Candace was growing up, she struggled at school due to dyslexia and would often be disruptive to cover up her problems. She left school at 15 before completing her GCSEs and it was at this time that her relationship with her mother broke down. She left home and stayed with friends or spent her nights at the railway station or in the park. 

Candace then started selling drugs to give her enough money to get by. She moved into a hostel, but became involved with some dangerous people and was arrested for drug dealing. Being sentenced was a wake-up call for Candace. She wanted to make a fresh start, but didn’t know where to turn and ended up suffering from depression.

Then she came across The Prince’s Trust Team programme, which gives disadvantaged young people the skills and confidence to find a job. When The Prince’s Trust approached us to offer Candace a work placement, we felt that we had to do everything in our power to get her a step closer to her goal.

While aboard Queen Victoria, Candace completed Cunard Line’s White Star Academy training course, which gave her the skills and qualifications to work on one of the ships full-time.

The White Star Training Academy is a two-part training course that all new crew joining a Cunard vessel must undertake and successfully pass to qualify. The first half of the training, 6 days in this instance, is spent in the classroom, learning about the history of Cunard, the ethos of the brand and the workings of the ship as well as the roles of the Officers and staff on board. The training is made specific to the area where the new crew will be working – in Candace’s case, the galley, so part of her training also included Basic Food Hygiene. While Candace was on board it was fortunate that Cunard’s Culinary Ambassador, Jean Marie Zimmerman was also travelling so she was able to get some special training from Cunard’s most senior Chef.


During her training, Candace was also a superb ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and was interviewed twice by Entertainment Director, Amanda Reid, on her morning TV programme. After successfully passing three intense exams Candace was able to start the second part of her training and rolled up her chef’s jacket sleeves, and here she is with Executive Chef, Klaus Kremmer, Executive Sous Chef, Eric Yeung and myself.


Candace told me what she thought about her experience on board:

“I’m overjoyed to have had this opportunity. Cooking on board Queen Victoria was amazing. I was cooking for guests who had paid thousands to be there, so I’m really happy that I did myself proud despite being the youngest chef on the ship. My highlight was cooking a garlic shrimp dish for the Head Chef and some guests on my last day. It was amazing to get such positive feedback!”

Before the end of the voyage, the White Star Training Academy hosted a graduation ceremony where the new crew are presented with their certificates. They are then able to continue with their contracts and careers on board and here Candace is receiving her award from Captain Paul Wright and Hotel Manager Jacqui Hodgson:


For Candace this meant the end of her time on board and having to say goodbye to her newly found friends and to the job she felt was her dream to do. She told me:

“The White Star Academy training was fantastic. I learnt loads of new things about food safety, preparation and putting menus together, so I can’t wait to put my new skills into practice. I feel like I’m much closer to my dream of working on a cruise ship now!”

Before she left though there was time for one more photo with Captain Paul Wright:


I feel that Candace truly is a remarkable young lady and I do believe that The Prince’s Trust has shown her that it is never too late to start again and that at any point you can change your life for the better. I think that it is incredible that a young person can turn a bad start around and make something out of a new life. Candace epitomises this entirely and I am relieved that an organisation like The Prince’s Trust exists. It is wonderful that Cunard has The Prince’s Trust as one of our principal charities and that we were given an opportunity to demonstrate what the charity can mean for a misplaced individual.

I asked Alison Curnow, Candace’s Prince’s Trust mentor, how she felt the work placement has helped Candace and she told me:

‘The fact that she loved her time on board shows to me just how far she has come in the last two years.  I really hope that she achieves her dreams and I am proud that The Trust has helped her to come so far’

Candace has decided to apply for a job in November with Cunard Line and we know there will be many people on board who will be very happy to welcome her back, including me.

Thank you Dominique for another fantastic guest Blog, and congratulations to Candace for all her remarkable achievements; we all wish you every success in the future. You can read more about the Prince’s Trust from two previous Blogs by clicking on these links:



And to learn more about Cunard’s relationship with The Prince’s Trust, you can click on this link.


Well that’s it for this post but as promised at the beginning of this post, I’ll be back on Thursday with the latest pictures of Queen Elizabeth’s interior as the World awaits our new Queen.

Cheers for now, Alastair

  1. Val McGovern says:

    Alastair, I think you do a truely great job with this blog. It beats me how you have the time!!! Looking forward our next Cunard experience cruising on the Queen Elizabeth from LA to Fremantle. See you then.

  2. Beryl Moss says:

    Congratulations to Candace it is nice to know that a young person with the help of The Princes Trust can turn her life around and look forward to an interesting future which hopefully will be with Cunard. Best of luck with all that you and the rest of the crew will be doing in the next few weeks in readiness for Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in Southampton on the 8th. As the time is drawing ever closer it is getting extremely exciting.

  3. Keith Winestein says:

    Fantastic to hear about the partnership between Cunard and The Princes Trust. Especially as the support is practical and helping a young person to achieve their goals.

    Looking forward to the latest pictures of QE. It is all really getting close now. Very exctiting!

  4. Carol kane says:

    Well done Candace,
    You should be very proud of yourself, You go girl! follow your dream, I hpe you will cook for me one day on one of the Queens . Once again WELL DONE.

  5. judith appleton says:

    Thanks for all the blogs/vlogs. Hope you enjoy being back at work. See you in 4 weeks.
    Judith and Bill Appleton

  6. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  7. My wife Linda and I had the privilege of sailing as passengers on board the QM2 under Captain Nick Bates. We had hoped to meet Captain Bates when we join the Queen Elizabeth on her maiden voyage, this not being the case we can but convey our regards and best wishes to a wonderful Captain and a true Gentleman on his retirent.
    On the 18th October 1964 I sailed into Las Palmas on board the RMMV Pendennis Castle, who would have thought then, that 46 years later I would, on 18th October 2010 celebrate my 65th birthday in Las Palmas on board such a luxurious vessel.
    See you at Southampton on 12th October.

  8. Claire Holland says:

    My husband, Lee and I, are sailing on the Queen Elizabeth for the World Cruise. We look forward to meeting you.

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