October 10, 2013
In September, Queen Mary 2 embarked on her 2013 Cunard World Club voyage. We were joined on board by Ciaran Ward, former Chief Electrical Officer, and Cunard World Club Ambassador, who kept a diary of his time with us…
Tuesday 10 September – New York
We joined the ship in New York for the start of our fourth voyage as Cunard World Club Ambassadors. We arrived after embarkation had finished with just 30 minutes to spare before sailing. Luckily we met Chief Purser Ruud on the quayside and he whisked us up the crew gangway and within 5 minutes we were checked in and unpacking our suitcases. We attended the latecomer’s boat drill with one other couple and Queen Mary 2 departed on schedule at 1700. We went to the sail away party and caught up with a number of old friends and colleagues on the crew deck as we sailed out under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I later had a meeting with Barrie and Petra in Voyage Sales to discuss our programme for the voyage. An early bedtime was required after a day of travelling and to be ready for our Ambassador duties the following day.
Wednesday 11 September – Newport, Rhode Island
We decided to spend the day on the ship reacquainting ourselves with our fellow guests and crew. We chatted with Mr. Wigmore on deck and being an engineer himself he was particularly interested in the construction of Queen Mary 2. We had lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Hochman in the Boardwalk Café. Both are relatively new guests with Cunard and love everything about it. In the afternoon we caught up with old friends Mr. and Mrs. Stratton during a darts competition in the Golden Lion. Mr. Stratton’s hobby is making high quality model ships in bottles and he presented me with a model of Cunard’s first ship Britannia. Caroline entered for the darts competition and had the unique experience of missing the board completely with all three darts.
We then attended the Grills cocktail party where we met Mr. and Mrs. Boeme from Germany. We later hosted the Captain’s table where among others we were seated with Mr. Faber and Mr. Grossman. Both are very loyal Cunarders and both Mr. Faber and I have something in common – he was the very first guest to board Queen Mary 2, while I was the very first crew member. We had late night drinks with Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard in the Commodore Club, one of my personal favourites on board.
Thursday 12 September – Boston
I had an early start due to being interviewed by Leon, the Entertainments Manager, for his morning TV show. I explained the purpose of me being on board and some details of my career with Cunard.
We arrived alongside Boston pier at 9am and departed for our tour (Panoramic Boston) in the excellent company of Mrs. Fleischer who was seated next to me. The tour itself was brilliant and we visited all the important sites in Boston including ‘Old Ironsides’, Bunker Hill monument, Boston Common and the start/stop point for the Boston marathon which featured so much in the news in recent times. It was however, the smaller details from our tour guide which I found most fascinating.
A Rolling Stones concert scheduled for Boston in 1972 with an anticipated audience of 13,000 was delayed due to the band members being held elsewhere in the state by police. The mayor rather than risk a riot went personally, arranged their release and he himself accompanied the band back to the city where the concert started sometime after midnight.
There are amphibious craft in the city which are used for both land and water tourist trips. Many of them are new; however, there are still some in use from 1944 which were used in the Normandy landings.
Following our tour we had a stroll through the famous Quincy market however we declined to purchase the obligatory ‘Harvard’ T Shirts.
Back on board we chatted to our dinner companions from the previous night Mr. and Mrs. Benford, over a late lunch.
Friday 13 September – Bar Harbor.
Friday 13th started off as expected. Queen Mary 2 anchored off Bar Harbor at 8am to the sound of the ship’s foghorn. It was a whiteout everywhere.
We soon departed on the Acadia national park tour. We travelled through the national park past Champagne Mountain to Jordan Pond. The mountain is famous among hikers where iron ladders have been installed on the vertical sections to assist climbing. However, access to these ladders is prohibited during the nesting season as climbers are prone to attack by angry peregrine falcons!!
