DAY 1

Featured

Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach, CA

The first Queen

 

She is a queen of a long gone era. The RMS Queen Mary sailed from 1936 to 1967, and at times during her career she was the largest ship afloat and the fastest ship. Together with her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth, and the Aquitania; Winston Churchill said they had probably shortened the war by 2 years. In July of 1943 she carried 15, 740 passengers, and 943 crew, a standing record for the most passengers ever transported on one vessel.

 

Staying on her seemed like a fitting way to acknowledge Cunard’s proud heritage, and experience the magnificence of a past era.

 

But before I could dream of the decaying splendor of the magnificent ship, I had to get organized for the trip. Packing for 3 months of being away really shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, especially with access to the launderettes on board Queen Mary 2. I had planned what I wanted to take with me way back in November, and had made sure it all fitted nicely into 2 suitcases, and was well under weight. That way when the definitive packing day arrived it would be very easy, and there should be minimal anxiety.

 

So while watching the Keeping up Appearances QE2 episode I embarked on my task. It took longer than expected, so I also watched the Murder She Wrote Grand Old Lady episode. Despite having started with strict rules about what I could take, all of a sudden extra items were getting packed – you know, just in case.

 

Finally I was done. The suitcases weighed in at 48 lbs each, and I was ready to go. I was unable to fit in the box for my fascinators, and not wishing for them to be crushed in the suitcase, I placed them in a brown paper bag which I could carry on the plane with me, together with my large carry on bag and large handbag.

 

I was ready to head to Los Angeles. Yay!

 

Kissing Brian a fond farewell (he will be joining me in Hong Kong) and having a final margarita, I boarded my plane in Mexico and headed north of the border.

 

Arrival in Los Angeles was painless enough and all was going well until I was ready to exit through customs. The agent looked suspiciously and my brown paper bag and asked if I had any food with me. I replied no, and he went on to quiz me about the potential for half eaten apples, tuna sandwiches, and cold meat that I may have concealed in the bag, I reassured him that this was not the case, and told him about the gala nights on Queen Mary 2 and my need for fascinators. He looked suspiciously at me, so despite the fact I was now holding up the long line behind me, I modeled the fascinators for him. He was intrigued, and we got in to a whole long discussion of the golden age of ocean travel. Finally he let me go, and still wearing by favorite blue fascinator (to match my blue jeans), I struggled with my over laden luggage cart in search of a taxi to take me to Long Beach.

 

I had removed my fascinator by the time I checked into the Queen Mary, not wishing to appear to be too eccentric. I was in my room in no time (A108), which is a lovely room, with a very functional bathroom. My previous room on Queen Mary had been very substandard, but this one was almost perfect. It did not have an ocean view, but the view of the car park was better than nothing.

At great expense ($52) I had booked the 8:00 PM paranormal tour. I was very excited about the possibility of a ghost sighting. The young tour guide, Tom, was very engaging and did an excellent tour. No, we didn’t see any paranormal activity, but I learned a lot of interesting facts about the ship, including all the different types of wood involved in its design.

 

I know she looks tattered and tired, but the fact that she looks as good as she does is amazing to me. I was so enchanted by the tour that I think I failed to notice a lot of the deficits that have annoyed me on previous visits. I was just so taken with the experience.

 

The tour didn’t finish until 10:30, but the Observation Bar is open until 11:00 so I had time to go there for a Pimms (no milky way martinis), and sit back and absorb the atmosphere of the beautiful room. My only complaint is that they were playing loud pop music, which was detracting from my art deco mind set.

 

 

 

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At 4:00 AM I was awoken by footsteps in my room. At first I thought they were in the corridor, but that didn’t make sense as there had been people back and forth in the corridor earlier that night, and all I heard were voices, no footsteps. I looked carefully, but couldn’t see anyone. It was as if they had come in through one wall and disappeared through another, the door never opened.

 

I was not sure whether to be excited or scared by the presumed paranormal phenomenon, and the fact that I could hear footsteps and saw nothing went against my assumptions about the super natural. Weren’t ghosts meant to glow in the dark and glide by silently after all?

 

I fell back into a deep Pimms induced sleep, pondering the nocturnal habits of ghosts………………………..

DAY 50

Monday, March 16th, 2020

 

Fremantle

 

Time to Say Goodbye

 

When we woke up this morning it was hard to believe that this was the last day for us in our cabin which has become our little home over the past few weeks.

 

Of course it did look different. Gone is the map, the magnets, the shower caddies, the bathroom shelves, the over the door shoe hanger, and all of the little things that made it feel so right. No more champagne in the fridge, and I had to eat my Cadbury’s Easter egg in one sitting before breakfast as I knew it wouldn’t travel well.

 

Gone also were our suitcases. That turned out to be a problem.

 

Brian realized that I had been a wee bit miffed last night, and being the nice man he is, he offered to take me out to lunch at a waterfront seafood restaurant in Fremantle, and then we could visit the Maritime Museum. This all sounded really good and I was singing away in the shower feeling that things really could be all right.

 

As I emerged from the shower I knew something was wrong. Brian was looking very concerned. He also wasn’t wearing a shirt. It turned out that he had packed all of his shirts in our suitcases, which were now off the ship, and waiting to be collected in the terminal baggage hall.

 

Now the final night of a cruise has had its issues previously. Once Brian packed my cruise card so I couldn’t get off the ship. Alas, a quick trip to the Purser’s Office produced another card, so I could disembark. Then the following year when we disembarked in Cape Town I ended up packing all of my shoes in a suitcase, and so had to leave the ship barefoot. This was also not a problem; there are plenty of shoe stores in Cape Town.

