October 22, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Insights Speakers
With Queen Elizabeth making her way back to Southampton on the last stage of her Maiden Voyage, Queen Victoria is in the Mediterranean and Queen Mary 2 is heading to New York. For this Blog we are going back to a recent voyage on Cunard’s flagship with a Guest Blog from Author and Cunard Maritime Lecturer, Chris Frame.
Many of you will know Chris as a true Cunarder, from his lectures on board, previous Guest Blogs as well as his wonderful series of Photographic journey books on QE2, Queen Mary 2 and most recently Queen Victoria. It’s always interesting to get a different perspective of a voyage so I’ll hand over to Chris:-
Author and Cunard Maritime Lecturer
The Mediterranean Medley was particularly special, being the only opportunity this year to experience the Med aboard the world’s largest ocean liner. I was there to give a series of lectures about the history of Cunard Line. I was fortunate to be travelling on the same voyage as some family members, so had the opportunity to spend time with them aboard.
Having been aboard Queen Mary 2 before, it was easy to slip back into shipboard life and by the time we slipped our lines I was unpacked and ready for the voyage ahead.
Upon arrival aboard the ship, guest lecturers are presented with their schedules. My first lecture was on the first sea day, at 3:30pm. After the long flight from Australia I appreciated the opportunity to ease into the first day at sea. Breakfast in bed was a luxurious way to do this.
We had three days at sea between Southampton and our first port of call, Barcelona. This allowed the guests to get familiar with the ship. Illuminations is Queen Mary 2’s planetarium, however it is also the venue for the lectures and fortunately it is very easy to locate at the forward end of Deck Three.
“Cunard: The Early Years” was the title of my first lecture. It details the history of Cunard Line from Samuel Cunard’s early ventures in Steam Technology and the formation of the company, right through to the era of the giant four-stackers, Lusitania, Mauretania and Aquitania.
The Commodore’s Cocktail Party was the highlight of that evening, with guests dressing in their formal wear to meet Commodore Bernard Warner. With champagne flowing, the Commodore discussed the significance of September 20th, being the date that both the original Mauretania and the legendary QE2 were launched, one on the Tyne in 1906 and the other on the Clyde in 1967.
Day Two at sea and my next lecture “The White Star Liners”. The lecture started at 10am and despite the early start there was a good show of guests wanting to learn the full story of the company that was responsible for some of the most famous ships of all time.
On Day Three at sea I attended lectures by some of the other guest speakers. Ian Smith was talking about the history of the iconic Concorde, the only successful supersonic passenger transport. Later in the day, Biologist Brian J. Ford discussed Facebook. Both were very interesting lectures and well attended.
I took the opportunity to catch up with my family in the Golden Lion pub for lunch, where a traditional pub menu is offered. I chose fish and chips with a pint of Bass which I enjoyed very much.
That evening, the Big Band Ball was held in the Queens Room. With the largest dance floor at sea, it was a perfect location for dancing to the Big Band music provided by the expert Queens Room Orchestra combined with the Royal Court Orchestra.
On Day Four we were docked in Barcelona which is a fascinating city; lively, vibrant and energetic. The shore tour took us to the highlights of the city such as the Cathedral, through the city streets and past the iconic Sagrada Família before returning us to the ship in time for lunch.
My brother-in-law and I wanted to return to the Sagrada Família to see inside the structure. Fortunately Queen Mary 2 wasn’t departing until midnight so we had time to return on foot (a very long walk) and made our way to the viewing area atop one of the spires. The views are magnificent.
The walk back was slower than the walk there, the city is huge, and our return trip included a stop at an ice cream shop for some sustenance.
The next morning was a half day at sea, en route to Monte Carlo. I talked at 11:15am about the “Evolution of the Passenger Ship” which covers the changes that have occurred to passenger ships from the early days of steam, right up to modern cruise ships.
Queen Mary 2 anchored at Monte Carlo among what seemed to be hundreds of luxury yachts. I enjoyed the tender service, rarely are you afforded such a superb photo opportunity of the ship, and so my camera was in constant use during the short 10 minute journey to the inner harbour.
Once ashore, we made our way up to the Palace and were afforded more spectacular views of the ship, this time from above. A leisurely walk back down towards the city centre was followed by some window shopping at Ferrari while others took the opportunity to visit the iconic Casino and the nearby Grand Prix tracks.
With our anchor raised we set a course for Civitavecchia and Rome, which was to be the highlight for me. Rome has so much history; I will be returning as you can’t absorb it all in one day. Still, the shore tour we took to Rome was a brilliant introduction to the city. It was a walking tour and visited such iconic structures as the Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum, The Pantheon, The Forum and views of many other iconic ancient Roman buildings.
Queen Mary 2 shared the port of Civitavecchia with her Fleet Mate, Queen Victoria, who would also join us the following day in Naples. After sailing behind Queen Victoria for much of the night, we docked first in Naples and it was off to Pompeii.
Pompeii was buried during the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Much of it excavated, the ancient city provides a fascinating insight into life nearly two millennia ago. Preserved under the ash, treasures include original lead plumbing, ancient graffiti, roads, drains, dwellings, prisons and amphitheatres. All those on our tour agreed that this fascinating place was one of the highlights of the voyage.
That evening Queen Mary 2 sailed before Queen Victoria. The two ships exchanged lengthy whistle blasts as we departed. Seeing the two Cunarders together was a great bonus for all of us!
En route to Gibraltar I had lunch with my family at Todd English. I’d never done this before and let me just say it was superb. The service was outstanding and the food was nothing less than a masterpiece. While the whole meal was delicious, the dessert was the stand out course. I had the superb White-Chocolate Fallen Cake with Chocolate Mouse, Raspberry Ice Cream and Berries.
The lecture during that day was by destination and food lecturer Angela Schneider who spoke about “Lisbon, the city that spice built” in anticipation for our final port of call.
Gibraltar was a fascinating stop. We tendered ashore and were taken up the rock to see the caves, gun forts and then went even higher via the cable-car to take in the spectacular view. Queen Mary 2 made for a superb photo opportunity in the harbour.
Lisbon (Lisboa) was our final port of call. A fascinating city, the harbour makes for a superb backdrop for the magnificent Queen Mary 2. Our tour included a tram ride on the classic Lisboa trams. Aboard the trams we were treated to traditional food and drinks while commentary was provided by our tour guide. It was a great morning!
Queen Mary 2 sailed for Southampton that afternoon. The ship manoeuvred away from the pier and set a course to pass under the middle of the ‘25 de Abril Bridge’ with only 4-metres to spare!
On our final day at sea at 10am in Illuminations, I told the story of the legendary Queen Mary (1936) and Queen Elizabeth (1940), including their construction, service during World War 2 and eventual decline in the 1960’s. The original Queens were succeeded by QE2 and later that day at 2pm I attended the lecturer meet-and-greet session where many guests shared their stories about their experiences on these three Queens.
By 7am the following day we were back alongside in Southampton. It had been a wonderful voyage aboard the world’s last Atlantic Ocean liner. With this memorable voyage over, I am now looking forward to being aboard the latest Cunarder, Queen Elizabeth in 2011!
Thank you very much Chris for a great Blog and superb pictures. We look forward to welcoming you aboard our new Queen next year. Meanwhile I’ll be back on Monday with the third and final Blog from Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden Voyage. Then later in the week we’ll have some news from our other sister, Queen Victoria. Cheers for now, Alastair