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|Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2011
Maiden World Cruise - part 1
This chart shows the routing at the time of printing of the brochure.
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All the pictures on the pages provide details of where they were taken if you hover a cursor over them and they can all be clicked to open a larger version in an Overlay (Lightbox)
Winter weather in 2010 had been unusually harsh and we decided to stay in Southampton the night before our embarkation in 2011. Fortunately there were no problems driving down in January, and we did some shopping in the afternoon, had two mixed grills and beers at the Sir Lucien Curtis in the evening and embarked the following morning at noon. We met several friends in the Priority checkin queues, including Commodore Warwick and his wife Kim. There were travelling to Los Angeles whereas we were continuing our journey all the way to Auckland. Usually half of World Cruise passengers have priority checkin; we now have 500 days on Cunard ships so are well above the threshhold for top, Diamond, membership of the Cunard World Club.
Onboard we found many of the officers and crew were from the Queen Victoria, the Queen Mary 2 or the QE2, and we greeted everyone so it was some time before we reached our cabin. It was exactly what we expected - little chance of free upgrades on a cruise like this and even with 500 days we were well below the Top Sailors who had some 2,800 days. We had previously asked for a table for two for dinner, upstairs in the Britannia restaurant, and this was confirmed. We quickly booked our complementary lunch in the Verandah and then booked a box in the theatre before climbing up to Deck 9 for lunch. We always walk everywhere on board because it helps burn all the calories from all the good food.
On departure from Southampton there was a nice firework display from the end of the pier, and we left first with the Queen Victoria, who was berthed at the QEII Terminal, some time behind. We were supposed to leave together, with Queen Victoria in the lead, but we heard later that the delay was for one of their passengers to be taken ashore. She caught up quickly and throughout the crossing she stayed alongside when the weather was clear. We took photos of her which we will later swap with friends who have matching ones of the Queen Elizabeth.
We have been to New York several times in the past so we will try not to say too much and just direct you to our Two Days in New York in 2009 on Queen Victoria which covers a two day stay in some detail. Our approach was in darkness so Pete watched from the gym and then hauled Pauline out to watch the final arrival. We were docked at pier 88, right next door to pier 90 where the Queen Victoria had docked a few minutes earlier, and next to the Aircraft Carrier Museum and Concorde. Pier 90 was one of the piers operated by Cunard in the hey days of the Atlantic trade with weekly crossing by the original Queens. The Queen Mary 2 is a bit long for the piers Manhattan and overhangs into the river so she was moored in her usual berth in Brooklyn. Many passengers were only doing the Transatlantic crossing and so some 1000 people were getting off, and the same number of new people would be arriving. We had already suffered the obligatory three days of staff service and hygiene care on the journey from Southampton, and we knew this would be repeated again once we left New York, and again when we collected more new passengers in Fort Lauderdale. It is much better to be careful and minimise the risk of the nasty norovirus, but the Queen Elizabeth is not designed for staff to serve food in the Lido, and there were problems with the two parallel lines for hot and cold food, and people reasonably wanting to collect something from both lines.
It was a very cold morning and snow was still deep on the tops of the buildings and the edges of the streets. It was however crystal clear, unlike any previous visit giving some interesting photographic opportunities and it bode well for the fireworks planned for the evening when all three Queens would leave together. We did not see any urgency in getting off the ship as one is not allowed back on until all passengers have cleared immigration - the days when the US officials travelled with the ship and cleared everyone ready for arrival have gone, but so had the usual surly and unfriendly reception - we had smiling 'Good Mornings' and even a couple of 'Pleases' and picked up a feedback form to comment on the change. Somebody must have realised that the immigration officials are the ambassadors for America and set the tone of the visit for everyone who visits their shores.
