May 10, 2013
With Maritime Historian and Cunard Insights Lecturer, Chris Frame.
Queen Mary 2 is much loved in Australia. Since her maiden arrival here in 2007 (where she, and fleet mate QE2 brought Sydney to a complete standstill with over 2 million people descending on the harbour to witness the rendezvous), Queen Mary 2 has been a popular ship ‘down under’.
2013 was no exception. Both before and after the celebrations of the first ever Royal Circumnavigation of New Zealand, Queen Mary 2 visited a number of Australian ports, including Brisbane, Sydney (twice), Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).
I was fortunate to join Queen Mary 2 in both Adelaide and Fremantle, and witnessed the public interest and great spectacle of the Queen’s arrival and departure.
Awakening early on Saturday 23 March, I made my way to the Airport to board a flight that would take me to Adelaide. My reason for visiting – Queen Mary 2 was in town! I was set to board the great liner at 2pm for a television interview with Channel 9, an Australian TV station, who were doing a story all about this famous ship. You can see the results of this interview here.
After a 2 hour and 40 minute flight, we began our descent into Adelaide, taking us on a path over Port Adelaide. To my delight, our Qantas Boeing 737 overflew Queen Mary 2, and the atmosphere inside the aircraft was abuzz with chatter about the ship, as many people were flying across for the voyage to Fremantle and further afield to Mauritius and South Africa.
A quick ride by taxi to Port Adelaide and Queen Mary 2 dominated her surroundings. At 151,000 tons and over three football fields in length, she was the tallest structure in that part of the city!
Stepping back aboard the ship offered a welcome sense of Déjà vu, as I had just been aboard for the circumnavigation of New Zealand. It was a welcome feeling!
I made my way directly to the Library and Bookshop. Bookshop manager Rich Davies was waiting for me, as there was a scheduled book signing at 2:30pm that formed part of the television filming. I was excited to see many guests had left books to be signed, which is a great thrill!
I love talking about ocean liners, particularly the Cunarders, and the interviewer, Tracey Vo was very interested to hear about Queen Mary 2. It was her first ever voyage aboard a passenger ship and I told her she had certainly started with the best. I too started cruising with a Cunard Queen, in my case it was the legendary QE2. We spent about an hour talking about the ship, about Cunard and taking a tour of Queen Mary 2 or the camera work – which equates to about 20 seconds of on air time! No wonder film making is so expensive!
The ship was due to depart at 5pm and it wasn’t long before I was dockside and attempting to work out where to watch the ship’s departure. My schedule didn’t allow me to sail home aboard the ship, however I wasn’t sad to leave as I knew the following Tuesday I’d be back aboard in Fremantle for a final book signing event.
Once dockside, I randomly bumped into another great Cunard fan who recognised me from Facebook. The two of us met up with a group of ocean liner enthusiasts to watch Queen Mary 2′s departure, and were delighted when Captain Oprey gave us many blasts on the ship’s magnificent whistle. We watched as she sailed into the sunset.
It was Sunday before I knew it, and I was aboard a Virgin Australia Airbus A330 flying towards Perth. As we flew over the Great Australian Bight, I looked down to the ocean, trying to spot Queen Mary 2 making her way to Fremantle. I was out of luck, but I knew she was down there somewhere!
On Tuesday 26 March, Fremantle was excited at the prospect of welcoming the ship back into the port. She is the largest ship to visit the country and is always met with great enthusiasm in Western Australia. However, sadly the weather (high winds and rough seas, despite a very sunny sky) delayed the ship’s arrival by several hours, as the Fremantle Harbour Board closed the port to incoming traffic!
However, by 1:30pm the ship made her way into the port, with two tugs standing by due to the prevailing weather conditions. We were positioned at the North Mole and witnessed the ship make a spectacular entry into the port. In fact, the wind was so severe, it took two attempts to enter the harbour. Cunard ships are always operated at the highest safety standards, and so it was pleasing to see that no risks were taking in berthing the Queen. You can hear my ABC radio interview as Queen Mary 2 entered the harbour here.
Once berthed, Rachelle and I boarded the ship and again made our way to the bookshop. We signed books, talked with passengers and enjoyed the atmosphere aboard before departing the ship, back to reality!