 

Then on the Fjords trip with Ruth when I tried to open our cabin door to put out the suitcases, the door handle fell off in my hand and we were trapped in the room. No way of leaving the cabin. We would be unable to leave the ship. How cool is that? However, a quick visit from a very nice maintenance man resulted in a functional door once more. Out into the corridor went our luggage. No excuse to stay on board now.

 

The way to solve the shirt issue involved me going off the ship, finding the suitcase, and retrieving a shirt. Then we could go out for lunch. I could smell the grilled prawns already.

 

I went down to the gangway and had my cruise card scanned. The security officer asked me if I really wanted to go off the ship. I looked quizzically at him and replied in the affirmative, after all I was at the gangway, card in hand, heading in the general direction of off the ship.

 

He then let me know that if I left the ship I would not be able to return. I explained my purpose of wanting to leave briefly, and told him a rather longwinded version of the packed shirts saga. He was not moved. I said that Brian would need to leave the ship with no shirt on. Now I think he looks rather good without a shirt on, but somehow it just doesn’t fit the Cunard dress code ideals. He refused to budge.

 

I demanded that they open the shop briefly so I could buy a T-shirt for him. I was told very firmly that this would be illegal. I clearly was not going to prevail, so I returned to the cabin pondering how Brian was going to spend the day shirtless on the ship.

 

Luckily when I returned to the cabin Brian was wearing a shirt. He had put one aside to change into during our layover in Brisbane tomorrow. Phew, crisis averted.

 

Well the issue of not being able to go ashore was annoying, but we decided to make the most of our last hours on the ship. Of course I had packed our swimsuits, so swimming was out of the question. However, the Commodore Club was calling, so we spent the morning there. Brian still had a lot of work to do.

 

The residential cruise ship, The World, was docked in front of us, so I sat reading and trying to work out whether if we had the money would it be better to live in a condo on The World, or in a Q1 on Queen Mary 2. Tough decision, but luckily I don’t have to make it.

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The onboard spending statement that was delivered to our cabin actually belonged to someone else, so I returned to the cabin to see if our statement had now been delivered. It hadn’t but our cabin steward was there. He had been the grateful recipient of 7 weeks of soft drinks and snacks. I was very tearful saying goodbye to him, and then he started crying too. I thought it was because he was concerned about his job security and was missing his family, but no. It was because he felt so bad for all of us having to get off the ship. The crew on Queen Mary 2 are such wonderful people, they really are part of what I will miss about the ship.

 

I then went down to the purser’s office to get another our spending statement There was a long queue, but I was in no hurry so I joined the queue and got chatting to the people around me. Then the chief purser announced that everyone should have a letter with their travel arrangements in their cabins, but if they don’t, they needed to come to the Purser’s Office immediately.

 

I continued in the queue and things were moving along slowly when suddenly we were surrounded by a mass of shouting humanity. It seems that many passengers hadn’t received their letters, and they were annoyed. Despite their anger they did calm down and formed a queue behind us.

 

The gentleman I had been talking with decided to see how big the queue was, and returned to inform me that it stretched from the Grand Lobby past the pub, down to the Britannia dining room, through the art gallery and almost to the Queens Room. Wow, that’s a lot of people. He estimated that at least 350 people had not received their letters. Not good. I was very thankful that we had booked our own flights.

 

Finally I was able to get the printout of our statement. Having budgeted very carefully for the OBC to last until April 11th in Southampton, there was a significant amount of “non refundable” credit left. The shops were closed so I couldn’t even buy some jewellery or a new handbag. Quite annoying I thought. Maybe they will reimburse us eventually. It will certainly be worth an email.

 

With my desire for fish, we headed to the Golden Lion so I could indulge in fish and chips for lunch. I’m sure the fish must be frozen, but it always tastes fresh to me, and I really enjoy it. Brian had a plowman’s, and as usual complained about the way they have the pate in a jar. I think it looks stylish, but he says the jar severely impedes his ability to obtain the pate. I still think it looks stylish.

 

We spent our final afternoon relaxing on board. I was feeling bad that we hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye to the friends and crew who had made this voyage so wonderful. They had all suddenly disappeared. Even Deirdre was nowhere to be found.

 

We finally disembarked at 3:30 PM. The walkway from the gangway to the terminal was lined by crewmembers – cabin stewards, waiters, officers, barmen, medical staff, even the executive chef. Well of course, down came those wretched tears again, this time they were really hard to control. I had 2 thoughts going through my mind. How pathetic is this, and thank goodness I packed my mascara. As we got to the end of the line there was Captain Hashmi. He really is my hero – he has had the most difficult time getting us here, and he still has to get the ship back to Southampton. I would have loved to give him a big hug, but in the time of coronavirus I just gave him a tearful wave and headed into the terminal building.

 

We had been told that there would be porters and trolleys for our luggage. Well there was one very harassed porter and not a trolley in sight. It looked like we would have to negotiate getting the 4 suitcases, 3 carry on bags, my large handbag and Brian’s briefcase on to the bus by ourselves.

 

We quickly went through Australian border patrol and exited the terminal to join the seething mass of bewildered, encumbered, passengers also trying to move with all of their luggage and find the airport bus queue.

 

All rather challenging. An hour later a couple of buses had been by, but we weren’t moving much in the queue. It really was chaotic, and no one seemed to be in charge. Finally we were able to get onto a bus, and we waved goodbye to our ship and headed off to the airport.

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The drive took about 45 minutes through very pretty suburbs and small lakes and our driver was very chatty telling us all about the history of Perth and the surrounding area.

 

At the airport there were plenty of trolleys (but you had to pay for them) and because it was now 6:30 we were able to check in for our flight and head to the airport lounge as I was very hungry already as it had been over 3 hours since I had last eaten.

 

The lounge was full of QM2 folks – I was beginning to wonder if we were the only people traveling in the whole world. I did at least get to say goodbye to those people, but I was still feeling sad that our sudden departure had not given us time to really say proper goodbyes, and have final drinks in the Commodore Club.

