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Whitemarsh February 14th, 2012 08:21 PM

Live from the RCOA - on QM2
Hello everyone,

It's the 15th of February 2012; aka the first sea day of the Royal Circumnavigation of Australia (RCOA). It's been a long time coming and over a year since Cunard announced this segment of the world voyage (March 2010) and released it for sale (July 2010). If, like me, you've ever booked a cruise nearly two years out then you'll know what it's like to wait….and wait….and wait.

Happily embarkation day arrived and suddenly you find yourself still waiting but this time it's in hours - not days. Our e-tickets informed us to be at wharf 5 at Darling Harbour at 1pm for the processing and embarkation, so naturally we decided to arrive at midday.:) Because QM2 is too big to berth at the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay she berths at the naval base at nearby Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. Because it is a naval base they apparently are not allowed to do the immigration processing at Garden Island so that's why passengers embarking and disembarking at Sydney are required to go to Darling Harbour.

Wharf 5 is not a permeant structure and looks rather like a big white tent. After dropping our bags off outside we made our way into the tent where hundreds of others had also decided to ignore the embarkation time on their e-ticket and turn up early. Everyone was seated in rows of chairs in the middle of the tent and alongside a far wall were the rope barriers and the desks where they check your passport. We were handed the form that asks if you've been recently sick or have x symptoms and filled it out at the tables alongside the tent wall. At around 12:30 a lady brought a big Cunard sign up to the rope barriers and announced something without using a loud hailer. We couldn't hear what she said but that didn't matter as like it or not we were swept towards the rope barriers by the crowd. Upon getting closer we could hear that she was calling for Diamond & Platinum guests only. Everyone else had to sit down. Knowing that Grills passengers also get priority embarkation we let her know we were in the Grills and she let us through. They divided the rope barriers and had Grills, Diamond & Platinum guests going down one side and everyone else down the other. The Grills, Diamond & Platinum queue was processed first and they roped off the Britannia queue. As a side note, we always travel economy when flying so it's nice to have priority boarding.

The lady at the desk checked our passports and gave us a black boarding card that had the number 1 on it. We returned to our seats to fill out the immigration card. Soon after they called for everyone that had a red "preferred" embarkation card and those passengers started to make their way through to immigration in a closed-off section of the tent. We realised we'd been given the wrong embarkation card and so we explained the situation to the lady at the door and she let us through. Immigration processed us quickly and smoothly and we walked out of the tent along the dock to a boat moored alongside. We got on and put our carryon luggage on the seats and went out back to take photos. Pleasingly Cunard didn't try to squeeze as many people as possible into the boats and once they had a set number on board we set off. The boat ride from Darling Harbour around to Garden Island takes you under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, passed Circular Quay (where P&O's Pacific Dawn was berthed), past the Sydney Opera House and around Mrs Macquarie's Chair to Garden Island where the ship is docked. I have to say, it's a fantastic way to board the ship. The photo opportunities are amazing and the size of the ship itself is awe inspiring when you come alongside.

Our little boat pulled up alongside the ship and everyone quickly disembarked and made their way up the gangway into QM2. Our passports were again checked and we were directed through the Britannia Restaurant to the Queens Room where Britannia and Grills passengers were separated and directed to their relevant desk to have their photo taken and credit card swiped. The lady who processed us advised that the computer system they used to process passengers had changed since she'd done this last year. We were given our swipe cards and made our way to our room.

So, after much discussion on these boards, let me add to the general consensus that the new design looks fantastic. The carpet, sheets, curtains and the fabric covering the sofa and chairs are all new and the whole colour scheme works really well. The carpet looks great and goes really well with the new white sheets (which I might add are wonderfully soft). Our luggage hadn't arrived (which isn't surprising as our boat, with passengers only, was the first to leave Darling Harbour) so we went down to the Princess Grill to have lunch. I was very pleased with the table allocation - the maitre dé confirmed he had received my email requesting this particular table. I smiled and said "don't you mean emails?". He smiled and laughed and agreed "yes emails". :o

We were the first into the Princess Grill for lunch and the new carpet looks very nice. Our wine sommelier remembered us from our previous voyage and we said that we had really liked his wine suggestions last voyage and so were happy to go with his suggestions this time as well. We advised we would like a sweet white wine and again his recommendation was spot on. I also appreciate that he pointed out his suggestion on the wine list prior to getting the wine. I like that they take the care to ensure that you're happy with the price of the suggested wine (without actually mentioning the cost), it's a consideration that is much appreciated. Lunch was delicious (I had the Red Emperor fish) and a glass of our new wine. No one else turned up for lunch so we went back to our room to see if our bags had arrived.

