Travel

Living like royalty

ATTENTION SEEKER: The Queen Mary 2 is the talk of the town with people clambering for a vantage point to see her regal beauty.
ATTENTION SEEKER: The Queen Mary 2 is the talk of the town with people clambering for a vantage point to see her regal beauty. JAMES MORGAN

LIKE a Hollywood starlet entering the room, she turned heads and caused a stir wherever she went.

Whether at dawn, daylight or dinner time, those wanting a closer look took to vessels of all shapes and sizes - from cruisers and hovercraft to outrigger canoes and even stand-up paddleboards.

Others simply stepped out of their seaside homes, resorts and apartments to see what all the fuss was about.

Between neatly planted palm trees at Airlie Beach, on yachts in the marina at Yorkeys Knob and in the dockside carpark in Darwin, they stood, stared and clicked … and clicked … and clicked.

They all wanted to photograph this special maritime memory and slice of local history.

RMS Queen Mary 2 had come to town on her maiden Royal circumnavigation of Australia.

While QM2, as she is known, has ventured Down Under before - including four previous visits to Sydney - she was calling for the first time in Brisbane, Melbourne, Darwin and Cairns (Yorkeys Knob).

My husband and I considered ourselves fortunate to be able to soak up the ambience of life on board from Brisbane to Darwin.

And we were particularly chuffed while seated at dinner in the Brittania Restaurant on our first night to see countless camera flashes piercing the night from Caloundra Headland to Point Cartwright as hundreds took to every vantage point to see the classic Cunard black and red livery pass by.

The current 20 to 22-night adventure (depending where guests embarked) pays homage to Matthew Flinders who was the first to sail the length and breadth of our shores from 1802 to 1803 in his ship the Investigator.

The beautifully hand-written journal and atlas of the renowned English navigator and cartographer are on display on the ocean liner while she is in Australian waters.

One of our dinner companions, Mitchell Library (State Library of New South Wales) senior curator Paul Brunton joined the circumnavigation as a passionate authority on Matthew Flinders and is keeping an eye on the priceless pages of history under glass in the largest library at sea.

Cunard was inundated with inquiries

after the QM2's history-making circumnavigation was announced in early 2010. A spokesman said more than 90 Sunshine Coast residents had joined the grand ocean liner for all or part of her regal voyage.

Among them is June Upton, who is indeed in her element on Queen Mary 2 ("I've done 15 cruises but this is my first ocean voyage on an ocean liner") and at the Veuve Clicquot-Twinings Champagne Afternoon Tea in Winter Garden.

With white china cup in hand, champagne flute at the ready and a sweet tooth's smorgasbord of scones with jam and cream, swan-shaped profiteroles, strawberry tartlet, triple-choc layered sponge cake and savoury rolls at arm's length, the Nambour resident is lapping up the white-gloved service.

The charity queen and staunch royalist is no stranger to refined afternoon teas.

The mother of six daughters and grandmother of 11 even celebrated her 70th birthday last year with a high tea party at Maroochydore's Birch Carroll and Coyle Cinemas.

But she had never seen anything quite like the royal treatment on this particular afternoon at what is a quintessential Cunard experience. June was sharing the decadent activity with good friend Mary Clayton, a founder of Clayton's Towing on the Coast. Mary booked 18 months ago to undertake the 22-night Sydney-

Sydney circumnavigation as her first sailing adventure.

"I just thought it (a cruise) was something different to do and I thought this was the ultimate one," Mary said.

Less than a week into their trip, the two women were loving dressing up for dinner each night and dancing until midnight in the Queens Room - the largest ballroom at sea.

Cunard's spritely gentlemen hosts have a job to ensure every woman - no matter what her age - has the opportunity to have the time of her life on the dance floor.

And June and Mary agreed the service was an excellent idea to do away with wallflowers and make widowed, single and unaccompanied women (or even those with husbands with two left feet) all feel a little special.

The Coast pair's days are spent walking the decks and working out in the gym to combat the inevitable over-indulgence in the vast array of food onboard, and taking advantage

of world-class facilities including Illuminations - the only planetarium at sea.

June is also a big fan of the Canyon Ranch Spa Club: "After the steam room, hydrotherapy pool and a massage, I come out feeling a million dollars."

June said she had to keep pinching herself to know her adventure was real.

"It's very hard to comprehend that all this elegance is here on one ocean liner that you don't even feel is moving," she said.

"From the cabin boy to the Commodore, everybody goes out of their way and every wish is granted."

