The Queen Victoria visits Melbourne on her maiden cruise
Melbourne turned on a beautiful day for the Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria to sail into Melbourne on her inaugural visit to Australia. I was one of the lucky ones to be invited on board for a cocktail party preceded by a tour of the ship.
Afternoon tea was in full swing in the Queen’s Room, our first port of call and while many of the passengers were out and about themselves, looking at Melbourne and beyond, there were still plenty of takers for a mid-afternoon cuppa and snack. Waiters with white gloves dispensed elegant sandwiches and a harpist provided music.
In fact it was grazing and drinking time all over the ship, which was launched in December. There were bars tucked away here and there – a English-style pub, a Veuve Clicquot Bar for champagne and caviar fanciers, and other sitting areas for passengers to catch up with new best friends.
There’s a casino, though under maritime law, this was not operating while the ship was in port and the elegant shops were also closed in the Royal Arcade.
It was matinee time at the Royal Court Theatre so in the dark we couldn’t really see the plush seats and the private boxes. Shows are staged here during the cruise, as well as movies.
With the mercury on 27C, there were plenty of takers at the swimming pool though only a couple of people were working off their calories in the gym. There were even some hothouse flowers sitting in the Winter Garden, a large conservatory with a retractable roof. It was too hot in there for me.
Those needing a bit of pampering were no doubt behind the closed doors of the Royal Spa.
There’s a well stocked library over two levels joined by a spiral staircase. I noticed plenty of travel guides on the shelves so passengers could swot up on their next port of call.
I was growing to like this ship life a whole lot. With some passengers paying 250,000 pounds for the ultimate accommodation and taking the full three-month world cruise, I started looking for a potential sugar daddy but they were probably all in their state rooms counting their money or taking their medication.
It was pretty thirsty work getting a glimpse of the hedonistic life so it was a relief to arrive at the Commodore Club where staff were ready to ply us with drinks and canapés for a couple of hours.
I met the captain, Paul Wright, who was just getting his second glass of orange juice. “Orange juice – the story of my life,” he told me. “What about the tot of rum?” I asked. He just laughed.
I’d just learned that if the Queen Victoria was stood on its stern, it would be taller than Melbourne’s tallest building, the Eureka Tower. That’s a whole lot of ship to park.
We asked Paul if there were cameras along the outside of the Queen Victoria to assist in manoeuvring the vessel but he said the bridge extended out over the wharf so they could see what they were doing.
Too soon it was time to return to dry land. Stowing away was a tempting idea but as security had taken our photographs and electronically logged us in as we went on board, they’d know I hadn’t disembarked. Bad luck.
I joined the hundreds who’d lined up in Port Melbourne to watch the majestic liner leave for Sydney with a big fireworks farewell.
Oh, well. I do have a couple of nice leather luggage tags embossed with "Queen Victoria" as a souvenir of my brief time living the high life. Just a pity they're not attached to my suitcase in a state room.