Cruise M403.1 from Southampton to Cape Town on the Queen Mary 2

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and read my report)


Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
10/01/2014 Southampton, UK - On board by 1 pm
14/01/2014 Funchal, Madeira Santana Peak, Trout Farm and Lunch
15/01/2014 Santa Cruz, Tenerife Playa de la Americas On Your Own (OYO) Los Cristianos
25/01/2014 Walvis Bay, Namibia Moon Landscape & Welsitschia Valley Dune 7 and Oasis elevenses
27/01/2014 Cape Town, South Africa Robben Island Glorious day!

Here's my report on the cruise:

I caught the train to So'ton and then took a taxi to the ship. Unfortunately the city was gridlocked with road works and five cruise ships in port, on four of which I have worked. In particular Saggy Booby (Saga Ruby) was berthed there for the very last time, the last cruise ship to have been built in England. So I jumped out of the taxi early and walked the rest of the way. I got on to QM2 relatively easily and lunched on roast beef before having my siesta. The early evening was manic, see the list below for details. I danced with Thelma from East Sussex, Judy from Perth in Western Australia, Hilary from Portsmouth and others. I also chatted with Dennis, a dance host from St. Leonards in Dorset.


On the first sea day I enjoyed watching a large pod of dolphins in the western approaches. Later that morning I gave my first lecture "Funchal, Madeira: Churchill's Pad". Before lunch I attended the dance couple's beginners cha cha class. In the afternoon I enjoyed the indoor jacuzzi. On the first formal evening I had a bad headache so I dined on potato soup in the buffet before having an early night. All the excitement at the start of the voyage had caught up with me! So I missed the Opera Boys and the Black & White Ball.




Me with Jenny from South Africa

Me with Jenny from South Africa

No lecture to give on the second day so I had the day off. I attended two lectures in the morning and a line dance class led by Alex the assistant entertainments director. He taught Fakey Achy Breaky; Honky Tonk Stomp (classic!); Cowboy Twist (not Twister) and Saturday Night Fever which he called the Hustle! I swam in the afternoon, unfortunately the indoor jacuzzis were closed. I dined in the Britannia restaurant for the first time on lobster with Jenny from South Africa, Jan from Tynemouth, Richard from Harrogate and Derek & Anne from Hythe. It was a special dinner with a glossy commemorative menu to celebrate QM2's 10th birthday. After watching the visual comedian, I danced with Judy, Hilary, Betty from Scarboro' and others.

Jan from Tynemouth with me

Jan from Tynemouth with me


On the final sea day before our first two ports of call, I breakfasted with wildlife lecturer Sandie Sowler who was travelling as a passenger. That morning I gave my second port talk on Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I dined on sirloin steak, watched the Viva Italia production show and danced with the usual crowd including Hazel.


In Funchal on Madeira I escorted my first choice tour to Santana on the north coast. On a previous tour we had been unable to reach the central peak, but this time we climbed through the clouds to emerge into glorious sunlight. I re-visited the trout farm before arriving in Santana where I found a wi-fi signal after three days at sea. We lunched on soup, steak (or black scabbard fish) and flan in a cliff top restaurant with views all the way to the companion island of Porto Santo. I sat with Cindy and Charlie the ex-pilot from Fowey in Cornwall who taught Saga's Captain Philip Rentell to be an officer! I had a couple of glasses of the local red wine and a coffee to complete the meal. I was again able to access the internet and catch up on my emails and update my FaceBook status. Unfortunately the rose garden advertised was closed, so we made do with a walk around Sao Vicente again on the northern coast, before driving through the new 3.1 km tunnel to the south side of the island. I dined on lamb shank before listening to the Opera Boys who sang more musical and pop numbers than classical ones. I danced with the usual suspects but for the first time Jessica the lovely social hostess asked me to dance the jive with her!




Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2


In Santa Cruz on Tenerife I escorted my second choice "on your own tour" to Playa de las Americas. One of my ladies forgot her ship's ID card and went back for it. Half an hour later her husband and I were getting worried until she was spotted queueing for the shuttle bus by mistake! No guide on board the bus, so I sat in the front and gave a short commentary as we left the city. Having offloaded my charges in Playa de las Americas, I walked along the promenade to Los Cristianos. I sat outside McDonalds to utilise their free wi-fi. I climbed up the volcanic crater just behind the front to have my picnic lunch at the top. Before coming down I walked around the circumference of the crater with spectacular views all the way to the other Canary Island of La Gomera. I had Ed 'Stew Pot' Stewart star of the BBC's Crackerjack and Radio 2 DJ with his wife in tow. Back at the ship, after dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, I listened to the soprano Jennifer Fair. However I kept falling asleep so went straight to bed rather than hit the ballroom!


On the first of nine sea days I attended two lectures and one line dance class in the morning. At the latter Alex the deputy entertainments director announced he was running out of line dances, so I volunteered my services. He taught Slappin' Leather, Cotton Eyed Joe (partner dance) and recapped Honky Tonk Stomp and Fakey Achey Breaky. After lunch and my siesta, I updated my Madeira and Tenerife powerpoint presentations with the photographs I had taken on the two previous days. I then swam and jacuzzied in the Pavilion conservatory. At the late afternoon intermediate dance class I learnt the reverse turn in the quickstep with Hilary the nurse from Portsmouth. I dined that night on roast lamb. After Louis Hoover's Sinatra tribute show, I danced in the Queen's room before going to bed.



Queen Mary 2

  Queen Mary 2  
(QM2)

Queen Mary 2


On the Friday I attended two lectures and the intermediate samba class. The former included an amusing presentation by Dick Clements and Ian La Frenais who wrote Porridge amongst other TV comedies and films. The latter was far too advanced with samba walks, botofogos, travelling voltas, reverse turns and spin turns! As a result I didn't go to many other of their dance classes. Again I persuaded Hilary to dance with me. After lunch and my siesta, I attended the planetarium for the first time. It was a show entitled "Passport to the Universe" narrated by Tom Hanks. After dinner of sirloin steak (again!), Jan from Tynemouth on my table invited me to accompany her to the Cunard World Club cocktail party. After three glasses of champagne I missed show time, but caught the second house after the ballroom dance set when I again bagged a jive with the lovely social hostess Jessica! The show was the lovely "String Idols" two young ladies who played their violins magnificently.


The next morning at 8 am I got a call from Alex the deputy entertainments director asking me to run that morning's line dance class. After some technical issues with the CD player, I used my Samsung mobile phone to play the music. I taught California Frieze, Just Because and the Electric Slide, but we were unable to dance Texas Waltz as I didn't have a waltz track on my phone. I took my new HP TouchSmart netbook the next time! Later I danced with Thelma at the Intermediate Tango dance class. We also passed by the lovely Saga Pearl II, also bound for Cape Town, around noon time. After lunch and my siesta, I again attended the planetarium for their "Cosmic Collisions" programme narrated by Robert Redford. I dined on prime rib of beef before attending the early evening sequence dance set. I was able to do most of the dances with the lovely Jessica the social hostess who was running the session. I enjoyed showtime with the comedian Mick Miller before ballroom dancing back in the Queen's Room. I danced with 94 year old wonder woman Beryl amongst others. Afterwards I adjourned to the deck party in my tropical shirt, but didn't stay long as the Caribbean band were a bit monotonous.




Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2


On the Sunday I gave my well-received history lecture entitled "Rhodes Across Africa: Cecil's Story". After lunch and my siesta, I attended the first tea dance of the voyage. I sat with and mainly danced with Judy. After dinner of pork medallions wrapped in bacon, I went to the early evening ballroom dance set with the Royal Court Orchestra who were not needed for the evening's showtime. I danced with the two ladies from Southern California and Elizabeth from South Shields. Next up was the production show entitled "Crazy in Love", not I felt as good as their previous offering "Viva Italia". After another dance set, this time with the resident Queen's Room orchestra, I went to bed.


