Firstly I would like to say what a honour it is to have the chance to personally welcome you all to this very special blog post!
I particularly welcome those who are already a keen follower and supporter of Dream Designs Colchester but also welcome anyone who is new and has only just discovered us.
I have especially divided up this blog post into different sections, in order to make it as easy as possible for you to read about our time aboard Queen Mary 2, during the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations! In each section many photographs are included for you to look through too.
Please can I take this opportunity to also apologise for the extended time it has taken for me to publish this blog post. I have been extremely busy as of late. Better late than never!
We decided many months before our voyage, that we would stay overnight in Southampton before boarding Queen Mary 2. As we did for our first voyage in November 2010, we stayed at the Holiday Inn in Southampton.
That afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with Christian Reay, who is currently studying Cruise Industry Management at Southampton Solent University. I also met with another keen follower and supporter of Dream Designs Colchester, Richy Conachey and his mother, who had flown over from their home in Ireland to see the 3 Queens arrive and depart the following day.Of course, I took the chance to show my brand new drawing of Queen Mary 2 to them and get some photographs taken too!
Later that evening I also met with Will Morgan, another fellow ship fan. We had a great time and did not finish our conversation until the early hours of the morning. We could have chatted about ships all night, but I knew I had to be up very early to see the 3 Queens arrival.
Three Queens Arrival
I was up very early! At 03:30 I awoke and looked out or Hotel window on the 6th floor to see the 3 ships off in the distance, slowly making their way down the Solent. So my dad and I got dressed and walked over to Mayflower Park, ready to watch them arrive.
At first there was not many people at all, but as Queen Mary 2 edged closed, more and more people began to appear. She slowly made her way past Mayflower Park to the Upper Swinging Ground, where she would wait for Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth to berth. Queen Victoria appeared next and berthed at City Cruise Terminal, finally followed by Queen Elizabeth, who temporality berthed at Berth 102, facing bow on to Queen Victoria.
Queen Mary 2 then made her way back, alongside her two smaller and younger sisters. By this point, there were quite literally thousands of spectators lining Mayflower Park and the surrounding areas, not the mention the flotilla of boats and crafts on the water too. At around 07:00 Queen Mary 2 finally turned into Ocean Terminal to berth.
After watching the 3 Queens arrival we went back to our hotel room and had another few hours sleep. Both my father and I were very tired!
After our nap, we packed everything and left our hotel at around 10:00 and walked to Ocean Terminal, which we arrived at about 10:30. Obviously this was very early. In fact our E-tickets said our check-in time was 15:00 - 15:30. I believe check-in actually starts as early as 11:00, so we like to try and get aboard as early as possible.
On our last voyage, the 2 night voyage on Queen Mary 2 in October 2011, we were very lucky and were aboard the ship by 12:30. This time we weren’t quite as lucky. We were given a Green B card, which meant we would be one of the first to board, apart from the members with priority boarding.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, embarkation was very messed up in my opinion. Not simply the fact we weren’t aboard until 13:30, but it was the way in which no announcements were made for ages. It was well pass 12:00 and when they made the announcements they didn’t even use the speaker system. Everyone just got up and ran for check-in, many were asked to sit back down.
Southampton Day 1
Once aboard we found our stateroom, which was a B3 Sheltered Balcony at the stern of the vessel on Deck 5. (Only problem was the fact it was at the stern, so everywhere was such a long walk!)
We then went to Deck 7 to have lunch in the buffet. No idea what we had to eat, this was just one of countless times we ate here! I also bumped into John Titheridge who I knew was travelling on board too. My dad and I headed back to our stateroom, where our luggage was awaiting outside. I decided to get changed as I want to go to the gym on board. Onshore I use the gym a lot now, so even though I was not at home, wanted to keep my usual routine.
After working out in the gym, I headed to the buffet area with my dad to relax and sit down for a bit with a glass of juice. The weather was really poor now, raining and very overcast. The announcement was then made to say that the Red Arrows display that had been planned for that evening had been canceled. We spent the evening then familiarising ourselves with Queen Mary 2 again before getting ready for our departure late that evening. I bumped into Patricia Dempsey too, on her way to the Britannia Restaurant to sort out her dietary requirements.