Pier 88 is very close to the centre of Manhattan and it was a fifteen minute walk up 48th Street to the join with 6th street and we were in sight of Times Square. Our objective this visit was to see the Grand Central Terminal — often incorrectly called Grand Central Station which is the main New York station. It is sited at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. We will start with a brief introduction to set the scene which is loosely based on material from the station with some addition insights from Wikipedia which should always be ones first stop looking for information
In the early days there were many railways coming into New York and Park Avenue from 45th to 49th street was a huge railyard, a corridor of smoke and cinders. It was impossible to use steam to bring all the lines into the centre and horse drawn extensions merged with steam lines in a haphazard network plagued by noise, pollution, traffic and accidents, By 1858 most steam locomotives had been banned from crowded areas. Into this chaos came the Shipping Magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt who started buying up lines and bringing some order, building extensive tunnels and the first Grand Central Station. The only long term solution was electrification taking all the central lines underground and the creation of a new double level terminal for electric trains.
This was an expensive plan and involved carving deep into Manhattans bedrock although the costs were reduced because 'air rights' could be sold for building over the new concealed tracks. The design phase started in 1903 and the new terminus finally opened in 1913 and acted as an anchor for high rise development in the area. It arguably reached its peak in 1947 when 65 million people (40% of the population) travelled through Grand Central Terminal. It is now not only the largest train station in the world with 67 tracks on two levels but also a building of impressive size and architecture. The terminal covers an area of 48 acres. When the third level opens there will be 75 tracks and 48 platforms. There were periods when the buildings came under threat but they have been preserved and finally restored to their early glory for all to enjoy.
Besides train platforms, Grand Central contains restaurants and fast food outlets on the Dining Concourse on the level below the Main Concourse, delis, bakeries, newsstands, a gourmet and fresh food market, an annex of the New York Transit Museum, and more than forty retail stores. According to Wikipedia there is a "secret" sub-basement known as M42 which lies under the Terminal, containing the AC to DC converters used to supply DC traction current to the Terminal. The exact location of M42 and its entries is a closely guarded secret because its sabotage would cripple transport over a wide area.
The Main Concourse is huge by any standards. Original ticket booths still remain, although many now stand unused since the introduction of ticket vending machines. The main information booth is in the center of the concourse and is a popular meeting place as the four-faced clock on top of the information booth is perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central. Each of the four clock faces is made from opal, and both Sotheby's and Christie's have estimated the value to be between $10 million and $20 million. Within the marble and brass pagoda lies a "secret" door that conceals a spiral staircase leading to the lower level information booth.
The clock in front of the Grand Central facade facing 42nd Street contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass and is surrounded by sculptures considered to be the largest sculptural group in the world at that time. It was 48 feet high and the clock in the center having a circumference of 13 feet.
The 25,000 square foot 'astronomical' ceiling of the main concourse is a major feature and recent restoration has once more revealed the original beauty of the elaborate decoration. There are two peculiarities to this ceiling: the sky is backwards, and the stars are slightly displaced. One explanation is that the constellations are backwards because the ceiling is based on a medieval manuscript that visualized the sky as it would look from outside the celestial sphere. Most people, however, simply think that the image was reversed by accident. When the embarrassed Vanderbilt family learned the ceiling was painted backwards, they maintained that the ceiling reflected God's view of the sky.
The upper level tracks are reached from the Main Concourse or from various hallways and passages branching off from it. We found a large Dining Concourse below the Main Concourse. It contains many fast food outlets and restaurants, including the world-famous Oyster Bar with its Guastavino tile vaults, surrounding central seating and lounge areas and provides access to the lower level tracks. On one side of the main Concourse is Vanderbilt Hall, named after the family who built and owned the station. This was roped off but we could could still see in. It was formerly the main waiting room for the terminal, it is now used for events.
Although we had plenty of time when we left the station, it was cold and slushy, and refreshed by a large Americano coffee in a warm Starbucks we returned to the Queen Elizabeth, clutching our only souvenirs - a large bunch of 20 yellow roses and a large packet of Starbucks Sumatran Coffee freshly ground for us. The coffee on the Elizabeth is much better than the Victoria and is made from ground Italian Coffee 'bricks' but it still nice to have a varietal on occasion.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Layout revised: 13th July, 2015