March 5, 2012
Posted in: Forever Cunard
Saturday afternoon, a London Veterans Field Hockey match against Maidenhead, in the pouring rain – and we lost 12-0. And given that I am the goalkeeper, you can imagine that this was not my finest hour. How on earth did that happen – well let’s rewind a week to last Saturday morning.
I checked in at Heathrow for the rather long journey to Australia. I go ‘down under’ each year at this time – an opportunity to see our ships on their World Voyages and to promote Cunard in the growing Australian market. I always find the outward journey not too much of a problem as I have a lot to look forward to. I travelled on a Qantas A380 – very good service, comfortable seat and happily none of the cracks in the wings that I was reading about in the press prior to boarding. I always choose the flight via Singapore that leaves Heathrow at 1100 – it means that you arrive in Sydney at 2030 in the evening and have the night to try to relax and recover. So that journey took care of last weekend – left on Saturday morning and arrived Sunday evening, the world is a big place.
I felt pretty good on Monday and spent the day in our Sydney office. We have a super team of people down in Australia – they look after many of the Carnival Corporation cruise lines and have done a terrific job growing Cunard in Australia. It was an interesting morning as the Australian Prime Minister was doing her best to win a vote of confidence – which she did. I spent the morning with the Sales and Marketing team hearing about our progress in Australia. Actually it was a breath of fresh air to be in an economy that is performing so well. GDP is running at 4%, unemployment is at just 5% and interest rates are up at 6%. As long as Australia continues to dig big holes in the ground and sell lots of valuable minerals and building materials to China – then Australia is set to continue to thrive. Their dollar is also very strong which means it’s a very good time for them to travel.
Captain Stubbing from Princess Cruises Love Boat was also in the office that day. I watched as he sang the famous Love Boat song to all the staff in the office. I decided not to sing to them – but that afternoon I ran through a series of presentations to update them on developments at Cunard Line and to thank them for all their efforts in supporting us. We have had wonderful success with the first ever Royal Circumnavigation of Australia on Queen Mary 2 – with over 1,400 Australians booked on that voyage. Many of you will have seen the extensive press coverage of Queen Mary 2 arriving in Sydney on Valentine’s Day where we carried out a successful surprise wedding proposal.
After a busy day in the office I retired to my hotel. I did put the shorts on and go for a walk down by the harbor – a great way to try and offset the jet-lag and the views in the harbor are exhilarating. Then it was early to bed as I had something to look forward to in the morning.
At 0615 I was standing on the steps of Sydney Opera House, to my right a beautiful sunrise, to my left Sydney Harbor Bridge and there right in front of me was the arriving Queen Elizabeth. To give you a sense of what that looks like – have a look at the short video I took on my Flip Video;
As the ship sailed past – a local jogger pulled up next to me and said ‘Jeez – I hope the bloke driving that thing knows how to park it…’ Without revealing my insider knowledge I was able to reassure him that ‘the bloke’ was in fact our very own Captain Wells and yes he knows exactly how to park Queen Elizabeth.
Just as the ship tied up alongside – an early morning rainbow appeared and from where I was standing it looked as the though the rainbow’s pot of gold was right on top of the ship’s funnel – have a look at this very cool photograph…..
So then onto the big event that evening. On each world voyage we choose a special location and take all the full world voyagers out to dinner to thank them for going round the world with us. This year we had chosen Sydney Town Hall as the venue. After a drinks reception in the Queens Room – we all set off for dinner. The Town Hall was looking magnificent. I personally shook hands with each of our 700 world voyage guests as the Australian Youth Choir sang to welcome us.
Sydney are very proud of their Town Hall – it was built in 1889 – in my speech I mentioned that by then Cunard Line was already 49 years old. I could not help feeling how happy and healthy all the guests looked – well why not, they had been half way round the world with us. After an organ recital we enjoyed a great dinner – good camaraderie, many friends , dancing to a seriously ‘Big Band’ – and yes despite my clumsiness I did take to the dance floor with a wonderful lady who is currently on her 30th world voyage with Cunard Line.
It means a lot to our guests each year to take them out to dinner on the world voyage – it also reminds them just how spectacular the dining and White Star Service is on board – for as good a job as these land based venues do, they just can’t get close to what our wonderful ship’s company provide on board day in day out. But Sydney and the Town Hall looked after us famously.
And talking of White Star Service – the next morning I was back down on the ship. In the office the previous week we had run through the White Star of the Year Award – and as the winner worked on board Queen Elizabeth I was able to make the award personally. We had a lovely ceremony with Captain and some of the Senior Officers. I was able to say that we have around 4,500 dedicated people working on board our three ships – and so this award was for the very best individual offering White Star Service amongst the 4,500. The picture here shows our winner from the accommodation team- Luzminda Torres. She is pictured with her daughter and her niece who also work on board Queen Elizabeth – a real family affair and a well deserved winner.
My last task whilst on board was to deliver further good news to the Captain and his team. Each quarter we award ‘Ship of the Quarter’ to one of the ships in the fleet. This is based on how well they have looked after our guests, how well they have managed their costs and how smoothly the operation has run. And the winner was – Queen Elizabeth. Good for them.
Then, after a giving a presentation to 150 local Australian Travel Agents, it was time to set off to the airport for the rather long flight back home.
I really loved my time in Australia – even though it was a long way to go for a few days. The people there have a wonderfully positive attitude, the weather was warm, and Sydney Harbor was as awesome as ever. It was special to meet so many of the guests on their World Voyage as well as the many who are on shorter voyages with us. If you have not yet travelled to, from or around Australia with Cunard then I can’t recommend it highly enough. When you arrive or depart Sydney Harbor on a Cunard ship – it is a spine tingling experience. Next year, in early March, Queen Mary 2 will be doing her first ‘Around New Zealand’ voyage – 12 nights to and from Sydney and seeing the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. I plan to be on that one – New Zealand is a beautiful country and I just can’t imagine a better way of seeing all the best it has to offer whist having Queen Mary 2 as a home.
Do you know it takes 8 hours to fly from Sydney to Singapore, you jump off for an hour, and then it is 14 hours from Singapore to London – it is a very long and exhausting journey but I found my week busy, tiring and at the same time inspiring.
So back to where I started – how on earth did a fine bunch of athletes like us lose our hockey match on Saturday 12-0. Well firstly the opposition were rather better than us. Secondly, and unusually for us, we played particularly badly. And thirdly – and this is my excuse – Australian jet lag is no good for my goalkeeping reflexes…..
I trust you are keeping well wherever you may be reading this.