Another interesting aspect of the area is the number of famous society names who had properties on the island in bygone days – Ford, Carnegie, Astor, and Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller loved the place so much and was so anxious to prevent it from been overrun with traffic, that he purchased vast tracks of land and built what became known as ‘carriage roads’ which, to this day are only accessible to horses, bikes and hikers.
We had a walk around the beautiful shops in the town itself and then came back to Queen Mary 2 where we had an excellent lunch in the company of Mrs. O’Day. We met a number of guests during the afternoon, including Mr. Grecco who is a long-time Cunard devotee and loves the secure feeling that travelling with Cunard gives him.
Caroline was again humiliated at the darts competition by Mr. Stratton and indeed all the darts participants. All was forgiven however over a lovely afternoon tea with him and his wife Elfriede in the Queens Room.
We had pre-dinner drinks in the Golden Lion pub in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Hirst. Mr. Hirst is extremely proud of the fact that he taught Math’s to Mr. Dave Stewart of ‘Eurhythmics’ fame.
Dinner was excellent at the Ambassador’s table in the company of eight very loyal guests where life with Cunard was pretty much the sole topic of conversation.
Saturday 14 September – St John New Brunswick.
We left on the ‘St. John Highlights’ tour where we first passed by a number of interesting residences including a number which were built entirely from discarded materials used as ships ballast (rocks, timbers etc) brought back from foreign lands during the last century. We then visited a vantage point for the reversing falls on the St John River where the huge tidal range in the Bay of Fundy causes massive variations in the direction of flow and volume of water in the river. Other facts of note were:
Pathways in the public parks are laid out in the pattern of the Union Jack.
St John is the world’s second foggiest place- Grand Banks of Newfoundland coming in first.
On the way back to the ship we passed the industrially important ‘Brush and Broom’ factory however I did not for a minute believe our guide’s story about a large number of witches buying up all the local properties close to this factory.
After lunch we enjoyed the sunshine by the pool in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Mills. Mr. Mills was well acquainted with the operation of the St Nazaire shipyard where Queen Mary 2 was built as he worked for a company selling ships valves.
That evening we had a lovely dinner at the Ambassador’s table with a number of old friends where such diverse topics as post war education in Germany and modern kitchen construction were discussed.
Sunday 15 September 2013 – Halifax
We arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in beautiful sunshine. We departed around 9.45am on the tour called ‘Coastal Drive to Peggy’s Cove’. We drove past the statue of Samuel Cunard and then past a small Catholic church which was built by 1800 Catholics in a single day. It would appear that Nova Scotia houses were not subjected to the recent price slump experienced in other parts of the world as house prices there have doubled in value since the year 2000. Halifax played a pivotal role during the 9/11 attacks when 49 airborne jets carrying a total of 12,000 people were forced to land there at the relatively small airport. The extra weight which the runways were subjected to caused significant damage and speedy repairs were necessary. Most of the passengers were temporarily all accommodated by local families in their homes.
We made our way along the beautiful coastline of Nova Scotia to Peggy’s Cove and on the way were treated to a very vivid description of the reproducing and mating habits of the local lobsters. We stopped at Peggy’s Cove for approximately 1 hour and the scenery was simply breathtaking. I was in the excellent company of our on board guest Mrs. Allen for the drive back and again our guide gave us more interesting facts such as:
Roundabouts in Canada are called Rotaries.
It is possible to buy a Mac Lobster in some world famous local fast food outlets.
Two of the main banks in the area were originally founded by Privateers who needed somewhere to process their ill gotten gains.
Back in the city, we drove past a communal graveyard where many of those lost in the Titanic disaster are buried and we were told that the body of a young baby whose identity had remained unknown since the disaster, was identified through DNA tests in recent times.
After the tour we went to take a photo at the statue of our founder Samuel Cunard. This was a return visit for me as I was part of a group of officers from Queen Mary 2 who attended the unveiling of the statue in 2005.
Monday 16 September 2013 – At Sea.
