October 19, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
Guest Blog: William Dundas, Guest On Board Queen Mary 2
Last year I treated my sisters to the Around the British Isles (ABI) cruise on Queen Victoria. That cruise, it became apparent, was the official cruise celebrating the 170th Anniversary of Cunard. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves dining at table for six and we especially enjoyed the spirited departure from Liverpool.
The weather for “going up and over the top of Scotland” was not grand. If there had been full sunshine it would have been glorious!
During a visit to the Cunard website I was thrilled to have the opportunity to buy the second half of the QM2 ABI 2011 cruise from Greenock to Southampton via South Queensferry. I had not sailed on QM2 since 2009 and this voyage offered me another chance to view the coast-lines of the Minch and the Pentland Firth: hopefully in full sunshine! I was very excited, especially as I would board QM2 in Greenock: a much shorter journey from my home in Fife than the journey to Southampton.
I was not lucky with the weather. It rained and it rained! While having lunch on board, the ship’s lifeboats were being inspected and tested in the Firth of Clyde.
My photos show moody light over Scotland and then brilliant sunshine and sunsets over Scarborough and the east coast of England!
The rain did stop for the grand firework display laid on by Clydeport for QM2’s departure from Greenock: a memorable start to my voyage! At dinner I was seated at an oval table for eight. Only myself and Mr and Mrs Hulme dined at this large table. We sat each evening with our backs to the wall enabling us to survey the entire starboard side of deck two of the Britannia Restaurant!
The Hulmes are a delightful couple from Cheshire. They are Cunard stalwarts having been on the maiden voyages of both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The three of us had jolly times exchanging reminiscences of life at sea.
Half the fun of travelling on a ship is meeting members of the ship’s company and fellow passengers. I have established a tradition of presenting a gift of shortbread for the bridge team, and the luggage porters on the last night. Some lucky passengers and other crew have also been known to be given some shortbread.
I always acknowledge all members of crew in the passing, asking their name, where they come from and when they last had word from home. My experience tells me that they really appreciate this form of personal interest. I’m also keen to learn how they go about their jobs. This voyage I Iearned that stateroom stewards have a cunning technique, involving only a piece of paper that assists them in knowing when passengers have exited their staterooms.
I usually choose to share a table for lunch in the Britannia Restaurant. This is a good way for a single traveller to build up a large number of fellow passengers to nod to and say hello to in the passing during the voyage. This is also a really good means of learning about world culture, politics and current affairs. Only occasionally have I ended up on a difficult table and chosen to excuse myself on the pretext of attending a lecture. My tendency is to be as sociable as possible: it usually works a treat! This results in many joyous farewells, from members of the ship’s company and passengers, at the end of each cruise. Perhaps Cunard World Club members should have their own slogan. My suggestion is - We Are Cunard 2!
The three highlights of the cruise were becoming re-acquainted with Bridget and Bryan Wilson, crew member Andrew Adams, and seeing the Forth Bridge, almost fully restored from the Observation Deck of QM2.
I met the Wilsons on my first ever cruise: a twenty nighter on QE2. They were always so chatty and happy around the ship and especially at the midnight buffet. I really enjoyed meeting them again. Commodore Rynd graciously agreed to join us for a photograph. Thank you Freda for being our photographer. Thank you also for calming my anxieties: I’ve booked the Australian Circumnavigation and look forward to meeting you again on Valentines Day!
It was good to meet Andrew working as a QM2 Receptionist at the front desk in the Purser’s Office. When I first met Andrew in 2009 he was on block release from his training course and working as a bar steward in the Commodore Club. He is now a qualified full time member of the ship’s company with, I feel sure, a successful career ahead of him.
Seeing the Forth Bridge almost fully restored was a big thrill. Passengers from previous cruises will have taken photos of this national emblem of Scotland when it seemed to be sporting white tarpaulin bandages. It took 5,000 workers seven years to build the bridge. It was completed in 1890 and was well maintained by the original owners and subsequently by British Rail. Sadly after privatisation of the the rail companies and the track, routine maintenance was given a low priority and the fabric of the bridge suffered significant corrosion.
The restoration has taken roughly ten years and has involved the surface being stripped back to the bare metal, primed and then an epoxy resin top coat, similar to that used on oil rigs in the North Sea, has been applied. Some 240,000 litres have been used, including an individual “dab” for each of the many rivets. This treatment is expected to last for a good 30 years.
A word of thanks must go to the crew of our Forth Ports tug, Cramond, for holding a line from our stern for the duration of our stay thus holding us clear of the shipping lanes, and helping us to turn for our departure!
I’ve enjoyed the dramatic lighting created by the weather and the good company and service on board QV and QM2 in the past two years. So will it be third time lucky for me with the Scottish weather on the QE ABI in 2012? I think not. I live close to the shore of the Firth of Forth. I know how stunning the weather can be. As for the islands, yes I will visit them again in the future.
Surely next year’s passengers will enjoy the same if not better: my sights are set on Australia!