They hadn't, but we got to meet our steward who was very polite and friendly. I asked for some fruit and water bottles, plus extra hangers, which were all delivered promptly. We decided to have a go at the Pol Acker and, whilst drinkable, it's probably not something you'd actually order yourself. But who cares - we're on QM2 for 22 nights and quite frankly the taste of the complimentary bottle of champagne is neither here nor there. We unpacked what we could (from the hand luggage) and went out on the balcony to take some photos of the city. Talk about million dollar views. As we are on the starboard side we have ringside seats of the city of Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge - wow! There were some small crowds across the water taking photos and viewing the ship. Car's were continually driving past and slowing down to have a look.

Our bags arrived and we unpacked. It takes quite a while to unpack three bags. We've used up all the space in the walk-in wardrobe and the cupboards hear the door. Happily there is enough room for everything. Feeling energetic we went for a run. After our run we took our lifejackets down to assembly station F for our life-boat drill. We were one of the first to arrive so got some good seats for people watching. As they are on a 48 hour hygiene alert there is no self-service in Kings Court so nice lady made us some coffee and orange juice. That's another thing about Cunard, the staff are always so friendly and polite. There's another thread on here asking if there are any changes to the emergency drills onboard. The only change I noticed is the attention paid to it by the passengers. When the "boing boing boing" sounded (as it does before announcements) everyone went silent - you could have heard a pin drop. Strangely there was no announcement and so after a while people started to talk again.

After the drill we went to the Commodore Club for a drink. The new chairs in the Commodore Club are very swish and look very nice. We also checked out the observation deck on deck 11 and peeked into the Atlantic room where the full World Cruise guests have a special lounge. Then we went down to the Britannia Restaurant to check out the Britannia Club restaurant - very nice I thought; much nicer than the little room on the other side of the restaurant which I previously thought was the Britannia Club.

As tonight's dress-code is elegant casual I put on some shorts and a hoodie.:eek: Just kidding. We went down to the Princess Grill at about 18:35 and were pleased to see another passenger at our table. She is an Australian lady travelling alone. Like us she booked back in July 2010 and we discussed the what other cruise lines we'd all been on and our dogs. It was a very pleasant conversation. Just after our starters we were joined by another passenger who is also an Australian lady travelling alone. She was very nice and we all stayed chatting until about quite late until at around 21:30 (the other lady having left early to join the dancing in the Queens Room). I very much enjoyed dinner, I had a salmon terrine for starter, followed by veal medallions and two deserts - the brûlée and the trio of sorbets. Absolutely delicious all of it. The meat was cooked perfectly and the service in the Princess Grill was fantastic.

As seems to be usual on embarkation nights, the ship was pretty quiet. G32 was a ghost town and the Queens Room not even a quarter full. There was a sail away party out on deck 8 and Vibz had set themselves up behind the pool. There was a bit of dancing going on but suddenly the heavens opened and the everyone scurried for shelter. We made our way down to the Chart room and had some tea and decided to call it a night. Presuming the sail away to be at midnight I stayed up but as the ship hadn't moved by twenty minutes to one I went to bed.

Well it's now 10:52 on the 15th Feb and I'm heading down to the shops to buy something for the sake of it, and to check out the supply of Cunard bears for Pushka.

Oahucruiser February 14th, 2012 08:47 PM

What a comprehensive, happy posting. Great fun to read about one of our favorite ships and hear your thoughts on the new décor and how everyone behaved during the muster drill. Hope you will continue this report as often as possible. Enjoy!!

Westaussie February 14th, 2012 08:54 PM

Great reading with so much detail - many thanks for taking time out to do this.

