of the Midnight Sun’
June 7-19, 2003
By John Fields
Saturday 7th June dawned warm and dry and the suitcases had been
packed since yesterday, only the final few items to include. A lazy
morning until our hired car arrived at 12:30 pm to collect us for the
70 mile journey to Southampton. The driver arrived on time and after
collecting our two traveling companions we were soon en route. This
would be our fifth cruise on the now 34 year old QE2 and our friends
first ever cruise.
Cunard advertises check in between
3:00pm.and 4:00pm, but most
passengers are through and waiting to board by then. We arrived at
2:30pm and, as we have recently received our new platinum cards for
having sailed more than 7 times with Cunard or one trip of over 48
days, we were able to check in at the no wait Grill Class check ins.
This is a new innovation and to be welcomed. QE2 is still a class
orientated ship with passengers in different staterooms eating in
different restaurants, a system in place when the ship was purely a
transatlantic liner and one not likely to change now. The six-star
Queens Grill restaurant is for the most expensive staterooms and is an
elegant dining room for up to 300 passengers where one can dine at any
time between 7:00pm.and 9:00pm. The Britannia and Princess Grills
are smaller with only around 100 passengers in each and dining as in the
Queens Grill. Next the Caronia restaurant for the C styled cabins, a
larger restaurant but the same arrangements for dining. Finally the
Mauretania restaurant for the bulk of passengers traveling on decks 4
and 5. Two sitting at 6:30 and 8:30pm. All the restaurants are
spacious, with classy decor, ornaments, and pictures and the Mauretania
is still a step above the dining experience on many cruise ships these
days. The Maitre D’s in all restaurants actually make you feel
welcome and at home. The multi-national crew likewise.
I realize the strict dress code is not to everyone’s taste these
days, but is in my view all part of the holiday and to be enjoyed. For those who do not want to be so formal there is the self service
Lido where one can have breakfast and lunch if you wish and at night a
self service dinner in good surroundings, candles on tables, wine if
you wish, and excellent service from the mainly Filipino waiters.
Going back to our check-in, a pleasant surprise awaited us as we
found we had been upgraded from Cabin 2050 to 2099 and so entitled to
eat in the Princess Grill. After registering our credit card we
boarded immediately via Deck 2 and the impressive Mid-ships lobby with
a harpist playing and the history of Cunard surrounding us on the
murals on the walls. A welcoming crew member showed us to our cabins.
Two bottles of Champagne, one on ice, awaited us
with a plate of
strawberries. A good size cabin, two portholes (this is an ocean
liner), comfy beds, walk in wardrobes, safe and bath and shower.
After boat drill it was time to go on deck, enjoy the sailaway with a
small combo playing, and listen to the commentary about the history of
Southampton and the Solent as we make progress out to sea.
After all the unpacking, a drink in the Chart Room bar before
dinner. With our friends new to the ship we decided to try a different
bar each day so they experienced the ship in full. We usually dined
around 8:00pm, giving us time for a rest on the bed after the
full days at sea or on tour. Over the coming days we had a cocktail in
the Chart Room which contains the original piano from the Queen Mary
and played each evening and lunchtime by the resident pianist. The
Crystal Bar at the entry to the Mauretania restaurant, again with a
pianist--a large bar with windows looking both to port and starboard.
The Yacht Club which in the wee small hours is the QE2’s answer to a
disco, again great views to the stern of the ship and particularly
good on this cruise as we sailed out of the fjords in the early
evening. The intimate Princess Grill bar leading directly to the
dining room. Quite a choice as well as the Golden Lion pub for a pint.
To dine on the QE2 is an experience--a menu with excellent choices
as well as an a la carte alternative. Trained staff who remember your
name and quickly learn your likes and dislikes and who are not
backward in giving a recommendation. Our senior waitress was a
charming bubbly girl from Ireland who had been on the ship 6 years and
her deputy a cheerful Scottish guy. It was a very Celtic corner as the
Maitre D’ also lives in Scotland and one of our party hails from
Wales. Needless to say the food was divine.