On a visit to Commodore Christopher Rynd's "office", he told our media group: "You are on the bridge of the greatest ship ever built in terms of speed, size, sheer strength and design for rough weather. This is as good as it ever gets."

Her strength lies in the 300,000 pieces of steel that were cut and welded into blocks during her construction.

The hull is in fact made up of 94 steel blocks, some of which weigh 600 tonnes, which help her tackle the sometimes monstrous seas and weather encountered on the seven-day trans-Atlantic crossings.

Commodore Rynd said the "40% more steelwork" than similar-sized liners also translated into "the most comfortable ship of any in the world today or ever".

He said the self-sufficient ocean liner was "a giant power station" with everything run by electric motors.

And while QM2 at the time of the media bridge visit was averaging "a very healthy 22.6knots", Commodore Rynd revealed that at some points in Torres Strait the afternoon before, she had had only a few metres under her keel, hence the slow going to avoid the phenomenon of squatting or dipping of the stern toward the seabed. But with a Torres Strait pilot onboard, it was all smooth sailing.

The New Zealand-born Commodore is likely to be well-known to Australian cruisers, having served previously as a captain with P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises, and commanding Royal Princess, Regal Princess, the two Pacific Princess ships, Pacific Sky and Sapphire Princess.

He said the maiden circumnaviagtion of Australia had been "quite a thrill", especially because of the first calls to some ports.

But as a proud Kiwi, an opportunity to command QM2 on the maiden Royal Circumnavigation of New Zealand next year would be even more special to him.

LUXURY AFLOAT

Dining options: 10 restaurants and cafes, including the signature fine-dining Todd English Restaurant and the 478-seat informal King's Court buffet for breakfast and lunch, which transforms at night into La Piazza (Italian), Lotus (Asian), The Carvery (British)

Bars and clubs: 14

Shops: eight different shops including boutiques from Chanel, Hermes and Dunhill

Facilities and other highlights: the six-storey grand lobby with its sweeping staircases; Illuminations - the first planetarium at sea; four pools including the popular Pavilion Pool with retractable glass roof and eight jacuzzis; the Canyon Ranch spa, health and beauty and fitness centre spanning two decks and with 24 treatment rooms; sports facilities including two golf simulators, a half-size basketball court, putting green, shuffleboard areas and paddle tennis court; Empire Casino.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  cruise travel travelling



Wollongbar woman steps up to serve her country

FUTURE LEADER: Tegan Henry with her family at the Royal Military College Duntroon appointment ceremony.

Future army leader takes her first step to Duntroon

What's next for Lismore Base upgrade?

NSW Premier Mike Baird in front of Lismore Base Hospital.

Stage 3b of multi-million-dollar upgrade takes shape

Ballina koalas faced with extinction

Ballina's koalas are under threat.

About 36,000 koalas left in NSW face an uncertain future

Local Partners

Married at First Sight: M'boro dad to feature on reality TV

LOOKING FOR LOVE: Farmer Sean Hollands, 35, from Maryborough will feature on the upcoming new season of Married At First Sight.

A bull riding accident put everything into perspective for Sean.

Cat Empire goes prowling down memory lane

FUN: Australian band, The Cat Empire. Photo contributed.

During a tour next month with Xavier Rudd.

Your chance to drive like Magnum P.I.

Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. with his trusty 'side-kick' Ferrari.

FERRARI that appeared on classic detective show goes to auction.

Ocean Sleeper discuss being 'Six Feet Down'.

Ocean Sleeper make waves with their new EP. Photo Contributed

Gippsland band shines at Unify

Bowie's final music EP No Plan released

NEW: Artwork for David Bowie's posthumous 2016 EP, No Plan.

David Bowie's 28th and final album

Gig Guide: the entertainment you need to know about

ON STAGE: Minnie Marks plays the Lennox Hotel, on Saturday at 9.30pm and The Rails, Byron Bay, on Sunday at 7pm.

This week's music, theatre, performance and more

Controversial Iron Gates development renamed

Raine and Horne

Peaceful, pristine and perfect is the new motto for Iron Gates

'That’s the nature of commercial reality': Lismore council

GAME CHANGER: The $13 million proposal by Quest proposal is for a three-storey complex featuring 41 serviced apartments, 53 on-site carparks, 24-hour on-site management, a gymnasium and modern guest facilities.

"It's a shame the development is no longer on the table"

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

LAND VALUES: Figures reveal how much your property is worth

Land values in Ballina have increased over the past 12 months.

Property in one Northern Rivers town has increased by almost 14%

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!