Queen Elizabeth 2 - Final Autumn Getaway

Back in March 2007, Rowan and I were looking at a longer cruise on the QE2, having thoroughly enjoyed our short one five months before.  Originally she wanted to do this, mainly for the price, until she was talked into going to the Fjords.  Neither of us were really keen of the ports and we would have gone crackers on the ship for five days, no matter how much we loved her.  So Norwegian Wonders was intended to be possibly our last ever cruise, since we knew she would be gone by 2010.  However, as soon as it was announced Lizzie had been sold on the 18th June that year, I just had to go one more time.  The revised itineraries of Round Britain and tandem transatlantics were way out of my price range, since I'd be going alone, so that left the Autumn Getaway from the 22nd-27th October 2008.  It would also be the last day Lizzie would be sailing from in any port, especially her home, with QM2.  I noticed how the prices for the Mediterranean Odyssey, now the penultimate cruise on the 27th October-11th November, shot up within days so I had to book this quickly.  It was a good £800 less than the eastbound transatlantic for the same grade and this was before the phone lines opened for the new cruises when those prices became legalised extortion.  So I booked MO cabin 2020 and looked forward to my five days on Lizzie.  Not long afterwards, the prices did begin to creep up.  I still wasn't keen on the itinerary of Bilbao, La Rochelle and Guernsey but the send offs should be good.  

For a change I opted for late sitting rather than early so I didn't miss anything despite hating to eat late.  As Guernsey had been the very first port I'd been to on Lizzie back in October 2006, it was apt it would be the last so I hoped I wouldn't become too emotional as we sailed away and headed back home.  I was a little nervous of telling Rowan in case she got angry at my change of mind but I needn't have worried.  She said she didn't want to do one of the last cruises because it would be too sad.  I paid it off on the 8th July and sat back waiting for the ticket to arrive.  Between the Fjords cruise and this, I had been lucky enough to visit the ship thanks to my then boyfriend, Patrick Patton, a piano player who I'd met during that trip.  I got to see places normal passengers don't, including standing on the bow, so she was being really good to me in my final year.

I was up early on the 22nd October to see
Mary arrive first, an hour earlier than Lizzie because she was getting ready to sail to refit.  She docked at Mayflower while Lizzie arrived for 7am in the usual QEII. Both were starboard.  I was shocked.  Could it be, after all these months of hoping, they were planning to reverse my girl into the Itchen to turn as they've done with others since Boudicca in June instead of going up to Ocean Dock?  I think, after successfully turning Mary twice in August, they had the confidence to do any ship.  Although they had her listed as 'S' since the 20th on the movements, I wasn't getting my hopes up.  I had once before on the 28th September when they had her as that
for the 30th only to change it to port later that day.  As I chatted to Amy online, it was said on the radio she would be docking that way an hour before she did.  I was so excited.  Having been down as the cruise got nearer, with it being my last, this cheered me up enormously.  We watched her webcam as she did indeed dock the wrong way round.  YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My dad and I had booked a Blue Funnel harbour tour for 11am-12pm, of which a link to the pictures can be found at the end.  The website said it was from Town Quay, which was the lure, only later it was changed to Ocean Village.  It didn't matter.  This was the last time Lizzie and her huge successor would be together which was all that did and exactly six months since the Three Queens Day.  I was able to leave my case in the office which was a big help.  Later we went to Town Quay for Mary's sailing and it was already quite built up.  Several people were going to Lizzie afterwards.  Once Mary had gone it was time to head to the terminal.  As Mary is too expensive and I have no interest in the Holland America/Carnival hybrid Queen Victoria, this would probably also be the last time I went from there to board a Cunard ship.  Usually there's a massive queue, as I'm there around noon, so fill in the norovirus form as I wait.  This time I went straight to a check in desk which disorientated me a little.  When I went up to departures they were calling H and my letter was P so there was still some time.  It was hard to believe it was two years and nine days since I was first there waiting to do a cruise called Autumn Getaway. Back then I was with Rowan, embarking on the first cruise for both of us.  Now I was a single traveller.  I remember Pam texting, telling me to go to the old public viewing gallery.  The weather this day was
as good as then.  Here I was gazing upon
Lizzie, thinking how twenty days later she would be leaving Southampton and this terminal forever.  It's sad to think how, when I turn the same age in December she will no longer
be sailing.  I'd planned to spend my 40th on her in 2009, since we'd both be the same age, only that was never going to happen.  She may be in Dubai but I doubt I'll ever go and see what they've done.  I don't want my memories ruined.  La Rochelle had been changed to Le Verdon for the August equivalent cruise due to the strikes by French fishermen but that didn't bother me.  I still wasn't interested in the port.  I just wanted to be on that ship, creating more memored to add to the extra ones she'd given me since my cruise in December.  So I was determined to enjoy this trip and try to not think about the penultimate voyage when we returned.
