Queen Mary 2 - Winter Getaway
Another return to the fabulous Queen Mary 2 was on the cards!  My friend Rob and I discussed doing the short cruise from the 11th-15th December 2013 to celebrate my birthday.  Due to when Mary now returns from world cruises, he's unable to celebrate his own without taking out a loan, so sharing someone's is the next best thing with the added bonus of Christmas decorations around the ship!  I'd spent my birthday on the ship the previous year and had a great time so was looking forward to another, even though it meant my 19th visit to Zeebrugge!  I called MaiLiss Green, personal cruise specialist for P&O and Cunard on the 9th August 2013 to book, but my message hadn't been passed on so I emailed, resulting in immediate call back.  We booked Getaway and opted for a guarantee Oceanview, as Rob hadn't been in one those those, then waited for it to be allocated, which it finally was on the 29th November when we were given 5003.  By the 10th December, the Le Havre schedule had us arriving for 8am on the 13th, sailing twenty-four hours later, just as they had a couple of weeks prior, when it was SUPPOSED to be a sea day.

The weather on the 11th was foggy, which meant Rob had to leave Cambridgeshire earlier to make sure he arrived at my house safely.  The fog was thick but as we neared, Mary became a fog free zone!  It reminded us of the Norway cruise when she had a rain force field as you tried to get the best pictures and me arriving in foggy Cobh on Vision of the Seas three months earlier, when the fog opened like a curtain, closing as we left.  Meanwhile, Queen Victoria was in Mayflower, the fog slowly revealing her but was still hard to see and I just got her in my photo.  We had arranged to meet my friend Stella Eaton, who was working on Vicky and Tony Weaver, who was coming up from Gosport then got stuck in traffic due to weather.  Stella was originally pencilled in to start work on Mary at the end of November, meaning she'd be on our cruise, but there were no vacancies, so had flown to Gibraltar to join Vicky instead.  She had four hours off so went shopping after catching up.  After a chat, we plus Tony's dad got in a taxi and went to the terminal, dropping the luggage off before getting photos.  It was a shame about the sun and haze.  Never cloud cover when you need it!!!!  After saying goodbye, Rob and I went to check-in.  Surprisingly, despite being well past 11am, the terminal wasn't as crowded as it usually is.  They segregated suite people as well as Diamond and Platinum World Club members.  There was an announcement about some delay so boarding wouldn't commence until 12pm.  It always has since I returned to Cunard in 2011.  We were only waiting about twenty minutes when Platinums were called and on just after noon as usual.  Picked up a spare Daily Programme for Rob then went to find the cabin.  It was smaller than the 6028 I'd had in 2011 and 6032 in 2012 and I preferred it being more cosy. Then the Golden Lion to get the soft drinks package.  Cunard have changed to Pepsi from Coke in the past few weeks due to the length of time the syrup lasts.  While we were in there, a couple began loudly objecting, the woman's gob loudest of all, about this change not being good enough, blah, blah, bollocks, and said she would be complaining to Cunard's head office.  Wonder if she ever did or managed to get a life instead?  Lunch and one advantage of priority boarding is you get to the grub before the hungry hoards!  However, main Kings Court food looked unappealing so it was Chef's Galley for the third cruise in a row.