Look forward to seeing you when we board in Fremantle.

alibabacruisers February 14th, 2012 09:04 PM

How exciting for you finally to be on your cruise. I don't know how you stood the long wait from booking to the cruise...I would have gone crazy! Thank you for reporting in on all that you have seen and done...sounds wonderful!! I look forward to reading more as you go. Will you be posting pictures too? I see you are from Brisbane...have you been to the other ports in Australia prior to this? We are in Melbourne and wish we could have done this cruise, but we are now booked for QM2 next Feb. Have fun!


Whitemarsh February 14th, 2012 09:16 PM

Captain Rynd is currently doing his midday announcement. He's advised that the delay in leaving Sydney was due to issues with refuelling. So that's that mystery solved.

We are currently south-east of Port Macquarie with east to south-east winds of 15-20 kts. The ship is doing 17.1 kts, which doesn't feel very fast. There is still a bit of wind out on deck though.

Captain Rynd also reassured the passengers that even though one of the tenders was removed from the ship for repairs, there are still more than enough lifeboats for everyone onboard and all relevant authorities were notified and have given their approval. This is all fine with me, I didn't even realise one of them was gone.

I will try to post pictures but the upload time seems to be too long. I haven't been anywhere but Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane so this itinerary is wonderful.

Carol, there are heaps of Cunard bears in stock. The shops were packed just then, they are handing out free champagne over the Royal Jewellery store, and the new layout of the cosmetic & fragrance store is a big improvement.

AussieVoyager February 14th, 2012 10:03 PM

Thanks for the excellent descriptions thus far Whitemarsh. We are boarding in Sydney on the next leg so it's great to get a picture of what it will be like.

Are the RCOA passengers getting off in Sydney on Wedensday 7 or Thursday 8 March? It's a 2-day visit and I know we board on the Wednesday, but I'm not sure if the previous passengers get to stay on board for the extra day in Sydney.

Westaussie February 14th, 2012 10:35 PM


Are the RCOA passengers getting off in Sydney on Wedensday 7 or Thursday 8 March? It's a 2-day visit and I know we board on the Wednesday, but I'm not sure if the previous passengers get to stay on board for the extra day in Sydney.[/quote]

We're doing the Fremantle/Sydney sector starting 28th Feb and disembark on the 7th.

AussieVoyager February 14th, 2012 10:49 PM


Originally Posted by Westaussie (Post 32436775)
We're doing the Fremantle/Sydney sector starting 28th Feb and disembark on the 7th.

Thanks for that. Interesting that you have to disembark on the first day of a 2-day visit - when we disembark in Hong Kong (which is also a 2-day visit) we get off on the second day so we get a night on the ship in Hong Kong Harbour.

jenno10388 February 14th, 2012 11:36 PM

Cheers for the update Whitemarsh! Im so happy for you that your time has finally come! enjoy every second of it! and keep the updates coming as we are all awaiting your stories! :)

ps im so glad you guys alerted them to their mistake of not giving you priority boarding, just goes to show if you dont know your stuff you can easily miss out on such things! i even perhaps would have just thought that we still had to wait... good work!

steve :)

Pushka February 15th, 2012 12:18 AM

Now this, is what I call a Blog! :D

Westaussie February 15th, 2012 01:52 AM


Originally Posted by Pushka (Post 32438093)
Now this, is what I call a Blog! :D

I agree!!!

capnpugwash February 15th, 2012 04:13 AM

Thanks for posting W. I feel as though I am with you.

Westaussie February 15th, 2012 04:47 AM


Originally Posted by AussieVoyager (Post 32436983)
Thanks for that. Interesting that you have to disembark on the first day of a 2-day visit - when we disembark in Hong Kong (which is also a 2-day visit) we get off on the second day so we get a night on the ship in Hong Kong Harbour.

And when you arrive I'll be in Hong Kong waiting to board Azamara Quest - should have stayed on QM2 and just transferred from one to the other!

Busy Mum February 15th, 2012 05:31 AM

I hope to one day cruise on this magnificant ship - thank you for keeping the excitement going!! Have an amazing time. :-)

Norine February 15th, 2012 09:06 AM

What a fantastic read, I will be awaiting each new instalment with bated breath. Extremely well written and entertaining - the best blog ever.

