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|Cunard Queen Mary 2
World Cruise 2013 - part 2
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This was our first opportunity of a Galley tour on the Queen Mary 2 although we have done several on the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. A large number of people were interested and there was a long queue as only small groups can be taken round and there are obvious Health and Safety implications. An introductory talk was given by the Executive Chef Nicholas Oldroyd before we entered the galley in a group of about twenty. We went round at 1100 so it was relatively quiet, breakfast having just ended, with mainly preparation for lunch being carried out.
The first stop was beside the giant dishwasher which takes everything through on a conveyor belt and delivering it two minutes latter clean and sterile at 170 degrees Fahrenheit so it dries almost instantly. We saw the machines providing all the drinks, including the all important Espresso Coffee machine! We saw the starters being prepared and plated en masse before being held chilled ready for serving. Often each dish has an example prepared by the executive chef to be copied - it was difficult to tell one from another. Apparently the demand for all the options is quite predictable, for example first sitting orders are predominantly fish and second sitting has far more carnivores. The demand is continuously monitored and adjusted from a command station as the meal progresses. Much of the food is cooked to order and each 'to order' dish has a station where up to 8 plates are readied simultaneously. There are separate galleys for each of the restaurants and as the Britannia Restaurant is so large and on two levels there are set of escallators to the upper level to speed the flow of waiters. This is different to the Victoria and Elizabeth where the galley is duplicated for each level also has sections for the Todd English or Verandah restuarants.
Overall the tour took about 30 minutes with plenty of opportunities for questions. The galley seemed a model of efficiency and everything seemed extremely professional, organised and under total control - a complete contrast to the impression the TV impresarios try to give - but one has to be professional to deliver nearly a thousand 4 course dinners plus all the extras twice an evening every day of the year to Cunard standards. When we left we found there were a number of demonstrations laid on as well as the chance to compare different types of raw 'sushi' tuna, see cocktail canapes being prepared to sample and fruit carving.
We had previously visited Australia in 2004, flying into Perth then onwards to Adelaide where we rented a 'Wicked' campervan for 4 weeks. During that holiday we had stayed in Parramatta and only spent a day in Sydney so were looking forward to our day ashore in Sydney – how had it changed in 9 years? The QM2 moored at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Sydney Cove; from the starboard side there was a perfect view of the iconic Sydney Opera House, and from the port side there was the equally well known Harbour Bridge. We watched the sun rising as the busy ferries rushed by.
Sydney is Australia's largest and oldest city, with a population said to be over 4 million. Any exploration starts with Circular Quay, passing the Railway station, pavement cafes and souvenir shops. The morning walk began with the famous Sydney Opera House designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, to collect tickets for the evening performance of La Boheme which we had booked in the UK. The best seats, on the Cunard tour, cost US$259 each but our cheaper seats with a more limited side view were only AUD67 each.
The Royal Botanical Gardens start from the Opera House, include historic Government House and the Conservatorium of Music, and follow the edge of Farm Cove to Mrs Macquaries Chair – a sandstone bench carved for Governor Macquarie's wife in 1810. There is an excellent view back of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and a glimpse of the QM2. The trees all seemed to be full of noisey birds, such a contrast to New Zealand.
Macquarie Street has many historic buildings, including the Public Library of NSW, Parliament House, Sydney Hospital, the Mint, St James's church and Hyde Park Barracks. The road ended at Hyde Park and a short walk led to St Mary's gothic-style Cathedral and then the Australian Museum.
In the afternoon there was plenty of time to admire Cadman's cottage and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both next to the berth, then walk to Dawes Point and the Harbour Bridge. Completed in 1932, it is known as the coathanger for obvious reasons.
It was an easy climb to the Pylon Lookout on the top of the South East pylon, and it was not free, but it gave superb views in all directions, especially towards the Opera House and the QM2. It also looked down on a line of people doing the Bridge Climb. The climb is expensive, either AU$218 for the Weekday Bridge Walk or US$290 including transport with Cunard. A brisk walk across the bridge to the other side gave a different view of the QM2, before exploring The Rocks precinct in search of shops and local souvenirs.
