Dressing up (and a dressing-down) on the QM2

There’s a fabulously elegant Titanic-pre-iceberg feeling to the Queen Mary 2 at night, when people having dinner in any of the main restaurants are expected to dress up – smart-casual/semi-formal most nights, and sometimes full-on formal.

For anyone who doesn’t want to dress up – and I must admit I began to find it tedious, putting on my gladrags night in and night out – there’s always the casual King’s Court Buffet, where you can eat in your sweats if you like, and I quite often did.

My so-called gladrags actually consisted of a curious collection of my daytime clothes, accessorised to look like nighttime clothes; and in one case, a red Japanese-style pajama top that looked so fittingly formal paired with smart black pants that it got a few compliments.

pajama top as formalwear

Believe it or not, a 2011 Jet sundress worn with some glitzy earrings, a one-off purple gilet (thanks, Bev) and enough confidence looks quite a bit like formalwear. The fact that I partnered my very dapper father in his penguin suit on these formal nights completed the trick of the eye my koontreh wardrobe required to pull off looking up to scratch on the Queen Mary 2.

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The dressing down in this post goes to the QM2’s purser’s desk. The first time I queued here – I didn’t realise it then, but it would be the first of many – I took a picture of this apparent misuse of quotation marks in the ‘help’ sign. In fact, the quote marks are 100% correct, because whatever the purser’s desk may be, it’s not a help desk.

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It’s also not a desk. It’s a long counter containing 9 or 10 computers – in other words, 9 or 10 stations – which was only ever manned by 2 or 3 people, while the queue for attention often stretched 10+ strong, out of the Grand Lobby and down the central corridor. Coming from South Africa, where this is how everything works, it made me feel right at home.

It didn’t, however, work for the mainly elderly people on board. One day, I was queueing behind a fairly hefty old man leaning heavily on a walking stick. We’d been standing there for about 15 minutes already, and knew we were going to be there for a considerable while more. Suddenly he turned to me and said, ‘My dear – I’m dizzy.’

I dropped everything and ran across the Grand Lobby where, fortunately, some chairs were being put out for an orchestral gathering a bit later. I grabbed one and rushed back with it, but too late – as I reached the man, I saw him toppling like a big old tree. I flung the chair to one side and, using both arms and as much of my body as I could, tried to catch him. I didn’t succeed at all – he outweighed me by about 50kg – but I did give him a nice soft landing as he collapsed right on top of me.

Apparently, having OAPs flake out while in the queue wasn’t enough to either get more clerks on duty at the pursers’ desk, or (to my mind a perfectly elegant solution) simply put a row of chairs out so the poor dears could take the weight off their old feet while they waited interminably for their turn.

One of the favourite tricks of the any of the up to 3 clerks on duty would be for one to finish his/her business with a passenger, giving what turned out to be completely false hope to the next passenger in line that his/her turn had finally come – because the clerk would then swiftly disappear into the back room, not returning for at least several minutes and sometimes never.

I had many unpleasant experiences with the purser’s-desk clerks; or, put another way, I didn’t have one single positive experience at their hands. The lengths to which they seemed willing to go in order not to help made me feel that surely we were the subject of some outlandish psychological study that was perhaps being filmed by hidden cameras. And before you accuse me of being a misanthropist (Lyn) and bringing this sort of behaviour on myself, let me hasten to add that I was by no means the only person having less-than-satisfactory experiences with the pursers. One of my fellow passengers – a very sweet woman, and certainly a far nicer person than I – actually admitted to me, unhappily, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to the pursers, but they all just seem to hate me.’

To end this post on a positive note – the rest of the staff on the QM2, who seemed to be mainly Filipino, were hardworking little rays of sunshine. They buzzed around cheerfully, picking up after us and making our lives stupendously easy, telling us how welcome we were, wishing us good mornings and good evenings. Whatever they were getting paid, they deserved more.

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One comment on “Dressing up (and a dressing-down) on the QM2

  1. […] The intractable unhelpfulness of the Queen Mary 2′s pursers’ station –  basically, their helpdesk – would have been funny had it not been so monumentally awful. On a ship that accommodates thousands of passengers, there are naturally going to be a literal boatload of queries and complaints. The QM designers anticipated this, and made allowance for it: there’s a bank of about 10 helpdesks at the pursers’ station. But only two or three of them are ever actually manned. That means that there’s almost always a long queue of people lined up waiting to find out what restaurant they’re billeted to eat in, what time the 10 o’clock show starts and why they’ve incurred an inexplicable and hair-raising charge on their credit card (about which more in a moment). Additionally, on a ship that caters mainly for over-60s, there isn’t the option of seated queueing – everyone, regardless of advancedness of age or stutteriness of heart, must stand in the line. […]

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