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Boarding the Cruise, Coronavirus, and Replacing the Knob - Queen Elizabeth Cruise 2020

Grand Lobby, Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship. 
Finally at the Pier in Melbourne we were able to begin the boarding the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship  right away. If you're new to TET Life, or this is your first post, I'm blogging about a cruise ship holiday my partner, Enigma, and I went on at the end of January for eight days.

You may like to continue reading from this point or you might like to read the two prior posts, Automobiles, Planes, Buses, Trams, and Boats and The Middle Park Hotel, Albert Park, Port Melbourne Beach to get the full story of how we got here.

Coronavirus (for context)

In case you're wondering, COVID-19 was not yet a nationwide concern in Australia (personally I hadn't even heard the term Coronavirus until my Mother mentioned it on social media after we started our holiday). The Queen Elizabeth had stopped taking trips into Asia and instead was offering various routes touring Australia and New Zealand at very attractive rates (hence why we booked a cruise).

As far as I know, no one from our cruise caught the virus on board. We certainly didn't (it's almost two months later at the time I'm writing this and neither Enigma or myself have had any symptoms). Again, there wasn't really widespread concern at this point.

As I was writing this post I noticed that the Queen Elizabeth's daily newsletter, Australia Today, was reporting just four known cases of COVID-19 in Australia the day we boarded (26th Jan) - all people who flew in from China, three in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

That said, who knew the rest of life as we know it would become like being on a modern cruise ship? Everywhere on board they had hand sanitizer dispensers (particularly going into the restaurants) and signs up reminding you to wash your hands. Staff also stood around with hand sanitizer bottles, making sure you cleaned your hands even though, quite often, they were literally standing right next to a hand sanitizer dispenser.

Boarding the Queen Elizabeth

On the scale of cruise ship passengers we're definitely in the 'riff-raff' class. At check in there are two queues that weren't immediately apparent if you casually glanced at the maze of poles and belts used to guide people to the desks. Staff would look at your ticket and guide you to the correct queue entrance located right next to each other.

Our entrance you did the long zig zag that would be far quicker if you just went under the belts to where the queue actually finished (but we found out pretty quick cutting under the belts was punishable with some very cross words and hard stares from the two ladies directing the queue).

If you're one of the posh people, who go on a whole different cruise experience, you get to go in the other queue entrance that somehow takes you straight to the counter without looking like it's a completely separate maze.

Beyond that, it's not actually a painful experience. I don't think we were queuing much more than 30 minutes. While waiting you do get a real look at some of the people you'll be sharing the ship with. We noticed we were probably in the minority at the younger end of the scale. Cruises are popular with retirees. At the desk, we sorted all the paperwork and had our id photos taken.

You'd never know we'd just walked
4.6 kilometres and then waited
in a queue for about 30 minutes.
(I think the ship may have beached
itself behind us?)
On the way onto the boat, between having our carry on bags scanned and actually walking onto the gangway, we stopped for the obligatory 'I'm going on a cruise' photo op with the ship's image as a background.

If you're ever on a cruise you should always have this photo taken. It'll be the cheesiest, most ill prepared photo of yourself and whoever is with with you ever, and that is glorious!

First Impressions

The Queen Elizabeth is a much bigger ship than our previous cruise ship but in many ways seems very familiar with similar floor plans, interior design, and general layout. Perhaps a little more wood paneling throughout to give it that old world, nineteen thirties, English charm but otherwise it feels very much like a modern cruise ship based on the two I've actually been on.

The Queen Elizabeth

The Grand Lobby is pretty much what we saw first and really sets the scene for what you imagine a luxury cruise liner should be. Gold and wood panel styling everywhere with a giant Art Deco wall mural of the ship that spans two levels of the main stairs.

Our cabin actually seemed more spacious
than the room at the Middle Park Hotel.
Our cabin was a short walk down the hall from here on deck one. Our checked in luggage was waiting at the door.

While we may be in the riff-raff class our cabin was still of a very good size (roomier than the room at the Middle Park Hotel actually) and came with a complimentary bottle of champagne.

We were fortunate enough to have a window. If you're not fussed about that I believe the windowless cabins on the opposite side of the hall are slightly cheaper.

We had a good sized, flat screen TV on the wall opposite the bed with plenty of channels to choose from, stocked fridge with the usual extras you can buy, as well as complimentary tea and coffee. Naturally the cabin has its own small ensuite, with shower, sink, mirror and toilet, which was fine but nothing special.

