My second 2023 cruise started off as a 2021 cruise on the Queen Mary 2 from Fremantle to Melbourne, booked in May 2019 – I like to book as soon as cruises go on sale. With Covid it was just a matter of time before it was cancelled: I was given the option of getting a full refund or carrying forward 125% of the deposit paid as a future cruise credit (FCC). I chose the latter course and booked a similar cruise for March 2022. This in turn got cancelled, with the FCC rolled forward again.
With two longer cruises already booked I settled on a three-night cruise from Melbourne to Burnie and back on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, treating myself to a Princess Grill suite. I’d previously enjoyed an upgrade to PG so knew what to expect. Burnie is on the north coast of Tasmania, approximately 500km/310mil from Melbourne by sea.
The day before the cruise I was surprised to get an email from Cunard saying that although the cruise would be going ahead, we might need to skip visiting Burnie as further hull cleaning was required before the QE’s New Zealand cruise which was to follow ours; if this was to happen we would each receive 100% FCC and $150 onboard credit (spending money), a more than generous offer.
What happened? The hull cleaning had to be abandoned because of rough seas, we did go to Burnie (to the regret of those hoping for the FCC) and those who joined the ship on Feb 14th expecting to go round New Zealand found themselves on a cruise to Queensland and back! If you’re interested, read the story on Cruise Critic.
Back to my cruise: I won’t say much about the ship since I’ve done this before. Day one was spent at sea. Plenty to do, including the Sunday church service conducted by the captain – a Cunard tradition – and a superb lecture given by Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Secretary 2013-18 and now Chancellor of Australia National University – lots of great stories about her meetings with many world leaders.
At the end of day one I fell into bed not knowing what was to happen on day two. I’d assumed that the messaging was to prepare us for missing Burnie so it was a big surprise to wake up, draw back the curtains, and see that we were docked with a huge woodchip mountain in front of my balcony.
So after a quick breakfast I set off on my booked cruise ship excursion, to the Don Valley Railway excursion, Bass Strait Maritime Centre and Home Hill.
The Don Valley Railway is a volunteer-run preserved railway that runs trains on a 3.1km stretch of track that was once part of the Tasmanian railway system. We rode on a two-carriage train hauled by V2, a 1947 diesel built in UK by Vulcan Foundry, Lancs. Trains are steam-hauled on Sundays and public holidays.
I rode in their 1908 ex-Hobart suburban carriage. After the train ride we were given a tour of the impressive workshops. Excellent friendly volunteers – I hope we do as well at Newport.
On to the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, Devonport. Not huge but lots to look at.
Our excellent tour guide, Colleen, had promised us that she’d saved the best till last. And so it was. We drove to Home Hill, the home of Joseph Lyons (1879-1939), Australia’s only (so far) Tasmanian Prime Minister (1932-39) and his wife Enid (1897-1981) who became a notable public figure in her own right after her husband’s early death – she was the first woman elected to federal parliament. After Dame Enid’s death the house now preserved and open to the public. As elsewhere, the volunteer guides were excellent.
The house was built in 1916 when the Lyons married and extended as the family (12 children!) grew. It remains largely as it was when Dame Enid last lived there in 1981, complete with her original furnishings and memorabilia. It was interesting to see these, and I came away with my knowledge of Australian history significantly enhanced.
Then back to the ship for dinner. On my New Zealand cruise solo travellers like me were assigned individual tables at dinner as an anti-Covid precaution; this time I was glad to be put on a shared table with seven other solos who were very good company and we were more than well looked after by our table steward, Thando. Then back to Melbourne. All too soon the cruise was over.
Next: cruise number three.
* * *