Day QM2+44, Friday, March 20, 2020, Sydney to Dallas and finally home.

The Crystal Serenity concludes her world cruise in Fremantle. I have heard that Filipino cruise staff will be taking refuge on board as they will not be permitted to return to their homeland. The sun set in Dallas at 7:39 although it was cloudy. QM2 is continuing her voyage as a merchant ship back to Southampton. As I start this post (9AM EDT, March 23) she has arrived in Mauritius for refueling. Her next stop according to AIS is Durban.

While my flight to Sydney had been in Economy, the ongoing itinerary back to Baltimore was in Business Class and my boarding time was 12:55PM. I did not set an alarm and woke up around 7:30 and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast about 8, getting sausage and toast.

The shuttle to the airport was for fee and ran once every 40 minutes. After breakfast I booked the 10:10 shuttle and took a short walk to a local park which had I think a Cricket wicket.

With Business Class my baggage allowance had gone from 1 23kg bag to 3 32kg bags. I left the rolling bags as they were and put only the things I needed to carry (electronics with li-on batteries and meds) in the medium sized backpack and checked the large backpack (only about 7kg). Checkin was a breeze and should have gotten me priority the rest of the way to the gate. Unfortunately, the automated passport control did not like my passport and I had to go to the regular line for a live agent but was still finished pretty quickly, and security was also pretty quick. Once in the terminal I needed to pass through quite a large business area at the entry to the gates. Our malls are all shut down, but every business in this area was wide open.

Qantas had a nice lounge where I still had the better part of 2 hours before it was time for my flight. As boarding time approached there was an announcement in the terminal that my flight would be delayed “while the aircraft was catered”. Almost immediately after that the screen said “proceed to gate” but it was almost departure time when boarding actually started. To make matters worse near the end of the process the pilot announced a problem with the aircraft which would require a complete shutdown of the plane and reboot. Fortunately, the reboot was successful. Our scheduled departure was 13:40 but it was 14:55 when the plane started moving forward and 3:05 when we left the runway.

The plane was an Airbus A380, I’m quite sure the biggest I have ever flown; 2 full passenger decks, each served by it’s own jetway. Service started off with a dinner about an hour after we left. I chose a steak entree.

The seats each extended flat to form a makeshift bed. The woman next to me who had flown from Perth overnight slept a lot while I got only a bit of sleep and a lot of rest. There was a little pantry in the galley where I grabbed a bag of chips mid-flight. A breakfast was served about 90 minutes before we landed, even though it was almost noon in Dallas by that time.

Our scheduled arrival was 12:55 but we touched down at 1:30 and exited the plane at 1:55. My connection to Baltimore was 2:25 and there was no way I could make it. I have Global Entry but the system did not like my fingerprints and I had to go through Immigration the usual way. There were no questions but I expect there were thermal sensors and I’m quite sure our passports are scanned at each country even if they are not stamped and I assume the officer could see where I had been recently. ln any case I was through pretty quickly. Just before the baggage hall there were a number of ticket jackets taped to the wall arranged by destination city and passenger. My new boarding pass was probably about the 6th in the line.

The 484 passenger plane was almost full and assuming about 2 bags per person that created a real zoo at the baggage carousel. There were abundant trolleys and I found my 3 bags in about a half hour. I had more than enough time as my new flight didn’t leave until 8:30.

A first class domestic ticket does not entitle use of a lounge on American. I checked with the Admiral’s Club to see if there was a possibility based on my incoming flight. They thought so but sent me to the Flagship Lounge a couple of gates further down. They had to scan both my incoming and outgoing boarding passes to get me in the door. The lounge was not great but was better than trying to hang out in the open area.

I left the lounge about 7:45, needing to go from Terminal D to Terminal B on a little train. The flight was lightly booked (perhaps 1/3 full) and ran pretty much on time. We landed at BWI at 12:30 and I had my bags a bit before 1. There was no problem getting a taxi home and I arrived about 1:25 and was in bed about 1:45.

Sleeping has been unsteady. I did not sleep much Friday night. I had a pretty successful grocery shopping day Saturday although things were really strange. Saturday night I slept until 10:15AM. Since my church’s virtual worship was at 10:30 at the time I was still getting ready for the day and not very attentive for the first 15 minutes or so. I took walks in my neighborhood both Saturday and Sunday but on Monday it has rained so no exercise so far. I also did not sleep very long Sunday night. It may take a while to get contoll of my body clock back after a 12-hour shift in less than 3 days.

My parting shot will perhaps be a bit long and surprising. I wanted to end on a positive note and had saved a few photos for a sea day out of Fremantle which never happened. People often ask what the difference is between a cruise ship and an ocean liner. Much of the answer is technical like strength of the steel and hull design but I like one graphic. People often ask about a ship “Can you go out on the bow?”. There are 2 heavy steel doors at the front of the promenade deck that are normally open and lead to an open deck with spare propellor blades that sure looks like the bow:

Not so fast. Go all the way to the railing and there’s a second long bow that you can’t go on.