 

I checked my computer and then realized how lucky we were. There were tales of people arriving at the airport with Qantas confirmation numbers only to be told that they didn’t have tickets and there were no seats available, arriving at the hotel Cunard had reserved for them only to be told that there were no rooms available, people were still waiting in hotels to find out if they had ongoing plane reservations. What a horrible way to end a world voyage. And whilst all of this was going on, Queen Mary 2 let go her moorings and sailed off into the night with her few remaining passengers. She was no longer classed as a cruise ship, now she was a merchant vessel with only limited services on board.

 

When we finally boarded that plane that was to start the long journey home we were offered a choice of water, strawberry juice or guava juice to drink. What? No Veuve Clicquot? What were they thinking?

 

Alas, our Queen of Three Eras voyage is really over. However, we do have a ride home and we are fit and healthy. We didn’t get to go “all the way round”, but we did get to go around Australia, and that was fantastic. We met really lovely people and I discovered that I could actually be a bus escort despite 30 years of feeling that I was a failure at this.

 

I don’t think we will ever be able to do such a long trip again, but we have our memories, and we have each other, and Brian has a new T-shirt, so he didn’t have to be shirtless on the plane. So really all is well with my world, I am indeed blessed.

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DAY 49

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

 

Fremantle

 

Beware the Ides of March

 

When we heard the ding ding ding at 8:00 AM, we knew what Captain Hashmi was going to say, and alas we were right.

 

He informed us that because of the worldwide coronavirus issues, the Queen Mary 2 World Voyage 2020 had ended, and that we all needed to disembark from the ship in Fremantle today. Cunard will book our tickets home, and provide hotel accommodation until we can fly home.

 

It was no surprise, of course, but it was the last thing I wanted to hear. I understand why, and it is the best thing, but Queen Mary 2 has become my home, and I was feeling like I was being evicted. I don’t want to leave, I want to stay on. I don’t care where we go. I don’t care if we don’t go anywhere, I don’t want to leave my home.

 

But I have to. I know that as upsetting it is for me, it has to be 10 times worse for the crew. Not to mention all those people sick with coronavirus. And those poor souls who can’t find any toilet paper. All in all, I am really very, very lucky. I have had a magical 48 days. Every single day on board has brought new experiences. I have had incredible highs, like when we were in the rain forest, I have had incredible lows, like when we lost Bill, but through it all I have been with people I love and admire, I am so lucky.

 

We set about packing our bags. How is it when we have done minimal shopping, all 4 bags are now bulging and overweight? We had to discard a lot of things, and finally all 4 bags weighed just less than 50 lbs, hopefully our portable scale is accurate.

 

Although Cunard had offered to pay for passengers’ flights home, after my experience with Ruth’s ticket, we decided that we should use frequent flyer miles, and book our tickets ourselves. Leaving the ship is stressful enough; not knowing how we are getting home is more than I was prepared to deal with.

 

Luckily we were able to find a flight home tomorrow night. Unfortunately it involves a red eye to Brisbane and a long layover there, not to mention 4 different flights. But it does get us back to the US. We were very tempted to simply fly to South Africa and have a vacation there, but this is not the time for vacations, so home we will go.

 

Ding, ding, ding again. Captain Hashmi announced that those passengers who are unable to fly home will be able to stay on board, but there will be very limited facilities, especially medical ones, and they would need medical clearance to do so. He also said that the ship would be able to stay in Fremantle until 8:00 PM tomorrow, so passengers flying home tomorrow could stay on the ship overnight. Yay! One more night on board.

 

We met up with friends for lunch in Britannia to say goodbye. I decided not to wear mascara today; there was a huge risk of black streaks down my face again. I still had 3 bottles of Veuve Clicquot to consume, so I brought one to lunch so we could celebrate our friendship, and appreciate how blessed we are to have been on this brief, but wonderful journey.

 

One advantage of snother day in Fremantle is that we got to spend the afternoon with our friend Geoff. We went to Cottesloe Beach again – not to swim this time, but to see the sculptures in the sand exhibit. There were interesting sculptures, but there wasn’t even one that I could understand or appreciate, it was a strange experience. Still, it was great to be on the beach again.

Being on a beach made me want a milkshake, so we drove to Hillary’s Boat Harbor up the coast where we walked along the boardwalk, and indulged in wonderful creamy milkshakes. It was heaven.

 

Expecting 6 more weeks at sea, we had stocked up on snacks, soft drinks, and wine for our cabin. Now we had to disembark, so when we returned to the ship, we handed over our supplies to Geoff, who was especially excited by the single malt whisky and bottles of Veuve Clicquot going home with him.

 

Back on board we continued to try to sort out our cabin. I went to the pursers’ office to check our on board account. As expected it was very crowded at the desk there, with people yelling at the staff, who I think were really trying to do their best to be helpful. I did feel bad for everyone.

 

We had been very careful about using our onboard credit, as it had to last until August 25th. Now we had quite a bit over. The shops have been closed since we docked in Fremantle, and even I would have a challenge drinking that amount, so I wanted to see if the OBC could be refunded, as it was not my idea to leave the ship. I was told that it was not refundable. I explained that this was not acceptable, and was told that I should deal with the issue when I got home. I understand that the folks at the Pursers’ Office cannot make decisions about this, but I hope we do get a refund.

 

In the evening I had hoped that we could walk in to town to have dinner, but Brian had work to do, so as I had packed our smart clothes, we ended up eating in the King’s Court. Not at all they way I wanted to spend our last night at all. Very disappointing.

