October 24, 2012
Friday August 17th 2012 – Southampton
The embarkation process for Queen Victoria in Southampton was, as with previous occasions, swift and trouble free and we met up with some old friends, both crew members and guests, along the way. The afternoon was mostly taken up with a series of meetings and ended with an invite by Captain Olsen to the Bridge for sailaway. The departure was most interesting and we stayed on the Bridge until well after the Fawley oil refinery. Having unpacked and got dressed into something more befitting the evening ambiance on Queen Victoria we met up with Mr & Mrs Link who have spent time with a number of other lines but first time with Cunard. To quote ‘ We already feel we have moved up in the world’. We also met first time Cunarders Mr and Mrs Bench who said they are already planning future voyages with us.
Dinner was a leisurely affair in the Lido with an excellent pepperoni pizza which is a particular favourite with us. After dinner we met Mr & Mrs Brown who first sailed on QE2 in 1979 and we spent considerable time chatting with them and reminiscing about many of the old Cunard captains that they sailed with during the past 33 years. The announcement of an hour advanced on the ships clock was most unwelcome.
Saturday August 18th 2012 – At Sea
Weather today is absolutely wonderful with bright blue skies and calm seas and would be more characteristic of a Caribbean Cruise than a North Sea transit.
We chatted with Mrs Walker shortly after breakfast and she spoke fondly of her some 20 cruises with Cunard – mainly on QE2. She is currently struggling with a broken arm but still smiling. We spoke with Mr and Mrs Dewar on the grill deck later and he assured me that he was related to the famous Scottish distiller in name only. We also chatted to Mr and Mrs Northrop who are first time travellers with Cunard and we had a chat on, amongst other things, modern military aircraft. For the second time in 10 minutes we had met a guest with a famous surname who had no monetary or business connection with their more famous namesakes.
Around noon we went to the singles get together in the Winter Garden and spoke with Mrs Sidden whose husband was a chief engineer on cargo ships. She intends that her next trip with Cunard will be an Atlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2. We went to a classical concert with the excellent Mina Miletic followed by a brief visit to the needlework display in the Winter Garden. Among the items on show by Mrs Adam and Mrs Hoyland were a knitted miniature sheep and some knitted bees together with a beautiful christening shawl. My wife Caroline tried her hand in the ‘Killer’ Darts competition in the pub unfortunately there were many participants with a greater propensity for violence than she and so she was eliminated very early on.
We had a number of cocktail receptions to attend and through them chatted with many very interesting guests. Mr Percival told of how he, and a friend, boarded the Carmania in 1965 to travel to Canada. Part of their luggage consisted of a roulette wheel and canvas and following a casual request to ships staff he was given permission to set it up in one of the guest areas and it was in use all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. I understand that no great sums were won or lost with this entrepreneurial endeavour however I could not visualise such a venture being approved in modern times. Mr Kiln told of how his grand uncle owned Portsmouth Brick Company in the 1940’s and whose products were used in almost all construction projects in that area particularly after the war. Dinner at the Ambassadors table was excellent in the company of among others our friends Mr & Mrs Milsolm and also Mrs Jones whom I had sailed with many years ago on QE2.
Sunday August 19th 2012 – Stavanger
Queen Victoria arrived alongside at 9am and I departed almost immediately on the ‘Stavanger Highlights’ tour. Weather was very overcast however it cleared into a beautiful day before we reached the more scenic areas of the tour. We visited Hafrsfjord, which is where the kingdom of Norway was founded in 872 under violent circumstances and now features a monument with three huge swords buried in rock so they can never be removed and is meant to represent a symbol of peace. The visit to an Iron Age farm was most interesting where everyone had an opportunity to see what life must have been like 1500 years ago. We went inside a rebuilt dwelling with many construction supports still in their original locations . We were shown examples of how they wove woolen garments from the wool of the sheep which they reared, and we were told of the unorthodox use of ammonia based liquids to derive the colour blue. Suffice it to say that the production of the necessary liquid involved men drinking copious amounts of alcohol!!. The inside of the dwelling was very cosy however it is summertime and I expect winter in such a home in these latitudes would be a different prospect altogether !.The visit however gave everyone a greater appreciation of modern day comforts such as electric light, and cooking at the touch of a button. The tour finished with a walk through old Stavanger where the quaintness, simplicity, and beauty of the houses and gardens were staggering. Spoke with Mrs Kiln in the Queens Room who said, that despite her best early morning intentions, she still succumbed to afternoon tea on onboard with cream scones. My ambassadorial advice to her was that these lofty intentions are best left at the bottom of the gangway every time she travels on a Cunard vessel.