But wait, there’s more. Looking closely at the mast in front you don’t see the bottom and if you move to the side you can see a 3rd bow”

That massive bow reinforcement is largely responsible for the way QM2 handles raging Atlantic storms. I’m sad that I will miss a month of QM2 doing what she was designed so well to do but look forward to my next transatlantic on her.

Roy

Day QM2+3, Thursday, March 19, 2020, Perth to Sydney

The Crystal Serenity begins an overnight call in Perth (Fremantle), prematurely ending her world cruise.

It was a cloudy morning but the sun did shine through the clouds about 6:30.

I headed out for a walk early, walking east until about the time I got to the WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) stadium.

On my way back I paused by the pond in the Queens Garden.

I went down to the buffet about 8:30. My final Pan Pacific breakfast was bacon and hash browns.

When I returned to my room there was a message in my spam folder. It turned out to be my flight. It was that afternoon at 1:50PM but went only as far as Sydney. The email said I would be contacted by the hotel about a transfer to the airport but not knowing what to expect I packed up as quickly as possible and caught a cab to the airport. I was kind of amused by a long line waiting to get into a Cosco near the airport. According to the taxi driver it was opening day and not necessarily people hoarding supplies.

When I arrived at the airport the checkin line was minimal and I was through quite quickly. Not knowing what I would have as a baggage allowance I packed each of the roll ons to about 50 pounds. I put as many heavy things as I could in the collapsible backpack, and what was left over went into the large backpack. The big backpack would be my carryon bag and the little one my personal item. Together those two totaled about 12kg.

When I reached the counter the two rolling bags were 22 and 23 kg, JUST within the 23kg limit. However, my ticket only covered one check and I had to go to a sales counter to pay for the second bag before getting my boarding pass. When I finished that process the line extended well beyond the maze for the checkin counter.

Security was a breeze and I ended up with almost 3 to kill before the flight. I bought a muffin for lunch and a can of Pringles for later in the day. The flight to Perth was a widebody A330. It was probably only 1/3 full. A meal was served; I chose beef and rice. It was close to 9:30 when I collected my luggage. The representative in Perth suggested I see American once I got to Sydney to see if I had an ongoing reservation but the transfers to the international terminal were closed so I checked my email to see if there was anything new. I had a reservation for Friday and Cunard suggested I find a hotel and get reimbursed later. While some airports have direct telephones to hotels Sydney did not so I tried an online search. It looked like the best choice to be near the airport at a decent price was CKS Airport hotel and it was time to get another taxi.

They hadn’t quite gotten my reservation yet but it was soon retrieved. I had a temporary scare when I went to check in as I couldn’t find my Australian wallet when I went to give them a credit card for my incidentals. I was soon on my way to room 121 and a great relief. I haven’t put my wallet in my hip pocket for years but had somehow done so when leaving the taxi. I did a few things online (including trying but unable to check in for my onward flight) and was in bed about 11.

I will skip ahead a bit here with a bit of financial information. Cunard has paid for my flights and expenses since leaving the ship and I have a pretty small cash outlay for the trip home. My TOTAL cash expenses since leaving Perth have been quite a modest $255US, with Cunard picking up in advance my airfare and hotel in Sydney. Not a bad layout for an unplanned trip almost halfway around the globe.

As a parting shot there are a number of cruisers somewhat in limbo. I know there are a few ships still in the Pacific which will not be able to disembark their passengers for at least a few days. Pacific Princess is in Perth and apparently ready to carry not just their own passengers not flying home but also some from HAL Amsterdam, and Seabourn. I have friends on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, Crystal Serenity, and Amsterdam whose return I haven’t been able to verify. There are also as I understand it almost 300 passengers on QM2 slowly making their way back to Southampton. May all be home safe and sound as soon as possible.

Roy

Day QM2+2, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Perth

The Crystal Serenity was denied entry to Geraldton and due to arrive Fremantle 19 March. QM2 is continuing to Mauritius for refueling as a merchant ship and is due to arrive 23 March (tour itinerary had us visiting there 22 March so despite her 2 day delay in Fremantle she will make up one of those days) The sun rose at 6:18 and set at 6:32. The moon rose at 12:27 AM and set at 3:04PM.

I was up about 5:30 and once things got a bit brighter the skies were probably 50% clear. The sun appeared over the hills in the direction of the airport about 3 minutes after official sunrise.

I went for a walk early, leaving sometime after 7 and going to the central business district along Hay Street, one of the main avenues of Perth.

Once in the central business district Hay street becomes a pedestrian mall with one interesting sculpture.

