March 16, 2011
We Are Cunard
Today we have a guest blog from Peter Shanks, who recently spent time on Queen Mary 2 from Sydney to Auckland during her 2011 World Voyage. Peter shares with us just how special the ship and her experiences are:
President and Managing Director
I do so much enjoy spending time on Queen Mary 2. Over recent months understandably many of us at Cunard Line have been nurturing Queen Elizabeth into her new career at sea. Spending time back on Queen Mary 2 has firmly reminded me of just how special she is. I joined in Sydney, and I have already written about the very special service we had on board for Australian Veterans. Leaving Sydney we sailed to New Zealand, spending a day in Wellington and I write this as the sun sets and we will arrive in Auckland in the morning. I have just snapped the view from my balcony;
This leg of the voyage has become especially poignant following the tragic events in Christchurch. We were meant to sail into Christchurch but had to go to Wellington instead. There was a lot of compassion on board for Christchurch and rightly so. Whilst I was discussing with the Hotel Manager how we should start a collection for the Relief Appeal, one of the reception team came into the office to say that a guest was asking how they could donate to the appeal. So we were at one with our guests and we have since been collecting. On arrival into Wellington, and unbeknown to me , our Food and Beverage Team unloaded 5,000 bottles of water, and through the Port Agent arranged for it to be collected by HMS Canterbury to be taken down to Christchurch. I say unbeknown to me – I was aware we were looking at doing something – but the F&B Team know me well enough that they did not have to ask.
What a lovely city Wellington is. It was a Sunday and many people were out on the beautiful harbour front. I took the shuttle bus into town and sat down over a coffee with the local paper and read of the distressing events in Christchurch. I have always admired New Zealanders – I hate to admit it but they are very good at Rugby and for a nation so far away from everywhere – they are very resilient and very successful. As we sailed out of Wellington there was a full rainbow to the port side of Queen Mary 2 – and I had a strange sense of the power of nature, nature that can deliver tragic consequences through earthquakes and at the same time reveal it’s true beauty.
I had two reasons for being on Queen Mary 2 – not that I normally need reasons. Firstly to spend time with our guests and the Ship’s Company and secondly to walk every area of the ship in preparation for the refit we have coming up in November of this year. And over the last few days I have been reminded of many of the special things about Queen Mary 2– and I thought I should share them with you. So, in no particular order, here come of the special things about Queen Mary 2 that I have witnessed over the last few days…
Secret of the Library – Up on deck 8 forward you will find our Bookshop and Library with over 16,000 books in many languages. I came across a delightful Australian couple who had found the secret – four white leather chairs and sofas that have a panoramic view over the bow of Queen Mary 2– they looked so happy , so relaxed – and told me so – marvellous.
Jazz – Walking past the refurbished Chart Room, a classy jazz quartet playing, dancing, laughter, clink of champagne glasses – a wonderful night out to match any jazz venue.
Hosting the Captain’s Table – I will let you in to a secret. I think the Senior Officers like me to host a table as it gives them a night off – and why not. I had a lovely table, delightful guests from around the world. Not many of us are lucky enough to sit in that seat, with three decks above us, surrounded by guests in black tie having a wonderful dinner. Let’s not forget just how awesome the Britannia Restaurant is on Queen Mary 2. It does not recreate how it used to be on ocean liners of the past – it is how it used to be only much, much better – it is the real thing and no other ship comes close (although her little sisters Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are pretty cool too).
Lunch in the crew mess – I will always eat in the crew mess once when I visit the ships. Gives me a chance to be seen out and about, ask how things are and of course make sure that our crew are happy with their food. I think they are – there have been some real efforts by Chef and his team recently to add variety. Sometimes I will have the ‘sticky rice and salty beef, or ‘fried chicken’ – but this time I went down the European line and had Cottage Pie – it was fine.
Canyon Ranch – well it was a Sunday so I was allowed some time off. Six times round the deck (two miles) – and then time in the amazing Canyon Ranch indoor pools, Jacuzzis and steam rooms. I find that so relaxing and it is always good to experience just how good the Canyon Ranch Spa is. When you go into the shower, one of the team will rinse out and dry your trunks and when you approach your locker, miraculously a towel is laid out on the floor for you to stand on as you get dried and changed– nice touch.
