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The Queen Elizabeth

MS Queen Elizabeth is the newest in the Cunard fleet, she was built in Italy between 2007 and 2010 and sailed to Southampton where she was named by Queen Elizabeth II on 11th October 2010. She replaces the now retired RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 in the Cunard Fleet.  The fleet now comprises just three ships: Queen Elizabeth; MS Queen Victoria; and the older and larger RMS Queen Mary 2.  Like P&O and eight other cruise lines internationally, Cunard is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc, a public company dual-listed on both the New York and London stock exchanges.


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MS Queen Elizabeth from the Mosman Ferry


Some vital statistics:

MS Queen Elizabeth is a cruise ship of the Vista class.
Launched‎: ‎5 January 2010
Capacity‎: ‎2,068 passengers and 996 crew
Tonnage‎: ‎90,901 GT
Length: 294 m (964 ft 7 in)
Beam: 32.3 m (106 ft 0 in)
Draught: 8 m (26 ft 3 in)
16 total 12 accessible to passengers
Two ABB Azipods (2 × 17.6 MW)
Three ABB bow thrusters (3 × 2,200 kW)
Installed power:
4 × MaK 12VM43C plus 2 × MaK 8M43C
64,000 kW (86,000 hp) (combined)
Speed: 23.7 knots (43.9 km/h; 27.3 mph)



The opportunity came up for this short cruising experience on-line and as a number of our friends seem to like cruising we decided to give it a go.  The basic fare provided a sea-view cabin, without a balcony, on deck 1.  So as Wendy's Christmas present from me, a bit self-serving, I  upgraded us to a 'stateroom' on deck 4 with a balcony.  It turned out to be a good investment as we used the balcony quite a lot and it added to the perception of space in the cabin, that although not the largest on the ship was amply large; enough for an oversized bed a sitting area and a desk and chair.  The cupboards and draws and under bed spaces were more than adequate for our luggage and its contents: three large bags and one small. There are larger suites on board but people we met who had paid the premium at some stage had gone back to one similar to ours saying that they 'rattled about' in the larger space. 

On this cruise almost everyone was over sixty and some into their eighties. There is a children's play room, and there are activities to keep the little darlings amused but hardly a child in sight. An older crowd has the advantage that, although the nominal passenger capacity is 2,068, many single older people prefer not to share a cabin. This brings the passenger numbers down so it's seldom crowded anywhere, although it can be hard to get two seats together for the first show of the evening if you turn up at 8:00 pm as the show begins.   

Cunard made it quite clear that on several occasions we would be required to dress for dinner if we wanted to use the Dining Room on some nights - which of course we did. For those who don't like this formality there are several other places to eat less formally, including in the English style Pub; on deck; or even in your cabin; but the main and largest alternative place is the 'Lido', that's a large serve-yourself cafeteria-style hall on deck nine of the ship, at which passengers compete for one of the prized seats near a window, then eat as much as they like as quickly as they like. The facilities at the top of the ship also provided a much needed opportunity for exercise up and down the stairs. There are also three banks of lifts for those who are stair-adverse.


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These was but a couple of Wendy's outfits
We enjoyed dressing up for dinner but it did add to our luggage -
in my case a dinner jacket, shirt, various accoutrements and another pair of heavy shoes.


In the evening we were seated in the dining room at a regular table, except when we went to the later sitting.  All meals here are restaurant quality, delivered by trained wait staff. These are typically three courses. Those at lunch and dinner boast top chefs and fine-dining standards. Breakfast is breakfast - hard to do fine-dining. Meals in the dining room extend over at least an hour. In the evening the sittings are two hours apart so even at the early sitting one can linger over coffee or tea and cheeses, with wine charged to your account. There is a very extensive wine list, catering for different tastes and budgets and Wendy and I invariably shared a bottle of wine over dinner.  Others at our table generally did the same, the sommelier will hold unfinished wine for the following meal so couples can choose different wines.