 

This is also our last night in the southern hemisphere, but still no sign of the Southern Cross. Too many clouds. I had hoped for at least a nightcap in the Commodore Club, but Brian still had to finish up a project, so that didn’t work either. I ended up watching the news on the TV in our cabin. Not the ideal way to spend my last night on my favorite ship.

 

Finally I dragged Brian out for one long last evening walk around the promenade deck. It was 11:30 but still warm, and there were several other folks also out of their evening stroll.

 

As I looked at the deck chairs and pool, I thought I’m really going to miss those. Our tablemates had signed up for the “Float your Boat” contest, and I had been looking forward to working on that. I had planned to learn Spanish, to dance, to play Mahjongg, to play pickle ball. I never did any of these. I never went to a craft session. I won’t get to sing Jerusalem on stage at the Last Night of the Cunard Proms before we sail into Southampton. I won’t get to do our safari between Durban and Cape Town.

 

However, I have had a wonderful time on board, and I am fine fit and healthy, I have Brian with me, and I have loads of good memories. I decided to end the night sitting on the balcony finishing off our bottle of Pol Acker. Despite everything, life really is good!

 

 

 

DAY 48

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

 

Fremantle

 

I do still need to post Days 43 to 47, and I will do that once we are back at sea, but I wanted to post today’s blog today.

 

We were awoken at 7:30 by a marching band playing “Play that Funky Music White Boy” on our balcony. I peeped through our curtains. It turned out that they weren’t actually on our balcony, but were in the cruise terminal nearby. It’s just that they were very, very loud. Also, they were not marching. So I suppose they were a stationary band. Anyway, I like it when our ship is welcomed by music, so I waved to them from the balcony, and retreated back into the cabin.

 

Just then the dreaded ding ding ding sounded in the cabin. When you hear this in the cabin it is never a good sign, especially when it is so early in the morning. It was Captain Hashmi.

 

Due to ongoing coronavirus concerns we are not going to embark any new passengers or crewmembers in Fremantle. This will mean that Captain Wells will not be joining us, and that Captain Hashmi will be on board until Southampton.

 

We will also not be stopping in Reunion, Tenerife, or Madeira. We will be getting to Durban one day earlier, and will have an overnight in Port Elizabeth. If anyone who is not due to disembark today wishes to leave the ship, they will be given a 125% future cruise credit.

 

He thanked the 650 passengers who will be disembarking today and wished them safe onward journeys. Instead of sailing at 6:00 today we would now sail at 8:00, but that could change.

 

So again I realize that this is probably the best way to deal with the current situation, but I felt awful for the poor passengers who had come all the way to Fremantle, only to be told that there was no cruise to be had. I know I would be very upset.

 

More missed ports was also very disappointing, it will be a lot of sea days from Walvis Bay to Southampton. However, one must keep calm and carry on. The band was now playing “Celebrate Good Times”, so I suppose we should.

 

We got ready to meet up with friends and spent the morning doing a walking tour of Fremantle. We really hadn’t had the chance to see Fremantle on our last visit, so it was great to explore the old parts of town near the port, and to hear all about it’s history. The town center has been well preserved, and there are loads of coffee shops and interesting little stores. I especially liked the market which was a mixture of funky stalls and produce stands.

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It is definitely worthwhile spending time in Fremantle itself and not only seeing Perth.

 

We drove to South Perth for lunch at a great restaurant called Rambla on Swan which had an alfresco terrace overlooking the Swan River and the Perth Skyline. I discovered a new fish, blue emperor, which is quite delicious. I definitely recommend the restaurant.

 

After lunch we decided that we needed more provisions in case we can’t restock in Cape Town so headed off to a supermarket, so I now have a great supply of Cokes and chocolates in case there is some kind of emergency.

 

As Captain Hashmi had told us this morning that our departure time may change, we decided to check with the port agent to make sure the ship was not leaving earlier than expected. I was told that our departure time was 6:30 tomorrow! Brian was very doubting about this – so I went on to the port schedule, and sure enough we are scheduled to be here until tomorrow. What does this all mean?

 

When we returned to the ship in the late afternoon, no one seemed to know why we are spending another day in Fremantle so it is all a mystery to us.

 

Brian and I decided to walk to a restaurant in Fremantle for dinner, and we found a great sounding seafood restaurant. It was drizzling a bit when we went down the gangway, but by the time we exited the cruise terminal there was torrential rain, and our umbrellas were not dealing with it well. We decided to abort our mission, and return to the relative safety of the Britannia Restaurant for dinner. Alas, I was really looking forward to eating out; after all we could be stuck on the ship for over a month with no ports the way things are going.

 

As we were going to dinner Paul O’Loughlin announced that this evening’s show had been cancelled, and that they were showing a movie instead. Then it dawned on us – no one embarking on the ship meant no speakers or entertainers. Oh boy!

 

Two of our tablemates were at dinner, and we spent a long time discussing why we were spending the extra day in port, and if we were actually going to stop at any other ports.

 

So, I suppose we all have to face the reality that they may decide to throw us off the ship tomorrow. That would be simply awful, Mary feels like home to me now. However, we have to respect whatever decisions are made. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings……….

DAY 42

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

 

Melbourne

 

Gala Night

 

Our sleep was interrupted just before 2:00 AM as Captain Hashmi wanted to make an announcement. It is very rare that he makes announcements that can be heard in the cabins, and unheard of that he would wake us up unless something dire had happened.

 

I mean even if we had someone with coronavirus onboard and we were going into quarantine for the next 2 weeks, I am sure he would have made the announcement after 8:00 AM.

 

He kept on apologizing over and over for disturbing us, and reminding us of the time, and then telling us that if we were standing up we should be laying down. This all sounded like delay tactics, as if he had something really, really, awful to tell us, and he was having problems following his script.

 

Finally he asked any passengers with blood donor cards who were AB or O negative to go to the medical center to donate blood to a passenger.

