April 3, 2013
With Maritime Historian and Cunard Insights Lecturer: Chris Frame.
2013 was a special year in the history of Queen Mary 2. The 151,400 gross registered ton ship made her first ever circumnavigation of New Zealand. This voyage took her from Sydney to Auckland via the idyllic Bay of Islands, before heading south to Wellington, Akaroa and Milford Sound before returning to Sydney.
I was aboard for the first leg of this iconic voyage, as a guest of Cunard’s and as an Insights Lecturer speaking about the history of the Ocean Liner as part of the enrichment programme.
Upon boarding QM2 you’re welcomed into the Grand Lobby by members of the ship’s company. They greet returning Cunard World Club members with “welcome home” while pointing those new to the ship in the right direction to find their stateroom. The ship was in Sydney until midnight and so there was plenty of time for those on the world cruise to explore the vibrant Australian city.
At precisely midnight the lines were slipped and the ship was tugged away from her berth. This is very unusual for QM2 as with her advanced pod propulsion system she doesn’t require tugs, however it was done because the wash from the bowthrusters would have overwhelmed the nearby marina inlet. The two tugs, one at the bow and one at the stern provided a great spectacle for passengers to watch.
The first day at sea was a calm and sunny day. QM2 was making a steady 18 knots and we were well on our way to New Zealand. My first lecture was at 11:00am and after a leisurely room service breakfast I made my way to Illuminations. Illuminations is a superb lecture venue, my favourite at sea. It’s big, spacious and has excellent sight lines for both the audience and the lecturer.
Those classic Cunard Queens, Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth, were the topic today, however the lecture also covers great ships such as Normandie, Rex and Bremen as well as the venerable Aquitania.
Aside from the active lecture and insights schedule aboard QM2 (on this voyage there were six lecturers) there is a lot to do aboard the Cunard flagship. Illuminations is also the ship’s planetarium, which shows four space related movies that take you on a trip through the universe. Just aft of Illuminations and one deck down, you’ll find ConneXions which is a unique learning, activities and connection venue – you’ll also find the internet centre here.
A few decks up, and QM2 has a full wrap around boat deck where you can keep fit – it’s got real teak wood and three times around is 1 mile! If that’s not enough, Deck 7 also houses the gym, which has all sorts of gym equipment to keep the heart rate up! If this all sounds too much, Deck 7 is also home to the ship’s buffet restaurant, so you can indulge in all sorts of food including home made burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and classic meals like roast beef. There’s also a superb selection of deserts, as well as the best banoffee pie I’ve had in a long time!
Day two was another pleasant day. The sun was shining, the seas calm and it was perfect for a walk on the deck. My lecture this morning was at 12:05, just after Commodore Rynd’s noon-announcement. This lecture was all about the changes to the ocean liner since it was conceived in 1838 right through to how QM2 was built. After this I joined family and friends in the Golden Lion for a traditional pub lunch. This was great – very tasty and traditional and is very popular aboard all the Cunard ships.
That evening was the Commodore’s Cocktail Party, where passengers get the opportunity to meet Commodore Rynd. We all dressed in our best as is the tradition aboard Cunard and made our way to the Queens Room. Receiving guests was both the Commodore as well as Hotel Manager Rob Howie. Commodore Rynd addressed the audience, who were overwhelmingly Australian and New Zealanaders, both of whom love the QM2.
The following day we were anchored in the Bay of Islands. This is a gorgeous part of the world, and QM2 dominated the scenery. This area gave guests superb access to Waitangi, where the treaty between the Maori people and the British was signed, which formed the nation of New Zealand. We took a tour of the Waitangi signing grounds, after a walk through the nearby town of Paihia, which loosely translates to “Good” (Pai) and “Here” and is thought to have resulted in a slight mis-communication between the British and the Maori who lived in the area.
It’s a beautiful place, and we very much enjoyed our time in the area. After returning to the ship, we strolled the decks and took in the scenery as she weighed anchor and set a course for Auckland. Guests once again enjoyed the night life aboard QM2, with a comedy show being offered in the Royal Court Theatre, dancing in G-32 and the usual Pub Quiz at the Golden Lion.
The following morning, Queen Mary 2 gracefully slipped into Auckland. The largest City in New Zealand, the ship makes for an impressive sight. Auckland is dominated by the Sky Tower, with the highest observation platform in the Southern Hemisphere. Queen Mary 2 is actually longer than the Sky Tower is tall. From the Sky Tower, you can see the ship clearly, as well as all other points of interest in Auckland.
Sadly for me, my voyage aboard this legendary ship was at an end. I departed Queen Mary 2 in Auckland. I stayed in the city that evening and watched her sail. Commodore Rynd, a New Zealander himself, gave a series of blasts on the ship’s mighty whistle as she continued on to Wellington, Akaroa and Milford Sound before returning to Sydney.