Hungry Jacks (Burger King’s Australia trade name) has the most drinkable coffee I’ve found in Australia so I stopped for a cup and then stopped at Woolworth’s (major grocery chain) and bought a quart of skim milk, applesauce, and a serving of raspberries). When I left there were a lot of people outside the doors waiting to enter. I think I saw something about grocery stores opening just for seniors ahead of letting everyone else in. I returned along St. Georges Terrace, the street the Pan Pacific is on, passing first the Cathedral (Anglican).

Government house was on the wrong side of the street. It’s the residence of the Western Australia Governor.

I crossed the street to be on the same side as Perth’s Concert Hall, pretty close to the hotel. I am quite sure that by now any events there will have been cancelled. I was back at the hotel about 8:15.

I was back at the Montereys Brasserie for breakfast, an omelet and pancakes and again plum forgot to get out my camera. It dawned on me mid morning that it would probably be wise to be in contact with the US Consulate in Perth and sent them an email. I got an email reply pretty promptly and a phone call about 3PM. They are aware of the situation and have been in contact with Cunard. They recommended patience and to let them know if there is anything else they can do. I do believe Cunard is doing their best under difficult circumstances and would rather have them working on reservations than talking to me. I am getting conflicting advice, either get back ASAP or don’t rush as things are really bad in the US. At the moment people who have had flights seem to be returning without being quarantined and I hope that will continue.

Lunch was a muffin (raspberry) and coffee from the Lobby Cafe. I took it to an outer table and found things still a bit on the cool side except in the sun and out of the wind. Once I finished the muffin I took a stroll down to Langley Park, a green space between the hotel and the Swan River. Two football (soccer) pitches were hubs of activity. The remainder of my lunch was skim milk and the last of my apples. From here on I will use the applesauce and pack the paring knife used to cut up the apples in my checked bag.

Dinner was back at the Hill Street Bar with another try at the burger. As it turned out the menu said pickle which I think was really a relish and it got unpleasantly in the way of the taste of the meat.

My parting shot is another bit of a connection. After leaving Sydney I hadn’t expected to see the Crystal Serenity again and technically I won’t but it will be oh so close. Crystal Serenity will arrive Thursday morning less than 10 miles away in the same berth where I left QM2. Welcome to Perth, former shipmates.

Roy

Day QM2+1, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Perth

The Crystal Serenity was to be at sea from Broome to Geraldton but was denied permission for a port call and is proceeding to Fremantle where her world cruise will terminate. Queen Mary 2 is proceeding to Mauritius for refueling with a few passengers medically unable to fly and a reported skeleton crew of less than 100. The sun rose at 6:17 and set at 6:33. The moon set at 2:11PM.

As I start this post I do not yet have flight arrangements and spent the majority of the day in my room to be ready for any announcements. It was a cloudy day and chilly but the sun did produce some nice color a about 6:30.

Cunard is covering full board and the nicest meal of the day is probably breakfast with a large buffet. When I returned from breakfast a note had been slipped under my door from a Cruise Critic member who was supposed to board QM2 on Saturday. He has finally gotten an update from Cunard and will fly home Thursday night. I met a few other passengers in the elevator who were leaving this evening.

Lunch and dinners have been from the hotel’s Hill Street Sports Bar. Both Monday dinner and Tuesday lunch were the chicken wings. I had planned on going out for dinner but when I started off it started raining and that was a washout.

I did get a short walk in after lunch. There’s a free bus that runs near the hotel and I walked southeast along the route to be able to catch the bus back if the rain resumed. I got as far as Queens Park, a nice little green space where a former brick yard had been converted to a pond. A tower in the background of the photo is the WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association).

Dinner at the Hill Street Sports Bar was a burger. It came with some stuff I scraped off and was a mess by the time I thought of taking a photo.

My parting shot should still be somewhat relevant for Americans although it may be too late for Brits. I hadn’t really thought about it but may St. Patrick’s Day be a great one.

Roy

Day QM2-10, Monday, March 16, 2020, Disembark Queen Mary 2

The Crystal Serenity is at sea from Broome to Geraldton. The sun rose at 6:17 and set at 6:34. The moon set at 1:13PM and rose at 11:35PM.

I ended up very near the midpoint of my intended round the world journey. It is 9004 air miles from Fremantle to Heathrow, continuing to travel westbound. Baltimore is 11,586 miles away, and that’s returning to the east. In terms of air time East or West is probably a pretty close match, so the itinerary Cunard comes up will be pretty close to an even match.

I was in no rush to get up this morning but I woke up about 5:15 and was on deck about 5:45. It was too cloudy to have a sunrise but I walked 3 laps before the crews came out with their pressure hoses and another 1 1/2 later. As I finished the first 3 laps the Costa Deliziosa was pulling in behind us, apparently to discharge her passengers on a cancellation of her world cruise.