Whitemarsh February 15th, 2012 11:50 AM

So it's now the early hours of the 16th Feb after the very first sea day of the RCOA. It's been a fantastic day at sea with hardly a wave at all. The ship has felt like it's been gliding serenely through a mill pond. On the port side the east coast of Australia is visible and on the starboard side the shipping lanes are dotted with tankers. Having our suite on the starboard side is a real plus as we get the morning sun which is very invigorating; the port side can be a little dark in the morning so I'm glad our suite is where it is.

So lets rewind to the morning and I will restate here and now that there is nothing on earth like waking up in the morning, opening the bedroom curtain and then hopping back into bed to watch the sea go by. The beauty of being on deck ten is that your bed is positioned perfectly, the orange hi-vis tops of the lifeboats aren't visible from your bed so they don't impact the view. If you're thinking of booking a Queens Grill suite my advice would be to book one of the ones on deck ten, your view will be better than deck 9.

We went down to the Princess Grill for breakfast at 8am and were the first to arrive. Breakfast in the grills is a wonderful thing. Firstly, you are warmly greeted by the staff as you make your way through the restaurant. When you arrive at your table your chair is pulled out for you and your napkin is unfurled and placed across your lap. Your waiter enquires if you slept well and offers you the menu. You order your juice, which arrives promptly, followed by the danish tray. Now I don't normally have danish for breakfast but the offerings look too good to refuse and so I succumb, and if you succumb like I did you'll be glad you did as they are delicious. If you order tea you will have your own pot accompanied by a timer so you know exactly when your tea is ready. On the table there are little silver plates with decorative butter pats, and the cutest little jars of strawberry jam and marmalade.

Thoughts of ordering All-Bran go out the window as the lure of the full english breakfast is too hard to resist. When it arrives the eggs are perfectly hot and cooked just as you ordered. The danish tray comes round again but this time you decline. Whilst you're eating you watch the joggers and walkers go past on deck 7. If you're seated in the best part of the Princess Grill you have a view down to Kings Court and you can also watch the hustle & bustle of breakfast as the passengers carry their trays this way and that. As I said at the start, breakfast in the Princess Grill is a wonderful thing. :)

Having had breakfast we went for a walk around deck 7. The starboard side was sunny and the port side dark. We managed two laps and then called it a day. We went up to the library on deck 8 as Robin wanted to borrow a book and I wanted to loan the Cruise Critic book for us to sign. The lady behind the desk advised that she couldn't locate it but she'd left a message with someone on the Queen Elizabeth to let her know where it was. I gather the QM2 librarian must have recently transferred. Oh well, maybe it will turn up. On a positive note there is a exhibition in the library of the diaries of Matthew Flinders who mapped the coasts of Australia hundreds of years ago. I marvelled at his wonderful handwriting - it was like copperplate - I wish my handwriting was as good as his.

After the library we went back to our suite and found that our steward had cleaned it and it looked very nice. It is such a luxury having someone else do the 'housework' for you, no having to make the bed or clean the shower. Robin took a nap and I logged onto the internet. When Robin woke up he went down to the shops which had opened at 10am. When he returned he told me that he'd met our table-mates Louise & Jane who'd been shopping as well. As indeed had half the ship as it was apparently really really busy down there. I decided to go and buy something so we went down to purchase some non-essential items. Chanel's Antaeus & paco rabanne's 1 million were the winning items.

It's a good thing that lunch was upon us as it's very tiring sleeping and shopping. For lunch we both had the chicken and leek terrine, sweet pepper coulis with chervil oil followed by the spinach ravioli with smoked salmon and dill creme fraiche. Both were delicious, the ravioli especially so. And seeing how we'd thrown restraint out the window we both opted for the sugar-free raspberry jelly for desert. Louise ordered the fresh black mussels a la creme with steak fries and garlic crostini - and it looked really nice. She said it was delicious. Lunch was very enjoyable, the wine assisted with the congenial atmosphere.

