Bridge lessons, spa treatments, art classes, a fitness workout…there are so many things to do on a big cruise ship it’s hard to know where to start.
I spent one full day aboard Cunard‘s luxury liner Queen Mary 2, sailing from Sydney to Brisbane, and did few of the activities on offer. Instead, I explored the ship from top to bottom, ate and drank, and talked to other passengers. But if I had been aboard for a week – or more – I would have soon been looking for a few diversions, I’m sure.
A daily programme of activities is delivered to staterooms and suites, so it’s easy to plan your day. Some of the offerings seemed a little bizarre to me – but perhaps therein lies their attraction. So I decided to look at what I might have done, if time allowed. Here’s what my day and a half could have looked like (and at times did):
3.30pm – come aboard, settle into cabin, drink half-bottle of champagne waiting in the cabin, admire view from private balcony.
5.00pm – Emergency Drill for all new passengers. Take lifejacket, but don’t put it on until instructed. Orange suits me.
5.30pm – Decide against the chance to quickly pick up a complimentary BINGO ticket at the Casino hospitality desk, and instead head to the Golden Lion pub for a drink (later, a pianist called Patrick will be tinkling the ivories but right now it’s just a gentle buzz of conversation).
6pm – The Friends of Dorothy (for LGBT guests) is meeting at the Commodore Club. I’m not in that club, so instead head back to my stateroom to change for dinner. Tonight’s “informal” which means a jacket but no tie for gentlemen and a choice of cocktail dress or stylish separates (I do my best) for ladies.
6.30pm – There’s time to catch the harpist in the Chart Room before dinner.
7.00 pm – Dinner is served in the Britannia Restaurant.
8.15pm – We’re still dining but there’s a Deck Party going on at the Terrace Pool on Deck 8 – complete with band – to toast the imminent departure of QM2 from Sydney Harbour to circumnavigate Australia. The city’s all lit up and it’s a wonderful sight, despite the rain.
8.30pm – The gangway is raised and soon we feel the ship begin to move. We’re off…setting course for Brisbane, about 481.5 nautical miles to the north. In the Golden Lion, Patrick plays on…but there’s also the choice of a jazz in the Chart Room or a string quartet in the Grand Lobby.
10pm – The second round of trivia is starting or there’s a late session of tonight’s movie, “Love, Marilyn”, a documentary-style exploration of the life and death of Marilyn Monroe. I’ve seen it before, so instead decide on an early night before a big day ahead. And no, I’m not really tempted by the disco…
6am – We’re up and at ’em early, and there’s no land in sight! We are truly at sea…and that bracing sea air has made us hungry. The only option this early is the breakfast buffet in the Kings Court. And we’re not the only early-risers. As we eat, we watch a steady procession of walkers circumnavigating the deck, and – inspired – join them for a couple of laps after breakfast. A couple of hours later and we could have joined the power walk with the Canyon Ranch Fitness group. And even though it’s Thursday, there’s an 8am Catholic mass for believers and a slightly later Christian fellowship service.
9am – I’m booked into the Canyon Ranch Spa for a facial. I might have chosen a later time, but bookings are heavy today because everyone’s keen to look their glowing best for tonight’s Black & White Ball. What am I missing while I’m being pampered? A golf simulator demonstration, a tour of the Queen Mary 2’s public areas, a Cunard “Insights Presentation” by a guest speaker outlining the anticipated delights of Brisbane as our next port of call, and another called “Today’s Legacy of World War II” by scientist and author Brian Ford. A water colour art class, gym orientation, internet lessons, morning trivia, a bridge class, and a Canyon Ranch lecture on the merits of curling irons v flat irons (my hair is too short to worry about this now!)…the list goes on.
11am – If I wasn’t feeling so mellow and lazy after the spa session, there’s still plenty to do: a deck quoits tournament, more internet lessons, an introduction to boot camp for those who want a personalised fitness program while they’re on board, line dancing, a quiz session and a seminar on the gemstone Tanzanite (followed by the grand unveiling in the jewellery boutique). For those travelling alone, there’s also a solo travellers welcome and chance to meet other guests, hosted by the ship’s Social Hostess, Imogen and the gentlemen dance hosts (more on them later!).
12pm – Lunch calls, but it’s just a snack because I’m keen to save some room for High Tea later. There’s another lecture on too, this one by historian Jim Webster, talking about his experiences in covering five Olympic Games as a journalist and then being involved in the running of another three. If that’s not in your field of interest, there’s bingo, poolside music, or ballroom dancing classes with Volodomyr and Nadiya. And a Friends of Bill W meeting (Bill Wilson was the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and most cruise ships, it seems, have Friends meetings).
2pm – There’s more on offer at this time, but the best option of all is to head to Deck 3 to Illuminations, the world’s only floating planetarium. The daily showing is called “Passport to the Universe”, narrated by Tom Hanks, which takes you on a virtual tour of universe, flying under the rings of Saturn, into the heart of the Orion Nebula, and back to Earth through a “black hole”. The half-hour show runs several times through the afternoon – or you can head to the casino for a Texas Hold’em demonstration, to the gym for some cycling, play bridge, darts or table tennis, or head to the needlework and knitting corner.
3.30pm – High Tea is served in the Queens Room, with a string quartet playing. Get there early for a seat, because the queues are long – this is hugely popular!
4.30pm – I’m ready for a rest. I realise I’ve missed a session on how to use iPads, iPods and iPhones but I’m not sure my brain could take it right now. There’s more…but some quiet time on the deck is in order before tonight festivities. And a quick look at the shops – there are only a handful all grouped together. And shopping is made easy; no need to carry cash around, as everything is charged on your electronic room key, and later to your credit card.
8pm – Dinner at Todd English, a highlight of this short cruise.
10pm – We make it to the Black & White Ball, but we’ve missed the ballroom demonstration by Volodomyr and Nadiya! Never mind, the gentlemen hosts – whose job aboard the ship is in part to dance with ladies travelling solo – are resplendent in their white dinner jackets. They are gentlemen of mature years, all well-versed in the art of ballroom dancing. I take a spin around the floor with three of them, in turn; my 20-something daughter demurs when invited to dance and her prospective partners gently glide off to ask more willing partners. After a few dances, we’ve had enough…it’s been a big day, and our stateroom calls.
7am – Rising and shining is a bit harder today, but when we look outside we see we’re already in port.
Brisbane beckons…we’re home, and after a quick buffet breakfast it’s time to disembark. A day on shore, exploring the delights of the city on organised tours awaits the continuing passengers. I reflect that had I been continuing, Day Four may well have been spent with a good book, doing absolutely nothing.
And I guess that’s the thing I learned about cruising on a ship of this magnitude: you can do as much or as little as you like.