The lines for the purser’s office have been running back past the elevators most of the time since the announcement of no new embarkations. The statement on my door this morning showed $350 of non-refundable onboard credit and there was no line at the pursers at 6:40AM. They were quite cooperative about allowing me to apply that unused credit to additional gratuities. Things will be tough for the crew so it just seemed like the right thing to do. I will leave the ship with a zero balance.

The main section of Kings Court buffet was completely overhauled at a recent drydock. It is now an open area with an island in the middle. At the forward end of the area is a line with hot cooked dishes including an omelet station. The island has breads on one side and pastries on the other. The aft counter is fruit and other cold dishes. This morning a couple of sections of the buffet were closed down as a number of people had already left the ship.

There was a morning crew evacuation drill and for a short while my balcony view was clear and boat 3 was circling the water nearby.

When the boats were brought back into position I got a look inside a true lifeboat (as opposed to a tender) before the hatches were closed. There seem to be 2 levels of benches with even very little foot room around people on the other level.

Borderforce Australia allowed 2 windows for disembarkation, 8-10AM and 2-4PM, although Australian citizens could disembark at any time. My letter came at 11:20. I was sent to the Pan Pacific hotel in Perth with flight information to be sent to the hotel. I got a couple of lunch items at Kings Court but also consumed more of the snacks I would be leaving behind.

When 2PM came there was a long line at the gangway but after a few minutes we were told there was another gangway at C stairway. That proved to be much quicker. I was given a blue card indicating I had cleared Australian Customs when entering on the Serenity and did not need to clear again. Captain Hashmi and Paul O’Laughlin were at the terminal door to see us off.

The luggage hall was a real zoo. The letter had promised trolleys and porters but there were no trolleys and very few porters. I put the big backpack on my back and the small ones over the handles of the 2 wheelies and got in line. After about 10 minutes in a barely crawling line I was told there was a separate line for the blue cards but very little path to get there.

We are told to never leave our belongings unattended but most of the bags in the hall were already unattended so I walked one bag at a time through the entrance to my line. I just handed my blue card to the agent and headed out to the buses which left with many open seats but a jammed baggage compartment. We arrived at the Pan Pacific just about 4.

I checked in quickly with the Cunard reps who did not have a lot of information. They are only there one day and my contact will be through the Concierge. Checkin was slow but I was finally in room 2101 about 4:45. I was told that Cunard is covering all meals and even alcohol. I assume disembarkation ran really slowly because QM2 was told to leave at 6PM but actually departed at 7:30.

I got chicken wings at the hotel bar and ice cream (preferred brand but not exact same product) at a convenience store across the street. I did not accomplish a lot in the evening and was in bed early. My bedtime snack was most of my QM2 chocolates.

As my parting shot I have been on QM2 extensively but very little as a cruise ship. I had anticipated from the beginning that my longest QM2 cruise ever would end in Fremantle. She is bigger than I like as a cruise ship but in today’s world not as huge (compared to other cruise ships) as she was in her early years. She passed in this voyage but as a cruise ship I would still prefer QV or QE or many other ships. The planned journey from Fremantle was to be just 9 ports over 6 weeks with huge stretches of what QM2 was so marvelously designed to do–transit vast ocean passages with dispatch, comfort, safety, and grace. She will be doing most of that (not so sure about the grace) but sadly without me.

PS: As of 7:45 Tuesday no flights yet.

Roy

Day QM2-9. Sunday, March 15, 2020, End of cruise announcement, Fremantle

The Crystal Serenity starts a Corona modified itinerary from Darwin to Broome for the last few days of her world cruise. The sun rose at 6:15 and set at 6:37. The moon set at 11:05AM and rose at 10:01PM.

The day started pretty normally. When I first went out on deck the moon was almost directly overhead and I caught a view of it between 2 lifeboats.

The Daily Programme listed a 6AM Morning Show so I took a peek at the morning sky on my 3rd lap around the promenade deck before heading inside.

The morning show was not quite normal but O’Laughlin indicated that no new lecturers nor entertainers would be boarding so the on board entertainment team would be brainstorming to put together an entertainment and enrichment program for the next 5 weeks. The first night’s program was to be the Royal Theater Orchestra joining the Queens Room vocalist Kelly Young.

I have not posted a lot about the ship so for now I will mention part of the deck 7 food setup. There is a lounge for guests in Grills accommodations between stairways C and D on the starboard side. Right next to stairway C there is a small section called “Chefs Galley”. It serves juices and pastries in the morning and burgers, fries, etc. at lunch.

Just across from Chefs Galley on the port side is a small serving area with dining tables across from the Grills Lounge. It serves grill items (pancakes, waffles, etc) at breakfast and pizza and pasta at lunch. It opens for lunch at 12:30 and I forgot to take a photo of it once it opened.

