March 19, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
It’s a great pleasure to introduce another Guest Blog. Many of you will know Chris Frame as he has written a number of books about Cunard, and also lectures regularly on our Queens.
This is the third time Chris has written a Guest Blog, and if you would like to know more about him you can read his other two Blogs by following these links:
Chris came on board Queen Elizabeth a few weeks ago for a few days, to give some lectures and also to prepare for his next book, so I’ll let him tell you all about it.
Author and Cunard Maritime Lecturer
All readers of this blog will have heard about the meeting of the Queens in Sydney. After this rendezvous, Queen Mary 2 sailed to New Zealand, while Queen Elizabeth made her maiden call at both Melbourne and Fremantle. It’s on this passage that our first voyage aboard Queen Elizabeth took place.
It was in Melbourne that my partner Rachelle and I first boarded Queen Elizabeth, bound for Fremantle for a short four night voyage. I was aboard to lecture – covering three topics – Cunard’s Early Years, The White Star Line and Cunard’s First Queens. However, while we were aboard we took over 2,500 photographs of the ship for use in our forthcoming book, Queen Elizabeth: A Photographic Journey, due out this October.
Embarkation day for us was Friday 25 February 2011. We woke early and were excited about setting off aboard the latest Cunard Queen. Breakfast in Melbourne included a visit to the Lindt Café for the best hot chocolate in Melbourne, followed by some shopping. It was while we were in a local bookstore on Colin Street that I bumped into some fellow Cunard guests, friends that I’d made during our voyage last year on Queen Victoria. This only built the excitement further!
At noon we made our way to Port Melbourne and embarked aboard the third ship to bear the name Queen Elizabeth. We were impressed. Queen Elizabeth felt familiar, which was expected having been aboard Queen Victoria. However she was unique, with her own personality, beautiful art-deco styling and masterful blend of colours, tones and lighting creating an ambiance aboard that makes you feel very comfortable.
After dropping our bags in our stateroom the work began. The first task was to photograph the stateroom before we messed it up! The result was pleasing.
From there we were in full photography mode, taking pictures of every room as we made our way throughout the ship. Having a similar layout to her sister ship made it very easy for us to navigate Queen Elizabeth. I think that’s a real benefit for many repeat guests.
One of the highlights of our first walk around the ship included seeing the Royal Court Theatre, and knowing that the following day I’d be lecturing there. The Royal Court Theatre really is a speakers dream venue; the atmosphere is excellent while the acoustics are superb and there is a very large screen which allows my maritime slides (including many historic images and video) to be displayed at their best. This is the view I get from the stage when lecturing, although less empty seats!
We also spent quite some time seeking out the priceless QE2 memorabilia that is held aboard Queen Elizabeth. Items include the QE2’s bell, builder’s plaque, silver model and the Bust of H.M. The Queen. Here’s an image of QE2’s builders plaque, you can find this near the Commodore Club.
By early evening we’d scoured the ship from top to bottom, already having taken hundreds of images. We like to get photographs of the rooms empty for our books so as readers can see the rooms in their full beauty, as if entering them for the first time. Port days are good for this kind of imagery as many guests are off the ship on shore excursions.
At 6pm Queen Elizabeth set sail from Melbourne bound for Fremantle. After sailing we enjoyed drinks in Café Carinthia, dinner in the Britannia Restaurant and a show in the Royal Court Theatre.
We rose early on our first day at sea. Breakfast was at the Lido where pancakes smelt too delicious to pass up. After our meal, we set out with our camera once again. This time we didn’t have long before my first lecture in the Royal Court Theatre.
Cunard’s Early Years was the topic, which I shared with a sizable crowd. I was particularly impressed so many guests were keen to hear about the Cunard heritage, although not surprising given the heritage and pedigree this company has.
After the lecture we held a book signing in Queen Elizabeth’s bookshop. The bookshop aboard Queen Elizabeth is superb, and bookshop manager Richard had set up a wonderful display of our work in the window. What a thrill!