On the next sea day I led my second line dance class in the Queen's Room. I taught the Slosh, Texas Waltz and Ziggy. I listened to the speeches from King Neptune and his retinue having just crossed the equator, but didn't wait in the hot sun to see the antics around one of the pools. After lunch and a deeper than usual siesta, I went swimming and jacuzzing as usual. After dinner of roast beef (again!), I went to the first dance set before listening to Mark Donoghue the very talented instrumentalist. I danced with the watercolour teacher Sasha and her friend Elizabeth. At the Neptune Ball I was able to dance extensively with the lovely Jessica the Social Hostess since she isn't allowed to dance with the hosts!



Queen Mary 2

  Queen Mary 2  
(QM2)

Queen Mary 2


On the second Tuesday I ran my third line dance class. I taught the Electric Slide, Cowboy Charleston and California Frieze. As usual after lunch and my siesta I went swimming. I chatted with Francisco from Chile and Tim the Down's syndrome boy in the jacuzzi. I dined that night on tortellini. I watched the predictable magician's show before attending the big band event. This was the combined forces of the Royal Court Theatre and Queen's Room orchestras. I mainly danced with the lovely Jessica plus a few of my regulars.


The next day was quiet. I attended two and a half lectures (I walked out of the Coral Reef one). After lunch and my siesta, I swam and jacuzzied as usual. I dined on lamb and watched the Apassionata production show which I had already seen last summer. I particularly liked the famous Cossack dancing of the Ukrainian dancers. After one dance set I retired to bed in anticipation of losing a second hour.




Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2


On the Thursday I had two eggs benedict in the Britannia Restaurant. I then led my fourth and final line dance class. I taught Texas Waltz (in contra lines), Just Because (danced as both a rumba and a mambo) and Lindi Shuffle (cha cha). Unfortunately this meant that I missed Ed "Stewpot" Stewart's guest interview. After lunch and my siesta, I attended the "Search for Life" show in the planetarium narrated by Harrison Ford. I swam and jacuzzied as usual in the outdoor pool, as the afternoon was sunny after our first cloudy morning, before dining on Steak Diane. I danced with the lovely Jessica at the early evening sequence dance set before listening to the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Mark Donoghue. I then returned to the Queen's Room for the mid-evening ballroom dance set where I was able to introduce Fay to Judy, both from Perth, Western Australia. Jan having very kindly given me her login details, I was able to catch up with emails and update my FaceBook status. One message was from a passenger and his wife that I had escorted to Butrint in Albania last summer. He said that they "have much enjoyed my very evocative accounts" on my website and that my "photographs are of high quality"!


On the final sea day before land, I gave my port talk on Walvis Bay, Namibia. I managed to string out the one horse town into a 45 minute lecture to a packed Illuminations theatre with standing guests at the back. I then listened to Assistant Entertainment Director Alex McDonald's Titanic talk. Lunch included a delicious chocolate extravaganza station, which I visited twice! As usual after my siesta I swam, this time back in the indoor pool as the afternoon was cloudy. I dined on penne pasta before attending the first half of Louis Hoover's jazz set in the Queen's Room. I left early to collect my tour escort details from the office. I listened to both the comedian and the two young violinists in the variety show before dancing back in the Queen's Room. After a late snack I went up on to deck to see the southern hemisphere stars. Orion was vertically above and the Milky Way, which you rarely see in England, was magnificent.



