October 25, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Welcome to another Blog and part three of Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden Voyage and I already realise I am going to have to write another, as there is so much more to tell you. As I am writing this we are having another remarkably smooth crossing of the Bay of Biscay heading back to Southampton.
Before I get to what’s been happening these last few days, you may be interested to hear about a special Television Programme that’s been made about Queen Elizabeth. It’s called “Britain’s Greatest Ships: The Queen Elizabeth” and has been made by the Discovery Channel. The programme is a new one-off and gives exclusive access to the construction of what the makers say will be one of the world’s greatest liners. I’m afraid I don’t know when it will air around the world, but it will be broadcast in the UK on Wednesday 27 October, at 9.00pm. The programme will also feature unique archive film of the building of the first Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary along with interviews with former Cunard Captains.
It’s been such a pleasure to meet so many of you on this Maiden Voyage, who have been reading this Blog and as promised I will be keeping you up to date in the future, from all three Cunard Queens. It’s been great to get your feedback and I hope you enjoy reading these Blogs as a memory of a wonderful Maiden Voyage on Queen Elizabeth.
The weather had been fantastic, well apart from just one day; Madeira, when there was torrential rain throughout the day, but guests managed to make the most of the visit, and they enjoyed the traditional dancing by a local Folkloric Group in the Grand Lobby that afternoon.
During the day, there was eager anticipation as our celebrity Entertainer arrived mid afternoon. Lulu, embarked with her team of fifteen musicians, backing singers sound and lighting engineers, along with a special surprise guest who I’ll tell you more about later.
Lulu’s name is synonymous with rock and blues, ever since she first burst onto the scene at the tender age of 15, with the mega, definitive and enduring Shout., which she performed that night to an incredible response. It was amazing to see the song performed live by the original artist and with such energy, despite as she told everyone in the audience, being 61 years old. She looked stunning and it was only later I saw that she has her own anti-ageing skin and body care collection; well it certainly seems to work!
Lulu performed her show twice that evening and what performances they were; the Royal Court theatre certainly rocked that night! A personal favourite part was when she introduced her special guest, Kiki Dee who joined her in the duet, Don’t go Breaking My Heart. It was one of the first records I ever bought, and to see Lulu dressed in Elton John glasses and straw hat opposite the amazing voice of Kiki Dee was just brilliant.
In between shows Captain Wells invited Lulu and Kiki Dee to the bridge, to sign the visitor’s book and meet some of the ship’s Officers and crew, and Lulu loved sitting in the famous Queen Elizabeth Captain’s chair.
Despite another performance just twenty minutes later, she chatted with everyone and certainly charmed Captain Wells as Hotel Manager Robert Howie looked on!
It was a rush after the show as Lulu and her team disembarked just before Queen Elizabeth sailed for Southampton. Everything went very smoothly with many guests looking over the promenade deck and balcony railings wishing her farewell. She told me how much she enjoyed the whole event and even sung as she went down the gangway, much to the delight of the guests watching.
The following night there was another premiere from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company as the four singers from the company were joined by the combined orchestras from the Royal Court Theatre, the Queens Room, the Sting Quartet and resident Harpist. The show is called Sing and it’s a wonderfully elegant show with great music and a stunning set:
As we headed north towards Southampton, it was time to catch up with our guests and I heard so many fascinating tales from some very experienced Cunarders, the next Blog on Wednesday will feature some of their many stories.
One story I heard about, but only believed when I saw the photo, was that half way across the Bay of Biscay, an owl was seen to be perched on a chair on Graham and Anne Hanson’s balcony. What an incredible picture:
One couple you know about already from the last post was Jim McCracken and Lisa Lehman, who got engaged on board. Jim, who is the Mayor of Freedom Township in New Jersey, wanted to present a proclamation from his home city, so in recognition of their engagement and to receive the proclamation, Captain Wells invited Jim and Lisa to the bridge to blow the ship’s whistle at noon.
Romance is clearly in the air, as I was also contacted by another gentleman who wanted to make his proposal rather special as well. So, working with the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, Anton Nootenboom, a special breakfast tray was prepared and sent to their stateroom. I met with them a couple of days ago and they told me the story.
Apparently Adrian Holloway first met Julie Shakespeare twenty years ago, but at the time she was married so despite being friends they eventually lost contact. The couple, from Bournemouth in England, were reunited three years ago when Julie’s situation had changed and she sent Adrian a Christmas card.
Adrian has been on the maiden Voyages of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria and is delighted that Julie is also now a convert to Cunard. On the day of the proposal, just moments before the tray arrived, Adrian asked Julie if she would join him on the balcony where he went on one knee and asked her to marry him. She of course said yes, and although they haven’t fixed a date yet for the wedding, seeing them the other day they were still beaming from ear to ear!
Another very special guest for the Maiden Voyage was a lady who is known in the art world as the face of Modern Impressionism. Sherree Valentine Daines has painted numerous famous people, from Joanna Lumley to Michael Parkinson to Jonny Wilkinson. She was also recently seen on Britain’s This Morning TV show painting the host, Fern Britton. She has had exhibitions in London’s Tate gallery, the Barbican and her pieces have been popular with celebrity collectors including the Royal Family.
During her time on board she was very busy discussing her work with guests along with painting demonstrations like the one here in the Grand Lobby, which featured the naming ceremony, accompanied by her daughter Lettice playing the violin.
It was amazing to watch her at work. Although she told us she would normally take more time to create one of her stunning paintings, she achieved this completed piece in literally a few hours.
Later in the voyage she had a special subject to paint, which again she did in front of an audience in the Garden Lounge. Captain Wells chatted to guests and Sherree as she painted him and then revealed the finished piece in the Art gallery on the last day.
As many of you know, we auction off the ship’s nautical chart at the end of every voyage, and we knew the chart for Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden Voyage, signed by the Captain and Bridge Officers, was going to generate a lot of interest. It certainly did, and the atmosphere in the Queens Room that afternoon was electric, as the bidding got higher and higher. The hammer went down for the final time at $4,000 and the happy couple taking away this unique souvenir of the voyage, was Graham and Peggy Tamblyn from Melbourne in Australia. They told me they were actually married while on a QE2 voyage in 2007, when they went ashore in Gibraltar for the actual service and this was their anniversary voyage.
As with all our Nautical Chart Auctions, the money raised goes to the Prince’s Trust, so thank you to Graham and Peggy for helping us to raise even more money for this very worthwhile charity.
Talking of souvenirs, guests have been very busy picking up memorabilia from books to cards to T Shirts to keeping all the menus and Daily Programmes to remember this special voyage. Captain Wells was inundated a couple of days ago, when he was autographing everything you could mention, and at the front of the long queue was eleven year old Emma Savage from Nottingham England.
Another premiere that took place this voyage featured the five actors and two singers from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company accompanied by our String Quartet. In a special one hour adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the cast brought together numerous characters, with some very quick changes, in a beautifully presented performance. Here they are in full flow:
Well that’s about it for the moment, but I’ll bring you the final instalment of our Maiden Voyage on Wednesday and on Thursday a special Blog featuring Cunard’s Culinary Ambassador, Jean Marie Zimmerman. Thanks again so much for all your comments; cheers for now, Alastair