|09/04/2012||Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland||Titanic Trail||Glorious evening!|
|17/04/2012||Halifax, Canada||Historic Titanic Walking Tour||Cold & Foggy|
|19/04/2012||New York, USA||Exploring NYC's Titanic Memorials||Glorious day!|
|19/04/2012||New York, USA||City Lights & Empire State Building||Glorious night!|
Having booked the Titanic Memorial Cruise last year, I had been having increasing concerns about crossing the North Atlantic twice in April. However, it turned out well and I wouldn't have wanted to miss such a momentous cruise. The lectures were particularly good, but there was a lot of duplication between lecturers. We were showered with commemorative souvenirs: slippers, cuff links, newspapers, soap, notebook, flask etc. So watch out for them on eBay! I also shelled out £30 for the elegantly produced book.
In Southampton the cruise was boarding early so I had to queue up to get on board but I did at least get caught on the Sky News cameras! I guess that about a quarter of the passengers were already in Edwardian period dress, which made formal nights so memorable.
Owing to a busy high tide on Southampton Water, we were late leaving. This meant we were late arriving in Cobh (Cove, formerly Queenstown) in County Cork, Ireland. The late afternoon weather cleared with a dramatic rainbow and a five thousand strong crowd greeted our arrival. Marshalling our tour groups on the busy quayside was tricky, but eventually I escorted my Titanic Trail group away. We walked around the various sites in the town before partaking of Irish Coffee in a local pub. The tour ended with the distribution of an impressive, glossy booklet on the Cobh Titanic Trail.
Having led my tour back to the ship, I went to the Commodore (formerly Queen's) Hotel for part of the evening. This provided free wi-fi and my last chance for a FaceBook fix before crossing the Atlantic. They had provided a complimentary ballroom and three piece Irish band for our entertainment. I demonstrated my Irish dancing prowess by performing Ray & Tina Yeoman's Coastin' as well as dancing with some of our passengers.
On the first sea day a BBC cameraman was taken ill and we had to turn back to allow a helicopter to reach us for a medical evacuation. We all thought we would be late at the Titanic wreck site but we managed to catch up in the reasonable weather conditions. On the third sea day I ran my first line dancing class of the cruise in a packed Lido Lounge, while Rick & Anne, the dance couple from Bournemouth, taught the first of their newly choreographed sequence dances, Harlem Blues. The former was filmed by the BBC for one of their news broadcasts from the ship. The latter was followed by classes for their Dixieland Jive and Viennese Swing amongst other sequence dances.
The memorial service over the Titanic wreck site was a logistical nightmare. Simultaneous services began in both the Neptune lounge and the main restaurant. After the first pair of services hot mulled wine was served in commemorative flasks. The final service took place at 2:15 am on the aft decks with the casting of biodegradable wreaths into the ocean. The proceedings ended with Pavarotti's love child Anthony Stuart Lloyd singing "Nearer my God to Thee". Interestingly I was moved to tears by several of the lectures, but not by the services themselves.
We arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in bright sun late in the afternoon, but unfortunately the next day was cold and foggy. Having just arrived in port, my evening participation line dancing session was rather sparse. I escorted the Historic Titanic Walking Tour in the morning and then went into the city again in the afternoon.
The early sail-in to New York City (NYC) was rather grey but the sun soon came out for two glorious days. We berthed at Pier 88 next to the Intrepid aircraft carrier's Sea, Air & Space museum which now includes a BA Concorde and soon a space shuttle too. I escorted the Exploring NYC's Titanic Memorials tour. I lunched and wifi-ed at the South Street Seaport with that marvellous view of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the afternoon I walked both ways along the new High Line elevated park. In the evening I was an escort on the City Lights & Empire State Building (ESB) tour. We visited the Brooklyn quayside for the dramatic view of downtown Manhattan. After a 50 minute wait in line we ascended the ESB for 15 minutes of wonderment at the night time views. We ended the tour in Times Square where I bumped into Anthony Stuart Lloyd, who bemoaned the lack of statues to America's musical giants.
The passengers were much younger and more cosmopolitan than a usual FOCL cruise! Lots of Australian mothers and daughters for instance, but few good dancers. The only regular dancing passenger was Pauline from Edgware. There was only one theme night when my cabin mate Eamonn wore his Mexican outfit whilst I stuck to red, white & blue for the International evening. I was surprised that there wasn't a nautical theme night given that it was a Titanic Memorial cruise! The real disappointment of the cruise was the replacement of the Q-Tones band with the Grupetto period quintet. Their endless Viennese waltzes and non-strict tempo meant they had to be banished to the Observatory leaving the Lido Lounge music-less and dance-less for much of each evening.