It was lovely this morning to have somewhat of an extended sleep until 8am. After a leisurely breakfast we caught up with Mr. Bingham. He had been most impressed by the sharp wit of his room stewardess when he jokingly asked her how she was going to deal with the mouse under his bed – she had replied that she would immediately go and fetch the ship’s cat!
We dropped by the ‘Baggo’ competition, which was happening by the pool –there we witnessed a competitive game with some very dubious playing methods and spoiling techniques amongst the participants, all of whom had been playing together since departure in Southampton . ‘Ray 2’ finally won out with an unassailable 37 points.
We then went up to the solo travelers coffee morning and chatted to a number of ladies including Mrs. Topping who remembered me from QE2 many years ago. I just wish my memory was as good.
Caroline attended the afternoon darts tournament where I took a safer option of going to the excellent RADA presentation of Richard 3rd in the Royal Court Theatre.
I was once told by a well travelled guest, who had enjoyed afternoon tea in many of the top hotels in the world including the Ritz in Paris, that afternoon tea in the Grills Lounge surpassed them all. Whilst I do not have any experience of these top hotels I can say that the afternoon tea which we enjoyed in the excellent company of Mr. & Mrs. Stratton in the Grills Lounge was absolutely splendid and the best that I have ever experienced.
We had pre-dinner drinks with Mr. and Mrs. Furr, who had a fascinating story about his great uncle by marriage Thomas Jones, who was a deckhand on Titanic and was in charge of lifeboat No 8, also containing the Countess of Rothes. On reaching safety after the tragedy he presented her with the nameplate from the lifeboat and they corresponded every Christmas until she passed away.
Tuesday 17 September 2013 – Quebec.
We had a beautiful passage up the last section of the St. Lawrence arriving in Quebec at noon. We set off on the ‘Countryside of Quebec’ tour in the early afternoon passing through forested areas displaying the commencement of their autumn colours. The first stop was Lake Beauport in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains followed by a drive to the Montmorency Falls (200 ft higher than Niagra) where we had afternoon tea. Later in the day we crossed the St. Lawrence to the Ile De l’Orleans via a long bridge which our guide told us was nearing the end of its life and its use would be soon restricted to bikes and foot traffic only. Needless to say we were somewhat shaken by this revelation. We visited an authentic sugar shack where maple syrup products are made and we heartily tucked into all the free samples on offer. The City of Quebec is staggeringly beautiful, as is the surrounding countryside. What impressed us most, in addition to the autumn colours, was the tasteful architecture of all the residences and how they blended perfectly into the countryside.
Some of the lesser known facts we picked up along the way:
Snow clearance budget for the city is between 30 and 50 million dollars annually.
Due to the decline in attendance there are a large number of churches which are currently being transformed into apartment blocks and even into pubs.
Residents of the city are supposedly the most taxed in North America.
Wednesday 18 September - Quebec.
This was a very special day for us as we were due to meet up with our son Jonny. We had a lovely walk around the antique shops in old Quebec meeting and chatting with many guests along the way and when Jonny’s current ship ‘Aurora’ arrived we had time for a brief chat with him on the quayside. He is currently serving as First Officer, however he is especially proud of his Cunard connections as he is the fourth generation of our family to work at sea for Cunard. His mother, father, grandmother, grandfather and great grandmother, all served aboard Cunard ships dating back to the Berengaria in 1935. He was also the very last deck cadet to be employed by Cunard Line prior to the merger into Carnival UK. He hopes very much to return to the Cunard Fleet in the near future to continue the family tradition.
After pre-dinner drinks with Mr. and Mrs. Binns we hosted a table where among the guests was Mr. Bowhall. He had in his possession an original engine room logbook from the old Queen Mary. Mr. Bowhall very kindly auctioned it on board with the proceeds going to ‘The Princes Trust’.
Thursday 19 September – At Sea
That morning, we participated in the Baggo competition and I was roundly humiliated by more professional players, coming joint last. This was despite my assertion that the ships Ambassador was entitled to some privileges which included being allowed to win at deck games. I tried the same ploy with deck quoits with equally disastrous results. In order to regain some of my self esteem I challenged all the participants to a quiz on ‘Modern Ship Propulsion and Power Plant Control Technology’ however there were no takers.