 

Now previously on Queen Mary 2, Captain Wells had interrupted our dinner with an announcement requesting that anyone who had a blood donor card and was O negative to go to the medical center to donate blood. It was that simple and straightforward, and took less than a few seconds. It felt like Captain Hashmi really did have something terrible to tell us, and was unable to formulate the words. Then someone whispered to him “false alarm”, and he quickly had to come up with a good excuse for frightening all of the passengers.

 

Anyway, luckily I fell back to sleep again, and woke up in the port of Melbourne.

 

As they are only using one gangway we were warned that there would be a queue to get off the ship, so we decided to wait until 10:00 to disembark.

 

At least we could disembark from deck 3, somehow disembarking from the bowels of the ship on deck 1 just doesn’t work for me.

 

We crossed the sky bridge and explored the terminal building, It didn’t seem to be that different to what it was 2 years ago, which is surprising as you would think that with Queen Elizabeth making frequent stops here they would have made more upgrades. There is a souvenir stall and a jewellery shop, but that’s about it.

 

Shuttle buses were provided to the Eureka Sky deck building in town for those wishing to explore the city.

 

However, on a previous voyage on Queen Victoria we had met a lovely couple who live in Melbourne, and we arranged to meet them at the port entrance, and we went out for coffee nearby.

 

After coffee and a good time catching up with each other’s news, they dropped us off in the middle of Melbourne so we could go to the very beautiful Block Arcade, and pay a visit to my favorite tearoom, Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

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Our friends had suggested that we check our Federation Square as there was a lot going on there with the Moomba Festival and International Women’s Day.

 

We were in two minds about getting involved in large crowds, and instead opted for a quiet walk along the riverfront. This was very pleasant, and not crowded at all. We found a waterfront pub called Pilgrim and sat at a table overlooking the river eating and drinking, and watching the river cruise ships go by.

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As I had to be back on the ship early to get ready for the World Voyage Gala we then walked to the Eureka Sky Deck building and waited for the shuttle bus back to the ship. We waited and waited, but there was no sign of a bus. Then it dawned on me that we were waiting at the back of the building, and there was a strong possibility that the bus would leave from the front, which of course it did.

 

It was about a 20-minute ride back to the ship, and we rushed to get back on board.

 

As we neared the gangway we were stopped and told to go back to the waiting area for 5 minutes as they were repositioning the gangway. This often needs to be done when there are water level changes due to the tides, so we weren’t too concerned. However, an hour later, when the waiting area was totally packed, they finally got the gangway working again.

 

There were a lot of unhappy passengers.

 

Tonight was the night of the Queen Mary 2 World Voyage Gala at the Crown Hotel and Casino complex. On every world voyage they have a gala night for those passengers going “all the way round”, and my Dubai to New York trip qualifies to be counted as a world voyage. Alas, Brian will not be on the ship for enough days to entitle him to come to the ball, and there is no fairy godmother in sight.

 

I had tried to be back on the ship at least an hour and a half before we had to set off to the ball, but with the gangway delay, and the crowd of people trying to get back on board again, I was left with only 15 minutes in which to get ready. Of course this didn’t work out well, and instead of hoping to be on the first bus to the venue, I ended up on bus 18 out of a total of 20.

 

At least I had had time to put on make up and do my hair.

 

By the time we arrived at the hotel my friend Glenys and I were in need of a drink, but they had stopped serving drinks, and we had to go straight to the dining room, missing out on all of the pre dinner drinks and snacks. Grrrrr.

 

Apparently there are almost 1000 guests doing the full world cruise, and there were many of the ship’s senior officers there, but the ballroom was huge, and did not feel crowded at all.

 

My table turned out to be right at the front of the room, next to entertainment director Paul O’Loughlin’s table, and 2 down from the table hosted by Simon Palethorpe, the President of Cunard. My friends Deirdre and Val were lucky enough to be at his table. However, I was not complaining as I was seated with Girlie Muega, the Hotel Operations and Retail Manager, and she is always great fun.

 

As we entered the ballroom they were playing bird sounds and didgeridoo music. It was really lovely.

 

Once we were all settled in a scantily dressed Aboriginal gentleman entertained us with folkloric stories and didgeridoo music.

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Next a young Australian tenor, Mark Vincent, serenaded us with beautiful music. As he was singing “You Lift Me Up”, I was suddenly inexplicably overcome with the feeling that Bill and Carol should be here too, and I became quite tearful. It just didn’t seem fair that here we all were having this magical evening, and they were not there to share it with us.

 

Then he sang “Nessun Dorma” and “Time to say Goodbye”, which are 2 of my QE2 songs, so the tears were now flowing fast and furiously. It was then I suddenly had the horrible thought that my newly purchased mascara might not be waterproof.

 

A quick trip to the ladies’ room confirmed this, my face was covered in dark brown streaks, and in trying to wash them off, the rest of my makeup was washed away too. So much for my attempt to look sophisticated.

 

The performance was followed by a welcome speech from Paul O’Loughlin, and then Simon Palethorpe gave a brief speech thanking us for being loyal guests and for patient with all of the itinerary changes during this voyage. I must admit, I was a bit concerned in case one of the CCP members tried to heckle him, but everyone was very polite, and applauded him appropriately.

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Captain Hashmi’s speech was fun as usual. He spoke about the challenges of this voyage – but added that as long as Australia is on his starboard side we are OK. He removed an envelope from his pocket which he said contained the name of the new Cunard ship, and teased us that he was going to reveal it, and then he put the envelope away saying that the reveal will be at the end of April. My sources say that it will be April 20th, but time will tell. Captain Hashmi will be leaving us in Fremantle, and Captain Wells will be joining us then.

