Queen Elizabeth 2 Final Voyage

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 - FINAL VOYAGE

Date: 22nd November 2008

QE2 LAST VOYAGE - Southampton to Dubai

It was a privilege to be invited to join the QE2 on her last voyage.

Jonathan and I flew to Rome where we joined the ship at the port of Civitavecchia.  We'd been assigned a 'Stateroom' which equates to a rather luxurious Hotel room and were looked after by a delightful Steward called Don.  He must have spent all his working life on the QE2 having put in 40 years of service aboard ship.  When I commented that he must be the longest serving person on board, he told us that the Maitre D in the Queen's Grill had put in 41 years and one other - 42 years.  I doubt anyone will ever see that kind of service longevity again.

Our first port of call was Naples and I'd booked us a tour to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.  On my return from Australia in 1966 - aboard the Castel Felice (a very far cry from the QE2) - I visited the ruins of Pompeii which in those days were quite sparse.  In the intervening years they've uncovered a  whole city which, in many respects, is almost complete with the exception of the roofs which burnt and collapsed  under the heat of the volcanic ash.  Our guide, Bruno, was extremely good and we spent a couple of hours wandering round the city being highly enlightened.  The rich Romans really did lead a very comfortable life and even the slaves were allowed to purchase their freedom.

Bruno had a keen sense of humour and when we came to the 'red light' district, he told us that the portraits on the wall explained the various 'delights on the menu' - he said it was like those picture menus one gets in faraway places where, because one can't speak the language or read it, you choose by picture.  There were some highly enlightening pictures!!!!!  Enough said.  It is amazing to think that the frescoes were painted almost 2,000 years ago and, buried under ash until the last century, look as though they were painted yesterday.

Hundreds of people perished in the disaster and were literally 'buried alive' - most of the remains have been reconstituted and are in the museum in Naples but a few have been left in glass cases in the ruins of Pompeii.

The big eruption of Vesuvius took place in AD 79 and it has erupted several times since then but people still continue to live dangerously close to it.  It is the most active volcano in Europe and the specialists know that it will erupt again so why folk continue to live there only God knows.

After Pompeii we set off for Amalfi - and what a drive that turned out to be.  I thought I'd been on some pretty hairy roads on the Swartberg Pass in the Cape but they were as nothing compared with the road along the coast. Hairpin bends didn't come into it - they almost bent back on themselves.  Our coach driver must have had nerves of steel.  The views were spectacular and the cliffs were dotted with houses wherever it was possible to build. 

On arrival at Amalfi we had a very indifferent lunch (they always seem to be very mediocre when one takes a tour) after which we were free to wander.  For such a small village, Amalfi boasts a very large and impressive Cathedral.

I wish we had had time to visit Herculaneum and also the famous Blue Grotto - maybe another time.  I was delighted that Jonathan was so interested in and amazed by Pompeii.

Our next port was Valetta in Malta.  It is very impressive and purports to be the most beautiful port in Europe with it's high walls and fortifications.  I'd visited Malta a few years ago so didn't go on any of the tours but we did go ashore and decided to visit the Co-Cathedral.  They say you should never judge a book by it's cover - and on my first visit,  I remember thinking that the Cathedral looked rather dull and more like a fortification.  How wrong could I have been - the interior is an explosion of Baroque splendour.  Having paid our entrance fee, we were handed audio guides.  I know Jonathan doesn't really like churches etc. so was concerned that he might be bored.  Far from it, he was completely in awe and very impressed.

The next day was a sea day on which I gave one of my four talks.  I had decided to give the 'Memories of a lifetime in Theatre and Television' because I reckoned the predominance of passengers would be elderly and would remember many of the people I'd met, interviewed, and of whom I had photos.  There were many 'Ah yes's' as I brought up pictures of characters like Wynford Vaughan Thomas  (probably Richard Dimbleby's predecessor), George Melly, Humphrey Littleton and folk of that ilk.

The theatre was almost full and it was very gratifying afterwards to have people make lovely comments, particularly several Americans who said that, despite not knowing all the people I'd mentioned, they'd found the talk thoroughly interesting.

It was our last night and we dressed formally - it really is lovely to see everyone dressed up and adhering strictly to the Dress Code.

We thoroughly enjoyed our four days on board and dining in the Queen's Grill was a lovely experience.  The food was superb and served faultlessly - a real touch of old-fashioned 'fine dining'.

As I had nothing much on paper, I was very concerned about being met in Alexandria for our onward journey to Cairo.  I shouldn't have worried.  In true Cunard tradition, everything fell into place.  We were escorted through customs and loaded the cases into a waiting car.  We didn't go very far before the driver stopped and started to unload our cases.  I had visions of us disappearing down a dark alley.  However, it was merely that we had to change cars (still don't know why). Our driver had no English and we had no Egyptian and we were to be in his care for over four hours driving to Cairo.  I noticed that his car was clean and whole - quite a rarity - so made the assumption that he was a good driver.  Good is an understatement.  If there is any lane discipline on the Highway, nobody pays it any heed and the cars weave in and out of lanes at will. 

Jonathan was rather upset that we weren't going to have time to see the Pyramids but as we approached the outskirts of Cairo, we did see three of them in the distance which pleased him somewhat.

I couldn't believe the ugliness of the buildings on the Cairo periphery - mile upon mile of Red brick squares with the occasional window.  I could only assume that it was cheap housing where, when someone moved in, they knocked out bricks and formed windows.  They made  our high rise flats look positively luxurious. 

As we got closer to Cairo city centre, the fun began - Talk about a white knuckle ride.  It defies description.  There are no lanes marked on the wide road - and even if there were, I doubt anyone would pay them any heed.  Our driver wove intricately in and out of lorries, cars, buses, hooting all the way - it was a bit like Formula 1 but with no empty stretches of Tarmac.  I've been told I'm a good driver but there's no way I would even attempt to drive in Cairo.  The drivers are all so aggressive and it really is the land of the quick and the dead. 

On the journey we'd been stopped several times by officials wearing dark navy uniforms and sporting Red berets.  I couldn't make out whether they were soldiers or policemen - nor could I understand why our driver had to stop at regular intervals and show his driving papers.  At one stop, there was an altercation and much shouting and I envisaged Jonathan and myself being thrown into an Egyptian prison. As our driver spoke no English, we still don't know what it was all about.

I don't think I've every had to show my passport so many times in succession and to what end, heaven only knows.  There were no smiles and no courtesy and it all felt very threatening.  I'd love to see the Pyramids again - as I did in 1966 - but if that means going to Cairo, I'll give it a miss and watch a documentary instead.

It would have been great to have been at Southampton for the Fireworks and lovely to be at Dubai when she docks, but Jonathan and I were grateful for our taste of luxury aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 and felt honoured to have been passengers on part of her last voyage.  I find it sad that she is going to be a floating hotel in Dubai but I suppose that is preferable to being broken up in a shipyard.

The Picture below shows the QE2 at Valetta and the lime green dot is me!

QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 - FINAL VOYAGE

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.