My dad was the best lecturer on our leg of the trip (Cape Town to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2), and I’m not just saying that. I attended all five of the lectures he gave, and three of them were so packed out that people were sitting on the stairs in the 475-seater lecture theatre. My dad modestly ascribed this to the fact that the weather outside was bad but there were plenty of other things people could do to get out of the rain and wind.
The lecture programme was fabulous – I went to talks on everything from pet behaviour to reconstructive surgery, all given by leaders in their fields.
The lecture theatre, called Illuminations, doubled as a movie theatre, playing a recent release daily around 5pm; and a planetarium, with 150 reclining seats under a 3D dome, showing mindblowing documentaries every day.
As you can see by the example (at top) of the itinerary of just half a day’s onboard activities, there was always lots and lots and LOTS of things to do – from exercise, card-game and art classes to computer workshops and art shows, musical concerts (of all descriptions and sizes, all over the ship, all the time), big-screen live football, sports events (deck quoits, paddleball), handiwork and hobby workshops (scrapbooking or scarf-tying, anyone?), trivial pursuit contests… The list went on and on. There were also daily clubs and gatherings for various religions, genders and dependencies.
My dad and I were thoroughly humbled in the evening trivial-pursuit challenge in the Golden Lion pub, which we participated in regularly before dinner. Back at home (where, apparently, our friends and family are just dof), we always nail these kinds of games; but on the ship, we dipped out badly. In our defence, many of the questions were UK-centred (about, for example, TV personalities or shows that we wouldn’t know about); but many of them weren’t – they were just really good questions that we didn’t know the answers to. A couple of times we did so shamefully badly that we didn’t admit to our results.
(Pic from http://www.cruise-australia.net/QM2.htm)
There were several shows a day put on in the +-1 000-seater Royal Court Theatre (above) – aside from the truly fabulous QM2 dancers and somewhat less fabulous (slightly shrill) but still pretty darned good QM2 singers, we saw comedians, a guy who did a Neil Diamond tribute show that made me dance in my seat, and various other performers and entertainers, including a fantastic magician who contrived to produce a real bowling ball from a sheet of drawing paper, and I’m still gobsmacked by that – I mean, there really is just no way you can hide a bowling ball up your sleeve.
I was excited to read on the programme that night that the magician was going to hold a workshop the following evening, for anyone who wanted to learn a few tricks, and that all that was required to attend was to sign up at 9am the next morning, at the purser’s desk. There were a limited number of spaces available, so I duly presented myself at the purser’s desk fresh and early the next morning, joining the ever-present queue, and finally getting to the front of it at about 10 minutes to 9. When I explained to the clerk on duty that I was there to sign up for the magician’s workshop, he pointedly looked at his watch, then looked back at me and said, slowly and clearly, ‘Nine. Oh. Clock,’ as if I were deaf or stupid or both. I’d long since given up being astonished by the rudeness and unhelpfulness of the pursers, and resigned myself to waiting for 10 minutes to put down my name. (In spite of this rigid adherence to the sign-up time, the pursers still somehow managed to significantly oversubscribe the workshop, with about double the number of people attending, the result of which was that the magician’s attention was stretched to the limit – so although it was still fun, we didn’t get the one-on-one magic training he’d wanted to give.)
If you didn’t feel like doing anything at all, there was a choice of lovely places to be while you did it. The library, especially when it was a bit windy outside, was my favourite. On the 8th deck, it’s right at the front of the ship, with windows all around. There’s a row of university-style workstations, plus a couple of groupings of plush comfy sofas and chairs around coffee tables; and a row of chairs facing a row of big windows, if you wanted to turn your back to the world and bask in the sun like a dassie. The selection of books was great – there really did seem to be something for everyone, and I re-read every Kate Atkinson they had – and there was also a big and enthusiastically used reference section (fellow travellers were, by and large, both well read and curious).
(Pic from http://www.queenmary2.eu/fotogalerie.html)
There was a small bookshop attached to the library, with maps, diaries and calendars, small gifts, stationery and handicraft items (including wool and knitting needles!) for sale, plus a selection of books, most of them about the Cunard line and its ships, but also copies of books written by the various lecturers, including my dad’s memoir, The King’s Eye and John Vorster’s Elbow, which did a brisk trade.
There was a ‘viewing lift’ that rose out of the library – a glass elevator on the outside of the ship that went up to the 11th deck, and a total thrill for me. (And there was another glass elevator, inside the ship, that rose out of the Grand Lobby and went up to the King’s Buffet.)
Another wonderful place to do nothing was on Deck 7, the promenade deck (above) – lying on a deckchair, reading a book, watching the sea go by, and dozing. You could do the same on the very top deck, Deck 12; and as we approached the chilly north and the temperature dropped, an option was to take to a deckchair inside the glass-roofed Pool Pavilion, where you got all the sun and none of the cold wind. Sheer bliss.