Three Queens Sail Away & Fireworks
At approximately 21:45, Queen Mary 2 began to slowly depart from Ocean Terminal or Berth 46/47 before making her way down to Queen Victoria & Queen Elizabeth. Queen Victoria moved along the berth, so she was again bow on to Queen Elizabeth, as she was for the arrival earlier that morning. Cunard called this the ‘Three Bow Formation’.
We spun around and slowly began to make our way towards the Upper Swinging Ground, passing Town Quay and Mayflower Park, both which were full of spectators. We then passed Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, both completed covered with camera flashes. Once at the Upper Swinging Ground, we spun right round, before slowly pulling alongside Queen Victoria.
The aft and upper decks on Queen Mary 2, were completely packed with guests, ready to watch the fireworks. We then slowed alongside Queen Victoria and the fireworks began. It was quite a spectacular sight, but the fireworks were ruined a little bit due to the poor weather.
Once the fireworks were over, we made our way up the Solent and out to sea, where Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria followed closely behind us. We then returned to our stateroom to call it a night and get some well deserved sleep, after what had been a very long, but exciting day!
Day 2 - At Sea
Day 2 would be my first entire day at sea and was of course my 18th birthday! I awoke at around 09:00 when our telephone rang. It was Keith Maynard, the Entertainment Director, who I had asked to meet. He invited me to meet him at 10:15. My father and I got dressed and then went to the Pursers Desk to meet with Keith. We were invited into his office, where he immidiately knew who I was, as he had seen my drawings displayed aboard Queen Elizabeth & Queen Victoria. He also invited me to be a special guest on his morning TV show which is shown aboard the ship each morning.
After we’d met with Keith, we went back to our stateroom, where I opened my birthday cards. We then went up on deck to see if we could see any ships. We could see quite a few other vessels, we were after all in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. It was then time for lunch in the buffet on Deck 7.
It was then time for us to head to Stairwell A, Deck 12. I had been sent an invitation from the Captain’s secretary, Christel Hansen on behalf of the Captain to sound the ship’s Noon Whistle on my 18th Birthday. We had also bumped into the Captain’s secretary the night before, whilst leaving Southampton.
At around 11:50, we were invited into the navigation bridge by the Captain’s secretary and met with a number of officers who where there. Once the Captain had said hello and made his noon announcement, it was time for me to sound the whistles, which was truly amazing! I then presented my new drawing to Captain Oprey, who said he would find somewhere to display it. One of the ship’s photographers were also there to capture the presentation!
After meeting the Captain and fulfilling another of my dreams (sounding the whistles) my father and I went back to our stateroom to get changed into something slightly less formal. We then spent the afternoon in Illuminations listening to a lecture by Jennie Bond, who was a Royal Correspodent for the BBC. Obviously this was linked in to the Diamond Jubilee events and the voyage too.
Night 2 - At Sea
We spent a number of hours on our balcony before getting changed for dinner, watching ships past by. This was actually the only night we attended dinner, as we were on deck for sail away every other night! Our table was located right in the centre of the Britannia restaurant in front of the towering artwork. The dinner was a special Diamond Jubliee Dinner, which was quite nice.
As it was my Birthday, I was expecting my cake, as I knew Cunard did this. I was so pleasantly surprised when the waiters came over when I least expected it, with a fantastic cake in the shape of Queen Mary 2 herself. It really put a smile on my face. Keith Mayard, the Entertainment Director also came over to wish me Happy Birthday again. The photographer was there again too, to snap away some more photos for me to treasure. (AND PAY FOR!) This was after all a very special voyage.
After dinner we explored the ship a little, everyone seemed to be having a great time. This voyage had a really happy and friendly atmosphere. We strolled into the Royal Court Theatre, where the comedian, singer and impressionist, Allen Stewart was performing. We stood near the entrance, as we were late. We were blown away by the performance. It was hilarious!
It was time then to return to our stateroom, where we retired for the night, as we wanted to be up early for our arrival into Rotterdam.
Day 3 - Rotterdam
It was another very early start as we arrived into our first port of call, Rotterdam. I woke up at around 04:10, with the sound of the pilot boat pulling alongside. By 04:25 my Dad and I were on the Promenade Deck, and made our way up to the Observation Deck on Deck 11 at the bow of the vessel.
