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Today was the last day of the Maiden Voyage of the Queen Elizabeth.  Tomorrow morning we were due to dock back in Southampton before the long coach ride back to the North-East.  😦

Although it was sunny, the weather was decidedly colder and windier as we got closer to the cold British shores.  We didn’t go out on the balcony today, but spent some time doing the boring things such as packing anything we wouldn’t need on the cruise any more and sorting out which clothes we would be travelling home it.

We went along to the pub for our last Golden Lion lunch and spent a pleasant hour in there listening to the pianist and enjoying a cold beer.  Then we wandered along to the shopping arcade to see if there was any more last minute Christmas presents we could buy for people.  We were already going back with loaded carrier bags of stuff as it was!  At least the recipients won’t already have the gifts we’ve bought for them, ha ha 🙂

Around tea time it was the moment we’d all been waiting for; the time to go along and redeem our ‘wonderful’ prize vouchers.  We had six vouchers in total, so we wondered what we would be able to get.  What a let-down!!  all the prizes were, in essence, advertising Cunard in some way:  one voucher got you a Cunard bookmark; two got you a Cunard pack of playing cards, three you got a Cunard key-ring and five got you a Cunard base-ball cap.   Whoopee!  So with six vouchers we could pick a combination of these.  There were various other Cunard logoed stuff as well; for 15 vouchers you could get an imitation leather photo album.  The items really were not much more than holiday tat and there was nothing we wanted.  So as we were going out of the room where the prizes were being dished out, we saw some guys coming in to redeem their vouchers so we just gave them ours to add to theirs!

You’d think, with all the money Cunard must make each year, they could at least give away decent prizes for their competitions.  On P&O and Fred Olsen they give you bottles of wine if you win the quiz, and I got a nice Holland America flight bag and windcheater on the Volendam just for coming second in an X-Factor type contest.  Cunard prizes are, quite frankly, pretty crap.

We enjoyed our last dinner in the Britannia Restaurant; one of the people on our table had brought up the remainder of a bottle of Remy Martin cognac for us to finish off – that was very kind of her.  We said our farewells, went to the final show in the theatre (which was a variety show featuring the ship’s orchestra, singers and dancers) then back to our cabin to finish packing, as our suitcases had to be placed outside the cabin door before midnight.

Then along to the Golden Lion for our last evening on board.  There were not many people in, as most of them would have been packing and perhaps having an early night if they had a long journey back home.

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At the first stroke of the alarm clock at 4.30am on Tuesday, 12 October 2010, we leapt out of bed… strange how it is so much more difficult a feat to accomplish at 6.30am on a working day 🙂

Our journey by coach to Southampton was, thankfully, uneventful; no traffic jams, no bad weather, no roadwords or any other eventuality which might have delayed our arrival. Sipping a champagne and waiting to embark the ship, whilst surreptitiously examining fellow passengers-to-be is part of the excitement of the impending voyage. 🙂

We boarded the Queen Elizabeth at around 2.30pm, and proceeded to our stateroom, number 6179. As we opened the door, the afternoon October sunshine streamed through our balcony doors and glinted off the steel champagne bucket, where a chilled bottle and two flutes awaited us. 🙂

We cracked open the bottle and took it out to our balcony. Eight decks below us we could see the frenetic activity of passengers embarking, and supplies being loaded onto the vessel; barrels of beer and cases of wine, fresh fruit and vegetables and the plethora of other items intended to make our voyage a comfortable one.

We made our way to the pool deck at the stern in order to procure a good vantage point for the first time the Queen Elizabeth would slip her moorings and sail off into the sunset. Below us, a brass band played “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Jerusalem” and other rousing, patriotic tunes. All around us the passengers waved their arms or their Union Jacks, then, with three deafening blasts of the ship’s foghorn, we were off!

For me, those three blasts herald the symbolic start of any voyage, and particularly the Maiden Voyage. It is so reminiscent of old film footage of famous ocean liners leaving, destined for foreign shores and hopefully better things.

As the Queen Elizabeth glided majestically away from the Southampton shoreline and along the Solent, a flotilla of smaller ships and boats followed alongside us, the air filled with a cacophony of hoots, blasts and whistles.  Occasionally the QE gave a mighty blast back, as a forest of waving hands and flags accompanied us.  Another thing that made this Maiden Voyage so special was that we were sailing the same route that the grand old lady of the sea, the Queen Elizabeth 2, had taken on her maiden voyage way back in April 1969.

Tired, but excited, happy and so privileged to be part of this, we changed and made our way to the Britannia Restaurant and the first of many sumptuous meals.

The voyage had begun. 🙂

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It is with great excitement that we are counting down the days to the arrival of Cunard’s new luxury cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth, as we are among those lucky enough to have procured a place on her Maiden Voyage on 12 October 2010.  The QE’s maiden voyage is the fastest-selling cruise ever in Cunard’s history, selling out in a record 29 minutes 14 seconds, so we are indeed lucky to be one of the chosen few.  🙂

Queen Elizabeth was officially handed over to Cunard White Star line on 1 October 2010 and she is, at the time of writing, on her way to Southampton from Fincantieri yard in Italy.  She is due to arrive in her home port tomorrow morning at around nine o’clock.  I have been looking at her bridge cam every day to see where she is: you can watch her arrival in Southampton by going to:

http://www.cunard.co.uk/Ships/Queen-Elizabeth/Bridge-Web-Cam/

On Monday 11 October, Her Majesty the Queen will be doing the official naming ceremony in Southampton by breaking a jeroboam of champers on the Queen Elizabeth’s bow.  Let’s hope the bottle smashes; it has long been considered bad luck in nautical tradition if the bottle doesn’t break. 😦

I shall be doing a daily blog to mark the Maiden voyage for posterity.  It’s the first cruise I’ve done since I set up this blog so I will actually have something to write about for a change!  🙂

Anchors aweigh!

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