Queen Mary 2

  Queen Mary 2  
(QM2)

Queen Mary 2


In Walvis Bay in Namibia, I got up at 6 am for the 6:30 am face-to-face immigration inspection. The enormous queue moved quickly with a dozen officials on duty taking me only 20 minutes. I escorted the Moon Landscape & Welwitschia Valley tour. We started out at Dune 7 which is seven kilometres from the port. I managed to climb up half way to the 135 metre summit in the short time available. The next stop was to view the magnificent welwitschia plants. These have only two leaves but they are much shredded by the wind to look like many more. Some people say they are thousands of years old and boy was the desert hot! On the way out a roof panel fell on to four of my passengers in the ageing coach, so I had some health and safety form filling to do! We viewed the lunar landscape of the Swakop valley from above before descending into an oasis. They served up glasses of bubbly with biltong (Jerk-style dried meat), antelope, canapés, cheese and fruit under the palm trees. We drove back via the charming German seaside resort of Swakopmund and then along the coast road. We didn't get back to the ship until 2:30 pm so I walked straight into town. I stopped off at the Seafarer's Mission to use two US dollars worth (half an hour) of their internet. I photographed the main sights such as they are before getting back to the ship too late to bathe. I dined on delicious surf and turf (lobster tail and fillet steak - the best meal of the cruise) with just Richard since the other four were eating at the Todd English resturant. He kindly lent me a Black Watch tartan tie for the evening. I danced the Gay Gordons with the lovely Jessica at the Burn's Night do in the Queen's Room. After the comedy juggler's amusing show I went back for the second Scottish set, finishing with another Gay Gordons with Jess.


On the final sea day I gave my last lecture on Cape Town. After lunch and my obligatory siesta I attended the "Meet the Speakers" session in the Chart Room. I chatted with various people including an ex-Army Officer and the Vice-Chancellor of the Stockholm School of Economics who had had a sabbatical year at Cranfield University earlier in his career. I dined on pork before dancing in the Queen's Room as usual. The high-wire acrobats in the Royal Court Theatre were incredible but they did their star turn first, their second best turn next and a boring floor routine last - completely the wrong order! The RCT Orchestra performed an interlude before the singers and dancers did a tribute to the singer Sting and his group the Police. I went back to the Queen's Room for the second dance set but didn't ever stay for the final set.




Me departing the V&A Waterfront for Robben Island

Me departing the V&A Waterfront for Robben Island

In Cape Town the face-to-face immigration had no queues at all. I escorted my first choice tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated. Unfortunately a coach broke down right in the port gate blocking the traffic for over half an hour. Then the short trip to the ferry terminal took three quarters of an hour. The one hour ferry ride was super with lots of Cape fur seals (actually sea lions not seals!) and some dolphins. We had a coach ride around the island with a moving commentary from a former inmate. We saw some rare Cape oyster catchers and one springbok. The guide in the prison itself, another inmate, was loud but rather difficult to understand. The faster ride back to the mainland was by exhilirating catamarran. The weather was glorious all day with not even the tablecloth cloud putting in an appearance on top of Table Mountain! I dined on sirloin steak (yet again) and Jan spoilt me as usual with samples of her dishes and a glass of wine. I then danced only a few dances before watching the Folklore show.

Me in a prison cell on Robben Island

Me in a prison cell on Robben Island


On the final day I got up at 6 am to breakfast and to pack. It was cloudy at first and hot, humid and hazy all day. I caught the 9 am shuttle bus to the Victoria and Alfred (not Albert) Docks. I then used the free wi-fi in the foyer of the Table Bay Hotel at both the start and end of the morning. I walked inland past the old Somerset Hospital to reach Strand Street which I followed into the City. I turned off into the Malay Quarter to photograph a mosque. I entered the Cape Quarter shopping mall from the rear to emerge on Somerset Street before returning to the waterfront complex.

Selfie with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Graduate and Fellow of King's College London my Alma Mater!

Selfie with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Graduate and Fellow of King's College London my Alma Mater!


Back at the ship I lunched on a baguette and chips before dozing in the Pavilion conservatory. I dined on a slice of pizza at 4 pm before saying goodbye to an appreciative assistant entertainments director Alex and programme co-ordinator Sangeeta. She has promised to send me my questionnaire results! After waiting half an hour on the quayside for our transfer to the airport I spoke to the tour reps who phoned the port agent. He came quickly and rustled up some replacement transport for four of us entertainers. At the airport a kind Afrikaaner, Martin de Villiers, lent me his charging adapter, apparently HTC and Samsung use the same connectors. I was able to access the free wi-fi there too.