On the wall adjoining stairway D there is a counter with lactose free items.

In between these 2 counters there is an island which serves milk, cereal, and gluten free items in the morning. In the afternoon the island is not used but gluten free items are available on half the counter with the lactose free selection.

With a day in port I had planned to do a quick laundry in the morning and visit a local church once that was done. The deck 8 laundry was already spoken for at 7:15 but I found a washer on deck 6. As I returned at 8 to move the laundry to the dryer the other shoe dropped. I was just on the stairs down to deck 6 when Captain Hashmi came on the PA and announced the termination of the World Cruise. A very limited number of passengers who could document inability to fly would be allowed to continue to Southampton under very limited conditions on a voyage estimated to be 25 days. The vessel would be operating as a merchant ship (I will guess perhaps the equivalent of a ferry) rather than a cruise ship.

When I returned to the laundry before 9 the dryer had stopped with the clothes still wet. There was now a backup in the laundry room so I gave the dryer an extra 20 minutes but gave up the dryer with the load still quite damp. I hung the items around the stateroom to give them a chance to dry more.

With the announcement of the termination of the cruise I turned my attention mostly to packing and did not leave the ship at all. The ship was originally due to sail at 11PM but reality soon set in and our stay was extended to Monday evening. A letter arrived around 10 with a request for our onward travel preferences. Cunard has promised us air passage back home with a hotel provided until our flights. I requested a flight on March 18. I will probably not know until almost disembarkation time what the actual arrangements will be.

https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/corona15.pdf

I have a number of open snack items which I will not try to take through Australian Customs. Lunch was pizza, skim milk, and one of the apples I bought in Melbourne. I do not know what the airline baggage policies will be so I tried to pack in a manner as universally as possible. I hope to be able to make a couple of adjustments while in the hotel but wanted to be as prepared as possible. By the end of the afternoon I had gotten the 2 rolling bags to 50 pounds each. Updates during the afternoon indicated there are still 1500 people on board needing arrangements.

One of the couples at table 211 had requested termination of their cruise on Saturday and were on their way to the airport by 5PM. The other couple requested immediate flights but is still waiting on their arrangements. For my final dinner I chose the chicken and coconut soup, always available chicken, and ice cream for desert.

The 2 rolling bags went out soon after dinner. Kelly Young’s performance was cancelled and there were movies in both Illuminations and Royal Court Theater.

I had originally hoped to check just the 2 rolling bags. I would have liked to pack the smaller backpack in one of those bags as the larger backpack fits in the overhead bin and the collapsible minipack can serve as my personal item. If I face a carryon limit of 7 kg what I have left will exceed that allowance so I sent my larger backpack out for the porters to pick up around 10. It was about 11kg. If the airlines have a limit greater than 50 pounds I may still be able to operate with just 2 checked bags.

My parting shot is simple: OUCH!

Roy

Day QM2-8, Saturday, March 14, 2020, Perth

Note: This post was written early Sunday morning and only minimally amended for the 8AM bombshell

The Crystal Serenity starts a Corona modified itinerary from Darwin to Broome. The sun rose at 6:15 and set at 6:37. The moon set at 11:05AM and rose at 10:01PM.

The day started relatively routinely with a walk of 3 1/2 laps around the promenade deck with an eventual total of 5. We entered the harbor about 6, passing the World on the way to our berth.

It was looking like pretty much a normal port day until Captain Hashmi came on the PA at 7:45 with stunning news. Due to the coronavirus situation, no guests nor crew will be allowed to embark in Fremantle. This includes Captain Wells, so Captain Hashmi will be on board until Southampton. People who wish to leave in Fremantle will be permitted to do so and our departure was extended, first by 2 hours and later by 24 hours. I learned later in the day that Holland America’s World Cruises would end in a few days in Fremantle, so if we do manage a return to Southampton we will be one of the last World Cruises standing.

I had a tour, “Twin Cities and River Cruise”. We left the dock about 9 and drove pretty quickly across the Swan River and along the North Fremantle coast stopping first at Kings Park with a panoramic view of the landscape.

Also at Kings Park was a memorial to Australia’s war dead.

We drove through the center of Perth stopping at a ferry landing on the Swan where we boarded our boat. The tour boat sometimes serves as a ferry to Rottnest Island but I believe the voyage we were on was part of a luncheon cruise out of both Perth and Fremantle.

Much of the Swan upstream from the cruise terminal is wide, virtually a huge bay, but can never be a home to shipping due to a series of low, fixed bridges just beyond the currently used area.

Just before the dock where we left the boat and additional lunch passengers embarked we passed QM2, docked and looking serene.