After an early dinner there was plenty of time to walk to the Sydney Opera House for the 1930 performance. La Boheme was originally set by Puccini in the Latin Quarter of Paris, whereas this evening performance by Opera Australia was set in the parallel world of Berlin in the late 1920s. It was depicted as a Bohemian world where starvation and TB in a freezing garret overlapped decadence and liberalism. The Cafe Momus was a hot-bed cabaret, a den of exotic inequity, where scantily dressed girls hung over balconies and lesbians and homosexuals sat next to bourgeois couples. We had seen a film of La Boheme on our flight to NZ so the story was familiar, which was fortunate because from our seats one could not see every corner of the stage and none of the surtitles which translated the Italian into English. In compensation one did have a superb view directly down onto the orchestra, and a very good view of the performers at the front and left half of the stage, and good acoustics with every word clear and directly from the singers. Diego Torre was Rodolfo, Natalie Aroyan was Mimi, Andrew Moran was Marcello and Taryn Fiebig was Musetta.
QM2 departure was at 23.00 which gave plenty of time for a leisurely stroll back along Circular Quay where the cafes were still full and the souvenir shops were still open.
Melbourne was founded by pioneer John Batman who arrived by schooner in 1835. Much younger than Sydney, Melbourne was settled by free settlers, not convicts. Its prosperity came from gold and the gold rushes of the 1850s at Ballarat and Bendigo.
The entry to the large harbour of Adelaide involved an approach between a narrow gap at the heads, and then two hours along a narrow channel. Overnight the weather was windy and so our arrival was delayed; indeed there were concerns we would not be able to berth safely. The weather on arrival was windy and cold, so the morning was spent on QM2. Indeed the gangway was closed for 20 minutes at noon because of the wind, delaying our exit to town. The Port of Melbourne is different to Sydney and it was a tram journey to the CBD. Tourist tram tickets were available in the morning, but only standard tickets in the afternoon. The Myki ticket is like an Oyster card and AU$13 included a card and AU$7 prepaid fares. The tourist day ticket, at AU$7 for seniors, was a much better bargain.
Tram 109 departed from the end of the pier, and runs the length of Collins Street – reminiscent of Oxford Street in London. Tram Stop 7 was the closest to 128 Exhibition Street, where we were looking for the Altmann and Cherny Opal store we had visited in 2004. They have closed but there were other opal stores. Individual solid opal stones were much more expensive than in 2004, with pretty small stones around AU$400 to AU$500 each, and often the price of earrings was cheaper than buying the two stones, so no shopping spree! Cheap triplet or doublet necklaces could be found for only AU$20, but set in yellow metal. Chunky boulder opal pendants on silver chains were 'bargains' at AU$50. Similar but smaller opals to the one we had bought for AU$10 in Andamooka had risen to AU$500 – transport costs?
Disappointed, it was time to continue east towards the State Parliament House built in 1856 and one of the city's finest heritage buildings. St Patrick's Cathedral and its gardens were immediately behind. The green space of Fitzroy Gardens was nearby and the sun emerged to brighten the Conservatory and Cook's Cottage. The two-storey historical cottage, where Cook's family lived during his voyages, was very small and surrounded by a traditional English garden. The free Melbourne Visitor Shuttle went there but never at a suitable time. The purple City Circle trams passed too, but were always full. Trees were swaying in the wind and there were broken branches on the ground. It seemed prudent to leave the area, passing the Treasury Gardens to see the Old Treasury Museum at Collins Street.
Looking for a different route back, the best option was Flinders Street. The north side had interesting old buildings: the Herald Sun building, the Forum and St Paul's Cathedral opposite Federation Square and Flinders Street Railway Station. This was the junction with Swanston Street with its fast food and cheap souvenirs, City Square and the Melbourne Town Hall. Swanston Street continued to Bourke Street Mall and the two Department Stores: Myer and David Jones. The weather continued to deteriorate with a few splashes of rain, so an early return by tram seemed appropriate.
Our scheduled departure time was 19.30 but the the winds had risen further and the Captain and pilot decided by 21.00 it was too windy and we stayed until 07.00 the following morning. He said over the loudspeakers that it would lead to a high speed passage to Adelaide at 23 knots – such is progress, the QE2 often used to be scheduled to cruise at 26-27 knots and high speed could be over 30 knots! Perhaps they have been de-rating the engines for economy as the QM2 could reach over 32 knots when built. We heard later that it was about the costs of fuel at higher speeds, the ship has 4 normal diesels and also hugely powerful but expensive to run gas turbines which they resist turning on these days. The breakpoint in speed where it is needed is just over 21 knots depending on other loads on the system so the speed can be increased a little more overnight.
In the next part you can read about our next two ports Adelaide and Freemantle in Australia
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