Had a chat with Mr & Mrs Trytek in the Grand Lobby who have travelled with other cruise companies but say that Cunard is certainly making a big impression on them mainly due to the essential ‘Britishness’ of the ship.
Monday August 20th 2012 Flaam
We rose early in order to appreciate the beautiful scenery on the way up the fjords this morning. Arrived Flaam 9am and departed shortly afterwards with a full coachload of guests on the ‘Fjords and Waterfalls’ tour. We passed through a series of road tunnels one of which was 7 miles long on the way to our first stop at the Tvinde waterfall. On the way we were treated by Sandra our guide to many interesting facts on Norwegian history and legends, however I found it somewhat hard to believe that in these Health and Safety conscious times ,that even with a cold,Trolls still use their noses to stir porridge!!. It was very impressive to see the stone walls which are strategically built in many of the high sided valleys in order to protect wooden buildings from damage due to sudden increases in wind pressure during an avalanche A brief stop at the waterfall allowed a chance for photos and souvenirs, then it was on to the beautiful and tranquil Oppheim Lake for another photo stop. We had refreshments at the Stalheim Hotel which is perched on a cliff overlooking the Noeroy Valley and over which it offered breathtaking views. I was chatting with Mrs Sidders and Mr/Mrs Greenacre and Mr/Mrs Holloway in these lovely surroundings. The peace and serenity of this mountain retreat was followed by a white knuckle coach ride down what is acknowledged as the steepest road in Norway, boasting 13 hairpin bends. The area has apparently become very popular in recent times for extreme sports and I feel that this ride should be included!!. We arrived back somewhat shaken and stirred in Flaam just in time for lunch on board.
Had a long chat with Mr Kerslake and Mr Rolles in the pub in the afternoon who both racked their brains but could not think of anything that we should do any differently on board than at present. I managed to secure a Becks beer for Mr & Mrs Sullivan on the after deck and they would like to see more calls for Cunard in Liverpool. Unfortunately my powers as CWC Ambassador do not stretch to itinerary changes.
Just prior to dinner we met newlyweds Mr & Mrs Haggett. Mrs Haggett has travelled with Cunard 9 times before mostly on QE2 and started at the age of 14. We also bumped into Jade and Tabatha Duffield. Tabatha was very excited as her 8th Birthday is tomorrow and she has been invited to a personal meeting with Captain Olsen.
Dinner was a very lively and jovial affair with guests Mr & Mrs Fisher, Mr & Mrs Martin and Mr & Mrs Kiln, with wide ranging discussion topics including eel fishing, cross border smuggling in Ireland, education, and six degrees of separation. We were among the last guests to leave the restaurant.
Tuesday August 21st 2012 Olden
At 0915 I departed on the ‘Briksdal Glacier by Troll Car’ tour. We travelled by coach along the Olden valley through mountains which reached heights of 6,000 feet in places. We then boarded our Troll cars at the Briksdal Inn for transporting us to near the foot of the glacier itself. I had no idea what a Troll car looked like however the description given to me of ‘a small open top jeep on steroids’ proved to be very apt. On the way up to the glacier we were ‘refreshed’ by an unscheduled ice cold shower from a swollen river waterfall which helped to keep us awake. Our guide told us many stories about the glacier including one where in olden times, local farmers, in order to speed up the transportation of their livestock to market would walk them along the top of the glacier and individually tie the hind legs of each one together and then allow them to slide down the glacier to the market place below – an early form of extreme sports !!. We spent an hour in the Briksdal valley and I can honestly say that the scenery I have witnessed since leaving Olden has been the most beautiful that I have ever seen in all my years at sea.