We had a brief tour of Fremantle as we re-boarded our coach. The Roundhouse was originally a temporary detention center for indigenous prisoners who would end up serving their sentences at Rottnest Island.

One of the attractions along the way was the Tourist Wheel, part of the Esplanade green space.

We nearly circled the Fremantle Prison but we did not get a single really good view of it.

Some people left the coach at the ancient market, just before we returned to the ship.

When I returned to my cabin the letter that Captain Hashmi had promised was waiting, although things were changing so fast it was already a bit out of date.

https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/corona14.pdf
I got lunch at the Boardwalk Cafe and then headed out in search of one final Peters dixie cup. I was unsuccessful there but did find some blueberries at Coles for a late evening snack.

It was close to 5PM when I first heard that things had changed again. Apparently Captain Hashmi made a 10AM announcement and we are in port until Sunday evening. People who wish to leave must do so by 8PM Saturday and there will be 2 1-hour windows on Sunday when Australian Borderforce will be on the scene to process disembarking passengers.

There were just 3 of us at table 211. We think the other couple was likely dining at Kings Court. My 2 remaining tablemates plan to continue to the end as they feel this is not a good time to be at airports and in slender metal tubes. I chose the beef consume, lamb chops, and poached pear.

The featured entertainment, clarinetist Amber Jade was caught up in the day’s events and unable to embark. There were 2 movies, ‘Doctor Sleep’ in Illuminations and ‘Hidden Figures’ in the Royal Court Theater. I did not go to either. I did go up to Cafe Carinthia to upload documents to my blog. The March 14 Daily Programme is almost like a collectors item because it was distributed before the changes were announced and a good guide to what should have happened but irrelevant to what actually happened. Cafe Carinthia was silent there when I arrived but Fiona McGee was just starting to play her harp as I left.

My parting shot will be a request related to the Cunard Forum of Cruise Critic. There is a dedicated thread there for Coronavirus. The situation will have a major impact on the rest of my voyage and I will report on the situation as it affects my experience here but if I have any general information about Cunard and Coronavirus I will post it on that thread. If readers have questions about Caronavirus please post them on one of the other places I’m reporting.

One is the World Cruise forum of Cruise Critic:

As I write this the internet is not working but that thread should be one of the first listed in the World Cruising forum.

The other is as a comment to the blog at:

https://morethangetaways.wordpress.com

PS: as of the 6AM morning show Paul O’Loughlin indicated we would still get to Southampton. At 8AM Captain Hashmi came on the PA and the other shoe dropped. We may stay aboard potentially until 8PM Tuesday.

Roy

Day QM2-7, Friday, March 13, 2020, Busselton

The Crystal Serenity is in Darwin. The sun rose at 6:17 and set at 6:42, The moon set at 10:01AM and rose at 9:20PM.

When I first went out on deck there were force 7 winds and I did not think tendering looked promising. With a rather strenuous tour planned I walked only once around the promenade deck with one additional lap after returning from the tour. Somewhat to my surprise the tenders were released around 7:30.

I had a fairly early tour, “Ngilgi Cave and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse”. QM2’s tour system is probably the most regimented I have ever seen. We enter the Royal Court Theater and are given a numbered/colored sticker and directed to a small section of the auditorium with signs for each number’s area. When the tour is called, we go down as a group to the tender landing and board the tender. The tenders are fairly standard, just a little bit bigger than most but fairly standard. As I looked at the hull from close-up, it looks like the ship should be getting fairly close to her next drydock The tender has facilities for an upper level seating although it was too rough to use it on the way to shore and was only in use for the return trip.

Boarding the tender was easy but it was a rough ride into town with waves often crashing over the tender roof. Bussleton boasts “the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere”. It is actually mostly concrete now after storm damage but it’s over a mile long. I should have been suspicious of riding in on tender 13 on Friday the 13th. We were almost ashore when they called the driver with “You’re on the wrong side of the jetty”. It was almost another 2 miles going around the end of the jetty to get back to the landing spot. The seas had calmed quite a bit when we first passed the end of the jetty and our driver cracked the hatch above his head. He was absolutely drenched as a giant wave hit us going back around the end of the dock. At the shore end of the dock there was a very nice hand drawn sign welcoming us to town.

With our extra tender time our tour ran late all day. It was about 10:30 when we reached our first stop, the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse on Geographie Bay, roughly 20 miles South of Busselton. The Keeper’s house is apparently now used for private functions; it was not open during our visit.

There are tours of the lighthouse, but they were not part of our tour and we did not have time to do it even if we wanted to purchase one.

It was then a short drive to the Ngilgi caves, near the little town of Yallingup (the suffix up in the native language means ‘place’). The entrance was from a hole in the top and when we were just in our guide gave us a brief introduction and left us to explore on our own. There were most of the typical scenes in caves and at one place there was a table with samples of the limestone we could touch. By the time I reached the end it had been quite a workout.

