Ank had been due to retire in 2007 and in late 2006 we saw an advert for the Queen Elizabeth 2, cruising from Cape Town to Southampton as part of her silver Jubilee Round the World Cruise. It seemed too good a chance to miss to travel on one of the ?grand ladies of the sea? and to celebrate. In fact Ank didn?t retire, but we went anyway!
Arriving in Cape Town Docks to board on Easter Monday, the size and the beauty of the ship was inspiring. We boarded with no hassle after they took our passports and swiped our credit card for all the on-board expenses.
We were taken to our three deck ship?s side cabin, surprisingly large and very comfortable, with its own full bathroom and lots of drawer and wardrobe space, two portholes, a desk and dressing table. We were on the starboard side, very POSH (the nineteen thirties phrase ?port out, starboard home?). And that was our impression of the ship as we wandered around, very POSH. Although she is getting old (she was launched in 1967, forty years before) and is showing signs of her age, she is still very lovely inside, typically British style. There are a number of dining rooms, two theatres, a large ?drawing room? the Queens Room where you take tea and have cucumber sandwiches, a number of bars and a casino. It takes a bit of time to find your way around but eventually you are rushing up and down the lifts and staircases, surrounded with works of art and painting of Cunard ships.
Our first function was dinner in the Britannia Grill. Met by Maitre Jimmy, we were seated at a table with an English couple Alfred and Audrey from north Wales, an American lady Lillian, and an Indian lady Lami. We were well looked after by our two waitrons, Jasek from Poland and Wendy from Mauritius, while Simon was the Sommelier. The food over the complete cruise was excellent five star standard, with a wide variety every evening, well presented, and there was a wide range of wines from around the world (although the South African selection was disappointing).
There are around 1000 crew and 1700 passengers. The crew and hotel staff for cabins, dining rooms etc, are a world mixture mainly of young people. Our cabin steward Glenn was from the Philippines.
Many of the passengers had done the whole world round trip. There were a large group of pleasantly laid back Americans, cultured British with a wide variety of accents, party-noisy Australians and New Zealanders, cliquey Canadians, some hard nose Germans and 156 South Africans who joined in Durban and Cape Town. There was a little cricket rivalry with the World Cup in process.
The first night out was a reception given by the Master, Captain David Perkins, with his senior crew, the Staff Captain, Chief Engineer etc. The evening rig is either formal (dinner jacket and evening dress for ladies), or informal (a suit or jacket and cocktail dress for ladies). Part of the charm of a Cunard cruise is dressing for dinner, which makes the evenings special.
The days are full of doing nothing or doing everything. The programme for a day can cover lectures on topical subjects (Iraq, 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, spy-planes etc), bridge and painting, dancing lessons, quizzes, bingo, computer lessons. There are shops on board selling clothes, jewellery, perfumes and memorabilia. You can fill your day doing what you want or you can sit on the deck and watch the sea pass by. The ship steams at 28 knots, the weather was fair, although hot and humid on some days. Most people spend at least some of the day lounging by the pool and jacuzzis on the quarterdeck. Many of the passengers were in their seventies and above, but that didn?t seem to hinder them from enjoying all the activities on board. Some had powered wheel chairs and many had walking sticks but generally they were able to move about the ship, although there was the occasional crash or fall.
Each evening there was a show in the Grand. Entertainers and musicians were excellent and each evening show was packed. Afterwards you could go to the Yacht Club and dance to a small band. One evening we saw the award winning film, The Queen, on board, which was rather apt.
Highlights included a Country Fayre, where there were stalls and games to raise money for the ships favourite charities. There was a Masked Ball and, just before arrival in Southampton. an Ascot Ball where the ladies showed off their beauty and finery. There was a marine auction where $35000 was collected for charities by selling off ship?s memorabilia,
The ship visited Walvis Bay (we didn?t bother to go ashore there!), La Palmas which was an interesting harbour in the growing holiday centre on this volcanic island with its lovely sandy beaches. Next day was spent at
The crossing of the Bay of Biscay was without event in favourable weather and finally we cruised up the scenic English Channel to disembark at Southampton after twelve days.
The cruise on board QE2 was delightful, we relaxed and yet were busy, and we met many delightful people. There is something very special about this ?Queen? of the sea, something the modern cruise ship will probably never re-create. It is a step back into an era of travel where time meant nothing and comfort everything, in classic British style. Whether we do a cruise again I don?t know. Maybe it?s ?been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt? , and there?s so much else we want to do. But whenever we hear of the QE2 in future, even when she is retired in a few years time, we will remember our delightful trip on board her with very great pleasure.