Sunday, March 8th, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Interesting reading your adventure SG. I was particularly interested in your comment on Girlie Muega who was the Concierge in the Queens Grill years ago. She was very nice and helpful, it’s good to hear she has done well with Cunard.
We loved working with Girlie, she is so helpful, nothing is too much to ask her. She has been amazing dealing with all of our current issues in a calm and pleasant way. She is a true asset to the company. I wouldn’t have her job for anything at the moment!