The brochure had said “350 steps”. Some were wooden and easy to negotiate while others were cut into the rock and uneven with a few of the steps had very high rises. There were generally railings but in a couple of places there were none and it felt a bit scary.

I saw only one traditional column in the cave.

While in Sydney I had purchased an 8-pack of small bags of potato chips (crisps) and consumed 7 of them before boarding QM2. The last of those bags was the start of my lunch. Also in Sydney there was one ice cream product I liked both for size and for a sensible size. I checked all the stores in Busselton coming up empty until a restaurant had it while I was almost returning to the ship. A glass on skim milk on board completed my lunch.

As I returned to the jetty QM2 was sitting placidly in the distance. The ride back to the ship was uneventful. While the upper level of the tender was in use I was on the lower level.

There was one final dinner for all six of us at table 211. I chose the gourmet greens, spa beef tenderloin, and apple and apricot tart.

The featured entertainment was a repeat performance by the Valleys with music of the 60’s boy bands (Temptations, Bee Gees, Drifters, and Beatles). I arrived a bit early so I could exit when the encores started.

My parting shot will be difficult and a foreshadowing of uncertainty to come. At 7:45AM Saturday Captain Hashmi came on the PA with sudden and stunning changes. Nobody (guest nor crew) would be allowed to board in Fremantle, and several ports would be missed on our upcoming segment. Even Captain Wells will not be boarding and Captain Hashmi will be continuing. I have not heard anything definitive but it sounds like we will remain in Fremantle another day to allow guests who wish to leave to pack and make arrangements. I wish all with their plans disrupted a minimum of further frustrations.

Roy

Day QM2-6, Thursday, March 12, 2020, At sea, Queen Mary 2

The Crystal Serenity is at sea from Cairns to Darwin. The sun rose at 6:45 and set at 7:31. The moon set at 9:21AM and returned at 9:27PM.

In Come From Away Mayor Claude Elliott starts his Gander day at Tim Hortons. I start my QM2 day at one of the coffee stations in Kings Court. Coffee, tea, regular and skim milk, juice, water, and ice all there but for me it’s coffee, and all just steps away from the finest promenade deck at sea.

When I went on deck and rounded the stern the moon was shining brightly above the starboard life raft cluster. I walked 4 laps before returning to my cabin for Paul’s morning update.

I returned to the promenade deck for an additional 7 laps for a somewhat reduced but still satisfactory total of 11 (4 miles). As I rounded the bow of the second of those laps I just missed seeing the sun drop behind a low lying while the sky was still a pastel of beauty.

I took care of the day’s internet business before the lecture activity started at 10. Judy Hinchcliff started things off with a talk on Crocodiles, followed by a Q&A with Olympian Rechelle Hawkes. In his final noon update Captain Hashmi noted we had 365 miles to go and were 70 miles southeast of the nearest land. We should approach Busselton at 7 and be anchored by 8. He indicated that wind and sea swells might be an issue with tendering. As I think he traditionally does he closed his final message of a voyage with a letter “Why I want to be a Sea Captain”.

There was a chilly wind up on deck 12. I took my lunch from the Boardwalk Cafe to one of the loungers and wrapped up in one of the pool towels for some extra warmth. Almost lunch in bed.

The Chart Auction for the Prince’s Trust was held at 2 in the Grand Lobby. There were 2 charts, one for the Sydney to Fremantle segment ($850) and the other for the full circumnavigation of Australia ($1,400). I wonder if the days of the Chart Auction may be numbered as the world goes to electronic charts. The actual base charts were at least the full southern hemisphere rather than a more detailed area chart as in the days of old. It is still a nice exercise for the Cadets.

The afternoon presentations were at 3 and 4, first Stuart Usher with the story of the rescue of 6 political prisoners from Fremantle Prison, and then Chris Frame on the story of the QE2.

I have a balcony but it isn’t especially private. For most of the voyage the catwalks between me and boat 3 have been torn up and crews have been out there scraping, painting, and sprucing up the boat riggings. Cruise lines can’t win. If they do this kind of work people will complain about the workers but if they don’t then it will be “the ship is a rust bucket”. Since I’m behind a lifeboat and not a tender I just want to be sure the boat is still up there.

We were a party of 6 for one of the last times at table 211. I chose the duck consume, beef medallion, and ice cream.

The featured entertainment was probably Cunard’s oldest production show, Appassionata. I opted instead to go to a Viennese classical concert by the Harmony Strings (I hadn’t encountered them yet but believe they are part of the crew). It was a very nice performance.

My parting shot will be a wish for safe travels for all joining QM2 in Perth or returning home, and especially Captain Hashmi and my table mate Liz.

