March 28, 2012
Guest Blog: William Dundas
Queen Mary 2 World Voyage 2012 Guest
This was my 3rd voyage on QM2 and my longest voyage by a margin of 2 days. I spent 22 days on board for the first ever Circumnavigation of Australia by QM2. 12 days were spent at sea and the remaining 10 either at anchor or in port. This for me was a magical balance.
I love sea days! There is a relaxed sense of routine on board, interesting lectures to attend: or not. I tend to watch them on television in my stateroom later in the day. There are meals to enjoy in the Britannia Restaurant and Queens Room allowing for plenty of socialising. Afternoon tea is a big event with live music. It can be a bit hectic. On this voyage I met up with three younger Australians: Louise, Peter and Robin. I joined them for afternoon tea in the Grill’s Lounge on several occasions. This was an altogether calmer and more relaxed event.
However, to start at the beginning. I booked this voyage last September. I had over four months to plan for and to anticipate my Australian expedition. I was in the company of other Scots from the early days of Australia. Lachlan McQuarrie, who is buried on the Isle of Mull, and John McDouall Stuart are but two. McQuarrie is known to many as the “Father of Australia” and McDouall Stuart was born in the Fife coastal village of Dysart, where I currently live, and found the overland route from Adelaide to the Indian Ocean at Darwin! They will both have had treacherous sea journeys to facilitate their arrival in Australia. I suppose I should not grumble too much about my thirty-one hour journey by train and air! (Must book hotel stops between flights next time).
As a fair skinned fair haired Scot one of my first priorities was not to get sunburnt. I had two extra-long kurtas made for me in Edinburgh. Wearing them with a sun hat, and the application of factor 40 sun cream kept me safe and comfortable.
I spent my first day on a tour to the Blue Mountains. The weather was just like being in Scotland. It was sunny and warm, then it thundered, then we had hailstones and mist. I’ve had days like that in Edinburgh: but the scenery of the Blue Mountains was far more grand!
Sydney is amazing! I spent the morning sightseeing before embarking QM2 in the afternoon. It is very difficult to get the scale of the big sights, Opera House, Harbour Bridge etc. into a comparative context. They are surrounded by so much open space. My tour of the Opera House was really good: lots of photo opportunities!
My table companions at night were Colin, Michael and Wayne. They are long established Australian cruising chums. Also on our table was a charming couple, Pamela and Peter from Yorkshire, England. Peter celebrated a significant birthday during the cruise. The usual Cunard festivities came to our dining table that night.
There are some couples one bumps into more than others on cruises. On this cruise I met Susan & Chris Foley and Gail & Ian Smith most often at lunchtimes and in the Commodore Club later at night. You might recognise Mr Smith on the right as Harold from Neighbours. Commodore Rynd invited them to sound the midday whistles one day.
The tall man in the middle of the photo, Dario, leads his charming team with efficiency. You will always be well looked after by them!
I only booked two tours. The first was to the Great Barrier Reef from our anchorage amidst the Whitsunday Islands. A 2 hour catamaran ride against the current and the wind proved very bouncy and put many passengers out of commission. I’m not prone to sea-sickness and being on the open top deck kept the air fresh and seeing flying fish was most diverting.
The pontoon experience was fantastic. I held on to a life-ring pulled by the marine biologist who gave a commentary of what could be seen and occasionally dived down to point to a sea cucumber, clam etc. All I had to do was keep my face underwater and flip my flippers. The water was clear and refreshing! Thousands of fish were swimming in water that looked cloudy due to the amount of plankton in it. The pontoon facilities included a tour in a semi submersible. The buffet lunch was on our catamaran at the pontoon. The 2 hours on the catamaran back to QM2 was less choppy than the outward journey.
My other excursion was a full day tour in Bali where it was hot and very humid. My long cotton kurta kept me cool and comfortable all day. Our guide on the coach was very old school, probably a retired civil servant or teacher. He fed us a continuous stream of highly detailed information. Sadly it rarely related to what we were seeing outside the windows of the coach. His information at key sights was pertinent but still in too much detail. It seemed sensible to wander off and take lots of photos. I did. Lunch was in a beautiful setting overlooking a valley of terraced paddy fields. Bali was wonderful apart from the aggressive street traders who followed us from location to location. Be advised that the price of cotton sarongs dropped throughout the day from $10US to only $1US!
Some of the navigational highlights were passing between the reef and the mainland, the Torres Straits with their shallow waters and strong side currents. We were at all times following in the path of Matthew Flinders and his circumnavigation of Australia when he charted her coastal waters. Indeed a copy of his chart and his log books were on show in QM2’s library. They were accompanied by Paul Brunton, Curator of the New South Wales State Library, who gave occasional short talks in the library and lectures in Illuminations, not only on Matthew Flinders but Joseph Banks and others. He was interested to hear about the small museum in Dysart dedicated to John McDouall Stewart. The museum is in the house where he was born and can normally be visited during the months of July and August: Thurs – Sun. (Check opening times in advance with Fife Council).
A quick roundup of Cunard personalities. Commodore Rynd gave a public interview to Keith (QM2 Entertainment Director) In this we learnt that his favourite and most beautiful port is Venice. He told us that nothing quite matches sailing into Venice in the pale morning light, and sailing out in the golden light of evening with so many church bells ringing.
Dominique leads the training in the White Star Academy onboard QM2. She is pictured here with James who is on a placement with the White Star Academy from the Oxford Brookes University where he is studying International Hospitality Management. One of her students, a Buffet Steward in the King’s Court told me he had had other trainers but that Dominique really was a White Star Trainer. Dominique you are appreciated!
Two visual highlights were coincidences. The first was that one noon day announcement included the fact that declination of the sun was such that at midday the only place one’s shadow would exist would be under the soles of one’s feet!
The second was passing the replica of HMS Endeavour. She was on her own circumnavigation, circa eleven months. Readers of the blog may have seen mention of this recently. I add a couple of my own images here.
It is well known that Scots have played significant roles in the development of Australia either by going there and doing thing like MCQuarrie and McDougall Stewart or Viscount Melville (a Dundas), in supporting Flinders and having geographical features named after him in gratitude.
As a fellow Dundas my only Australian claim to date is that I enjoyed a very relaxing and happy circumnavigation thanks to the efforts of QM2, Viscount Melville, Matthew Flinders and those I actually met down under.