At 06:00, we entered the Port of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is the largest Port in Europe, and one of the largest in the world, so during our journey down to our berth in the city centre we knew we would be seeing countless other ships. And we were right! We passed numerous container vessels, bulk carriers and many other small crafts too. We also saw the gigantic flood barrier on route to our berth.
Whilst we were on the Observation Deck, Patricia and Rob arrived to also watch our arrival into Rotterdam. At around 07:30 we first sighted our berth and began to slow before we carefully spun round 180 degrees. We then slowly backed towards our berth. As we continued our careful manoeuvre we passed the historic S.S. Rotterdam, which is now permanently berthed in Rotterdam as a hotel and museum. We finally came alongside the cruise terminal at 08:00, almost perfectly on time.
Now alongside we went to Deck 7 to get breakfast, where we bumped into Patricia and Rob again. We then headed back to our stateroom and collected our belongings before going ashore.
At approximately 09:30 my father and I left our stateroom and headed to the Sir Samuel’s Lounge on Deck 2 where the gangway was situated. We quickly proceeded off the ship, along the gangway, through the cruise terminal and were ashore in no time at all. Now ashore we had to find our way to S.S Rotterdam. Beforehand we walked along the Quay, to take the opportunity to get some photos of Queen Mary 2.
We then made our way to S.S Rotterdam, along the way we met with a gentleman in one of the local parks whilst he was walking his dog, which seemed to get quite a lot of attention from the children within the park. Strangely it turned out that the gentleman had a connection with S.S. Rotterdam and kindly directed us to the ship. We quickly found our way to S.S. Rotterdam, and were alongside the vessel before long, where we took the chance to take some photographs of the historic ship. A gentleman then approached us, to ask if we could help and informed us, that you could visit S.S. Rotterdam for free, he then directed us to the correct gangway to board the ship. We were very surprised and did not know this so jumped at the opportunity and quickly boarded the ship.
The boarding gangway led us onto one of the open decks on the stern of the vessel where we could then take ourselves around the ship. Unfortunately free visits do not allow for you to tour the entire vessel, but we were still very pleased to have had the opportunity to visit the ship.
We then disembarked the ship. On the quayside we bumped into Rob whom had also made his way over to S.S Rotterdam. We briefly chatted before my father and I decided to make our way back to Queen Mary 2.
Once back on board we headed for Deck 7 (which one passenger on board called the food deck) to get lunch. We then spent the afternoon strolling around the ship making the most of the warm sunshine, before most likely having lunch again! We then went back to our stateroom to rest for a short while, before my interview at 17:00 with the Entertainment Director, Keith Maynard.
Just before 17:00 I left the stateroom, leaving my Dad to rest a while before sail away, and headed to the Atlantic Room on Deck 11, where the interview with Keith was set to take place. I then entered the room, where they were setting up the equipment and waiting for Keith to arrive, who was still on the bridge, preparing to make his afternoon announcement. Before long Keith came down from the bridge and introduced everyone to me, including the 3 other guests, who were members of the ship’s crew.
I was the third guest, so had to sit inline and wait for my moment of fame, as such! Then it was time for my part. We had a brilliant chat and showed my drawing of Queen Mary 2, which I had presented to the Captain the pervious day. After the interview and recording was finished, I headed back to my stateroom, to relax for a while, before preparing from our departure later that evening.
Rotterdam Sail Away & Night 3
At around 19:45 we began to slowly depart from our berth in Rotterdam. Quite a few people had turned out on the quay to watch us depart. Lots of guests on board were on their balconies waving their flags, as were we too! The atmosphere was really great with lots of cheering and whistling!
My Dad and I then decided to go up on deck, so quickly made our way to the Promenade Deck and then up to Deck 11 on to the Observation Deck. Again, just like our arrival into Rotterdam earlier that morning, we passed countless other ships, many of them with crew looking at Queen Mary 2 in awe and taking photos. The weather was lovely too and we had quite a beautiful sunset as we headed down the main channel out to sea.