We took off from CTIA ten minutes late but arrived at LHR on time. This was the second time that I had had a good Virgin Atlantic flight home from Cape Town! I enjoyed the dinner, breakfast and the various complimentary drinks on offer. I slept for a least half the 12 hour duration but the movies were rubbish. "Don John" was soft core pornography! I was through passports, baggage and customs in a record 35 minutes - good old terminal 3! Heathrow free wi-fi came up with the goods too. I could have caught a National Express coach immediately but it took over 4 hours with a change at So'ton, so I opted to wait an hour for the non-stop service which only takes just under two and a half hours. There was almost no difference in price at around £30. I found a power socket and wrote this last bit of my blog. I was home by 1:30 pm after a super voyage on this great ocean liner!


One passenger later wrote: "It was very good to meet you on the ship and thank you for sending me your blog of activities aboard QM2. It brought back all the memories of an excellent voyage. You were definitely one of the best speakers and I hope that I may meet you on board another ship, perhaps when we are both lecturing." Philip J. Weaver from Chiswick, another passenger, later wrote on www.Cruise.Co.UK: "The Insight lectures are by far the best afloat as I recall, having sailed on many other liners from different companies. On this the latest voyage from Southampton to Cape Town there were some of the finest lectures I have ever attended. With two particular lecturers who stood out above all others. The first is Captain Chris Rigby, a pilot with over 25,000 hours behind him and now working at Coventry Airport. On the ship he gave 6 lectures on a variety of all matters aeronautical. All his lectures were fully attended with standing room only at the back. The other lecturer, whilst not so fully attended, was also as excellent in giving the Destination Lectures. Mr Martin Lee, is an excellent lecturer still working at Universities as a lecturer. His presentations all with photographs he had himself taken were the best I have ever seen. Congratulations to someone in Cunard for having found him."


Score Card:

5 Dinner guests hosted
5 Lectures given, of which:
4 Port talks
4 Line dance classes led
4 Tours escorted
1 History lecture (Rhodes across Africa: Cecil's Story).

First Evening's Diary:

16:45 Safety drill
17:00 Meeting with Programme Coordintor Sangeeta Nagar
17:30 Recording of morning TV interview with Entertainments Director Paul McLoughlin
18:00 Quick buffet dinner of rib eye steak
18:30 Meeting with A/V technician Ramil in the Illuminations theatre
19:30 Meeting with Tours Manager Beatrix
20:00 Firework display for the QM2's and QE's departures on their world voyages
21:30 Dancing in the Queen's Room
22:30 Show time in the Royal Court Theatre
23:15 Supper in the King's Court Buffet
23:30 Bedtime!

Usual Sea Day Programme:

08:00 Breakfast in the King's Court Buffet.
08:30 Exercise time on the Promenade Deck.
10:00 Lecture in the Illuminations theatre.
11:00 Line Dance Class in the Queen's Room.
12:15 Lecture in the Illuminations theatre.
13:00 Lunch in the King's Court Buffet.
14:00 Siesta in my stateroom.
16:00 Swim either indoors or out.
17:00 Pre-dinner drinks with free hot and cold canapés in the Commodore bar.
18:00 Dinner in the Britannia Restaurant. 
19:45 First dance set in the Queen's Room.
20:45 Showtime in the Royal Court Theatre.
21:45 Second dance set in the Queen's Room.
22:30 Snack in the King's Court Buffet.
23:00 Bedtime!

For the record ...


Good, free wi-fi:

Vinta da Furao, Maderia
Santana Town Hall, Madeira
McDonalds, Los Cristianos, Tenerife
Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town International Airport, South Africa
Heathrow Airport