The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

09 October, 2009

Newcastle - October 8, 2009

This morning we slept in a bit and did not get out on deck for our arrival to Newcastle on the Tyne, back in the UK.  All the trip hustle and bustle compounded with very late nights spent playing chess or checkers with Ryan and our January Crossing friend Ed, who was also onboard for this historic cruise caught up with us.  We have made it to the midnight buffet every night and enjoyed the company of our new friend Myles,as well as Ed.  These late nights were truly magical and often we were the only ones left in the Lido when we finally broke for our cabins.

Today, we are scheduled for another Cunard shore excursion.  Here we go again to experience yet another castle in the UK with an approximate hour motor coach ride to Alnwick Castle.  When picking out our shore excursions the first night onboard, I have to admit I did not do too much research on Newcastle and picked this excursion just to see another castle.  Little did I know how famous this castle was, how fabulous the weather would end up to be, and just how much fun we would have on this excursion.

After breakfast, I took a tour around the ship, photographing the exteriors of the ship in picture perfect sunlight.  Sadly, we were once againg confronted the the evidence of yet another shipbuilding yard being leveled and the waterfront redeveloped. 

As we first saw in Belfast with the Harland and Wolff yard, and again at the John Brown yard in Clydebank, we saw the remnants of the once great shipbuilding on the Tyne, who's yards built the famous Cunarder Mauretania.

Our tour was to leave mid morning and we made our way to the theatre once again to go through the familiar drill of waiting to hear our excursion number to be called.  Once again, we had a very "posh" motorcoach, using a Brit term.  Our tourguide narrated along the way, prepping us for our visit.  At this time, we found out that this castle is privately owned and occupied.  It is one of the rare castles that is owner owned, occupied, and open to the public.  In fact, they rent out the castle for films and other events to help pay for the massive upkeep required.  Alnwick Castle, pronounce "Ann-ick", is located in Northumberland.and was used in the filming of several of the Harry Potter films.

The castle was breathtaking, and the surrounding english countryside was right out of a typical 19th century painting.  To add a bit of "Potter" to today's visit, there were many black crows milling about the castle.  Bill Miller, noted Ocean Liner enthusiast, writer, and ship's lexturer, joined us for this excursion.  While we were grabbing an ice cream and a coke towards the end of our allotted time, we briefly spoke about just how special this final farewell to the UK cruise has been and that it will be a trip that we will cherish for a lifetime.  Prophetic words from Mr. Miller since we were in store for a little treat on the pier when we returned to the ship.

After the motorcoach dropped up off at the pier, we milled about, getting some fantastic photos of the ship tied up at the pier.  There was a tent set up for evening festivities with the local press since this would be QE2's final call at Newcastle.  We then saw Thomas coming toward us, escorting Captain McNaught towards the tent off  slightly to our left.  We continued taking pictures and then I met up with a couple that had joined us earlier on the Cabin Cavalcade and had ventured off  to the local hotel that was known for having millwork from Titanic's sistership, the Olympic, installed as part of the interior.  After our chat, I noticed the Captain was standing alone at the entrance to the tent.  Very unlike me, I decided this was our time to go meet the captain and see if I could get a photo of Ryan and him.  Not only did the Captain oblidge, after we gratiously asked if we could bother him with a photo, he began quite a little chat with Ryan that we will never forget.
Ryan asked him what he was going to do after November and Captain McNaught mentioned the Queen Victoria.  Ryan told him that he was very sad to see her go to Dubai and that this would be his only time spent on the ship.  Captain McNaught made his somewhat familiar speech about her being time to go and that as he put it, "there will never be the likes of her seen again."  He joked that he would be going from the fastest ship in the Cunard fleet to the slowest, from the oldest ship to the newest, and from the most beautiful ship, but held off completing that thought.  I got it..nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.  Ryan mentioned that he is thinking of becoming either an architect or a naval architect.  Captain McNaught told the tale of Stephen Payne and the QM2 to a mesmerized Ryan.  The funny thing that Ryan was unaware of was Thomas in the background nerviously passing about and wanting to cut short the conversation.  Clearly, he was the Captain's handler for the event that was going to unfold in the tent, but Captain McNaught was not the least concerned and finished up his chat with Ryan on his own terms.  We ended our time with the captain, wishing him well, knowing full well that our beloved ship is in the hands of a Captain who wholeheartedly is going to have a hard time leaving her for the final time.  We told him we hope to see him in command of another liner someday, the QM2.

Newcastle gave us a decent fireworks show, which stopped briefly and then started up as we neared the breakwater.  Cunard played a completely horrid rendition of "Time to Say Goodbye" on the loudspeakers that must have attracted every dog in the area to the pier.  Later, we would learn that this was actually being performed live by one of the singers onboard.  The taped version would have been far better.  This was the last port of call for us. The next day would be a sea day and an early morning arrival at Southampton.

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