DAY 5 - QM2 CATCH UP
Updated: Jan 16
AT SEA- ENROUTE TO HERAKLION, GREECE
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
I've managed to unscramble the technical issues onboard with respect to connectivity - here are the missing days in an effort to catch up...thanks for your patience and support!
CATCH UP - DAYS 1 & 2 | SOUTHAMPTON & SEA DAY
Cast off the Bowlines. Travel. Explore. Dream.
Firework celebrations illuminated both QM2 and Queen Victoria as they headed off on twin Centenary World Cruises. The skies were illuminated and charged with the same amount of energy as those of us aboard.
Our UK port of departure, Southampton, is but a distant memory. We have long since left the South coast of England and parted company with Queen Victoria who sailed out of Southampton alongside us.
We are now heading southwest towards our first port of call, Lisbon, Portugal, but first we have two sea days to get acclimatised. Everywhere on the ship lost souls roam around looking forlorn and frustrated. Wandering upstairs, down corridors and in and out of elevators. Blank looks all round when asked ‘What floor do you want? “ By the end of the week the most navigationally challenged passenger (I may qualify for that title) will have worked out that there are many stairwells and not all paths lead directly to the door of their cabin. The pace will increase as people rush frantically between activities. Scheduling conflicts arise and a familiar cruise ship dilemma is faced: Zumba, art classes or ballroom dancing, which one is to be sacrificed. Long as none of them interfere with breakfast, lunch, after-noon tea, dinner or late-night snacks.
First dinner on board in the Britannia Restaurant, Day One, was up to all expected standards of fine dining served by friendly and attentive staff. A table of six turned out to be a table of five but each person had an opinion about the fact that Cunard has recently introduced open dining. Most cruise lines have been offering guests this flexibility for some long time. It’s not universally welcomed. Instead of sitting down to dinner with a group of familiar companions who ask and answer the question, “What did you do in port today? ” The open dining booking has to be made daily and once diners have decided on a time – early dinner 6:00pm or late 8.30pm - tables are assigned randomly by the maître’s. I opted for open dining now I rather wish I hadn’t. I may see if I can change back to a set time and table.
Back in my stateroom, before the midnight hour, I congratulated myself on being on a World Cruise and the fact that my cabin is spacious enough to do a happy dance. But the happy dance was cut short. One disturbing incident brought on a major sulk. I heard, purely by chance, that a fellow female passenger, on my deck, brought on board FOURTEEN suitcases. It made my luggage tower look positively frugal. What was she thinking of? What can she possibly have found to put in those FOURTEEN suitcases? Has she no concern for those of us who thoughtfully limited ourselves to a modest half a dozen, albeit LARGE, cases. Where does she think she’s going? Around the world? I will make it a mission to search out he story of the FOURTEEN suitcases. You can bet I will be watching closely to find out who is changing their outfits more times in a day then even our dear late Queen would have found necessary. I need to up my game. I feel some retail therapy coming on in Lisbon.
CATCH UP - DAY 3 | AT SEA
600 miles from Southampton 240 to go to Lisbon
42N07. 10W06. Ocean Depth 26000 meters 8,500 feet
First : Gala evening - Black & White
“Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”
Ryunosuk Satoro, Japanese Writer
Welcome message from Captain Aseem Hashmi, as dinner guests gather in the Britannia Restaurant.
“I am delighted to welcome you on board the magnificent Queen Mary 2. I look forward to seeing you around the ship, and wish you an excellent voyage.”
With a complimentary celebration glass of champagne invites us to “Raise a toast to sailing again.“
In the Royal Court Theatre, a welcome from the production team who stage their first show of the cruise. Dancers and singers perform high-energy musical numbers including excerpts from The Greatest Showman, a tribute to Adele and snatches of Ed Sheenan favourites.
Show time makes it difficult to get to dinner on time. My companions from the previous evening opted for early dinner and I join a table where the guests are Americans who started their cruise in New York before the ship made its way to Southampton. Over 300 people joined from the states. A handful of guests embarked in Hamburg.
A second sea day on Friday 13th January offers the opportunity to check out lectures, classes and ship activities but only a hardy few brave the open deck to walk outside. Crossing the Bay of Biscay was stormy with high sea swells and the ship rocked and rolled – despite the popular wisdom that because Queen Mary 2 is an ocean liner not a cruise ship, there is no movement. Not true. I take a sea sickness pill and have a long lie down.
By today, restored, and the worst of the storm passed but still not outdoor weather except for the brave. I make my way to The Queens Room for ballroom dancing lessons, waltz and cha cha. Dusted off my dancing shoes and glad of the helpful dance hosts, two men and a lady, Lyle, Adrian and Sue. They promise to meet us again tonight on the dance floor for real.
Back to the Queens Room for Afternoon Tea. A full house. It wasn’t really necessary to form an orderly queue outside the ballroom half an hour before tea time arrived. Cunard protocol.
The Brevis Sisters, three dark-haired, young ladies in matching red gowns entertain with classical music played on two violins and one double bass.
White gloved waiters circulate offering finger sandwiches with salmon, cucumber, egg mayonnaise, turkey with cranberry and cheese with chutney. The waiters carry silver salvers and serve tea from silver teapots. And for those who like to celebrate, a super-size ice box is wheeled around the double-chandeliered room, filled with bottles of champagne. Fancy cakes follow the sandwiches and the last round brings fruited and plain scones with butter and jam.
A return trip home through the Clarendon Art gallery and a drop in to the library. Three new books under my arm, I’m set for the rest of the day. Early to bed – first port tomorrow, Lisbon.
My co-producer JD Schwartz was able to track down a very generous contact in Lisbon (Misha Pinkhasov) who shared some great photos of QM2 with us:
Lisbon is often called the Enchanted Port.
One of the oldest cities in the world – its beginnings can be traced back to BCE. Nestled between seven hills, the city was settled by Celts and Phoenicians and invaded by a succession of nations, thus its diverse cultural origins. In the 15th and 16th centuries Lisbon was at the centre of a vast empire but an earthquake in 1755 almost destroyed the city. The city was built back stronger than ever and visiting Portugal’s capital city is like stepping back in time. Cobbled streets wind their way ever upwards to the cathedral of Saint Mary Major. Looking out over the city a panoramic view offers a kaleidoscope of the domes of churches and sky-reaching gothic spires. To reach the city, our ship sailed up the River Tagus and we passed under the 25 de Abril Bridge, a magnificent structure modelled on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
About the 25 DE ABRIL BRIDGE
Completed in 1966 and originally named after dictator Salazar, this suspension bridge across the Tagus River changed its name after the revolution of April 25, 1974.
It's a spectacular sight from any direction, with an overall length of 2278m (approx. 1.5 miles), and the longest central span in Europe (1013m/3323ft), longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, which it resembles. Its foundations also hold the world record by going 80m (262ft) below the riverbed to stand on basalt rock.
Underneath it is an attractive dock and marina overlooked by restaurants and bars.
A museum and observation deck connected to one of the bridge's pillars was added in 2017 (accessed next to the Vila Galé Opera Hotel, allowing visitors to know about the history and engineering behind the bridge, while getting a view over the city from the top. (source: www.golisbon.com)
Queen Mary 2 docked at the new cruise terminal but it is a hike from ship to shore, especially for people with walkers, canes or medical conditions. Back on dry land, Cunard arranged shuttle buses to take passengers into the centre of town. If not on an organised shore excursion, taxis and tuk-tuks offer rides at reasonable rates.
Tuk-tuks are a fun way to get around town; their drivers paint them in bright colours often featuring cartoon characters to attract attention. Trollies rise up though the city on death - defying tracks and on-board riders are served with the famous Lisbon custard crème tarts, pastel de nata and glasses of wine.
All over the city, marble statues celebrate the Portuguese explorer and navigator, Vasco da Gama (15th century) who became the first European to reach India by sea. Brightly painted houses representative of the area. One statue reminiscent of Brazil’s Christ the King statue, elevated high on a mountain top, presides over the whole area. Christ the King, arms outstretched, embraces the whole city and as night falls the statue is bathed in light and visible for miles around.
The Portuguese people are friendly and welcoming though only a small percentage speak English, those being younger people in stores and restaurants. Street cafes and restaurants are to be found in vibrant squares serving fish, including one of the favoured dishes, grilled sardines. . Locals and visitors happily share table space and are attracted to the abundance of good quality and affordably priced meals.
The usual warning about pickpockets was delivered before leaving the ship. Undoubtedly there have been incidents of thieving, but the general atmosphere of the city is relaxed and non-threatening.
Many storekeepers thank the cruise ship passengers, and tell them, “We missed you. Welcome back.”
15 JANUARY QM2 POSITION AT 13:34 GMT
Entering the Mediterranean Sea
entoute to Heraklion, Greece.
SEA STATE GMT 14:00 - WAVE HEIGHT: 1.4 Metres / 5 Feet
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Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.