June 29, 2012
Cunard World Club Ambassador: Ciaran Ward, Former Chief Electrical Engineer, Queen Mary 2
Sunday 10 June 2012 – Southampton Departure
Many friends and acquaintances thought that it would be an incredibly emotional experience for me to rejoin Queen Mary 2 albeit in a new capacity, however it was just the opposite. It felt very normal and was just like rejoining from an extended leave. Check-in and embarkation went very smoothly, helped by my wife Caroline’s Platinum Cunard World Club membership status. It was lovely boarding the ship and meeting so many crew members on the way who recognised me, some even calling me ‘Chief’. Our cabin was on deck 11 just beneath the Bridge with a wonderful view looking forward. After Boat Drill we were invited by Captain Wells to the Bridge for departure. The maneuverability of Queen Mary 2 still amazes me even after all these years. The Cruise Staff did a wonderful presentation of rousing sailaway music and we were soon on our way down Southampton water. We then had a long catch-up with our old friends Mr & Mrs Yates who are very loyal Cunarders. We met a series of couples later that evening, all of whom are new to ocean travel and were astounded by the scale and splendour of QM2. A quick appreciation of the string quartet in the Grand Lobby was followed by my first visit to a cinema in 11 years. This completed a very busy first day on board – the extra hour back on the clock was very much appreciated.
Monday 11 June 2012 – At Sea
An early morning appearance on the ‘Catch Up with Keith’ morning show began our first day on board followed by a walk on deck and an early morning coffee. It was a beautiful morning with calm seas and little wind. A meeting had been arranged with Dragana and YoYo – Voyage Sales specialists – concerning the plans for the voyage. Meetings can be a hungry business so our next port of call was the Kings Court for breakfast. We were chatting with a gentleman – Mr Marshall - who was praising the food on board saying that the sea bass he had in the restaurant the previous night was the best he had ever tasted anywhere, including many top restaurants he had sampled all over the world. Praise indeed!
The Baggo competition called to our athletic side, however as our performance previously on Queen Elizabeth was so unremarkable we decided against participating and stayed to size up the competition on this voyage.
We called into the singles get together in G32 which had a large attendance and after individual introductions we chatted with many of those present and provided Mrs Taylor with some advice for her tour options in New York. The weather was still beautiful so we headed out on deck where we met Mr Constantino who loves Cunard so much that he sometimes gives lectures at home near Bristol on the quality of life he experiences while travelling with Cunard.
Caroline took part in the Hoopla competition in the Pavilion but the ‘extra springiness’ in the hoops was detrimental to her game and she came close to last in the rankings.
We were invited to afternoon tea in the Queens Room by Mrs Candido and her daughter Jenna who is a linguist and are both new to QM2.
We have spoken to a large number of first time Cunarders (both experienced cruisers and otherwise) since boarding and the overwhelming response has been most favourable towards Cunard and Queen Mary 2.
We attended both Britannia cocktail receptions where we met up again very loyal guests Mr Richard Faber and Hank. Mr Faber was the very first guest ever to board Queen Mary 2 on her maiden voyage – a well deserved honour.
First time cruisers Mr & Mrs Beswick were also there and were loving every minute on board.
All I can say about hosting the Ambassadors table it was a real treat with, among others, our old friends Mr & Mrs Yates and where the discussion topics varied between Korean War experiences and the quality of modern hearing aids.
Tuesday 12 June 2012 – At Sea
Tuesday was another bright sunny day with the only clouds in the sky being from jet vapour trails.
We attended an excellent lecture entitled ‘Fox Blondes’ by George McGhee based on famous Hollywood blonde stars of the screen from a bygone age.
Paid a morning visit to the Concierge Lounge and met Mrs Greben who is a travel writer and travel agent. She said that a transatlantic voyage has been on her ‘Bucket List’ of things to do for some time. She is most impressed with Queen Mary 2. Her travel companion Mrs Heathcote works providing nautical publications and technical books to the shipping industry. She gave me a copy of a book called ’200 Things I wish I’d Known Before I was Captain’ which although, very interesting to read – I feel will be of limited use in my retirement, however we will pass it to our son Jonny who is a deck officer on Queen Elizabeth.
Lunchtime found us at the napkin folding lecture where Caroline took an active part with me acting as adviser. All the projects turned out pretty much as expected apart from the ‘Swan’ which when finished, resembled a badly disfigured bald headed eagle!! We met Mrs Hammon and Mrs Hill who had a much higher level of success. We were pleasantly surprised to see such a large number of male participants in this event.
We tried our hand at the ‘Beat the Goalie’ competition in the Sports area. This had some questionable decisions by the ref and the event would definitely have benefited from goal line technology, however, following a sudden death shootout Bill Flanagan walked away with the top prize of a stamp in his games book.
The evening cocktail party was the usual spectacle of grandeur where I was introduced by Captain Wells as part of the Senior Officers lineup.
Dinner table again was excellent with extremely chatty and sociable company. The conversation topics moved through space travel, cycling across Europe, and cyber-crime.
The evening ended with a late night cup of tea in Kings Court with new companions Mrs Rainbird and Mrs Pitto who are doing the round trip and love the formal dressing on board.
Wednesday 13 June 2012 – At Sea
We paid an early morning visit to Concierge Lounge and spoke to travel companions Chad and Tom who are both experienced cruise ship travellers but their first time on QM2. They said everything was perfect on board from their perspective.