On our journey out to see we passed the Stena Britannica which was berthed near the entrance to the Port of Rotteram. She is there everyday and does the ‘Hook of Holland’ route daily from Harwich to Rotterdam. It was of course the first time I’d see her out of Harwich though!
Once we had exited the main entrance into Rotterdam, we made our way back to our stateroom and relaxed on our balcony for a bit, before finally retiring to bed quite early for a change.
Zeebruge Day 4
The next morning I awoke with the sun shining into our stateroom through our balcony. I quickly leapt out of bed, right away to see where we were. Alongside was a medium sized tanker and then I spotted many other ships, including quite a big Maersk container vessel too, which passed, as my father and I were getting ready to go up on deck.
As always, we made our way up to the Observation Deck, which was closed due to the strong winds, so instead we watched our arrival into Zeebruge from the Promenade Deck on Deck 7. Here the windy was blowing quite a gust as we entered the harbour. We stayed out on deck as we continued to make our way into Zeebruge, braving the wind as we turned 180 degrees and slowly and carefully manoeuvred alongside.
Once we were pretty much docked, we headed inside for breakfast. After breakfast we proceeded back to our stateroom. I decided I would then go for a swim in the Pavilion Pool on Deck 12. Luckily this pool is inside and has a glass roof, so I was protected from the cold and wind outside. I was the only person in the pool when I arrived as it was still quite early, but before long others soon appeared. It was still quite nice and relaxing in the hot tubs at the sides.
I then went back to our stateroom to get changed before my Dad and I headed up on deck to brave the wind. The Observation Deck was still closed due to the wind. Instead we went to the stern on Deck 8. From here we watched two ro-ro car carriers arrive. The wind had really picked up by now and was blowing quite a gale. Standing directly in it, on the overhang on Deck 8 was quite challenging at times! (As you can see from the photos below!)
After lunch, we then spent the most of the afternoon exploring Queen Mary 2 a little more, including the Queen’s Room and G32 nightclub which we had not yet been in during this voyage. We also took sometime looking closely at some of the artwork on board too!
By late afternoon the wind had got even stronger and two tugs where now in place to keep us alongside our berth. The wind was blowing directly onto the side of Queen Mary 2, so she was literally being pushed away from the dock. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the Commodore Club, looking out over the bow, watching the waves out at sea, before enjoying yet more food in the buffet on Deck 7, just before our departure from Zeebruge.
Zeebruge Sail Away & Night 4
It was then time for another departure, so we went out on deck again, on the Promenade. Although the sun way shining the wind was still buffeting us. A little before our departure, which was slightly late, the Captain made an announcement about the weather and said that on our journey to Le Havre it was going to be a little rough, with moderate - rough sea condition and force 7-9 at times force 10 winds. For the most part of the day whilst in port the winds had been averaging 45 knots!
At approximately 18:20 we very carefully slipped away from our berth in Zeebruge and slowly headed out to sea. Despite the strong winds, quite a few guest braved the wind and were also out on deck, some enjoying it more than others. Due to the rough weather the two tugs which had been keeping us alongside, escorted us out the harbour to make sure we got out safely. (Take a look at the photos of the tug below!)
Once we had exited the harbour, we made our way down to Deck 3, as we wanted to watch a film in Illuminations. On the way we spent sometime watching the waves through the windows along the corridor. We then went into Illuminations where we began to watch the film. Half way through I began to feel slightly unwell, so went for a walk up on deck to get some air and then headed back to my stateroom. My Dad then came back to the stateroom a short while later to check if I was ok. We then decided to have an early night before our arrival into Le Havre the following morning.
Le Havre Day 5
The next morning, I woke at approximately 06:30 and could see from our balcony that we were already almost alongside. The port was very busy during our arrival and we had to wait for 3 other ships to pass and exit the harbour, before we could turn round. Once the 3 ships had passed my Dad and I decided to head up to the Promenade Deck to watch as we came alongside.
Once berthed securely alongside, my Dad and I then headed inside to have breakfast. Whilst we were in the Le Havre the crew on board were required to take part in a crew drill to test the life saving equipment on board. We then headed up to Deck 11, where we watched the ultra large container vessel CSCL Uranus arrive in the container port opposite.