We spent an hour taking photos and taking in the breathtaking scenery and then returned back down in our trusty Troll cars with the same cold shower giving a repeat performance on the way. We had excellent refreshements of coffee and freshly made cakes in the Briksdal Inn before heading off for a photo stop on the shores of the stunning Olden lake and then heading back for lunch on board. Caroline had gone on the ‘Oldevatnet Lake Cruise’ which proved to be less eventful (and drier) than ours but with equally impressive scenery. In the afternoon we had a drink with Mr/Mrs Stokes in the Golden Lion pub. Their 11 year old son wants to be a scientist and thinks that Cunard are, to quote, ‘most wonderful’.
Later that evening I received a lovely letter and a commemorative badge from Mrs Anne Edwards on board. The badge depicts the number 706 together with a profile of the bow of an ocean liner in Cunard colours approaching a lifeboat in the water. Mrs Edwards, through a fund called ‘Honour the Rescuers’, has been instrumental in raising the profile of Captain Rostron of the Cunard liner Carpathia who was first on the scene of the Titanic disaster rescuing 706 stricken passengers in the process. The fund has erected a plaque to Capt Rostron in his old school in Bolton and also donates all monies collected to the RNLI.
Before dinner we had drinks in the pub with Mr/Mrs Monsell and Mr/Mrs Hibbert and then chatted with Mr/Mrs Jewell in the chartroom.
We had a lovely dinner in the Britannia Restaurant with our old friends and loyal Cunarders Mr/Mrs Brogan.
Wednesday August 22nd Bergen
Caroline and I went ashore for a walk around Bergen during which we visited the famous fish market and while it was very interesting we decided that lunch back on Queen Victoria was infinitely more palatable than the various fish and meat items on display
Had lunch with Mrs Earl who has been on many other ships however she describes Cunard and especially Queen Victoria as ‘Simply Splendacious’ which is certainly a new expression to my vocabulary. We also met Mr Mc Coubrey who left Dublin in 1974 and was a personal friend of Dr Bill Deeley and was a doctor on QE2 about 42 years ago and who I remember sailing with at that time.
In the evening we were hosting two Cunard World Club cocktail parties with a combined attendance of over 500 guests. They were both wonderful occasions to meet many people and I said a few words at each, thanking everyone for their continued faithfulness to Cunard as this loyalty is of the most influential factors in the very existence of our company..
We had an excellent dinner with top sailors of the voyage Mr/Mrs Gledhills and Mr/Mrs Wilson. Mr Gledhills personally knew many of the crewmembers whom I sailed with in 1970, when I first joined Cunard, and he provided many interesting personal, and historical insights which I was not aware of. Mr Wilson and I had played paddle tennis on QE2 for many years during World cruises however with our advancing years both of us decided we would retire gracefully from the game and not try to relive our past glories during this voyage!
Thursday August 23rd At Sea
Through the night there was something of a swell as we hit the North Sea again and this made for a slightly bumpy start to the day however this quickly cleared and we had a most beautiful morning and afternoon. After a 5 star breakfast it was time for a visit to the shops to purchase the obligatory baseball caps and perfume. We were invited to the Senior officers cocktail party just before noon where we said goodbye to many of our friends. After a quick lunch we had the CWC Ambassadors Question and Answer session in the theatre where entertainment diirector Sally expertly guided me through it. I am happy to say there were no bottles or eggs thrown. I paid a quick visit to the technical office to see my old friend and former head of department – Chief Engineer Ronnie Keir who together with myself was part of the build team for Queen Mary 2 in St Nazaire back in 2003.
We had farewell drinks with Mr/Mrs Milsolm in the Commodore Club and also chatted with Mrs Young whose late husband was a doctor on Cunard ships in the 1970’s. After a leisurely dinner in the Lido we went to the evening show in the theatre with the excellent comedian John Evans. Afterwards we did a final visit to all public rooms and completed our farewells as far as possible and then it was off to complete our packing with the benefit of an hour retarded on the clocks.
Friday August 24th Southampton
We arrived alongside at 7am and after a final king size breakfast we chatted with Mr/Mrs Perry and Mr/Mrs Foukes. The comment form for the voyage was very easy for us to complete – excellent all round!
We will take home many wonderful memories, both in terms of the places we visited, and more importantly the people we met, during the voyage. Many of our loyal guests have indicated that Queen Victoria is fast developing an atmosphere reminiscent of their old favourite QE2 , and this must surely be regarded as a weighty commendation to all members of the ships company.
CWC Ambassador Queen Victoria
August 25 2012