 

We then had our delicious meal – smoked fish on a salad of lima beans and shredded lettuce with a citrus dressing, which although sounding odd was excellent. Then we had beef tenderloin that was very tender and cooked to perfection. How they can do this for 1000+ guests is beyond me. Dessert was chocolate volcano cake, which was chocolate overload for sure, but totally yummy. At the end of the meal Captain Hashmi invited us to all be upstanding and we toasted the queen with another glass of champagne, I do like the queen, and I am so happy that we toasted her!

 

During dinner I was chatted up by a friendly German gentleman who asked for my cabin number, which was quite flattering, but I had to point out that I had a very nice husband back on the ship.

 

Then the dancing began. First there was a great Jersey Boys type band called Oz and in no time we were all up on the dance floor, and they were followed by an equally good group whose name escapes me. It was non stop dance music, and actually quite tiring, but tremendous fun. I don’t often get the chance to dance, so I really appreciated the opportunity.

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Anyway it was a fantastic evening of wine, food, and dancing – and as has happened before alas, we were the last to leave, and in fact they actually had to ask us to leave. As a parting gift we were each given a goody bag containing an insulated water bottle and chocolate rabbit looking thing called a bilby. Apparently the gifts were because Cunard made a donation to an organization that helps our furry friends who have been impacted by the recent fires. I totally approve of that!

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I must say that the Gala was a huge success. We were all very tired, but very happy as we boarded the bus back to the ship. I had to help a friend locate her cabin, but once found, I could the return to mine and fall into a deep happy sleep.

 

 

DAY 41

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

 

At Sea

 

Sea days are meant to be relaxing, but they often turn out to be busier than port days. This was one of those days.

 

I got up early to do the laundry, but by the time I got to the launderette all 4 washing machines were in use, and 2 of the 4 dryers were in use, the other 2 were out of order.

 

There were already 2 women waiting for a washing machine, and one gentleman who had his wet laundry in a basket, who was waiting for a dryer.

 

I told the assembled group about a story Brian heard last week in the launderette.

 

A man told him that on a prior cruise there was a lady on board who had nabbed one of the “Out of Order” signs, and when she would put her clothes in the washing machine, she would also place the sign on an empty dryer, thus ensuring that there would be a dryer available for her when her washing was done.

 

Could she be at work in our laundry room we all wondered? The man decided to test out the allegedly non-functioning dryers. He tried the first one. Although it did indeed rotate, it didn’t produce any heat. We all agreed that it was indeed out of order. Then he tried the other one, and it rotated, produced heat, and seemed to be functioning perfectly well. He risked placing his wet clothes in it, and it dried them perfectly. Hmmmmmmmm.

 

Due to the delay in the launderette I missed the craft class and morning talk, and then all of a sudden in was time for lunch in the Carinthia Lounge, followed by choir practice. I had decided to join the choir again for this segment.

 

After choir there was a classical concert – “La Traviata” , clarinet and piano music with Westlake and Hay. A lovely way to spend a relaxing 45 minutes.

 

Then it was time for the Cruise Critic meeting. The previous one had been hijacked by the “Concerned Cunard Passengers” group and had turned into a bit of a shouting match. This time there were only 2 CCP members there, who left half way through because they couldn’t hear what was being said.

 

This meeting was more of the usual sort of meeting – members introducing themselves and discussing their interests and port plans. It was nice to meet Roy whose blog I had been following whilst he was on the Crystal Serenity heading for Sydney.

 

Later in the afternoon Stuart Usher gave a talk on “United we Fall – A Naval Drama in Two Acts” about the almost forgotten naval battle which occurred in the Java sea on the night of February 28th/ March 1st 1942. I must confess I had never heard of this battle before, so it was very interesting to learn all about it. My dose of education for the day.

 

Four of our tablemates had left in Sydney, so tonight was our first chance to meet our new companions, a British couple from Somerset, and an Irish/French couple who live in Spain. They seem nice enough, and it was a fun evening.

 

There were 2 options for our evening’s entertainment that appealed to us – Dance Through the Ages with Purple Haze in the ballroom, which invited us to Twist, Hustle, Moon Walk and Macarena our way through the decades. I think Brian vetoed it at the word Macarena, so we ended up going to listen to an Eagles tribute band, Desperado.

 

Deidre took one look at the members of the group, and commented, “they all look so old”. Well, yes they are old, but then so are we. And so are the real Eagles.

 

The show was great, and they finished with my favorite, Hotel California, so I was happily humming away as we returned to the cabin. It had been a good day.

 

It has also been quite rough today – well you feel you are on Queen Mary 2 rather than the Queen Mary Hotel. No big waves, just a little bit of gentle rolling. We really haven’t experienced any rough weather this whole trip, which is a shame. Still, tonight there was enough movement to gently rock us to sleep.

 

DAY 40

Friday, March 6th, 2020

 

Sydney Day 2

 

Sandy Sydney

 

During the night Queen Mary 2 had left her anchorage and moved to the quayside, and the Costa ship had moved out into the harbor.

 

When we woke up the Opera House was right outside out balcony, and the sun was making a brave effort to shine. No more rain!

 

We decided that it was time for a beach day, so what better beach to visit than Bondi Beach, so off we went.

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When it was time for lunch we found a great beachfront restaurant where we sat outside and had mussels and prawns, and I had Prosecco. The meal took ages, but that’s the way we wanted it. It was just perfect. It had the perfect name too – Bucket List. It would certainly have been on mine.

 

When we were walking back to the bus we decided to stop for an ice cream. I do not do very well with cones, as I always end up with ice cream on my face and clothes, so to prevent malfunctions I asked for one scoop of chocolate ice cream in a cup.

 

Well the scoop was significantly larger than the cup, and despite my valiant efforts I could not control it, and it melted all over the place. Soon I was covered in chocolate ice cream, which was jolly unfair. But the ice cream did taste good, so all in all it was worth it.