While I attended some early morning meetings Caroline went to the ‘Bucket Ball’ tournament the purpose of which is evident from its title. It proved to be a lot of fun but there is little evidence that it will become an Olympic sport.
The vegetable carving was very well attended and provided some excellent artistic displays from our chefs. The exhibits included flowers, teddy bear with orange slice ears, and a pig with glasses!
We were invited to lunch in Todd English restaurant by long time Cunarders Mr & Mrs Yates. The food, its presentation, and the service were all top class.
It was then on to our role as hosts for the wine tasting event. There were two white and two red wines on offer together with a selection of cheeses. It comprised of six groups of up to 25 guests in each over a two hour period. It was very noticeable that the group noise levels and the exuberance of the participants increased proportionally as the tasting progressed. We had a most interesting conversation with Mr & Mrs Cross about VW camper vans as they own two of them. The QE2 is still a top topic of conversation amongst most of our CWC guests.
We hosted the Captain’s table for dinner and again the conversation and the company was superb even more so when quite by accident I discovered that Mrs Connors sitting next to me was the sister of one of my top musical heroes – Graham Nash from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I can assure you that it was somewhat difficult for me to look to other subjects of conversation following this astounding revelation.
Thursday 14 June 2012 – At Sea
Early morning found us at the deck quoits competition which was well attended and the weather was equal to that of the Mediterranean. Spoke with Mrs Shore who was very complimentary about the facilities and ship design aimed at those guests with mobility problems. She also adores the ships fruit especially the peaches!
We attended the Queen Mary reunion in G32 where we heard very interesting stories from both engineers and guests who sailed on this famous vessel. I ended up having a long conversation with Mr Bartlett about nuclear power and nuclear submarines and he said he owes his long career in the nuclear industry to the six years he spent as an engineer with Cunard.
After an alfresco lunch in beautiful weather at the Boardwalk café we tried the murder mystery presentation by the entertainment staff in the Royal Court Theatre. Barbara from Hertfordshire won two bottles of champagne by guessing the name of the murderer based solely on the musical clues which were given throughout.
We had afternoon tea with Mr & Mrs Goddard who are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and are thoroughly enjoying their 1st voyage with Cunard.
I was called upon to present the top sailors award at the Cunard World Club party and had photos taken with Cunard loyalists Mr & Mrs Newby.
At dinner we co-hosted the Captain’s table together with the Captain. Captain Wells very kindly assigned his normal seat to myself and he took a less prominent one. Excellent conversation with regular Cunarders and QE2 travellers Mr & Mrs Brogan and also a very interesting discussion with Mr & Mrs Powlett on the Royal Navy and his time spent in Northern Ireland.
Friday 15 June 2012 – At Sea
Weather was fairly typical of the Grand Banks- cloudy and overcast. After a lavish breakfast we hit the bucket ball competition which was won by Mr Bellman who seems to be the runaway winner in most of the sporting events. There we also met the Lennon sisters whose mother came from our home town in Ireland – small world!
Then it was off to the paddle tennis and chatted with Mr Ellis who has been on both QE and QV but first time on QM2. The tennis was worthy of a Wimbledon final between Brits and Kiwis however Margaret (Lennon) and Aiden finally triumphed to save the honour of the British.
At lunch we again spoke with Mr Marshall who for the second time was singing the praises of our service and food especially the sea bass. He felt that the portion of sea bass was so good it would have cost £100 shoreside.
I had a Q&A session with Entertainment Director Keith Maynard in Illuminations during which we discussed my career at sea and my experiences of being present of the construction of QM2. This proved to be less stressful than expected mainly due to Keith’s professionalism.
Saturday 16 June 2012 – At Sea
Last day at sea today. Started off with some brief meetings with on board staff to discuss the voyage and then it was time for last day goodbyes to all our old and our many new friends. I attended the midday Q&A session given by Captain Wells in the Royal Court Theatre– just to see how the professionals do it. We met a gentleman who is a brother of the owner of the well known Irish pub known as ‘Jonny Fox’s’ which is famous for being the highest elevated pub in Ireland.
I later had an interview with a journalist who was travelling on board and was writing a story for a business newspaper in Norway. He was very interested in the fact that Queen Mary 2 is so traditional.
We attended the excellent RADA production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in the early afternoon.
We had afternoon tea in the Queens Room with our old friend Christel Hansen and afterwards it was lovely to meet up with some of my old colleagues in the Electricians Workshop for a chat about old times and our experiences since I was last on board.
Sunday 17 June 2012 – Arrival New York
We passed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge around 5am. We had an excellent vantage point on the observation deck in the company of David and Aoife from Dublin. Despite my many arrivals to the Big Apple, this was the first time in over 20 years that I had witnessed it from the open decks due to the fact that during my working career I would normally be on standby in the engine control room. It really was most impressive with the view of the new skyscrapers under construction at Ground Zero being particularly poignant. Many guests (particularly first time travelers) expressed sadness at leaving the vessel and having to return to what they described as ‘normal life’ at the end of 7 days of luxury and splendour on Queen Mary 2. The overall impression we have taken from the many guests that we have met on the voyage is that an Atlantic crossing by ocean liner still has a place in the modern world and that the slogan which the President of Cunard Line evoked during construction of Queen Mary 2 that his aim was ‘To re-create the age of elegance for those that missed it the first time’ continues to be fully realised.
There are two more Cunard World Club voyages this year;
Queen Elizabeth on 5 November (Q222) with Captain Paul Wright as ambassador
Queen Victoria on 17 August (V220) ambassador TBC
You can find out more about the CWC and its benefits here