Day 2 En Route to South
A calm North sea as we awoke with even a little sunshine. After
breakfast and a walk around the Promenade deck we decided to attend
the multi denominational church service conducted by Captain Ian
McNaught . A good attendance and we had a special prayer for good
weather on the rest of the cruise. A retiring collection for Seaman
As with most ships plenty of choice for entertainment. The morning
quiz, deck games of quoits, tennis and golf practice, art classes with
a wonderful lady from Miami we had met before, Bridge with two experts
and the oft repeated heritage trail which lasts about 45 minutes and
shows and tells the history of the Cunard memorabilia around the ship
from the origins in 1840.
Another Cunard ritual is afternoon tea in the Queens Room at
4:00pm. A bust of Queen Elizabeth II presides over the scene with a
regal eye. On the dot of 4:00pm a galaxy of waiters, complete
with white gloves, dispense tea or coffee, sandwiches, and cakes on
silver trays while either a harpist or pianist plays. An experience in
short supply on other ships.
Tonight was the Captains’ welcome on board Cocktail party in the
Queens Room. His hostess this evening was Maureen Ryan, a Cunard
employee who first worked on the original Queen Elizabeth in the
1960s, albeit in a very junior role, and who has a wealth of
knowledge at her finger tips. A long line for the introduction, and a
photo stop but it is an enjoyable occasion and you chat happily with those ahead and behind you in the queue. After receiving Champagne
from a line of waiters, it's time to circulate. Several Champagnes later,
it's time for dinner.
Day 3 South Queensferry (
An early anchorage within spitting distance of the Forth rail and
road bridges, in calm waters enables the tenders to be made ready
quickly. A tender port is always a chore but it seems to work well
with not too long a wait today. The passengers on excursions go first
and we are away on time. We have decided on a half day trip to the
highlights of Edinburgh and a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia now a
tourist attraction and docked at Leith the port for Edinburgh. A very
good courier, an elderly Scottish lady, has all the stories of
Edinburgh at her finger tips. We see the Castle, the Royal Mile,
Holyrood House the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland,
The Georgian Squares and Princes St the main shopping area. No
distance at all is Leith and the Royal Yacht, the entrance is through
a shopping mall, but there is a good informative display prior to
going aboard telling her history and showing the important guests who
have either sailed on her or been entertained. One sees the private
quarters of the Queen and Prince Phillip, simple but tasteful, the
reception and dining rooms, the royal garage on deck complete with
Rolls Royce and the crew quarters, galley and engine room. Well worth
a visit. Many past American presidents have enjoyed hospitality on
board when she was in service.
Day 4 A lazy day at sea, Nothing to
Day 5 Hellesylt & Gerainger,
Here we are in Norway, dry but cloudy and a coat will be needed. The
first stop is Hellesylt to allow ashore only those on all day
excursions. We sail on up the fjord past the most spectacular area at
10:00am. High cliffs and waterfalls everywhere, June is a good time
to visit because the snow is still melting and so the waterfalls are
in full flood. We enjoy a coffee in the Queens Grill lounge as the
fjord drifts by. By noon we are in Gerainger and after a quick
lunch in the Lido tender ashore for our afternoon trip to the summit
of Mount Dalsnibba . Plenty of hair pin bends and spectacular views,
after a coffee stop above the snow line we are on the summit and have
a great view down 4,000 plus feet to the ship below. Gerainger is the
most spectacular fjord ,can be busy with cruise ships in the summer.
Today there are three others including Costa Romantica.
We leave at 6:00pm with a sailaway on deck.
Day 6 En route to the North Cape
Perfect sunshine and, as we are so far north, it is still shining as
we dine in the evening. This is the reason we have come so no
The usual day at sea. In the early evening we have a Cocktail party
with a senior officer as part of the platinum experience, about 100
guests, lots of officers as hosts, held in the Yacht Club with hot and
cold canapés. At Midnight we can still see the sun.
Day 7 The North Cape
A disappointment, it is cloudy and cold, very cold in fact with a
rough sea. We are unable to anchor and tender to Skarsvag. Those 4,000
reindeer in the brochures will miss us as will the small tourist
industry. We spend the day sailing near to the North Cape and at
Midnight the Captain takes us as close to the sheer rock cliffs as he
can and a hot toddy is provided.
Day 8 En Route to Trondheim
Today the sun is shining and the weather is warming up again. After
a very enjoyable lecture by Bill Miller--‘Mr Ocean Liner’ on ships
of the past and present. He is on board doing a series of four
presentations each one full of facts and information, it is 12.00.
noon and time for the loyal toast.
