Cruise Ship Stories
Sea travel has been my passion since I sailed from Cape Town to Southampton on the magnificent Queen Mary 2. I had been watching Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s plans to build a replica of the Titanic in China with interest, although the project seems to have ground to a halt, with nothing to show for the trouble beyond a 9.3 metre / 31 foot scale model tested in a 300 meter / 980 foot Hamburg tank. This saddens me because there is nothing quite like retro travel to get me reaching for my wallet.
Three Queens of the Sea
As a child, I travelled quite often from Cape Town to East London in South Africa on Union Castle mail ships serving the Europe / Africa route. Names like Carnarvon, Arundel and Winchester Castle spring to mind. They had been troopships in World War II, and might be museum pieces had air travel not stolen away their markets.
I think the finest ships of all were Cunard’s four funnelled beauties that ruled the oceans in the 19th Century. For me, their lines are far more graceful than the current versions that with due respect look more like shoeboxes with propellers attached and a pointy bit up front. Of course, the previous generation pictured below were not a touch to them when it comes to modern, wall-to-wall luxury.
Cruising Cunard in the 19th Century
The novelist Charles Dickens paid Cunard £20 for a cabin from London to New York in the 1870’s. The modern equivalent of that is £1,600, and for this he got a basic cabin on a ship that rolled like a drunken seafarer as it took on the Atlantic Ocean. He described the passengers as being in “ecstasies of fear”. An anecdote has it a passenger complained to a ship’s officer that water was coming down the stairs. He replied that he was only worried when the water was coming up the stairs.
The 21st Century Cunard Difference
A balcony stateroom from Southampton to New York on Queen Mary 2 retails for £1,779 per person, or £3,558 for the cabin. This is twice the price that Dickens paid, but I will warrant the comfort of travelling in a 5 Star Hotel justifies it. From time to time the company offers specials that work out cheaper than Dickens paid and you can hire a car when you arrive. So, despite my reservations I hope to dickens I can afford another Cunard cruise, and that the current three sail on forever, or for at least as long as I am alive.