Muster was at 4pm and for my third but Rob's second time in the gym.  We were there before the muster guides even came out to play, had the message from Commodore Rynd, who said he would be back on "prior to departure" then went to get our coats.  Both us and Vicky were due to go at 4.30pm and we waited for Commodore Rynd to come on but he didn't.  We just got entertainment announced!  First we knew of us leaving was when they ropes were thrown.  We had two very loud blasts and one short strangled one while Vicky moved up the other end to turn.  In a way, it reminded us of the Jubilee cruise in 2012, as we left Vicky in our wake except she wasn't that far behind then.  Bye, Vicky and Stella!  See you on the 21st with your case!  Leave the kitchen sink at your digs next time.  Once we'd passed Hythe, we went back into the warm, popping into the Commodore Club on the way down.  Service was incredibly slow and as we waited and waited and waited, there was an announcement from Commodore Rynd for the assessment party to go to deck 5, fire zone 3.  Ooh er, missus!  After a while, they were told to stand down.  Later it was a couple of drinks in the Golden Lion listening to my ex-boyfriend, Patrick Patton, before escaping the quiz, since they brought it back for 8pm.  Grrr!  The Winter Garden is still woefully underused and better suited for the number joining in then the rest of us can relax in peace.  And so onto dinner and we were on Deck 3, table 321, which was easy to remember and hoped we wouldn't get a Dusty Bin.  Service was pretty slow and the waiters had too many tables to look after, Sommelier practically the entire area so zero chance of asking for another drink.  Rosemary and John to my left were nice as were the couple by Rob from Billingham (Wendy and her husband whose name I've forgotten).  Then there were the other two, mother and daughter, who really loved the sounds of their own voices, boasting about things they've done while the mother looked down her nose at people.  Quick pop back to the cabin then the Golden Lion again.  Rob was tired after his early start to my house so left early.  I meandered to the room late, checking out the midnight munchies in Kings Court en route but left empty handed.  Where's a Park Cafe or International Cafe when you need one???
Lost an hour for Zeebrugge but couldn't be bothered getting up.  Rob was knackered after the drive from Cambridgeshire anyway plus we weren't planning to do anything ashore except take photos of the ship - if that blond security guard let us!  Lunch first in Chef's Galley then we went onto the Prom deck to see if Blondie was working, spotting him harassing people getting off a bus!  He disappeared in the hut for a bit before coming out with a hot drink.  So we went for our coats then headed off to have fun!  We walked all the way forward and that git was nowhere to be seen so we were able to take the pictures completely unaccosted for once.  As we were returning to the gangway, I spotted an orange blob through the windscreen of the bus, which subsequently came out to harass everyone getting off another instead.  We wondered what he'd have done if it hadn't been so flipping cold.  Back on and we went to the Golden Lion, where we later joined Rosemary and John for a chat until they went for lunch.  Afternoon tea beckoned!  It would be Rob's first, as we were usually doing something else, while I hadn't done it on this ship due to the crowds or being otherwise occupied.  But with so many off buying Belgian chocolate, the ship was practically empty, even at that time of day.  One of the waiters was Carmelo, who had been mine in the Britannia the previous December and greeted us when we boarded.  The experience was slightly different to what I'd had on the QE2 but food still yum.  We couldn't be bothered going for sailaway, which was meant to be 7pm but left about ten minutes early, again with no announcement.  So we went to the Golden Lion before the quiz, again leaving just before it started.  Dinner had Rob sit next to John this time with me beside Wendy.  The mother and daughter yet again monopolised most of the ninety minutes but the mother kept saying they may go to the Cinnamon in Kings Court on the last night but hadn't decided.  We hoped she would then the rest of us could get a word in edgeways.  It was karaoke in the Golden Lion, which I went to but Rob wasn't interested in.  I left after about twenty minutes because there was just no atmosphere for a booze cruise and I felt sorry for Declan hosting it.  And there it was on the info channel - our 'sea day' resulting in going to Le Havre!

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me!  It was that time of year again and I was back on the fabbo Mary to celebrate like in 2012.  This would be my third consecutive birthday on a ship although the weather in 2011 (Celebrity Constellation) was MILES better, but we were in St Maarten.  Only Cunard have coughed up a card though.  We went to the Observation deck, freezing in the cold wind, to wait for the noon whistle then quickly dived inside and Commodore Rynd wasted no time giving his announcement, whereas Kevin Oprey would wait a few minutes.  Blah, blah, arriving in Le Havre 6pm due to weather bollocks, blah, blah when it wouldn't be THAT bad.  Pity there aren't more like Ian McNaught with his honesty around.  It would be formal night, which we should have dropped since we'd be docked by dinner.  A lazy afternoon until nearing Le Havre.  I went on deck while Rob stayed in the cabin then we watched our docking in the pouring rain from the Golden Lion.  Rob left to find Mylène Paquette, the Canadian lady from Montreal, who had rowed the Atlantic single-handedly and came to the media attention when Mary went to her aid.  Due to a mix up in satellite communications, his message hadn't reached her so he was still trying to arrange for us to meet.  We met back at the cabin and had to change for formal.  Golden Lion pre-bloody quiz escapement then dinner at 8.30pm.  Rob sat next to John again with me beside Wendy.  The other woman and her daughter were making fun of Rob's hot air balloon hobby at one point and I know he could have hit them, but so could I and I'm used to such morons on cruises.  There was a birthday at a table not far from us and the other woman presumed NO ONE at our table had a birthday.  I didn't get the free cake or caterwauling, unlike 2012, so more cost cutting.  I wasn't that bothered because I hate being embarrassed but would have loved to wipe that snotty smirk off her face.


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© Patricia Dempsey 11th-15th December 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission