Cunard World Cruise Week Six Highlights (Equator, International Dateline and Cyclone)
I travelled around the world in a 12-week trip that started in Southampton UK and ended in Hong Kong. Most of it on segments of Cunard World cruise, first on Queen Victoria and then Queen Elizabeth. This 12-part series covers the journey, experiences and tips – one for each week of the journey. This post covers week six, you can read the previous week here.
Hawaii to Samoa
Day 36 (14 February) At Sea to Samoa Day One
A bright and sunny Valentine’s Day dawned as we left the Hawaiian Islands behind us and started on our voyage across the Pacific towards the island of Samoa. The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, and much was made of this in the Daily Program and the Captain’s Noon Address. It covers 59 million square miles and contains more than half of the water on Earth. All the world’s continents could fit into the Pacific basin.
The ship embraced it, and many opportunities to spend money were offered up to romantic guests. These included the “Cupid’s Kiss” cocktail of the day for $12.95 plus gratuity (Hendrick’s Gin, Peach Schnapps, Pomegranate Syrup topped up with Delamotte Champagne), Couple’s Massage (50 minutes for $274 with an Early Bird special of an extra 25 minutes if booking was made between 8am and 9.30am), Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea at $15 (or $29.99 if with a glass of champagne) and the ability to order Vueuve Clicquot Champagne or roses for your loved one to be delivered to your cabin. There were also themed events around the shops, the Casino and a Valentine’s Ball in the Queens Room.
It was another leisurely paced day at sea with talks, classes and quizzes. A highlight was a session by Gerald W Abrams, the father of JJ Abrams who directed the re-boot of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”, about producing and making movies based on the over 70 he has done.
Day 37 (15 February) At Sea to Samoa Day Two
The main rumble through the ship today was the Captain’s Noon Broadcast where he spoke about a Tropical Storm developing in the Samoa area that could affect our plans to go there. His said that they were watching and tracking it. My immediate thought was that it had already been decided we were not going and this was phase one of the soft sell to passengers. Generally speaking very little was shared with guests – unless we really needed to know and only when we did.
In the evening while passing one of the World Club Cocktail parties for new joiners, I heard the Captain saying there was now an 80% probability we would not call at Samoa but make a detour around the storm and head straight to our next stop in Auckland, where we were due in a week. Phase two of the sell!
The next day’s Noon address came as no surprise when he announced we were not going to Samoa, as they wanted to avoid the storm.
Compensation for cruise changes
People have asked me what compensation is given for events like this. Cruise Contracts that passengers agree to when making a booking and paying allows Cunard (and other lines) to make any changes to ports of call without notice. On the one hand this makes sense as weather or other risk factors, such as terrorist threats in a region, need to be taken into account before committing to port of call. However, it also mean guests are agreeing to a fairly open-ended licence to change an itinerary for any reason. It is important that travellers understand conditions like this when committing to a cruise.
One of the kitchen staff performed an ice carving demonstration out on the Lido Pool deck in the afternoon. The large blocks of ice used are frozen on land and delivered to the ship as part of the supplies. The Crewmember created an impressive Red Indian Chief head in a surprisingly short space of time as he attacked the block.
Dining Under the Stars
With the temperature settled at a warm 28 degrees through the day and night, a Dining Under the Stars alternative dining venue around the Lido Pool was available most nights from here with a $10 surcharge per person.
Day 38 (16 February) At Sea to Samoa Day Three while Crossing the Equator
Mid-morning the Captain came on the public address system to announce we were about to pass from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere. He joked that if we were out on the open decks we may be able to spot the buoys marking the line and possibly feel a slight shudder as we passed over the line.
After lunch was the traditional Crossing the Equator Ceremony
The Crossing the Line Ceremony is a long-standing naval tradition among the Royal Navy, British Merchant Navy, Dutch Merchant Navy, US Navy, US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps, Royal Australian and Russian Navy to commemorate the first time a sailor crosses the Equator. The exact origins are disputed but have been embraced by many cruise lines like Cunard.
Sailors (and guests) that have crossed previously are called (Trusty / Honourable) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune, and those that have not are called (Slimy) Pollywogs. A few days ago guests had been asked to volunteer to take part in the ceremony of they were Pollywogs.