Boy – are the deck areas in great shape – you see Queen Mary 2 is a proper Ocean Liner. When you walk around all the deck areas – you walk on real teak and you pass brightly painted white steel. Despite now being 7 years old – I would argue the external areas of Queen Mary 2 are in better shape than any ship at sea – and that is a credit to every member of the deck team. I asked Deputy Captain to briefly gather every member of the Deck Team the next morning – along with their supervising officers. I thanked them and shook each of their hands. In doing so I told them they should be proud keeping the most famous ship in the world in such great shape.
Regular coffee fixes – Coffee has moved on so much these days and on the ship Sir Samuels now offers proper coffee – either in a lovely china cup or in my case in a take away cup. No matter which way you take it – it is always served with a smile.
Queens Room – Picture the scene – 1,000 guests in formal dress, champagne all round, canapés and classical music. Commodore Warner introduces his Senior Officers and tells his joke (I have suggested he develops a 2nd joke but the one he has seems to work every time). I was able to say a few words of welcome. As I always do – I asked our guests to applaud our White Star Ship’s Company. I mentioned that we were – for our Ship’s Company – going the wrong way around the world with the clocks going back in time. So far we have lost 18 hours and 18 hours of sleep for our hard working staff. Good for our guests – they responded with warm applause for the staff – and the good news is that now we have reached New Zealand (which by the way is bloody miles from everywhere) – the clocks will start to go back the other way and they will get some extra rest.
It’s Sunday – so let’s go to Church – Commodore led a very nice service and the Theatre was quite full. Our thoughts were with those in New Zealand as we sailed along their shores, I read the lesson and it was a moving occasion – and we always feel better for a little prayer. Going to church on Sunday is something many people do and it’s rather nice to do so on Queen Mary 2 on a Sunday and if you like, you then go on to have a rather nice Sunday lunch – a perfect day.
Standing room only – we have recently started to give computer lessons on how to use Apple Macs, I-Pads and I-Phones. I popped down to see it – and was surprised to see every computer station full and many standing at the back of class. We are going to extend the area used for this. When you think of it – technology can be daunting. So to have the time and ability at sea to go to lessons is a great way of learning. The ship also now has Wifi service and full internet access so once you have mastered it you can try it for real. I wonder just how many emails have been sent that start with the words ‘ I am sending this email from Queen Mary 2 in the Pacific Ocean….’. We are all so used to fast internet access at home and at work we do have to remind guests that as we are in the middle of an ocean and at the mercy of satellites – they need a little more patience than usual.
I had forgotten about Tom Hanks – Well who else would you get to narrate the Planetarium shows. They are a fairly short 20 minutes – but to sit in a full size planetarium whist at sea listening to Tom Hanks tell you about outer space is something that has to be done.
We turned out the lights and – I spotted in the daily program that our Astronomer Lecturer was going to describe the night sky up on deck 13 at 2200 hours. So there were about 200 of us, it was a clear night, we were sailing about 25 miles off the New Zealand coast. The astronomer had a neat little green laser gun. As we waited for the deck lights to go off – we were not sure what we might see. When the lights went off – there was an audible gasp. We often talk of how Cunard delivers unique experiences – well I had happened across one of those moments. The night sky was incredible – I have never seen so many stars. The Milky Way stood out so clearly, we were asked to look at one star and it was clearly a bright red colour – I have never seen the colour of a star before. Then – to some surprise – the astronomer let out a shriek. He had seen a far away galaxy with the naked eye for the first time. We could all see it as a distant cloud – he told us the name which seemed to use every letter in the alphabet at least twice – and his evening was made. I stood back from the gathering – and made a note to remind as many people as I can as to the many special experiences on this fine ship.
Knackered and Proud – On arrival in Auckland, and after taking our 700 plus Full World Voyagers out for a special dinner, my time on Queen Mary 2 was over and ahead of me was a 27 hour journey back to Southampton. I had a really clear idea of what work we need to undertake in our November refit , I had really enjoyed spending time with so many of the ship’s company and of course meeting so many of our guests. But overall I had two overwhelming feelings. The first was one of being ‘knackered’ (British technical term for being rather tired). I had been away for Two weeks, Two Ship Visits, Two Queens in Sydney, Two World Voyage Dinners and One Earthquake. The other feeling was one of pride – pride in everything that the ship’s company on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 were doing to look after our guests. And if you would like to experience some of that pride, and some of those special moments – then please do come and sail with us – they happen every day , 365 days a year………….