Roy

Day QM2-5, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, At sea, Queen Mary 2

The Crystal Serenity is at sea from Cairns to Darwin. The sun rose at 7:01 and set at 7:52. The moon set at 8:23 and rose at 9:11.

I’ll start off with a photo I mentioned but forgot to post on the sea day before Adelaide, the sunset on March 9.

I had planned on walking a little bit more than I did on March 9, perhaps 8-10 laps. I was out on deck about 5:20 and as I rounded the stern an essentially full moon was shining down through the deck 8 railing. I walked 3 laps (1.1 miles) before returning to my cabin to watch Paul O’Laughlin’s morning show live.

O’Laughlin’s guests are usually people associated with some revenue generating activity but this morning he also interviewed the acrobatic duo performing later in the day. After the show I returned to the promenade deck and walked 10 additional laps before starting breakfast. I hadn’t expected much with some low lying clouds but the sun appeared beautifully on about the third of those 10 laps. I walked one final lap just before 9 for a total 14 laps (5.1 miles)

While I have a penchant for expensive cruises I am a cheapskate at heart. When I am buying wifi by the minute I go into scarcity mode. I budget for 30 minutes a day for everything and decided my free 8 hours would be insufficient for 26 days. So far the internet has been very good and I’ve used only 100 minutes for the first 5 days. In addition to personal email and stuff I post by email to the blog which also hosts the pictures I reference on Cruise Critic. I was able to post to the blog just before 10 but did not have time to go on to Cruise Critic before the 10AM lecture.

The first of the day’s lectures (10AM) was Chris Frame with a talk on Cunard and the Queens, covering her last 100 years.

Another new speaker went on at 11. Peter Beckingham talked about the life and voyages of Captain Cook. At the same time Paul was interviewing Captain Hashmi in the Royal Court Theater. Hashmi started life as an airline pilot but started looking for a new career after a major slowdown in the airline industry. At the time Cunard had a program of one way on the QE2 and the other on the Concorde and one of his BA contacts suggest investigating sea life. He is officially Aseem Hashmi, MNM and the MNM was explained. It is Merchant Naval Medal, and it came largely based on his airline background. Hashmi was instrumental in a group devising airline style checklists for ships which are now an industry standard, and his group was appropriately honored.

In his penultimate noon update (Captain Wells joins in Fremantle) Captain Hashmi noted we were in the middle of the great Australian Bight in the Southern Ocean. We were about 200 miles from the nearest land but will get close again as we round the Southwest tip of Australia.

A misprint in the Daily Programme had a 12:15 lecture but when I discovered it should have been 3PM I went up to the Boardwalk Cafe for my lunch, grilled chicken, skim milk, and a cookie. After lunch I finally found the time for my second internet session, posting to Cruise Critic and checking my emails. One from my travel agent had my room assignment for the transatlantic segment of my cruise. I will stay in 8025. It was not available when I first booked so I suspect there was a cancellation.

The final classical concert by Ben and Tyler was in the Royal Court Theater featuring “Rhapsody in Blue” among other works. The final talk of the day was Stuart Usher with the story of the German warship Emden, grounded and wrecked in the South Pacific in WW2.

For the second Gala night of the segment there were again 4 at Table 211. I chose the Chicken Consume, Beef Medallion, and ice cream.

I must say I like Crystal’s “Lectures on Demand” very well. Cunard tapes the lectures but most of them appear on only 1 channel with the day’s lectures running sequentially from 5PM to 5PM the next sea day. I did eventually see Peter Beckingham’s talk on Captain Cook but it ended after the night’s show had already started.

There seems to be a special Ball each Gala night. This one was the Australian Ball.

While on deck 3 aft I popped into night club G32 (for those not familiar with Cunard, the name G32 comes from the number the shipyard assigned to QM2 while it was built It was quite lively with a live band.

The featured entertainment was Power of 2, an acrobatic duo. This type of show has always impressed me with the skill, strength, and flexibility of the performers but left me searching for a reason why I should care. This duo added the element of interesting costumes (one was a clown) but did not change my verdict. The show was at 10:30 and I was in bed by 11, even though we gained an additional hour overnight.

My parting shot is a sad one. I have learned Crystal Serenity’s World Cruise is ending a month early in Perth. I find this sad for everyone but especially for World Cruise Hostess Stacey Houston and venerable Cruise Director Gary Hunter, both on their final World Cruises. I had the feeling this was a likely train wreck by the end of February with the successive announcements that no passengers would be allowed to board in Sydney and then reversed less than 48 hours later. It is also ironic that passengers onboard could continue to Mumbai but would not be allowed to disembark in Perth, and now everyone must leave in Perth. Cunard seems to have been more proactive and organized about this and while there are some concerns I am quite optimistic about my prospects of a successful sail in to New York.

Roy