 

Brian was feeling like having a beer by that time, so we took the bus to the Rocks and found a great little pub.

 

My eye shadow brush had disintegrated a few days ago, leaving small particles in my eyes which was most unpleasant, and not a bit attractive, so after the pub we walked in to town to try to get a new brush.

 

I had forgotten how beautiful the downtown area was, and as it took a while for us to find the shop we were looking for, we had a nice walking tour of the area.

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We then decided that it was time to head back to Circular Quay and find somewhere for dinner.

 

Our original plan had been to have dinner with friends from university, but unfortunately due to the death of a friend of theirs they could not make it. Cunard had obtained tickets to Faust which was playing at the Opera House, and I had not purchased any as I thought we would be out to dinner. By the time I tried to get tickets it was sold out, which was disappointing as I would have loved to go to the opera, but it did give us a chance to have a romantic dinner for two.

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We found a great restaurant in Circular Quay and sat at our table with the best view in the world – there was our beautiful ship across the water from us. The food was good, and we had a lovely evening, and had another ice cream as we walked back to the ship. At least this time there was room for the ice cream in the cup, and no mess resulted.

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Back on board we went to check out the sail away dance on deck 8. Purple Haze was playing, but no one was dancing.

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We then wandered around the outside decks. It was a lovely warm evening, and the city looked very pretty. I was initially annoyed that we would miss sailing out of the harbor in daylight, but when we left it was after midnight, and it was still a beautiful sight gliding past the bridge and the Opera House. Yes, Sydney really is one of my favorite ports.

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DAY 39

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

 

Sydney Day 1

 

Soggy in Sydney

 

We have been to Sydney several times already, but it never fails to impress me.

 

We are at anchor today because the Costa Deliziosa is at the cruise terminal, and we are relegated to the dreaded tenders.

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There is often a huge queue to get off on the first tenders, so we thought we would wait until 10:00 until we tried to go ashore. That worked very well. By then there was no queue, and the only delay was waiting until a tender returned to the ship.

 

The tenders were going to the Man O War Steps, which were close to the Opera House, and very convenient to town. It was a very wet and bumpy 10 minute ride there, and then we had to look for the woman Brian had arranged to meet.

 

Brian is very interested in genealogy, and through his research had been in contact with a lady named Robin from the Genealogical Society. Brian’s great grandfather had lived in Sydney before moving with all but one of his children to South Africa. Brian had been trying to trace his movements in Sydney.

 

We spent the morning looking for the houses the family had lived in and the neighborhoods he would have frequented. First of all it was OK because there was just a bit of a drizzle, but then the downpour started, and you would think we are in the middle of a monsoon. In a matter of minutes the roads had turned to rivers, and we beat a hasty retreat to her house where we took shelter while the storm raged around us.

 

We had an excellent lunch there, and after the rain had subsided a bit we returned to the Man O War steps and waited for a tender to transport us to our floating home.

 

By the time we got back in to our cabin our clothes and all of our possessions were totally soaked. Time for a nice hot shower and dry clothes.

 

We had arranged to meet some relatives of Brian’s for dinner. The thought of getting off the ship and negotiating a tender, walking in the rain to the ferry terminal, taking a ferry to Rose Bay, and then walking to the restaurant to have dinner with people we have never met before was not on my to do list, but Brian talked me into it.

 

So once we were dry, and in different clothes we headed out into the monsoon once more.

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Actually the weather had improved minimally so it wasn’t that awful, and although we were indeed drenched by the time we got to the restaurant we did dry off, and actually had a wonderful evening. The restaurant was called Sushi Den, and is worth a visit if you are ever in Rose Bay.

 

The relatives turned out to be quite lovely, and we had a great evening. Eventually were asked to leave the restaurant because it was closed. I think that is always a good sign. Brian’s cousin drove us back to the Opera House, and it was a quick walk back to the jetty to catch the tender. The rain had stopped, and the wind had died down, so the trip back to the ship was uneventful.

 

Once on board we looked at the view from our balcony. We had a magnificent view of the Opera House, the Bridge, and the city skyline. I’m sure that there are few hotel rooms in Sydney that could match that view. Brian poured himself a glass of Laphroig, and me a glass of Veuve Clicquot, and we sat and looked out.

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We imagined the Sydney that Brian’s ancestors experienced, and how it was so different from the beautiful city we had been exploring today. Sydney really is one of the great cities of the world. We are so lucky to have 2 full days here.

 

 

DAY 38

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

 

At Sea

 

Yay, another sea day! It was a lovely day with gentle sea breezes, perfect for walking on the deck and sitting in the shade. Days like this go by so fast. It seems like I had just got up, and there lo and behold it was time for the Captain’s noon announcement.

 

He made the usually pre port speech, but this time he added that the Australian authorities had requested that anyone who has been sneezing or coughing should go and be seen in the medical center. Well, I would say that at least 34% of passengers on the ship at the moment have coughs (commonly know as the “Cunard cough”) and another 10% are sneezing around me, but there was no rush to go to the medical center. I wonder if anyone actually went.

 

I had decided not to be in the choir on this segment as I wanted to spend more time with Brian, so I actually got to watch the choir perform for once. They were in the Grand Lobby as usual, and at least this time there was no pushing and shoving by the sopranos, and everybody behaved well.

 

Tonight was another Royal Cunard Ball. They seem to be coming fast and furiously these days. It was the last night that we will be on board for dinner with 4 of our tablemates. We took the inevitable photos of each other and exchanged contact information. They have been great, and I will miss them. I’m hopeful their replacements will be OK. The meal was certainly more than OK. Snails, beef Wellington, and lemon soufflé. Yummy.