At the ceremony, held around the Pavilion Pool midships on Deck 9, Neptune and his Queen arrive along with a Judge to hold court. The ship’s Senior Officers join them. After reciting a humorous poem, the Pollywogs are paraded before everyone and then charged with offences in groups of five (e.g. Of eating too much etc.) and found guilty by the crowd. They then kiss a fish and are covered in gunk and jump into the pool. Later crew who are Pollywogs go through the same process.
Guests started grabbing their vantage point some hours before the event started at 2pm, and rigidly held to them even when there was a fairly heavy passing rain about an hour before it started. The sun came out for the event. People were highly protective of their “patch” and (to be honest) in some cases proved to be a negative influence on the fun and atmosphere of the event. It was though (annoying people aside) a good spirited and cheerful event.
Large certificates were left in our rooms enshrined with our names to certify we had crossed the equator.
Day 39 (18 February) At Sea to Auckland Day Four while crossing the International Date Line
What a difference a day makes.
As we passed the International Date Line, at 2am the ship’s clocks leaped 24 hours ahead so we skipped from Tuesday to Thursday. This evening we were given another large personalised certificate commemorating the event.
Tropical Storm Winston
The weather started changing dramatically too.
Overnight the seas and skies had grown angrier. Rain fell on and off during the day in thin windy gusts that whipped up against the windows and made the decks extremely wet. Humidity was high as the temperature was 30 degrees. The swells grew, and the ship moved consistently, something the Captain warned would stay and possibly increase over the day and into the next. The storm, called Winston, was two hundred nautical miles away but the effects were clearly spread far and wide and affecting us.
In his midday address the Captain continued his expectation management (and no doubt addressing complaints or queries) to advise we would not be calling at an alternative port as the realistic ones were also affected by the storm, and we needed to make a wide diversion to miss the storm and still arrive on schedule in Auckland.
He advised that the plan was to sail as fast as possible to get past the weather and into calmer seas and clear skies. Sceptics on the ship queried a lot of this, assuming that our route and speed would coincidentally mean arriving in Auckland at the expected time.
Wednesday 17 February evaporated at 2am in the morning, as the clicks were set 24 hours ahead as we passed the International Date Line.
Day 40 (19 February) At Sea to Auckland Day Four
The sea grew angrier through the day and the ship’s movement grew more pronounced, despite Tropical Cyclone Winston being over 430 miles away. It had moved between Samoa and Fuji and was moving westward with winds over 130 miles at its centre. While we had steamed at over 21 knots to put distance between the storm and us we experienced large swells of 4 to 5 metres. In our mid-ships suite and the restaurant we did not fully experience the extent of the movement, although from our table could see the dramatic rise and fall.
The extent of movement became much clearer early evening when we attended a cocktail party in a Q1 suite at the rear of the ship on Deck 7. A couple in the Queens Grill, who had early on recognised me from my YouTube videos, hosted it. It was hard to stand up without holding onto a surface, and the sea looked especially rough and undulating from the rear. They had originally chosen the date to host a sail away party from Samoa, expecting quiet calm seas and bright blue skies on a peaceful island. But it was not to be.
The conditions were not what we had expected from this part of the world. Although many guests had been frustrated when the Captain had first announced we were missing the stop and heading away from the storm, experiencing the effects so far from the heart of the storm seemed to overcome that.
Early evening the Entertainment Manager came over the public address system to announce, not surprisingly, that the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers show “One Way or Another” was being rescheduled due to the weather making it unsafe to perform the show and was being replaced by the variety show planned for the next day of a comedian and magician we had seen on other nights.
Day 41 (20 February) At Sea to Auckland Day Five
Although it has started to calm down, and there were blue patches in the sky, the effects of Tropical Storm Winston still caused swells and movement – along with occasional drizzle rainstorms. The swells had reduced from 5 to 3 metres.
The storm itself had intensified and had already hit and caused some chaos in Tonga and had looped around and was heading back there, risking also Fiji. In the Northern Hemisphere these storms are called Hurricanes and it would have been classified at least a Category 3. Among all of this, we were advised that it was hoped that we would get to Auckland early and dock around 6pm the day before we were due (so the Monday night).
The movement was still considered too great to have the production show and so a singer (Levine) did her second show instead.