July 2, 2014
Posted in: Guest Stories
On 2 January 2014, Queen Victoria set sail on her 2014 World Voyage. Guest Richard Smith spent four months on board sailing from Southampton to Southampton. In the first of a two-part blog, he talks about his time on board between Southampton and New Zealand…
My wife and I have cruised with Cunard many times over the last 10 years. We enjoyed the maiden voyages of Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth and were on board for QE2’s final voyage to Dubai. We have travelled on a number of World Voyage segments on all three Queens, but have never had the time to spend four months on a full World Voyage.
Last year we made the decision to book Queen Victoria’s 2014 World Voyage, mainly because of the exciting itinerary incorporating visits to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile as well as iconic ports in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Polynesia. Additionally, we would round Cape Horn and transit the Panama Canal.
We left Southampton on 2 January 2014 and immediately hit a massive storm, which Captain Peter Philpott ranked in the five worst storms he had experienced in the whole of his career at sea. Queen Victoria dealt with the Force 10 winds and the 10 metre waves brilliantly, but the 5 days battling the elements meant that the proposed visit to the Azores was not possible.
From Fort Lauderdale we travelled south to Barbados and then on to Brazil. Fortaleza offered a new football stadium (which appeared to be complete) for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and then it was Rio.
Rio is a city that never fails to excite and impress. Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Ipanema and Copacabana and more. We took in all the sights including the modern cathedral and the beautiful botanical gardens – a wonderful day.
After two days at sea we arrived in beautiful Montevideo. Uruguay has a civilized feel to it and we loved exploring the city before crossing the River Plate to Buenos Aires the next day.
Sadly it poured with rain that day and there was a political rally and demonstration in the middle of the city which caused delays and much frustration. But it was an exciting and vibrant place and when the rain stopped and the sun shone we were able to lunch in a fine pavement restaurant.
In the evening we were treated to a beautiful performance of the Argentinian tango.
Cape Horn was beckoning. As the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet at the Horn, the winds and currents can create horrific storms. Hundreds of ships and lives have been lost whilst attempting to round the Horn.
We were really lucky. The sun was shining and the sea was calm.
What is not well known is that Cape Horn is an island. Captain Inger Thorhauge (who had taken over as Master in Rio when Captain Philpott went on leave) told us that, as the weather was being so kind, we would be able to circle Cape Horn.
We had a superb couple of hours and could see the coastguard’s house alongside the lighthouse, as well as the Albatross memorial. A small boat from the ship went ashore to record the fact that we had visited and to exchange gifts.
We then tracked back and into the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia and Punta Arenas and then spent two days cruising by the impressive Amalia and Pio XI glaciers.
After a day in Puerto Montt, Chile we sailed north to Valparaiso and the end of another segment.
As we had been to Valparaiso before, we headed up the coast to the resort of Vina Del Mar – a pretty, clean town with modern hotels and the President’s summer residence.
Queen Victoria then headed west on a long track across the massive Pacific, the largest of the world’s oceans. First stop was Easter Island. Smaller ships do land their guests there, but we were not scheduled to do so. We sailed around the island, about half a mile off shore, and were able to spot its giant moai – stone heads – sometimes in rows and sometimes dotted about on their own.
Next on the agenda was Pitcairn Island and we had a fabulous day there which I reported on at the time in more detail on We Are Cunard.
Shortly after we arrived off Adamstown a large metal longboat headed out packed with islanders and their wares. Pitcairn only has 56 inhabitants and all but a handful boarded the ship. They set up stalls in the Queens Room and were quickly relieving us of our dollars in exchange for carvings, stamps, jewellery and clothing.
When the sale came to an end, the islanders sang to us, before returning to their tiny island. It was a truly memorable day.
Tahiti, Moorea, Fiji and Noumea followed. All beautiful islands if you explore out of town.
The hills above Papeete, Tahiti and the lush cattle country are beautiful. In Fiji it poured with rain but Suva, the capital, was great and on tour we visited the President’s residence and helped to guard it.
Noumea was quite different. It was clean and tidy and very French, although the grid layout showed an American influence. The US used the island as a base in WWII.
We were treated to a noisy local dance display, as was the case wherever we went in Polynesia.
And then it was on to Australia and a city we had missed in the past – Brisbane. We were bowled over by it. A lovely city which has been beautifully designed. Built around the Brisbane River, the old wharves and warehouses have been converted into stylish apartments. It is a vibrant and exciting place packed with galleries, theatres, museums and exhibition halls.
And what can you say about Sydney that has not been said before? It never ceases to surprise, and after a trip to a sunny Bondi Beach, we took a ferry from Circular Quay to the Taronga Zoo.
As the Zoo was closing a massive storm broke, with thunder and lightning all around us. The elephants braved it out, but we ran to the ferry.
The sky cleared and we had a delightful return trip via Mosman and its beautiful bay.
The Tasman Sea was very kind to us. The two days to New Zealand were calm and on the third day we explored Milford Sound. It is one of the wettest places in the world and when we arrived, very early, it was cold and visibility was poor, but it didn’t rain!
Milford Sound was a gentle, but beautiful day, with sheer rock faces and waterfalls and a clever preliminary to the six ports in six days that lay ahead of us.
In 1848 Scottish migrants arrived and established Dunedin (the Celtic name for Edinburgh). It is New Zealand’s oldest city and home to its first University, The University of Otago.
We drove at speed (in a shuttle bus!) around the fringes of the harbour to the centre of the city to find an enormous statue of Robbie Burns. It was Commonwealth Day and the Cathedral was packed.
The next stop was Wellington. As we travelled north it was getting warmer and it was a lovely day on the Waterside. We headed for the Te Papa Museum – it is not to be missed – vast and modern.
Napier is a favourite place. Following an earthquake in 1931, the town was quickly rebuilt in the Art Deco style. We spent our day in the wonderful Hawkes Bay area and when we returned to the ship, as always happens in Napier, vintage cars and their owners in Thirties outfits were out in full force with a jazz band to see us on our way.
The next morning we were in Auckland. A marvelous city and after a stroll up Queen Street and a visit to the renowned Auckland Museum, we made our way to the Maritime Museum and the Marina. Auckland is known as “The City of Sails” and the two elderly Americas Cup yachts (sailed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of New Zealand after we were there) were moored in the marina.
Commodore Christopher Rynd took over command of Queen Victoria in Wellington when Captain Inger went on leave. He told us that Tropical Cyclone Lusi was on its way to New Zealand. It would cause considerable problems for the ship the next day when we were due to be at anchor at the Bay of Islands. We needed to get out of the area. So the Bay of Islands was cancelled and we headed off on a north-east track.
Thankfully we managed to avoid the cyclone which caused considerable damage to the northern parts of New Zealand including the Bay of Islands. The wind we experienced reached Force 8 and the waves were massive, but when we were through the worst of it, we changed course and tracked towards Tonga and its capital, Suva.
Keep your eyes peeled on We Are Cunard for part two of Richard’s World Voyage blog – New Zealand to Southampton – next week…