 

There was no parade of chefs on our last night before Fremantle, but there was one tonight, and everyone was waving their napkins in the air. In the time of coronavirus is this really a good idea? I do have mixed feelings about this parade. It is appropriate to acknowledge all that the kitchen staff do for us, but there has to be a more elegant way of doing it. That being said, I do miss the parade of flaming baked Alaskas we had in the past. You never knew if something would catch on fire or burst into flames during the parade. It always added to the excitement of the evening.

 

DAY 37

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

 

Brisbane

 

Carol disembarked in Brisbane, and planned to fly home as soon as she could. We were so sad to see her leave the ship, especially knowing how hard the next few days are going to be for her.

 

Today was the Virtuoso group tour of Brisbane. Normally Deirdre would have hosted the outing, but as she was already in Brisbane visiting with Kim, it was up to me to lead the group in the morning, and then she and Kim would join us for lunch.

 

Brian offered to escort a couple with mobility issues off the ship early, and I had instructed the rest of our group to meet me in the Champagne Bar at 8:15, so we could leave the ship by 8:25 and be on the bus by 8:30 as planned.

 

The members of our group are wonderful people, and by 8:15 all 22 of them were present and accounted for. I felt quite relieved, so holding my “Virtuoso Voyages” sign up high I led the charge to the elevators so we could head down to the gangway. Then one of the group said that someone had gone to the bathroom, and someone else had gone down to his cabin, and yet someone else had gone to the Purser’s Desk. Then people started wandering off. I felt for sure someone was going to get left behind. Keeping an eye on 22 adults is not an easy challenge. There was a short intermission while we all regrouped.

 

Once down the gangway we had to stick together and find the cruise terminal. The terminal is quite a long walk from the ship, but it was well signposted so no one could wander off and get lost. . As I led my group towards the coach parking area I noticed that Brian was still slowly making his way to the terminal, the guest with mobility issues having declined the offer of a wheelchair, which certainly would have been a good idea. It was already very hot.

 

Finally everyone was on the bus, we did several headcounts just to be sure, and then off we went.

 

Our first stop was at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

 

As well as having koalas, they also have dingoes, kangaroos, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, wombats, flying foxes, cassowaries, and all manner of Australian birds.

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You could queue for the opportunity to cuddle a koala. This was very tempting I must say, I mean who hasn’t has the urge to cuddle a koala? I know I have. Unfortunately the line was very long, and our time in the park was limited, so I had to forgo this pleasure. We will have to come back again.

 

Koalas are low energy animals, and I can relate to that. I am probably at my happiest curling up with a book on the beach and having a nap. It turns out that they are not lazy; it’s a dietary issue. First of all they will only eat certain kinds of eucalyptus leaves, and if these aren’t available, then they won’t eat anything.

 

Now eucalyptus leaves are extremely low in nutrients, so koalas have to spend their days conserving energy. Thus they nap all day. It really doesn’t sound like a very productive life. Still they look very cute while napping.

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We spent a lot of time looking at the koalas, and then moved on to animals that are happy to eat real food – kangaroos. They have a large enclosure which houses emus and kangaroos. You can buy a packet of roofood and feed the kangaroos. It is an amazing experience – they are so gentle and appreciative of the food. I could have been with them all day, but there are lots of other animals to meet in the park, so we had to move on.

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There had been a bit of a miscommunication about where we should meet up to go on the coach, but we eventually rounded up everyone and got them on the bus, and off we set for the winery. Phew, things are going well.

 

Lunch was at the Sirromet Winery, and we were all very excited. The lunches that we had had on the previous Virtuoso Tours were fantastic. We thought this would be great too. We were wrong.

 

The position of the winery is very pretty, on a hill with a great view, surrounded by countryside, the potential is huge. However, the meal was very disappointing. It was quite embarrassing to be hosting a group of lovely people and subject them to substandard food and poor service. I think other hosts may have faced a riot, but our group were great, and there was no revolt. At least the wine at the winery was good.

 

Kim and Deirdre joined us for lunch. It was great to catch up with Kim. He is still on crutches and can’t put weight on his knee, but at least he is somewhat mobile. The sad thing is that I don’t think he will be able to return to the ship. I will miss him a lot.

 

However, Deirdre is back! With no Kim, I will still need to help her out, but at least she is in charge now. Phew!

 

All on board time was at 4:30, so alas there was no time to really explore Brisbane, we will just have to come back again. And go to a different winery.

 

The sail away was very low key, but it is always great to be out on deck when we do sail off again. I decided to go swimming. There was a man swimming laps, and as he was incapable of swimming in a straight line it was a bit of a challenge, but I was up for it, and it was a wonderful experience.

 

Tonight’s featured entertainment was comedian Darren Sanders. He was funny and we enjoyed his show. There were a couple of very drunk girls in the audience who constantly tried to interrupt him, and he handled this very well. I was impressed. I know I would not have been so polite.

 

Alas, it was cloudy again tonight, so no Southern Cross. One night will be clear, I know it.

 

 

DAY 36

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

 

At Sea

 

Still feeling very shaken by the loss of Bill, it was hard to concentrate on life on board.

 

I spent most of the day with my friend.

 

It was good to see how supportive the staff on the ship were, nothing was too much trouble for them. They really went out of their way, and I was very impressed by their compassion.

 

Sadly, the loss of a passenger is not a rare event.

 

Life goes on onboard our ship. I missed the Senior Officers’ Cocktail Party and the Wine Tasting, but did go to another friend, Glenys’ gin and tonic soiree in her cabin. She only had 8 people there, a much more manageable crowd. We talked about Bill and Carol; we have become quite a close group of friends on this trip.

 

That is one of the beauties of being on a world cruise, you really get to know other people on board, and make friends for life. I like that, it’s like an extra bonus.