Later that morning, we met with Keith Maynard again as I wanted to get some photographs with him and my drawing with Queen Mary 2, which I presented to the Captain earlier in the voyage. We met with Keith in the Grand Lobby where we took a number of photographs before heading to the photo gallery to get some more photographs of the drawing with the ship’s model behind.
Following our meeting with Keith we headed back to our stateroom to get changed into something less formal, so that we could spend the afternoon relaxing on board. From our balcony we watched another container vessel pass, this time somewhat smaller than the previous one. We then decided to explore the ship a little more before relaxing in the Commodore Club, enjoying the view over the ships’ bow.
We then decided to go ashore for a short walk to waste some time and to get some photographs of the ship. Once on shore I then left my dad, and boarded the ship again so that he could get some photographs of me on board taken from the dockside. I then quickly went ashore again to find my dad. We then both went back on board the ship. The security staff were by this point beginning to wonder how many times I would go on and off!
Now back on board we headed for Deck 13 where we then ended up playing tennis for a while. Afterwards we went to the golf putting area on the other side of the ship, where we spent some time developing some strange but at times rather good golf putting techniques. For the remainder of the afternoon into the early evening we relaxed in the sun on our balcony, before our departure from Le Havre.
Le Havre Sail Away & Night 5
At approximately 19:45 we left our stateroom and made our way up to Deck 7 on the Promenade Deck to get ready to watch our departure from the berth. At 20:10 we began to slowly slip away from the berth, slightly later than scheduled. Many passengers on board gathered on the deck and their balconies to watch the sail away and there was also quite a number of people on shore too. The weather conditions were somewhat better than our departure from Zeebruge.
Once out at sea we rushed to the Royal Court Theatre to ensure we got a seat for that nights show. Allen Stewart who is a comedian, singer and impressionist who has worked on board many cruise ships, put on a spectacular performance. It was a really great way to spend our last evening on board Queen Mary 2.
When the show had finished we quickly exited the theatre into the elevator lobby, which was extremely busy. From one of the ships port holes down the corridor opposite I could see that the sun was setting. Rather than spend ages waiting for the lift and missing the sunset I ran up one of the stairwells from Deck 3 to Deck 7, out onto the Promenade Deck with my dad following behind sometime later. The sunset was beautiful and the sea was extremely calm, probably the calmest it has been throughout our voyage. In fact, we spent most of the night on deck, as we headed back for Southampton. We finally went back to our stateroom late that night to pack our belongings away, ready for the morning, before retiring to bed.
Southampton Day 6
At a little before 05:00, my Dad woke me up, as we were passing Calshot. I quickly leaped out of bed and went onto our balcony to take a look at the view. We then got dressed and went up on deck, for our arrival into Southampton.The weather was somewhat better than our departure from Southampton at the start of the voyage, although still a little chilly. Patricia and Rob then arrived on the Observation Deck to also watch our arrival. They had really enjoyed the voyage and have both booked another already. Good for them! As we approached the Port of Southampton we began to slow, before turning into our berth at Ocean Terminal, almost perfectly on time.
Now alongside, we went to have breakfast before our journey home to Colchester.We decided that we would use the ‘Self Disembarkation’ service which Cunard offer, as we wanted to be home as quickly as possible and did not want to get stuck in traffic on the journey home. We did not have long to wait and within no more than 30 minutes we were off the ship and in the terminal. From the car park and road, I took my final few photographs of Queen Mary 2 before heading home, not knowing when I would see her again. (Although we all know, I’ll be back sooner than I think!) It would be great to visit her sometime again, maybe during 2013 to see my drawing framed and displayed aboard.
Firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time to view this special blog post, whether you read the full report, or simply looked at the 300 photos!
I would also like to extend my appreciation to Cunard Line, particularly Captain Kevin Oprey and Keith Maynard, for making us feel so welcome aboard Queen Mary 2 and making our voyage even more special.
I hope that you have enjoyed this blog and welcome any comments and feedback.
May I finally take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support.
President & Managing Director
Dream Designs Colchester
24 year old Harry Cotterill is one of the youngest cruise bloggers in the world. He's become known across the world for his amazing talent of drawing cruise ships!