There are four of us at this table for six. Robin and I, Louise (D) and Jane. So far we've got a really good vibe going between us, it's very enjoyable. The remaining two people have so far been no-shows. Today our mystery table mates were discussed in absentia. I said I would ask the maitre d if there was anyone actually allocated to those seats. Louise replied that she had already done so and there are apparently two people onboard who have yet to put in an appearance at our table. The group discussion centred around theories on whether they would actually turn up - if at all - and where they had been eating so far. I supposed that if they did not turn up tonight (a formal night) then perhaps they may not turn up at all.

So far we've polished off a bottle of white wine and have ordered another. I had a nice glass of an Australian red but will go French tonight for a change. Our waiters provided us with a copy of tonight's menu and point out the al a cart options that are available in addition to the normal menu. There are some wonderful dishes on offer and some need to be requested now, prior to dinner. Robin and I go for the duck a l'orange and the ladies both choose the dover sole.

After lunch Robin and I went up to the Commodore Club for the Cruise Critic M&G for the RCOA. All up around 25 people turned up and it was great fun to finally put a face to a name for people that I've chatted with for so long. It's all going swimmingly and I'm standing there talking away when this lady approaches me and introduces herself as Mrs Rynd the Commodore's wife. Cunard had sent invitations to the Commodore & Mrs Rynd to attend the M&G so it was great that she had come along. She was very nice and passed along the Commodore's regrets that he wouldn't be able to make it. She then went around and introduced herself to everyone. About 15 minutes later, as I was chatting away, I looked up and walking towards me was Commodore Rynd. He introduced himself and I think I said something along the lines of "it's great that you could make it" and he introduced himself to everyone. I think it's really good that the Commodore and Mrs Rynd do this sort of thing. It does make it special for those of us attending these meetings.

At 15:00 Louise, Robin and I headed down to the Queens Grill lounge for afternoon tea. Strangely it wasn't set up and the Queens Grill lounge was a bit empty. It turns out that afternoon tea in the Queens Grill lounge is at three thirty so we sat and chatted until then. When the time came we were offered tea or coffee. I didn't particularly want the tea on offer so we requested Earl Grey and they went off to make us a pot. The cucumber sandwiches and little fruit tarts were divine. And I should know - I had three. Robin had a scone with jam and clotted cream. You could get very full having afternoon tea in the QG lounge as the staff are very attentive and continually circulate offering the cakes and sandwiches etc. BTW - I know there's been some discussion on these boards about the cream served for afternoon tea and whether it's clotted cream or not. Well the cream in the Queens Grill lounge is of the clotted variety.

After afternoon tea we went to the gym for a workout. The gym is located forward on deck 7 and it really is a well equipped gym. Luckily the seas are still smooth and it's quite easy to run on the treadmills. The gym isn't full and there is no waiting for any of the equipment or weights. We finish our workout and after showering back in the suite we head to the Commodore Club for the FOD meeting. There's quite a big turnout and it's nice to meet the guys.

As we made plans to have pre-dinner drinks with a couple from the M&G in the Queens Grill lounge we head back to the suite to get changed for dinner. Tonight is a formal night so I'm very pleased. I'm happy to say that I did manage to find a u-shaped waistcoat which I think looks very smart and much more forgiving than a cumerbund or no waist covering at all.

After some cocktails in the Queens Grill lounge (which I should say has been very much improved by the recent refit. The new carpet, chairs and artwork on the walls has really made all the difference as it was a little bland before and now it's much cosier) we went into dinner at 7pm (having agreed with Louise and Jane that that's what time we would meet for dinner). We arrived first followed by Jane and Louise, both of whom looked very elegant in their evening dresses. If there is one word that sums up this evenings dinner in the Princess Grill it's 'diamonds'. Diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds. Everywhere I look my eyes are drawn to the bling.

Being a formal night the Princess Grill is busy. The service is again exquisite, as is the food. Robin and I order two starters - I have a salmon tartare with caviar followed by a soufflé. Louise and Jane show more restraint and stick to having just the one starter. The french wine I order is very nice and the table is really starting to gel. Out of the blue the maitre d arrives with our mystery table mates, they are Linda and Peter who turn out to be a lovely couple with a great sense of humour (and some great matching diamonds to go with) who instantly gel with the rest of us. It turns out that they were too tired to eat last night so that's why we haven't seen them. They promise to come to lunch and dinner from now on.

