April 12, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
As Queen Victoria heads to Southampton, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 are both making their way to Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, where they will meet tomorrow as part of their 2011 World Voyage.
We have a great guest blog from Eric Flounders, PR Manager for Cunard Line. Eric joined Queen Elizabeth in Dubai and transitted the Suez Canal in to the Mediterranean, here is his first installment:
Having regularly sailed on Cunard ships for the past 25 years, the sight of QE2′s beautiful red funnel has been a familiar one to me – and a welcome one – looming above the docks of many a foreign port. But it was still a shock to drive through the gates of Port Rashid in Dubai to see the same welcoming sight, beautifully lit up and immaculately cared for – but duplicated, as immediately behind was the similar red funnel of her new namesake, Queen Elizabeth.
As we drove along the pier against which both ships were berthed in parallel, it was only when the taxi turned right instead of left the sense of deja vu faded and it sank in that I was about to travel on the new Queen Elizabeth for the first time and not on the old favourite which had been my home so often in the past.
But I need not have worried, if indeed I did. Queen Elizabeth is a very homely ship. Whereas from the outside she is clearly a new generation of ship, perhaps several generations on from QE2, inside she seems to be from an earlier one. None of the chrome and neon glitz of modern ships here, but rather the polished brass, marble and rich wooden veneers of a more sedate and elegant age. No matter how often you see Queen Elizabeth’s public spaces, they always surprise with their space and magnificence. And yet, at the same time, the ship exudes a cosiness and air of tasteful comfort so frequently lacking in modern hotels
We were interlopers, of course, we 800 who boarded in Dubai. Many on board had been sailing the world since Queen Elizabeth set off from Southampton in January, and were now on the home strait. But it was obvious from the off that the ship had settled in to her new role with ease, and everything about her – including the crew – has the practised air of many years in service. Even the full world Voyage passengers give the impression they have been here for ever, so smoothly do things run.
The first leg of our adventure, homeward bound for Southampton, was to the Omani port of Salalah – a journey we were reminded by Captain Wells would take us through the much publicised and now notorious haunt of Somali pirates. But there seems to be no real concern on board, not only because everyone is reassured by the measures taken, but because there is a light-hearted view that even if pirates did manage to scramble aboard so large a ship travelling so fast, they would be rapidly dismissed by 2,000 passengers – many wielding handbags – determined that dinner shouldn’t be delayed for one minute by such nonsense. An air of ‘let ‘em dare’ prevails.
In Port Salalah, a surprisingly busy port ten miles from the town itself, most of our longer-established fellow passengers opted for organised excursions; we soon found out why. Those of us opting to travel ashore independently were met at the dock gate by a scrum of taxi drivers haranguing us for business in scenes reminiscent of a Coalition cuts protest. And word soon came back that while they were happy to take you to Salalah for ten dollars, they wanted considerably more to bring you back. The wise birds who have been on the entire World Voyage were obviously savvy to this practice had had zoomed off in the comfort of their air-conditioned coaches (with lavatories) rather than risking the mayhem at the gate. We put discretion before valour and slunk back to the ship where, instead of spending our money in Salalah we sipped tea in the Queens Room and sunbathed in the comfort of our magnificent ship. The right decision had been made for us – and the economy of Salalah suffered as a result.
As I write we are still cruising without incident through pirate alley between Yemen and Somalia, and about to turn north into the Red Sea bound for Aqaba. Here almost everyone on board seems to be booked for a tour to Petra, the famous ‘rose red city’. Everyone seems to anticipate it greatly, whatever the rigours of the journey to get there and back, except for one passenger who confided that he had no intention of going all that way to see a pile of stones. I pointed out that they were prettily arranged stones, but he remained unconvinced.
Our little group of four seems always to be the last to leave the restaurant; whether it is because we eat too much, drink too much or talk too much I’m not sure. Maybe a mixture of all three. but last night we decided not to outstay our welcome in the Britannia Restaurant, but leave in a timely fashion to catch the second performance of a group of tenors called 4Ever. How glad I am we did as they were truly magnificent. In all the times I have travelled on ships, and in all the shows I have seen, the number of performers to get standing ovations is in single figures. 4Ever got one – an enthusiastic one – and they deserved it. They are on again tomorrow and I’ll bet everyone goes, even if it means missing the pud.