We met some wonderful people on this voyage. It’s always such a treat to meet people who are part of Cunard’s history and Cunard guests have fascinating stories to tell. I’ve met people who served aboard the Queens as well as Aquitania during World War II. Others had family members who made crossings on Mauretania or Berengaria, while some recall sailing on Britannic during the Cunard-White Star era.
On this voyage we met a gentleman who was sailing with an extensive QE2 collection. Items included medallions from QE2’s maiden circumnavigation of the globe, which I thought was very appropriate, given we were sailing aboard Queen Elizabeth during her maiden World Voyage.
That evening we enjoyed our second dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. Our table companions were all Australians; however all from different states. The dinner conversation was lively as we all shared with each other stories from our lives.
By Sunday we were well and truly at sea. Queen Elizabeth was sailing across The Bight at 23 knots. My lecture today was about the White Star Line. White Star is often remembered because of the ill-fated Titanic; however its history is far more extensive than one ship.
White Star was once one of Cunard’s greatest rivals but by 1934 had merged with Cunard to form Cunard-White Star. Two great ships from White Star continued in Cunard-White Star service, Georgic and Britannic. Both these liners were requisitioned for use as troop ships during World War II. Georgic was bombed during her war service and my grandfather captured this image of the ship during the aftermath of the attack.
The White Star Line also has an Australian connection, having originally started as a service ‘down under’ to cater for the Gold Rush, so understandably the large number of Aussie guests aboard were keen to hear of the company’s story.
We had lunch in the Britannia Restaurant after the lecture. The highlight was desert, I ordered a chocolate fondant with ice cream while Rachelle had the chocolate mousse; we couldn’t decide which was more delicious or decadent!
More photography followed and by the end of the day we’d added a further 500 images to our collection. Here’s a shot of one of the many pieces of maritime artwork displayed aboard Queen Elizabeth.
By Monday time was starting to run away. My last lecture was at 10am and covered Cunard’s First Queens – the iconic Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. It boggles the mind to think of the acts that these two Atlantic greats achieved. Requisitioned for use by the British Government during World War II they went on to change the course of the war with their ability to carry thousands of troops each and every crossing.
The audience enjoyed hearing the history of these two Cunarders which was followed by another book signing. We met more fascinating people, including Queen Elizabeth’s Madrina, Dennie Farmer, who was sailing with us.
Photographing a ship for our Photographic Journey books means we often have to stay up late to capture the rooms with no guests in them. This is sometimes fairly simple; restaurants for example are empty relatively early and have many angles at which to capture that perfect shot.
There are, however, harder rooms to capture. Queen Elizabeth’s Library is one such room. Spectacular in its design (it feels like the quintessential library), it is two decks tall and has a spiral staircase in the centre of the room making for a superb shot. The only problem is to get that perfect shot; you end up with scenes like this.
At least I was dressed accordingly!
Our voyage aboard Queen Elizabeth came to an end all too quickly. On Tuesday morning we sailed into Fremantle. Fortunately we managed to get all the images we needed for the book, some 2,500 to choose from!
After disembarkation, we stayed in Fremantle to watch Queen Elizabeth depart. What a superb occasion. Fremantle really does put on a spectacular show for the Queens. Thousands of people were in and around the port, lining every vantage point to watch the ship depart. People even climbed onto the rocks to see the ship up close.
There were cheers when she passed us on The North Mole and headed out to open sea. We all hope you continue to enjoy the 2011 Maiden World Voyage! We had a fun time aboard the Queen Elizabeth and look forward to returning soon.
Thanks again Alastair for all the help offered to us last week.
Thank you Chris; it was a pleasure to have you and Rachelle on board and we look forward to seeing the book later in the summer. Next week I’ll be posting a Blog celebrating Cunard’s latest Stars as well as news from Queen Elizabeth as she continues her Maiden World Voyage. Thanks again for logging on. Cheers for now, Alastair