Well, the Odyssey begins!
And as we welcome and greet this exciting new beginning, we also bid very, VERY sad & emotional goodbye to our little munchkins – the nine cockatiels that we have loved and cared for, for so many years.
I’ll try not to dwell on this part of our journey for long, as my eyes are already tearing up at the memory!
Day 1 – March 4th.
In life, I reckon we spend a good chunk of our time saying “Goodbye”, whether it is to people, objects or situations, and let’s face it – goodbyes are never easy. And since these beautiful little creatures have been a major part of our day- to-day lives (and hearts), for so long, this particular goodbye is definitely up there as one of the hardest and most gut-wrenching to date.
This morning we gave them all away.
Our dear friends Rowena & Daniel have lovingly welcomed them into their family and now love and care for them (and as they’ve reassured me, SPOIL THEM) as their own.
We will miss our birdies terribly but know that they will continue their happy lives without too much change or disruption. It’s a different story for Moni and I, and I say BRING IT ON!!
Last minute packing included our brand new “Odyssey T-shirts” courtesy of Miss Rowena (which are just awesome, thank you).
“We said our final farewells to our Gold Coast home around 10am”
All in all, we each have around 50kg of luggage which will be ours to live out of for the next few years at least. This is more luggage than we would have liked (to have to drag around the world with us) but necessary since we are going into mixed climates, and also starting out on Queen Elizabeth where the dress code is very strict, hence we need lots of choice and plenty of suits…
We said our final farewells to our Gold Coast home around 10am, and Mr Daniel took us on the hour’s drive to the Port of Brisbane.
First impressions of Queen Elizabeth left us amazed and in awe at the size of the famous Cunard liner. The first glimpse made my hair stand on end and gave me goose-bumps. I just love it; the whole cruising travel experience is just so awesome.
It’s just a shame though, that any ship of this size has to dock at a grain terminal – which means no people waving goodbye and no onlookers.
There was nothing to provide that true sense of “Pomp and Circumstance” that something this majestic truly deserves. Bring on the new cruise ship terminal that should and hopefully will allow a much better viewing and sail-away ceremony.
We handed our luggage over to the Cunard staff, who loaded them onto individual trollies where they have then pushed away through customs ready to board.
We were given our forms to fill out and required to take a seat and wait till boarding starts, passing the time with a little “people watching” of our fellow passengers.
On looking around we quickly noticed that we are among the youngest, if not THE youngest – that is, until a lad of around ten arrived with his parents.
Many wheelchair passengers (some with missing limbs) make me really appreciate how fortunate I am.
This also confirms to me the reason for making this odyssey begin today while we are still fit and young and able to travel well without restrictions.
Not long after, our number 13 was called, and at the check-in we go the through the procedure of getting our passports checked, photo ID taken and credit card swiped. In return, we are given our cruise cards, a map of the ship, then and off to pass customs we go.
There were ACTUAL sniffer dogs… And they gave our bags a once over while we had our embarkation photos taken. We then we made our way to the gangway… getting closer… Smiling staff offered us paper cups of cool water and hand sanitizer as we walk up the gangway and finally take our first step onto this luxury liner…
O.M.G… I can almost hear the emotional swell of “Best of British” movie theme music playing in my ears.
Smartly dressed doormen in their Cunard-issued uniforms of royal red jackets & caps and white gloves reverently welcome and greet us, followed by one of the ships officers who (again) checks our cruise cards (the fourth time now in just a few meters).
Security is high.
Our carry-on bags are screened and so are we, just like at the airport. Then we are met by more staff who give us directions to our stateroom.
The lifts close-by take us to the 6th floor and after a short walk, we arrive at our cabin…
WOW. We have an awesome cabin with a huge king size bed with five pillows!! There is a desk with Cunard stationery, a two-seater couch, and a spacious balcony with glass front (Bigger than P&O). A complete shower, toilet, and sink with plush towels and miniature soaps and shampoo etc.
And a personal welcome onboard note accompanying a lovely and much appreciated complimentary half-bottle of bubbly. Thank you, Cunard!
Upon further inspection, we discover good-sized wardrobe spaces, limited drawers, but bedside tables with three drawers.
Plenty of storage space under the bed for our empty suitcases.
After a quick check over our cabin (i.e. giggling while bouncing on the bed like crazed toddlers),we make our way to the restaurant for some lunch. We are told that all new boarders are required to eat lunch in The Lido buffet – deck 9… Okey dokey!
The buffet was delicious – very good quality, well presented and kept clean at all times. A variety of options for all taste buds is on offer.
We indulge in the gorgeous food and order a few celebratory alcoholic drinks (note; beverages attract an additional 15% service charge). And we then take a moment to look at each other in sheer amazement at where we are. We have to pinch ourselves to double-check that this is, in fact, our reality and not some euphoric dream!
With lunch over it is “explore the ship” time… This is one of our favourite pastimes, especially while many passengers are yet to board allowing for good photo opportunities.
We ask another friendly staff member how to get out to the front of the ship only to be personally escorted all the way – service with a smile! We explore the games area, croquet, short bowls, deck quoits, small racket tennis… we play a quick game of table tennis (of which Moni won 21-17, she’s competitive!).
After all that exercise we decide it’s beer o’clock so we head to the courtyard and enjoy our chosen beverage while it starts to rain, it was only a few minutes earlier that we were walking past one of the pools thinking about a swim.
It is so nice and peaceful around the pools. Totally different to being on the P&O ships like the Dawn & Jewel, or the Carnival Spirit, where hundreds of screeching and cannon-balling kids are playing havoc with your mind. This is pure serenity.
We are far from being boring old farts, and we DO love kids most of the time, but we have certainly had our fair share of having to share pool space with many overly enthusiastic and energetic, splashing little ratbags darlings, many whose parents may have mentally check-out for the duration and don’t seem to care about the affect their offspring have in the enjoyment of others. In comparison, this is refreshingly BLISSFUL.
We make our way back to the cabin at 4.45pm to collect our life jackets for the compulsory drill. Always a fun occasion watching as people struggle to put them on, I remember our first time when we laughed at each other.
A quick and painless procedure was presented by the entertainment director in the royal court theater from the stage… It was like being given a lecture from the headmistress back at school, lol. With that over, we head back to the cabin and unpack our luggage which has now been delivered.
We pause while the ship begins to pull away from the dock and we watch from our private balcony as we depart from Brisbane and make our way out to sea. We sail by the container yard busily unloading a container ship laden with peoples belongs etc. and this reminds us that 16 years ago our belongings would have arrived in Australia at the port in South Australia in a similar fashion.
The evening lights come on and slowly the sky darkens. Before long it is pitch black with only a few flickering lights in the distance. We freshen up and done our evening attire. Dinner is at 8.30pm in the Britannia Restaurant.
A walk around the shops past the casino towards the restaurant, we bump into some people we met earlier on the grand ballroom staircase as we were all taking photos. A quick chat and we discover they are on the dinner table next to us.
Dinner is exceptional – tasty and not too much. Four delicious courses AND I managed an extra dessert. My chef self can’t help but ask for a copy of the menu to keep, and I’m told that we can get copies of all menus served on board at the end of our voyage. Cool.
Our dinner table guests are a couple from the UK who were missing tonight, a couple from South Australia, and two blokes without their wives and kids – one traveling to stay in Japan, the other (his best mate) joined for a holiday. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at their houses back while they were negotiating that with their families!
Good conversation over dinner as we introduced ourselves and told our stories. This continued for just less than two hours and was very enjoyable. Some great comments on our Odyssey.
We were rather tired by then and the late show had started so we decided to return to the cabin for an early night, it has been a very emotional day…