Today is June 14th and the official birthday of her Majesty the
Queen and so in true Cunard tradition there is a champagne toast in
all the public rooms to the Queen courtesy of Cunard. Another fine touch and appreciated by the 1128 UK guests on board
and the 285 from America. QE2 is truly an international ship, as we
also have 52 from Spain, 27 from Germany and the remainder from 25
other countries ranging from Costa Rica to Japan.
Day 9 Trondheim
This time we dock and the ship is soon cleared for going ashore.
Sunny again and Cunard have laid on a shuttle bus to the centre of
town. After breakfast we take the bus to town and walk the short
distance to the Cathedral. As this is a Sunday there is a service in
progress, with a boys choir from Minnesota singing. Beautiful stained
glass windows including a rose window to rival anything in France.
This cathedral was started in 1075 and is where several Kings of
Norway have been crowned.
Nearby is the restored Archbishops Palace containing museums with
medieval weaponry, etc. To complete our cultural experience in the centre of Trondheim is
the completely wooden palace of Stiftsgarden. Built between 1774/8
originally as a private residence by a rich widow to out do her neighbors, has anything changed!!!, it is now owned by the royal
family. Conducted tours take place and the whole palace is full of
interest and charm, including one room with a complete pink decor.
We sail at 6:00pm and take cocktails in the Yacht Club watching
the fjords drift by as we head for open sea.
Day 10 Aalesund
We are lucky with the weather, again it is sunny. Aalesund in a
sheltered position on its fjord has a touch of Amsterdam about it.
Much smaller but similar architecture it was rebuilt in 1904 after a
disastrous fire. We dock in the centre of town and spend the day
enjoying the view from neighboring hills and a trip to an aquarium. This is a quiet part of Norway and the surrounding scenery is quite
Day 11 Bergen
Sorry to harp on, but I am English so the weather is the top
priority. Again sunny and Bergen is supposed to have 300 days of rain
a year. We dock and the shuttle bus ride is 10 minutes to the centre
of town. Shuttle buses are free on the QE2 unlike some ships and
usually drop you near a shopping mall or hotel in the centre of town.
Plenty to see in Bergen, it is a World Heritage site. There is the
Bryggen on the quay side with its old Hanseatic merchant houses. A
first class fish market with fresh fish in tanks where ever you look,
good shopping, this is the most commercial of the ports we have been
to in Norway. We take the funicular railway, only 3 minutes to the top
of Mount Floien for a great view and spectacular walks in the
countryside. Edvard Grieg the famous Norwegian composer was born
nearby and his house is open to the public.
Back in town time for coffee. Norway is expensive for both English
and Americans but well worth a visit. Those fjords float by as we sip our cocktails in the Chart Room.
Day 12 En route to Southampton
Time for saying good bye and enjoying some sunshine on the Sun
deck. There is a small bar and the staff look after you with chairs
and covers. This is also the area where afternoon tea is served when
the weather is good.
We take back the library books, borrowed from the most
comprehensive library afloat and staffed by Julia and June who, as well
as selling postcards/ books/prints and QE2 memorabilia, always provide
a daily general knowledge quiz and crossword. Local destination travel
books are always available to browse.
Our last night is full of good byes but we do feel we have enjoyed
ourselves. Before we leave some words on the entertainment provided--always an
important ingredient of a cruise.
A resident production company "Broadway Bound"‘
comprised of five girls and five guys who have three 45 minute shows in their
repertoire. Singing and dancing to a high standard they perform in the
A resident classical trio of three young ladies from the Ukraine,
who play piano and two violins. They perform in the Theatre several
evening of the cruise with different programs.
On this cruise we had a comedian, a female instrumentalist, a
Spanish singer, a comedy act involving the piano and singing, a West
End singer and a magician who all did at least on 45 minute show. A
jazz band who played in the pub and a Scottish dance band. This was in addition to the regular QE2 orchestra one of the best
The quality of lecturers was also first class with Bill Miller from
America with his talks on liners of the past, port lecturers from
Norway, Michael Brunson a British TV reporter turned author, Norma
from Miami teaching watercolors, as well as bridge and computer
For short cruise it could not be beaten.
I hope this has whetted your appetite for the QE2, a grand old lady
with a few years left yet. Not a cruise ship, but an ocean liner
taking you on a cruise.
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