Later I had a wonderful afternoon tea with Mrs. Bernstein whose voyages with Cunard go back many years. We had a long discussion about our recollections of both events and characters on board QE2, from the early eighties until the QE2’s final voyage. It really did bring back very fond memories.
Later I was lucky enough to avail of a seat in the library, this being my first ever chance to sit in this area since the ship was built and realized just what stunning views it offers while the ship is at sea.
We had a lovely dinner in the company of Cunard World Club guests where a lively political discussion ensued. However, luckily for the host, all participants were of the same political persuasion so there were no scenes which would necessitate calling our on board security. On a lighter note, we also discussed earthquakes and opera!
Friday 20 September – At Sea
The day started bright and sunny.
We spoke with Mr. White over breakfast and had a long chat about his travels on Cunard’s former ship Royal Viking Sun in addition to his other 38 cruises and his extensive coach travels in Europe and the British Isles. We also had a chat with Mr. Hart who is an Electrical Engineer and was interested in Queen Mary 2’s electrical systems particularly the cabling aspects. I was very pleased to be able to impart the trivial fact that if all the ships cables were connected end to end they would stretch from London to Rome AND back again!
Just before lunch I went to see Adrian the current Chief Electrical Engineer on the vessel and he brought me fully up to date on the changes and history since I retired almost three years ago. It really was like stepping back in time visiting the below decks area. I was stopped by a bedroom steward who said ‘Nice to see you again Captain Bates’, so I had to clarify the situation that Captain Bates and I shared a common appearance (and hairstyle) which often caused confusion.
The Cunard World Club parties commenced at 5.15 where I gave a brief speech thanking our loyal guests for their ongoing support and was presented with a bottle of champagne by Captain Oprey.
We presented the prize to the top sailor Mrs. Bernstein whom I have known for many years and who has spent in excess of 2900 days sailing with Cunard. Loyalty does not come any better than this! Dinner was again a very jolly affair at the hosted table where we discussed subjects from mammograms to Australian SAS training!
Saturday 21 September – At Sea
We were on deck in the early morning with a flat calm sea and beautiful sunrise. I spent the morning with a series of meetings and saying goodbyes to all our old and new friends, followed by a start to the packing suitcase operation.
In the afternoon I attended the complimentary wine tasting for our CWC guests. I again noticed that the mood of the guests leaving the event was noticeably more jubilant than when they started the session. We had a lovely afternoon tea in the company of Mrs. Draudt who has been on over 40 cruises on a number of lines, however (and without prompting), she acknowledged that her favourite was Queen Mary 2.
I paid a visit to the Electrical Workshop later in the day to say hello to the many loyal Electrical Officers and Assistant Electricians who, collectively, made my 7 years spent as Chief Electrical Officer an absolute privilege.
We were invited to the Officers Wardroom by our old friend, the Captain’s Secretary, Christel Hansen for a farewell drink and more talk about bygone days.
Although at the beginning of the voyage, we had been assigned a table in the prestigious Queens Grill restaurant, due to ambassador-related duties on the other nights, this was the first time that we could readily avail of it. There, I was treated to the nicest steak that I have ever eaten. We also had a lovely chat with Mrs. Adams who was at an adjoining table.
Sunday 22 September– New York
We arrived at 7am at our berth in Brooklyn. After a very smooth disembarkation followed by a tour of Manhattan we arrived at JFK having thoroughly enjoyed another voyage as Cunard World Club Ambassadors, and so pleased to see that the Cunard brand is still going strong. Our sincere thanks go to Captain Oprey and all the ships Officers and crew for their hospitality and White Star Service. Special thanks go to Barrie and Petra in Voyage Sales, Christel Hansen, the Tour Office Staff, and the Pursers Office Staff.