If you want to stay connected to the internet the ship does have onboard wifi. We opted not to use it as we felt the plans were vastly overpriced. Which might have been problematic but actually only meant we were without internet for about a day at a time in between ports.

Waiting for the knob to be replaced, Dinner and a Show

The view from our cabin window.
This giant knob is actually a
replacement antenna for the
navigation system.
Looking out the window of our cabin we could see what appeared to be a giant door knob on the pier surrounded by a small team of workers. Apparently this was a replacement for one of the ships antenas. We didn't think too much of it other than the workers appeared to be staring at it a lot and discussing things too.

It wasn't too late to have lunch so we made our way to the Lido Buffet on deck 9. Generally all your food is included in the ticket price. You only pay for soft drinks and alcohol, or if you want to eat at the more exclusive restaurants onboard the ship.

The Buffet deck on any cruise ship is where all the riff-raff eat, along with a few brave posh people who may have inadvertently taken a wrong turn. At peak times it's near impossible to get a table straight away. It's like being in a busy shopping center carpark. You just keep circling until a table becomes free.

Fortunately our first experience here we got a table right away and were able to select our food without having to dodge too many other diners. If you've never been on a buffet deck just imagine it to be like an all you can eat, self serve, food hall with food from several different countries to choose from.

From here we spent the afternoon wandering around the boat, taking great care to avoid the front section of deck nine where they'll attempt to rope you into expensive 'wellness' programs involving seaweed and other such things.

If you're into that kind of thing I can see how it might be of benefit in a general sense. For me, 'wellness centers' and Churches are two places that are better off without me in them.

It was on this walk around the ship I realized the overall layout of the public areas was very similar to our previous cruise ship, the Pacific Eden. I was disappointed the Queen Elizabeth didn't have a cinema like the Pacific Eden but, as it turned out we spent every evening watching live performances in the theatre. Which, for me, trumps a movie every time.

We headed back to our room for a rest, as it had been a long day. Looking out the window the knob was still there. I witnessed at least one of the workers operate the crane that presumably would lift the knob into place, while at least five others watched.

The boat was supposed to leave Melbourne at 6pm but was still in port at 8pm when we went to the Britannia Restaurant for dinner. The knob hadn't moved as we left our cabin.

Britannia Restaurant,
Lower Level (deck 2).
Like the Buffet, the Britannia restaurant, while looking posher than any restaurant Enigma and I have ever been in since the last cruise, is for the riff-raff. You're assigned a table number that becomes your table for dinner throughout the entire cruise. Our table was on the second level (deck 3) overlooking the lower level of the restaurant on deck 2.

In the evenings the ship has a dress code. Every second day seemed to be Gala Evening where men are required to go full suit and tie and ladies formal wear/cocktail dresses. Non Gala evening you're still supposed to wear smart casual collared shirt, with optional jacket and women just need to wear pretty much anything in smart casual wear.

Each night there is a set menu in the Britannia restaurant. Usually a choice of three different entrees, three mains, and three deserts. At this point (almost two months later) I can't name a single dish I ate but I will say I don't remember not liking anything.

What was more noteworthy was the staff in the restaurant. Each table could have up to three different staff ensuring drinks were refilled, meals arrived, extras were offered, and anything else, food related was provided.

The same staff waited on our table each evening. They were exceptional, enthusiastic, and always came around with the pepper shaker mere moments after your main meal had arrived. (I don't know why they just don't put pepper in a shaker on the table but we got a bit of a smile each evening out of seeing how quick the pepper made its way over once mains were served).

Royal Court Theatre. Enigma and I ended
every evening here. The entrance to the lower
level was almost literally at the end of the
hall from our cabin.
We ended our first evening by attending the second performance in the theatre by Danny Elliot, who is an extremely talented musician, able to play more than 13 different instruments in the one show (not at the same time - which would've been even more impressive). His show is a mixture of well played music and comedy.

Sometime after 11pm the ship finally left Melbourne. As it turned out the knob didn't get replaced in the end thanks to the work crew not being able to locate the correct harnesses for the crane.

Fortunately the delay didn't affect the overall schedule as we still made it to Adelaide on time. However that's for the next post where I'll tell you about our first 'sea day' and our stop in Adelaide.

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