Speaking of dinner, ours arrives. When I see the duck a la ronge that Robin and I are to share I regret having the two starters as the duck is a whole duck. It's presented to us by the waiter and then taken over to the nearby trolley for table-side flambéing and preparation. It's wonderful to see the waiters in action, they are very skilled and watching your dinner being prepared adds to the evenings enjoyment. Our duck is then brought back to us in sections and placed on our pates. A selection of vegetables is brought over for us to select and finally the sauce - amazing, what fun. Louise and Janes' dover sole is prepared the same way, presented and then deboned table-side and then presented along with a selection of vegetables to choose from. Dinner was a great success and you're reminded why you chose Cunard in the first place and how could anyone possible want to dine onboard a ship in any other fashion.

During dinner I was surprised to see Commodore and Mrs Rynd arrive for dinner. They had a table for two in our section of the Princess Grill. I thought the captain always ate in Britannia, but I think it's good that he does eat elsewhere on the ship as Queens & Princess Grill passengers don't really seem to get the chance to dine with the captain as it's mainly Britannia guests from what I hear.

We leave the table at around 9:30 leaving Louise to chat with the new couple. A quick turn around the deck is followed by some pictures taken on the stairs of the grand lobby by the photographers. We run into passengers we've run into before (it's a big ship but it's amazing how you do run into the same people over and over again) and chat a bit more with them. They are very nice and are Australian, as seem to be most of the people onboard at the moment. Strangely we're informed by the couple that there are people onboard (not them) who are doing Sydney to Brisbane as a two day itinerary. That seems very short and I wasn't even aware it was on offer.

On deck 3L we look for our photos from embarkation. They aren't printed and placed on boards to find anymore, you have to swipe your room key card and make your selection from the photos electronically on these machines they have. I like this change as you no longer need to spend time searching for your photos.

Moving into the Queens Room the Black & White Ball is in full swing and it's wonderful to see everyone dressed up and dancing. There is a lady in a stunning white floor length gown which is very beautiful. We also see lots of other lovely dresses and pretty much everyone looks great (except for this one guy that we saw in the corridor, back near the lifts, walking around in chinos - there is always one :rolleyes:).

As we don't know how to ballroom dance we went into G32 to await the DJ. Vibz was still playing so we sat and had a drink and waited for them to finish. Tonight was billed as disco night but the dj was playing songs from the 50's. He announced on the microphone that anyone with a request should come and make it so I went down and requested a song. He said he would play it but he had to get through the decades first. After waiting for the 50's and 60's to finish I got up and danced to the 70's & 80's. The dance floor was busy and it was fun dancing. The hour finished and Vibz came back on. I didn't get my song played so I went over to talk to the dj about it. Apparently he thought it was more appropriate for the 12:30 set, which I don't plan to wait around for, so we'll see what happens tomorrow night.

We stop by the Queens room to watch the dancing and start talking with one of the ladies from the G32 dance floor. She's on the full world cruise and having the time of her life. Feeling slight jealous, but very happy for her, we retire to our suite. Next stop…. Bris-Vegas!

Bell Boy February 15th, 2012 01:02 PM

Well done whitemarsh ...... I'm with you all the way ! ....And we can always count on you for 'attention to detail'.

Bell Boy:)
'We are Cunard 2'

Whitemarsh February 15th, 2012 05:27 PM

Thanks everyone. :)

We have arrived in Brisbane for QM2's maiden call and done a complete 360 to turn into the dock. It is really is a grain dock and we are not that far down the mouth of the Brisbane river. Unfortunately the ship is now docking alongside her starboard side so we have a view of the dock as opposed to the river bank opposite.

There were small crowds alongside the river bank and there are a few choppers overhead. Brisbane has turned on the nice weather which wasn't a guarantee what with all the rain recently.

Westaussie February 15th, 2012 06:01 PM

Another lovely, detailed missive - only trouble is - I'm putting on weight just reading about your sumptuous meals!

jcruizer February 15th, 2012 06:11 PM

Thanks for the wonderful posting. I look forward to the next one.

The following is a link to a webcam of Queen Mary 2 in Brisbane. Unfortunately where it is, there is not a lot of good pics...

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