My letter was called around 2.45pm, not long after Patrick had phoned from town, and we boarded aft, near my first two cabins on Two Deck.  It was quite strange not going on through the Midships Lobby.  My bag was taken and I was led forward to my cabin.  As no one was in MI 2022 opposite, I took a quick peak and talk about a cupboard!  I was glad I didn't book it.
My cabin was a converted twin.  It still had the upper bunk attached to the wall.  Sad to think these steerage cabins, which will have given so many people happy memories, will be gutted in Dubai to compete with a place she can't compete with.  Anyway, it had a double wardrobe and the bathroom was slightly larger than the one Rowan and I had in June.  One good thing was, unlike my single in December, there would be no draught on my back from the porthole.  My stewardess was called Rita but she never delivered my dining allocation card, despite mentioning it to her.  She was a nice lady though and wants to go to Queen Victoria because of the itineraries.
Muster was 4.15pm and Patrick turned up in full muster guide outfit, including baseball cap, with a bottle of dreadful Cunard sparkling wine he'd purloined from somewhere which you get as a Grill passenger or as a World Club member, begging for forgiveness for not being there earlier.  I decided to think about it since we both had to go, while he told me to hide the booze.  My muster station was the Queens Grill Restaurant.  There were many first timers aboard again, either on her or cruisers.  Then it was time to head out for sailaway.  As I made my way back up staircase A after dumping my lifejacket and headed out, I saw an officer and asked if we would back up into the Itchen.  He told me we'd go to the turning circle.  When I informed him they've done it with Mary and Victoria, he knew nothing about it. The Observation Deck wasn't that crowded at that point and the weather was still glorious.  John, who I'd met six months before at the Three Queens Day was on the cruise.  He'd done the New York transatlantic and stayed on.  It was great seeing him again.  Also we chatted to an American lady from Atlanta called Kathy who had also done the transatlantic.  I hope I spelled that right.  I forgot to ask if it was a K or C.  Patrick came up for a while before going to work.  We had three tugs.  Lyndhurst was on the bow and they were taking photos and videoing.  I'd seen Bentley when I came onto the Boat Deck but didn't realise we also had Lady Madeleine!  I wish she'd been at the front.  I was going to miss her completely.  Captain McNaught came on the tannoy at 4.50pm and said we would go astern and turn 180°.  We were going to back up!!!!!  My day was made!!!!
We finally began to move just after 5.20pm and gave three short blasts then we were slowly pulled out and back by our tugs.  I wonder how many people I told about her backing up but preferred to watch the sailaway from Town Quay regretted it?  I was so happy I even had to give Amy a quick call and it was she who told me about Lady M on us too.  I knew she'd be watching the webcams and would be as excited as I was.  Patrick then left to get ready for his first set in the Crystal Bar, asking if I'd be joining him there afterwards.
I was in a complete state of euphoria that my dream had finally come true and they saved it for MY cruise when there were others to choose from.  As we were getting dead on to the marina, where I'd spent many an hour in all weathers photographing her while my dad did the video, she let out one very long blast.  It meant so much when her bow pointed towards my home.  Much more than when we'd done it on Boudicca.  She was aiming right at my dad who I knew would be as thrilled as I was.  This was a truly emotional experience.
Lizzie let out three blasts, the last of which went funny and gave us a chuckle.  Not long afterwards as she neared Hythe pier, she did another three.  After being almost mute to Mary for the second time in twelve days, she certainly found her voice now.  It's unusual for her to blast ten times so that helped make it the best sailaway I've ever had.  Thankfully being there, we could hardly hear the pomp and circumstance racket they play this year so, unlike June, her whistle could be heard each time in all its wonderful booming glory instead of being drowned out.  The crew on the bow were having a whale of a time waving to the Blue Funnel ferries.  Little boats parped at us.  It was fanbloodytastic and a wonderful start to the cruise!
John and I went to the Crystal Bar for a drink afterwards.  Patrick was playing for the first sitting passengers.  I went back for the second sitting and Bea Muller was sat near him listening intently.  At 8.30pm it as time to go in.  I had booked smoking but had given up the fags on the 25th January and didn't see the point in changing.  I was glad I didn't.  Our head waiter Ozzy was the best I've had.  My tablemates were two Scottish couples and the last person didn't turn up.  After dinner I waited for Patrick to finish his last set then I went back to the cabin for a while, checking the info channel.  We were rocking a bit and this is where I missed the wind speed you get on other cruise ships.
As crew aren't allowed into the Lido until midnight, we had to wait to go the midnight buffet.  Patrick was hungry, I was a little peckish after skipping dessert and petit fours and his friend Stevie joined us. Stevie and Patrick are a terrible combination.  They make you laugh so much and Stevie is just so deadpan.  Afterwards it was time for a stroll around the deck.  It was windier than I'd thought which made taking photos difficult.
After that it was time for bed after a very long day.  Patrick, after going to the internet room down the corridor and to his own cabin to collect his false teeth glass and a few other things, sneaked into my cabin to join me.  For someone so afraid of getting into trouble and losing his job, he had no qualms about breaking rules to be with me.  The sea had been rough, waves crashing against the hull, so I didn't get much sleep.  I'd ordered room service for breakfast, choosing things he liked to go with what I did in the hope Rita wouldn't be suspicious, and woke up feeling a bit sick.  We were in the Bay of Evil so it wasn't that much of a surprise.  That place got me in December but thankfully we had slightly better weather this time and sun!  I took some herbal tablets but this time they didn't seem to be having much of an effect.  It was a combination of things really.  Lack of sleep and the wine the night before didn't help.  When breakfast arrived it was hilarious watching Patrick dive into the bathroom leaving too many personal items such as underpants and watch, lying around which I had to hide fast.  After we'd eaten, I decided to go out on deck and get some fresh air while he went to the internet room after making sure the coast was clear.  Boy was it fresh!  It pushed me along the Boat Deck to the stern it was that strong.  Certainly took my mind of my ills!
I couldn't face going to the Mauretania or anywhere for lunch so I ordered room service again for us both.  Afterwards I had a couple of hours sleep with Patrick.  It was useful having this day at sea so I could do nothing except try to get better.  He left to get ready for work as I dragged myself out of bed.  It certainly was different, two in one of those very narrow single beds, but it was part of the fun, as well as him playing hide and seek from Rita and Anna.  The nap did me the world of good so I went to the Crystal Bar to listen to Patrick's first set.  By the time of his second, I was feeling iffy again.  I shouldn't have had the wine a couple of hours before.  I sat with Bea as we waited to go in but by the time 8.30pm came round, I couldn't face food.  When Patrick finished, he helped me back to my cabin then left me to sleep, taking my cabin key so he could let himself back in.
Patrick came to see how I was before his final set then went back to the Crystal, leaving me to return to slumber.  I really needed it more than I realised.
By the time Patrick finished for the night I was feeling 100% better and also hungry!  I decided to wait until he could go to the midnight buffet and opted for a bit of food.  Stevie joined us again making for another fun night.  Patrick had told me about the new painting, which had been unveiled by the Queen on the 2nd June and would be presented to Southampton on the 11th November, being on the wall outside the Chart Room in place of the Mauretania one.  McNaught had apparently given that one away when they were in Newcastle.  I was pleased to see it nonetheless and hoped the pennant really would be that long.  Just a shame she'd not be arriving in the daylight as depicted in the painting.  A bloody hour wouldn't have killed them to have her do just that.
I ambled back to my cabin.  I enjoyed the walk because there's no ship like her.  I also love going through the Midships Lobby at every opportunity.  The sea was a little calmer now but I still didn't sleep too well sharing with Patrick against the wall with me hanging over the side, despite his strong arms around me.  He did like how there was a crew door opposite the corridor to my group of cabins.  He could enter from the other side and (hopefully) cut across with no one spotting him.
Landfall at last!  I hate the Bay of Biscay.  We arrived in Bilbao in the dark so I didn't bother going up to see it.  I'd planned a lie in and ordered room service only things didn't quite work out that way.  Twice during the night when Patrick turned over, he knocked me onto the floor.  The second time I landed on my knee which I'd badly bruised two weeks earlier which was a source of amusement to him.  So I grabbed a pillow and the duvet and spent the rest of the night on the floor.  He moaned it was cold and how he'd catch pneumonia, pleading with me to get back in the bed, but I ignored him.  Best sleep I'd had so far that trip, though in hindsight he should've been sent back to his own cabin.  Patrick had said he'd show me around since he'd been there before.  He also speaks the lingo which always helps!  We arranged to meet at 11am to get the shuttle due to him having some things to do.  As I had some time to kill, I went for a wander.
I got talking to a Lord called Simon who had a suite on Signal Deck.  He asked if I'd like to see it.  What's a Lizzie fan to do?  So I went with him!  Patrick would just have to wait.  After all, it's not every day I had the chance to go up there.  Simon led the way through the Queens Grill restaurant, into the lounge and a lift hidden at the side.  His cabin was 8009 and not that much different to basic balcony cabins on modern ships.  Must have been really posh in its day though.
Simon showed me what he'd had done for his recent 60th birthday, including the cards which had Lizzie on.  He apologised for keeping me but it wasn't a problem.  He was really interesting to talk to and I'm grateful to him for letting me see his suite.  After saying goodbye to him, I slowly made my way back to the cabin to pick up my coat, savouring my surroundings as long as possible.  I only wish I'd seen the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth suite as well during one of the times I was aboard.
As I was nearing my cabin, Patrick phoned asking where I was.  When I got to the cabin, Rita told me my phone had rung twice.  I met up with Patrick and we went ashore.  He does like getting off the ship and going into town but he hadn't banked on me keeping him waiting by wanting pictures of the gorgeous girl tethered to the dockside.  I know what's important!  At that point in time there was no chance of bow shots.


© Patricia Dempsey 22nd-27th October 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission