Queen Elizabeth 2 - Final Norwegian Wonders

Although Amy and I were both on this cruise, I went with Rowan and she with Jason.  As a result we did many different things as well as a few together, so the following is from our viewpoint.

I've always wanted to go to the Fjords but never thought it would happen.  After our first trip on the
QE2 in 2006, Rowan and I decided to forget QM2 and do longer on Lizzie instead.  She had her eye on the Autumn Getaway in October 2008 as it was cheapish, despite neither of us really being interested in the ports.  When Amy and I discussed it and she said it was somewhere Jason wanted to see too so we set about trying to persuade Rowan to go with us.  She eventually gave in and the itineraries went up towards the end of March 2007.  We noticed nothing after the 11th November for Lizzie and wondered if it was a farewell cruise or if perhaps the Med on the 27th October 2008 was.  We all wanted to go if it was (and we could afford it) so didn't know what to do - book the Fjords or wait.  I contacted Cunard only to be told remaining itineraries would be released in June and we could transfer our booking for a small admin fee.  

The voyages went on sale to UK World Club members on the 1st April and the rest of the world the following day.  Amy and I had been looking at adjoining cabins in Mauretania but by the time I booked our first choice was gone.  I'd wanted to wait then I could tell her what was available but she insisted I went ahead.  When Amy was on the phone the next day both either side of me went.  It worked out okay in the end though and they were opposite up portside.  We were in M1 3025, so after Princess Grill, steerage would be interesting!  By the time the sale announcement was made on the 18th June and the 11th November WAS the farewell cruise we'd suspected, none of us could afford it.  Rowan didn't want to go on any of the last ones as it would be too upsetting.  For someone a few years before with no interest in ships, she really loved this one.  She likes Aurora but Lizzie is her favourite and she was really looking forward to doing this longer cruise, albeit her last aboard her.  We were so glad we'd booked when we did because, although one of the last to do so, it didn't half rise in price.  

Once it was paid off at the beginning of April we looked at excursions.  Rowan had been fairly busy so it was a while before we could sit down and discuss them on the phone.  Unfortunately, unlike P&O and even Royal Caribbean, you can't book online yet but can call them or put the form in the post if you want to get in early.  The bloke on the other end was very helpful when I rang and said they were working on online pre-booking.  The tickets were VERY late.  They still hadn't arrived by the time I went on Boudicca on the 12th June so I called Cunard from Rotterdam to find out what the hell was going on.  They were behind due to moving operations back to Southampton from Santa Clarita and had been printed on the 6th, she said, and sent at the beginning of the week.  If they had I'd have had them.  If they hadn't arrived by Monday/Tuesday I was to call them back.  They arrived on the 14th and Rowan's went to her instead of coming to me so we both were in a panic wondering what happened to the other's ticket.  She didn't even believe it was the ticket as it's very P&O-like now but better.  They've also changed the wallet.  It was a relief anyway they finally turned up.  Following Lizzie back home on the 15th and drooling over her from Boudicca's decks made me so excited that in a mere ten days we would be on her.

Amy and Jason were due to arrive on the 24th June and Rowan came up from Plymouth so we all stayed at the Holiday Inn for the night.

In the morning we were up early to see her Majness arrive!  Rowan and I were on the sixth floor while Amy and Jason were third so we had a better view.  We'd planned to go to Town Quay as she was due for 7am.  Saga Rose would be late.  I pulled the curtain back and there she was at Bramble Bank looking gorgeous.  I called Amy's room and we watched her coming past Fawley.
Amy came along as Jason was tired and as we turned the corner towards the car park Lizzie was already near the dock!  She was early!  Talk about showing off - bless her.  Rowan loved it, not realising we would be so close to her as she turned and flashed her bum at us.
As Saga Rose was now due for 9am we went back to the hotel for breakfast.  Rowan wasn't really interested in seeing Rosie so we persuaded her as it will be her only time as Rosie is rumoured to be going to be broken up in 2010.  She came under duress but liked her a little in the end.  The weather had got so cold and windy and we had a few spots of rain.  Finally the little girl appeared around Lizzie.  Hard to believe both ships won't be doing cruises from here much longer.
As she was docking we headed for Mayflower Park so Amy could get close ups.  Now she had both Sagas and was happy.  Neither of us could believe the state of her bow and waterline.  It was on par with Lizzie.
Afterwards we returned up the road to the Holiday Inn and had to kill time until it was time to leave.  Check out was noon and we'd arranged to meet in the foyer for 11.45am.  We had a marvellous view from our window so that helped alleviate the boredom.
As we waited for Amy and Jason I went to book a taxi and the receptionist suggested two as there was so much luggage between us.  The first arrived not long after they'd joined us so they took it.  The second came several minutes later.  He was fun and had a son living in LA who he was going to visit.  We dropped off our luggage with the porter and went walkies for pictures of this gorgeous ship.  The part of the dock Pam and I had gone for Boudicca was full of vehicles so we couldn't get in there.
As we stood there we noticed the crew on the bow.  It turned out they were just finishing a drill for a safely certificate.  A lorry was coming so we headed back as it was time to check in.
As we walked into the terminal we were asked what grade.  The woman laughed when I told her steerage.  She pointed to the main queue but as Rowan started dropping things we were told to queue jump. That was handy but it gave us no time to fill in the norovirus form.  Security then up the escalator.  We were given the letter F so had to wait.  We decided to get something to eat then went up to the viewing gallery which was open!  How bloody annoying!  Why couldn't it have been ten days earlier????
We were called about 2.15pm and made our way to the gangway.  After the obligatory boarding photo (if you like that sort of thing) we boarded.  The gangway looked different and there was no red carpet. It was red something and looked cheap.  We were taken to our cabin by someone unsure of where it even was and hesitated at every turn.  When we got in we found one of my cases plus one belonging to a Japanese passenger.  Our steward was Benny and absolutely brilliant.  He'd worked on Caronia and could have chatted about her all day.  I asked him if Fidel was still around as he'd looked after me in December and he said yes.  He removed the Japanese case but it turned up outside.  Later there was a knock at the door and someone delivering one of their other cases.  How they put our cabin number on, I have no idea.  The purser eventually put out a call for the couple.  Meanwhile Rowan's still hadn't shown up when my other did.  The cabin was okay for what it was.  Not really enough room for both of us to do unpacking but we could put up with it.  We had "Welcome Back" cards on the dressing table, which I certainly hadn't received in December.  I also had a bottle of sparkling wine as I'm a Gold World Club member.  Then we went shopping!!!!!!  It's ridiculous really they double everything so reckon if something costs $20 it's really £10.  Not when money's exchanged.  Then there's the 'tax free'
shopping which is more expensive than the shops.  For instance, on P&O a packet of Lockets costs 75p and averages 50p in the shop.  On the
QE2 it was $1.75!  Now try and tell me that's the same, even halving it.  It's all a con but we still buy things.
Lifeboat drill was at 4.15pm and our muster station was the Mauretania Restaurant and a really fun drill.  As our cabin was near staircase A it was the one which skipped decks from Two until the restairant so a bloody long walk.  Afterwards we dumped the lifejackets and went to the Sun Deck for sailaway.  They now sell champagne by the glass at a whopping $13.  You can get it on P&O for less than £3. For some reason we had four tugs - two on the bow and two around the stern, although I'm not sure one was attached.  Rosie wasn't going anywhere as she needed one of ours.  We had a Caribbean band playing at the Funnel Bar but that was soon drowned out by the rousing stuff like Land of Hope and Glory so they stopped playing.  This must be a new thing for 2008 as they didn't do it before.  We thought at first a bloke on the deck below had a radio or something.  When Lizzie blasted her whistle I began to cry and aren't ashamed to admit it.  I thought ahead to November and how it's far too soon until I will hear it for the very last time.
We went in to see if the shops were open and they weren't.  Grrr!  Opened at 6pm so we decided to get ready for dinner instead.  One thing which annoys me about Cunard is you have to dress up EVERY night.  No casuals.  The last thing you want to do after a long day is posh up.

We had window table 208 and our waiters were Denisea and Roman who were great throughout the entire week.  Waiters now sing at you whn you have a birthday or special occasion - how disappointing! It changed a couple of months ago, Denisea said.  Now Cunard is just like any other cruise line.  We dropped off our pilot at the Leaning Tower of Nab and after dinner we went shopping!  They had cheap models of the ship for $49.99 or ones just over a foot long for $300 which, while not perfect as none are, were excellent for the price.  Afterwards we dumped the stuff in the cabins then went for a walk around the decks while Rowan opted to stay behind.

We ended up in the Crystal Bar which was so peaceful, probably due to second sitting in Mauretania (which it was next to at one entrance) and the Grill people still dining.  I went to fetch Rowan and we had a couple of drinks.  Afterwards Amy and Jason went to bed and we wandered around the ship, ending up in the Chart Room listening to pianist Patrick Patton playing the original Queen Mary piano.  It has a lovely tone but he says it's difficult to play.  Some people behind us were cackling away which got on my nerves as I was trying to listen to the music.  We left around midnight before we turned into pumpkins and went back to the cabin.  As it was quiet I decided to get a photo of the deck as it slopes up at the end.
Our first sea day and we opted for room service as neither of us had from Cunard.  I did miss the phone call Royal Caribbean give you telling you it's on the way.  Rowan went back to sleep then apologised to Benny for still being in bed when he delivered it.  It had been absolutely freezing in that cabin, like sleeping in a fridge and the control was broken.  We were going incredibly slowly and the speed dropped from 6.6 knots to 3.4 to 2.9.  Amy told me later we'd had a complete loss of power and came to a dead stop.
By the time we finished breakfast we were back up to normal speed which was a relief.  Still it was my second cruise on this ship in a row we'd had engine trouble.  We also had a listing one and there was as much consistency with that as their was the manic air conditioning!  Ah the joys of sailing Lizzie.  This must be what Canberra's passengers must have gone through as her career drew to an end.
As staircase A came out at the Falklands Display on Two Deck, it was easy not to miss it this time and we looked at the new painting, which included Canberra, and also the 25th anniversary plaque.  Then we went on deck.  It was a little breezy but not too bad for the North Sea.  I couldn't see Rosie anywhere and she was going our way, heading for Stavanger.
We went to the future cruise sales office and the English lady remembered me from December as they don't get many female ship enthusiasts onboard.  Afterwards we went to the lunchtime quiz in the Golden Lion.  Amy and Jason joined us partway through then we had our pub lunch.  Amy's fish, chips and mushy peas was fish, French Fries and mashed peas.  Is this British or American's idea of British? P&O's just as bad to be honest.  If the menu says chips that's just what it ought to be.
Afterwards Amy and I went to the the Grand Lounge for the Melodramatic Musical Murder Mystery Quiz which was decribed as, Sherlock Holmes Mystery of the Murdered Master Mariner at Midnight on a Misty Monday in the Mid Atlantic with a Mayan Machete! and bloody hilarious.  We and a couple behind were probably the youngest there.
We decided to go to Afternoon Tea.  The Queens Room was decorated for that evening's Black & White Ball which we weren't planning to attend.  Afterwards we returned to the cabin to get ready for dinner.
The Maitre'd brought Rowan large print menu.  We'd forgotten to ask after boarding so she didn't have one the previous night.  It had been said to me after the last time we went together that she only had any because we were in Grill.  This proves that's a stuck up attitude.  Here we were in steerage (of which the food was just as good) and had the same treatment.  In fact, and I said this on the ship to Denisea, it was better service.  I can't say about the other Cunard ships as I've only done Lizzie, but she is great and so are her crew.
Another post-dinner stroll after we'd had a couple of drinks in the Crystal Bar where Patrick had been playing and smiled to me.  This was one of my favourite places as it's so quiet, especially when first sitting steerage is over as everyone else is still eating. Rowan wanted to shop and Amy went to check emails.  I dropped some stuff off at the cabin and found Union Jacks on the beds for the Bergen sailaway the next day.  Cunard are turning into P&O but with more expensive sailaway booze!  Hey, perhaps they'll bring back the band on the quayside to see us off!
After returning to the cabin we had our first twilight night.  It was pretty strange having some sort of light coming into the cabin, but we had put our clocks forward the night before.

In the morning we were up early to be out on deck by 7am to see our arrival into Bergen.  This would be
Lizzie's final visit to the port.  The water from the sink was a yellow colour with a foul smell but we didn't see Benny to tell him as we went outside.  Maxim Gorkiy was behind us but slipped by as we were docking.  Grand Voyager and Explorer were already in.  As we admired the scenery it rained on us so we dashed inside.
We sat in the Crystal Bar while Benny did the cabin and Captain McNaught walked through saying good morning.  The first glimpse of my other captain.  As I'd only had David Perkins on my trips this would be interesting as I'd heard good things about Ian McNaught.  He loves Lizzie so is all right by me for a start!  We then went to the Traveller's Cove, a place neither of us had ever been to.  It's a bit like the Emporium on P&O with sweets and stuff and so-called tax free prices but actually costs more.  Nice young man on the till though and I noticed he had a Farewell Season badge saying 2007-2008.  He told me they are available in the logo shop by the till.  I had to find one but later.  Benny hadn't done the cabin so we sat on the stairs.  When Rowan decided she wanted to buy another back from the Traveller's Cove, I went to check and saw Benny.  I reported the plumbing problem to him and was told he'd reported a different one the day before.
After a room service lunch which was a really nice chicken sandwich, we went outside to await our Best of Bergen excursion.  It was bloody pouring.  Rowan stayed under shelter while I went to get shots of the ship.  When I headed forward some dock workers said I could take one of the bow on the strict understanding I knew it was at my own risk.  I said fine and I won't fall in or do anything I shouldn't. No sooner had I moved in that direction than a jobsworth began yelling at me so I only managed a quick one.  The excursion lady appeared and said we could all go and sit in the coach while we waited which helped.
Our guide was 26 year old Italian Dario Bartoli who had studied in Bergen.  He was so nice and I enjoyed listening to what he was saying.  We had a few moaners during the trip as usual.  We passed the summer home of the Norwegian Royal Family as we drove towards a replica stave church at Fantoft.  The original had been burnt down by satanists or something in 1992 and they had a couple of pieces of the original wood propped up along one side of it.
As we passed another Cunard group, we returned to the coach and drove around some towns but weren't able to get out for photos.  Shame as being up so high it was the only way to see Lizzie in the docks.
We went back down and were almost where we started when we finally had a photo stop but there was only one thing I was interested in - the ships!  Grand Voyager had left at 2pm while Lizzie was tucked away elsewhere but we had the addition of Le Diamant to Explorer and the hiding Maxim Gorkiy.  Le Diamant appeared so much larger than at Cobh last year, but I was on Navigator of the Seas at the time so perhaps that's the reason.


© Patricia Dempsey 25th June-2nd July 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission