The beautiful sunny and calm Indian Ocean disappeared for our last four days at sea as we skirted the edge of a tropical cyclone. The days have been generally grey, but even when the sun has burned off some of the cloud during the afternoon it has remained windy. And there has been a constant two metre swell (although the QM2 glides through this with barely any movement. For those nervous about feeling sea-sick, this is the ship for you).
We’ve been relaxed about the weather: we’ll see plenty of sunshine in the next few weeks. But for those who joined at Cape Town and only for the Indian Ocean crossing, there has been some disappointment. Certainly, as we were told by the Australian Immigration Officer (who completed pre-clearance for all passengers well before we reached Fremantle), plenty of passengers responded negatively or half heartedly to the enquiry “Are you having a lovely time.”
It might have been that some have been affected by the crisis reported on Cruise Critic (and I’m very grateful to Brian from South Africa for sending me a link) of various wines running out on QM2. One anguished passenger reports that in one of the bars, the Prosecco has run out, and she has had to drink champagne. It’s a horrifying thought.
There is no shortage of wines at our end of the wine list. We confine ourselves to the least inexpensive white wines, generally drinking a very nice Muscadet or an impressive English wine from Tenterden in Kent. But each of them, after the 15% service charge, cost US$37. So for four of the last few nights we’ve taken into the dining room the wine we bought at Stellenbosch. That was only about $6 a bottle, so even after paying the $20 corkage charge we’re saving about $10 a bottle and drinking better wine. We shall stock up again during our forthcoming month in Australia.
With the weather being a little grey our days have followed a rather different pattern. We have abandoned the formal breakfast and have cereal or fruit in the self -service Kings Court and generally attend one of the 11am talks. Michael and Sandra Howard have both spoken for a second time and shared a Q and A. After that we have then tended to go to the Pub for lunch. They do a very good Ploughmans and a very reasonable Tikka Masala as well things like sausage and mash. We spend most afternoons by the Pavilion Pool, with its roof closed unfortunately, but which is still very pleasant.
Dinner is at 8.30 and as we leave the dining room, generally shortly after ten, there’s always something on in the Theatre as well as a film starting in the cinema. The films have been very good and we’ve seen four of five new releases. The shows at the Theatre are mixed. The dominance of somewhat tired British comedians has continued which has meant, on more than one occasion, the telling of identical cruise themes jokes. One comedian, the tired and should be retired, Mick Miller, was really pretty awful, and Cunard need to drop him. 1970s jokes about homosexuals (Thomas the Tank Engine went into the station with a puff and came out with a tender behind) shouldn’t have any place in comedy anymore, but certainly not on cruise ships which attract so many gay passengers.
Some of the other comedians have been better but we’re looking forward to see some Australian humour as we reach Australia.
The big production shows with the Cunard dancers are not really to our taste although many others love them. The two star entertainers for us have been, first a classical guitarist, Michael Christian Durrant, who although confined to matinee performances, has been outstanding. But the star of the cruise has been a remarkable female saxophonist called Yolanda Brown who gave two outstanding performances playing tenor, alto and soprano sax. She was incredible. Getting an elderly audience on their feet at 11 at night on a cruise ship is not easy but she did it. Jan, my wife, one of the shyest people I know was a particularly enthusiastic in applauding and from the whole audience, was called on to the stage by Yolanda and presented with a CD. We can’t believe that she can fail to become a star (Yolanda Brown, not Jan).
And then, after seven days at sea, and as dawn broke this morning (the 12th) there was a glimpse of Australia. It’s momentous enough seeing Australia from the air after a journey from the UK. But this was very special. As we docked, clear blue skies emerged as we tied up in Fremantle and the most incredibly welcoming port officials rushed to get us all ashore.