Murder at the laundrette: A Cunard experience not in the brochure 

Anybody on a world Cunard cruise cannot but be charmed  by the civilised behaviour of the crew and fellow guests. A day does not go by without any guest being encouraged to enjoy themselves by the large crew and fellow guests.Everybody is very considerate and helpful to each other. 

But there is one room in Queen Victoria where all this breaks down. It is called the laundrette. Here the genteel atmosphere throughout the ship evaporates in a mix of soap suds and wet clothes.

The laundrette is one of the few free services on board but there are only two or three machines for 100 or more cabins. And with 700 people going on a 108 day world cruise plus a turnover of some 1300 people at major ports demand is high.

To get a machine normally polite men and women are transformed into duplicitous schemers resorting to any ruse to get their hands on the machines.

When wiley women and aggressive men get going to grab a machine anything goes.

One person even came armed with two fake ” Out of Order ” notices to  attach to a washing machine and a dryer so she could get exclusive use during the voyage. The ruse was discovered when other suspicious guests tried using the machines and found they worked perfectly.

More direct action has involved taking other people’s clothes out of driers and washing machines when the guests using the machines are out of the laundrette.

One poor guest who had just loaded a washing machine and went out to get more dirty clothes came back five minutes later to find another guest had emptied her machine and replaced it with her clothes. By then she had started the machine and the first guest could do nothing about it.

As for men aggression can spill over. One man furious that another guy had taken out his washing turned to the other and said ” How dare you run your fingers through my wife’s knickers “. A fist fight broke out and it is said that Cunard threw both of them off the boat at the next port.

No wonder when you visit the Cunard laundrette you find a line of grim faced men and women guarding their machines with their lives and warning you there is a two hour wait before you need to come back.

So far the ethos of take no prisoners has not yet led to any deaths. But there is still another month on this voyage so anything could happen.

In the meantime nobody has copied the iconic Levi jeans advertisement where a  young guy goes to the laundrette to strip off and put all his  dirty clothes in the machines. But perhaps Cunard’s strict dress code of smart attire after 6.0 pm and a dinner jacket and cocktail dress on gala night puts off people from going to the laundrette in the nude. But again there is still time…

Cunard’s 175th anniversary cruise: How the Yanks rebranded Rule Britannia

QM 2 at Liverpool at start of historic transatlantic crossing

QM 2 at Liverpool at start of historic transatlantic crossing

Last weekend  Margaret and I returned from a transatlantic cruise  on the Queen Mary 2 celebrating the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Cunard line. Most of it retraced the original route from Liverpool to Boston via Halifax, Nova Scotia with the addition of extra stops at Hamburg, Southampton and New York.

The voyage was epic with events at every port to celebrate the founding father Samuel Cunard and everything that is quintessentially British from serving cream teas to numerous renderings of Rule Britannia.. There were fireworks in two cities, a 21 gun salute, a Canadian warship joining a flotilla, a Red Arrows fly past in Liverpool and massed bands in every port.

This included a concert at Liverpool’s magnificent Anglican cathedral to celebrate the anniversary with Britain’s national treasure’s mixed with proud descendants of the Cunard family telling the story of the shipping line.

Concert at Liverpool Cathedral

Concert at Liverpool Cathedral

We had Carol Thatcher talking of the Mum’s sleepless nights in case the Argies sunk the QE II on its way to the Falklands; John, now Lord Prescott being surprisingly emollient about his former employer even though they kept him on their second league of liners because of his union activities as a bar steward. We had the former BBC’s Michael Buerk on the newsworthy side of the line and Jennie Bond, the BBC’s former Royal Correspondent on the Royals who used the Cunard liners.

The event ended with the cathedral being turned into the Last Night of the Proms with a union jack flag waving audience singing Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. A bit OTT on the jingoistic side for us.

Fireworks  in Liverpool

Fireworks in Liverpool

But here’s the rub. As the voyage progressed it became clear that we were not celebrating some brilliant British  entrepreneur that had created these iconic ships. Samuel Cunard was the son of a Quaker German immigrant who fled his native land to avoid persecution.. His father settled in the US only to move to  Canada as one of the Empire loyalists who were defeated in the 1776 War of Independence..

His son bought up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, quickly became an entrepreneur running ferry services and mining operations. He spotted that steamships could replace sail and bid for the first British Royal Mail service between Liverpool and Halifax. He won the contract.It was an amazing success, because his ships were not prone to sink, and by providing a service to Boston as well made merchants rich in the US overnight.as both goods and mail reached their destinations. The grateful merchants gave him the ” Boston Cup ” as a present  in return.

He wouldn’t have necessarily approved of the present luxury liners – his Quaker upbringing led him to build ships that were austere and practical not  comfortable and luxurious. That came later.. You certainly couldn’t eat for 22 hours out of 24 every day on his ships as you can on Queen Mary 2..

Sunset in Halifax

Sunset in Halifax

We are also celebrating a line now run by an American company, Carnival, based in Florida with a sales office in Southampton and a ship not flying  the British flag but registered ( I suspect for tax reasons) under a flag of convenience in Bermuda.

And we are also buying nostalgia. They may in the past have carried monarchs, film stars and multi millionaires but you are not going to bump into Tom Cruise or Keira Knightly jogging on Deck 7 on the Queen Mary 2  or even Lord Ashcroft or Roman Abramovich in the dining room. They now have their own private jet or yacht..

Food:175th anniversary chocolate feast and ice scupltures

Food:175th anniversary chocolate feast and ice sculptures

Yet in a very clever sense Carnival has rebranded Britain to create an unique atmosphere.Even the Americans I talked to on the boat ( they are the second largest contingent) described sailing with Cunard “part of the British experience.”. For marketing Carnival deserve top marks, they rock you to sleep on an ocean of desire with sweet nostalgic dreams. Bon voyage!

Fireworks in Boston

Fireworks in Boston

 

Journey's End

Journey’s End