We noticed that some passengers elect to be seated alone but we preferred a larger table as our fellow passengers were invariably interesting, sometimes strangely so. We soon discovered that almost everyone we met had extensive cruising experience.  Cruises don't come cheap so most of these frequent travellers were comfortably well off yet, aside from some signature clothes and jewellery, nobody was flaunting their wealth. As this was largely in Australian waters the majority were Australian although there were also British, Americans and other nationalities. Surprisingly, to me, we met several from regional towns in Australia who owned or had owned rural properties or related businesses. 

Conversations usually started around their cruising experiences because Wendy and I are new to cruising, unless you count river cruises on the Nile and the Volga and as ship-jet passages to England in the early 1970's, that were quite different experiences. Most liked the Cunard ships the best, some preferring Queen Victoria (smaller) or QM2 (larger) although Viking was also mentioned.

After nearly two decades we're now quite well travelled, PNG will be the 62nd county we've travelled to together not counting countries like Canada and Iran that we've been to separately, yet several of these travellers had been on as many cruises, encompassing hundreds of ports.  Although some had flown from England to go on this cruise and others from Australia to Europe to cruise the Baltic, several explained that they don't like flying; or all that dragging bags around and constantly packing and unpacking in different hotels.

On the other hand, at the destinations we'd visited in common, like St Petersburg and Copenhagen, they'd had virtually no local experience, beyond a tightly managed shore excursion or two, whereas we'd had several days at each location and numerous local experiences and interactions. As we noticed on the big island in Hawaii, the cruise passengers arriving at the terminal across the bay from our hotel, were there and gone the same day and could hardly have been said to have been there at all.

We soon discovered why many passengers have a preference for sea-days and may not go ashore at all when in port.  On sea-days the ship settles into a pleasant relaxing routine. Three good meals, usually with interesting company, are interspersed with a choice of relaxation or exercise. There is live music to suit all tastes all day and often opportunities for dancing. In the theatre each day there are talks about an approaching destination; or other topics, like astronomy or bushcraft; a movie; and a fresh live theatrical/musical event, that's repeated in a late performance at 10pm. One can go for a swim or Jacuzzi, go to the Gym, or read or chat on the balcony; in the library or in one of several lounges and bars. There is also a small Casino for those that need a gambling hit. Meanwhile your cabin has been tidied the bed made and the bathroom refurbished with fresh, fluffy towels. Even your PJ's have been hidden until the bed is turned down at night and they magically reappear neatly folded, with chocolates on the pillows.  Soon to be rocked very gently to sleep. 


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Lotus land afloat - the ship as it was when we arrived - we soon made our cabin more homely
She is never very crowded and always polite, quiet and well mannered
a point of difference we understand, form some other cruise ships



Throughout the ship there is live music, ranging from piano players to a string trio, playing mostly classical, like Bach's 'Air on the G String' (otherwise known as the strippers' lament), through jazz to popular and dance music in the Queen's Room (dance floor) below. In the bar above there is a jazz singer and/or small jazz group each night.

In the section above on Rabaul you can see the theatre where there was a different theatrical performance (repeated as a late show) each night and a movie during the day; interspersed with lectures and talks on things like bushcraft and astronomy.

Afternoon tea - each day at sea - scones; jam and clotted cream - in addition to cucumber and other sandwiches. Shades of: 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.

We also took up trivia and Wendy and I generally did quite well on our own - only losing by the tiebreaker on one occasion (how long is the ship? - it's not 400m Richard!)

On the very last occasion we paired up with a couple of knowledgeable women and actually won (a Cunard glasses case each).


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Cambodia and Vietnam



 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

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Both the UK and Sweden announced that this was the strategy they preferred although the UK was soon equivocal.

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The stereotypical Australian is a sports lover and a gambler.  Social analysis supports this stereotype.  In Australia most forms of gambling are legal; including gambling on sport.  Australians are said to lose more money (around $1,000 per person per year) at gambling than any other society.  In addition we, in common with other societies, gamble in many less obvious ways.

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