September 25, 2011
We Are Cunard
New York City – it was a bright, sparkling morning and as the car headed across the Brooklyn Bridge, I caught a sight of Queen Mary 2 alongside Pier 12 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. I was on my way to join Queen Mary 2, feeling very honoured to have been invited to sail as the Ambassador for the Cunard World Club for the voyage from New York to Southampton. Minutes later we checked in at the large and efficient terminal and shortly after boarded the magnificent Queen Mary 2. I had not been on board since 2006, and my first impression, as I entered the ship on 3 Deck, along the line of staff waiting to assist and direct, was how beautifully maintained the ship looked, immaculate everywhere.
Soon it was time for boat drill, and then up to Deck 8 Aft for sailaway. It was such a beautiful afternoon, the skyline of New York and the Statue of Liberty outlined clearly against a backdrop of bright blue sky – a perfect picture postcard. Gradually the skyline grew smaller, we were clearing the Verrazano Bridge (always a breathtaking moment for those watching the mast and funnel going under – will there be sufficient space?) and then heading into the North Atlantic for Voyage M120, another Transatlantic crossing and part of the long tradition of Cunard since they started regular voyages on this vast ocean in 1840.
This morning, Paul O’Loughlin, the Entertainment Director, kindly invited me to be a guest on his TV show ‘Wake up With Paul’, a lively and fun entertainment to start the day. The weather was perfect and soon many guests were up on deck. After UK Immigration Inspection, I joined the Solo Travellers Welcome Get-Together, and was delighted to meet Mrs Maxine Bernstein, who has sailed on Cunard ships for many years, besides meeting other guests, some of whom were sailing for the first time. The ballroom dance class is always a great venue for meeting and mixing with guests – today we did the waltz. The class was very full, but Anthony and Kristina quickly got everyone dancing with their expert tuition and organisation. During the afternoon I went to the Needlework and Knitting interest corner – always a sociable and fun occasion (and good for me to continue my counted cross stitch project which I’m slowly completing!). As ever the Entertainment Programme was full, two busy events being the Planetarium shows and a maritime lecture on Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.
This evening Commodore Rynd held two receptions for Britannia Restaurant guests in the Queens Room and I then hosted a dinner table with the Deputy Captain, Robert Camby. Mr and Mrs Robert Poda and Mr Thomas Fitch were some of the guests that we welcomed to the table this evening.
This morning I took part in the first of the RADA workshops. The Queens Room was packed but the RADA team quickly organised everyone into groups for movement and storytelling. It was enormous fun, I met up with many guests and it was much enjoyed by everyone. Do join a workshop when you travel again. A lecture was given by the journalist and war correspondent, Martin Bell, which drew a full house. Once more, the weather was lovely and my day slipped away mingling with guests at the Cha Cha Cha class, tea in the Queens Room and at the Commodore’s Reception for Grill guests. This evening it was lovely to welcome, among others, Mr and Mrs Benford and Mr and Mrs Grayson to dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. After dinner I caught some of the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers production ‘Viva Italia’.
This morning I gave a Cunard World Club presentation in the Royal Court Theatre, an account of my many years working with Cunard Line and some of the people, ships and events that have been part of that story. An Art Talk on the life and works of Rolf Harris was one of the many events for today, and guests were out enjoying deck sports as the weather continues to be warm. I’ve spent some time this afternoon wandering the outside decks, socialising with guests. This evening, Mrs Martha Hufford, Mr Charles Warder and Mr Michael Comer, who have been travelling for many years with Cunard, were among the guests at dinner.
Another great RADA workshop (each group acting out their various interpretations of Red Riding Hood!), followed by a lesson in jive dancing, both events attended by large numbers. As ever, the Daily programme was full of activities including Bridge, Art Class and Trivia.
This evening I attended the Cunard World Club Reception, a lovely occasion, when I was delighted to make the presentation to the Top Sailor of the voyage, Mrs Maxine Bernstein, who has accumulated a magnificent total of 2253 days sailing on Cunard ships. I again hosted a table – there always seems to be such a lively exchange of conversation, making us one of the last to leave the restaurant!
This afternoon a Wine Tasting was organised for Platinum and Diamond Cunard World Club members. We tasted five wines and the sommeliers, all very experienced and knowledgeable, gave in-depth descriptions of each wine and its background. The participants really enjoyed the event! Later I went to the Tea Dance in the Queens Room, combining the traditional Cunard white glove afternoon tea experience with the Queens Room Orchestra. Couples floated round the floor some ladies in dance dresses – an elegant occasion. This evening I met John Smith, the Environmental Officer, and together we hosted a table in the restaurant. After dinner, I watched the Ascot Ball Hat Parade in the Queens Room – always fun to see the entries for the show, some of them very ingenious, particularly a lady with a model of Queen Mary 2 on her head – lit up!
Commodore Rynd’s Interdenominational Church Service took place this morning in the Royal Court Theatre. I was honoured to be asked to read at the service – some verses from the Book of Revelation. During my years with Cunard, there has always been a church service conducted by the Master of the ship – one of the lovely Cunard traditions that endures to this day.
A small gift has been sent to the cabins, specially created for the Cunard World Club voyages of 2011, plus a certificate signed by the Commodore, the artwork showing the route of the voyage.
The last afternoon has passed quickly and walking on deck at about 6.15pm, one could see in the distance the Isles of Scilly, the first land since departing the coast of the United States – our transatlantic crossing is almost over and the real world is at hand!
Tomorrow Queen Mary 2 will dock at Southampton. As ever, I am so very impressed and proud of this great Cunard ocean liner. The crew, as always, are the best, their level of commitment and standards are constantly upheld in true Cunard tradition. The ship looked lovely, her spacious public areas immaculately maintained. The cuisine was superb and the Daily Programme of entertainment quite outstanding in its extent, variety and standard, including A Night At the Opera, a three hour performance of Carmen in 3D! Travelling the North Atlantic in this fine ship is truly ‘The Only Way to Cross’. If you haven’t experienced a crossing on Queen Mary 2, you should certainly think about it for the future!
I would like to say a special ‘thank you’ to Louisa Gould, Senior CRM and Loyalty Executive from Cunard Office and to Yo-Yo and Eli the Voyage Sales Specialists on Queen Mary 2 for all their help and kindness to me during the voyage.