I am pleased to share my latest collection of QM2 pictures, taken on the Mediterranean Explorer cruise from Southampton earlier this month: It was a magical experience.
Once again I found myself blown away by her magnificence. For me, she embodies the continuing proud tradition of Cunard, which I am anxious to see preserved into the future.
Boarding at Southampton was a dream this has really been sorted, in contrast to our experience last year.
Our `hull-hole' cabin on Deck 5 was cosier for three of us than our Princess Grill suite had been last year, but cost determined that choice! We were very happy with our `hull-hole' balcony as it afforded good privacy and a view of the water immediately below, tender platforms etc. And I was able to mount my GPS on the handrail to track our progress! The food was excellent and many aspects of the Kings Court operation have been slicked-up. Better beverage dispensers and a wider range of fruit drinks are now available, but not even a transport café in England would expect you to stir your coffee with a sliver of wood: this needs changing fast!
This year's Cruise Director Brian Price has about the right mix of gravitas and bonhomie for Cunard, better than last year's toe- curling `Please go to tender lounge C that's C as in Cheeky Charlie' aargh! The fouling up of the magnificent internal spaces with tacky stalls hawking the likes of `Inches of Gold' and `Digital Cameras very cheap' is a real turnoff surely they can find an obscure part of the hold for those who really can't survive without a `market' experience whilst on board? As for the shows, the resident singers and dancers were excellent but the individual artistes varied: that parrot and plumber joke has mould growing on it! The shore access and tendering worked courteously and efficiently.
Finally, my three pennorth on the Cunard / Princess controversy: There is no doubt in my mind that if that unique Cunard `something' is undervalued and let slip away, custom will be lost. I had the opportunity to discuss this with a number of very senior officers at the Cunard World Club cocktail party. Whilst they were reluctant to be drawn, they admitted on the promise of `no names, no pack drill' that they were very apprehensive about what would happen to Cunard under the `integration' policy which Princess are pressing ahead with. They do not doubt the commitment of Mickey Arison and Peter Ratcliffe to the Cunard ethos, but fear that other more gung-ho managers down the chain do not share this commitment. When I observed that it is far easier to muck something up than to restore it if you realise afterwards that you have made a mistake, they did not demur. They had been encouraged by the support for Cunard, and believe that the Princess bosses do take notice, so let's keep stirring the pot! So I left them, all apart from the Commodore being certain that their next posting would not be on a Cunard ship, and not knowing whether they would ever return.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures