The QE2

This was one of my more odd adventures and is principally down to my best mate for organising his dream and dragging me behind!

It all started when he found out that the QE2 was to be shipped off to Dubai to be a floating hotel in 2008. He was last on the ship some 20 years ago and has wished to go back ever since. Well one night a weird MSN message popped up and I responded “Yeah”.

So after our adventure on the Clyde with the QE2’s birthday celebrations the time came to travel the old fashioned way, train to London, to begin an amazing weekend.

Staying in London the night before I had arranged for us to go and see Avenue Q which was truly hilarious, it is a must for anyone and everyone to see.

Heading to Southampton things started to get exciting, the one hour train journey was like waiting on Christmas Day and the taxi driver from station was full of advice about the ship and what to do at the other end. (Saying that we both knew that if we were getting off the ship it would be just to take some photos and then straight back on!).

The check-in was odd, like a big aircraft hanger FULL of people. Our tickets had told us to arrive at a time that would have allowed us to be able to check in and then walk straight on board, however we were there as early as possible (I did say it was like waiting for Christmas!). Somehow we managed to miss the place to check our bags in so we ended up checking in (tickets, in the rather nice leather wallet, checked; passports viewed; and slightly dodgy photograph taken with a webcam) and we were in the departure lounge (at one stage singing happy birthday to a guy celebrating his 50th birthday) and gazing at the ship with suitcases in tow.

Finally getting on board was really cool, apart from the rather naff picture taken in front of a duff (cheap looking) canvas. That was the first of a few duff photo opportunities that Cunard offered us through the trip, I think there were 4 in total and needless to say we bought none of them. As I said, getting on board was cool, we entered directly into the mid-ship lounge which took my breath away. It was completely amazing and there are some photos of the murals on my flickr.

The minute we got on board our bags were taken off us and taken to our room for us, the strange bit was that the ‘bell-hop-type-guy’ didn’t know where the room was and my mate (the QE2 buff) had to direct him! I have been subsequently advised that our room was not original, but added during a re-fit in the 90s. So the numbering was all wrong and we were in a high number surrounded by low numbers.

The room was not what i expected, it was a nice big square room; twin beds, sofa, table with fizzy champagne wine and lovely en-suite. I had imagined a long narrow room with a porthole at the end, in fact we had 2 port holes! 😀

Our adventures around the ship began due to hunger! Straight to the Lido (the kinda buffet restaurant) which was heaving, so a quick nip round the corner and we stumbled in to the Queens Room, just in time for afternoon tea. I found out that a really like cucumber sandwiches! That was the first time I really felt that I was in another world.

The sail away from Southampton was incredible, bottles of champagne out on the cold deck. There was a slight delay as someone had to be picked up out of the water (we never got more story than that) and a breaker had to be replaced. At this stage my mate was starting to panic that the trip would be cancelled if they could not get the breaker fixed.

Before and after the sail away my mate took me on a speedy tearing trip round the ship, visiting all the spots that he remembered. It gave me a good idea of the ships layout, the odd way the staircase miss out some floors and don’t go all the way up or down the ship. We found the Chart Room (nice bar with the piano from the Queen Mary); our restaurant, the Britannia Grille; the Crystal Bar with it’s art deco feel; the library and bookshop; the Yacht Club, the disco/bar; and the only floating Harrods. We got round that ship at least a couple of times before it was time to go and get ready for the semi formal first night dinner.

The dining experience was so posh(!), some how on both nights we managed to be one of the first people there. The first night was collar and tie formal and the second night formal black tie. On the second night is was great to see the whole ship dressed up, irrespective of restaurant. The food was also amazing, even being a veggie there were some great dishes and it just kept coming. I am sure if we did it properly we could have ended up with 5 or 6 courses. Each night we also had a dedicated waitress, Christina, and on the second night when my mate was not feeling to hot and only wanted a bowl of soup she arranged a huge bowl of tomato soup for him.

After dinner we retired to the Yacht Club for a few drinks and a big of a boogie on the dance floor.

Waking up on Saturday morning in another country, without any effort of travelling, was a good feeling. Very relaxing, dispite the slightly dodgy head from the Cosmopolitans.

Other passengers had already disappeared away on the pre-organised trips. Our one venture off the ship was to take a few photographs on the rather chilly Zeebrugge pier. Sunday was a lot more relaxed, less dash and more chill. A lunch in the Lido, bit of shopping on-board and sitting looking out the windows sipping tea.

As I have said the formal night was a bit of a highlight for me, looking around the casino, we didn’t play but I think I would have liked to.

All too soon it was 1am and time to crash as disembarkation started at 7am the next day. Saying that we had the cases out of the “stateroom” on time, but didn’t get off the ship until all most the last possible moment. We spent our last few moments sitting in Queens Room, the same seats that we got our cucumber sandwiches in.

All in all, it was a great trip, way to short and it is such a shame that I will never get back on-board QE2 before she heads off to Dubai. It is also fair to say that I ‘get’ my mates fascination with the ship and, potentially, with cruise liners.