110 Days

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Around the World in 110 Delightful Days

On Jan. 20, my husband, Brad, and I embarked on a 110-day journey, traveling about 45,000 miles around the world.

We chose a world cruise split between two ships, the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary 2.  These ships belong to the historic Cunard line, which has sailed the world for 175 years and is celebrating its 175th year with various events in several port cities around the world this year.

The Queen Mary 2 is the world’s only real ocean liner, meaning it was built to much higher standards than a regular cruise ship and is able to withstand much rougher seas and weather conditions.

By choosing one world cruise on two ships, we were able to optimize the time spent in Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, three countries that were of special interest to us.

We visited 28 ports during the trip and had a choice of many excursions in each.
We were always happy to go ashore because the excursions were excellent.

Sea days were educational, because we had many famous people on board to present lectures on various subjects.

Some examples:  F.W. de Klerk, a former President of South Africa and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, gave an excellent presentation on his experiences in South Africa; the Honorable Lord Michael Howard, a former British Home Secretary and Leader of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, gave five lectures on his career; Ruth Shackleton, former Team Manager and Squadron Leader of the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows Aerobatic Display Team, gave a presentation on the famous team;  Ian Smith, Flight Engineer on the British Airways Concorde, spoke about his 20-year career.

In the evenings, passengers enjoyed celebrity entertainment in the Royal Court Theater and more than 30 formal balls with the Cunard Queen’s Room orchestra.

On both ships, passengers were predominately Australians and British.  Very few Americans were onboard.  Of all the passengers on both ships, fewer than 100 did the complete world voyage as we did.  The rest of the passengers chose only segments of the cruise.

We began our voyage on the Queen Elizabeth in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 22, sailing south through the Caribbean to Curacao, a colorful Dutch island off the coast of South America near Venezuela.

Traveling through the Panama Canal was the next highlight of the trip.

The Panama Canal lock chambers are 110-feet wide and 1,050-feet long (and our ship was 106-feet wide and 965-feet long.

The total length of the lock structures including the approach walls is more than 1.9 miles.

This was an all-day event (13 hours) that involved moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific through three sets of locks and six steps.

On the Atlantic side, the Gatan locks with three steps lift 85 feet.

On the Pacific side, the Pedro Miguel locks with one step lift 34 feet, and the Miraflores locks with two steps that lift 43 to 64 feet.  We had ports in Puntarenes, Costa Rica, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, before re-entering the United States at Los Angeles and San Francisco.

From San Francisco, we sailed to Honolulu on Oahu and LaHaina on Maui.
A highlight was seeing the fantastic Haleakala Crater National Park, located at 10,023 feet.
As we sailed into the South Pacific, there came the crossing-the-line ceremony for passengers crossing the equator for the first time, transforming Pollywogs into Shellbacks.

No trip across the South Pacific would be complete without visiting the happy, friendly, and welcoming people in the ports of Pago Pago, American Samoa; Apia, Samoa (Western Samoa); and the Kingdom of Tonga.

We lost a day crossing the Inter­national Dateline, but it later was regained an hour at a time as we moved around the globe.

Our next destination was New Zealand, which has beautiful seacoasts, fiords, and scenic beauty everywhere.

One of our highlights in New Zealand was meeting up with friends we had met on a previous trip to Europe in 2011 and an opportunity to visit in their home.

Our destination on the Queen Elizabeth was Sydney.

After enjoying the highlights of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House and experiencing a trip to Bondi Beach with some Australian friends we had met on the trip to Europe in 2011, we rented a car and drove for the first time on the left side of the road.

The destination for our five-day road trip was the Great Ocean Road, a 150-mile-long stretch of coastal highway along the southern coast of Australia.

Along this road is the best coastal scenery anywhere,  including the famous sea-stack formations called the “Twelve Apostles.”

This road trip allowed us to see a lot of the Australian countryside, and staying in several bed-and-breakfast inns gave us close-up insight into the Australian culture.

After nine days ashore in Australia, we boarded the Queen Mary 2 and set off around the southern coast of Australia to Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle, and Perth.

It was then that we sailed for 10 days across the Indian Ocean, stopping at Port Louis on the island of Mauritius along the way.

We were happy to finally arrive on the much-anticipated continent of Africa, where we visited four ports — Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town in South Africa, and Walvis Bay in Namibia.

A highlight of the trip was our visit to the Shamwari Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth.
While driving over the 97-square-mile property, we observed and photographed many of the iconic African-animal species in their natural habitat.

At Cape Town, we were overwhelmed by the dominating presence of Table Mountain over city and harbor in the early-morning light.

In Namibia, the oldest desert in the world and the famous sand dunes were a great treat.

The last leg of our trip took us through the Canary Islands, Spain, and Madeira, Portugal.

Both of these locations are popular tourist destinations for Europeans.  We especially enjoyed Madeira, with its steep-terraced mountainsides used for agriculture, vineyards, residences, and hotels.  The second-highest coastal cliff in the world is on the island of Madeira.

One of the most exciting events of our trip occurred as our ship arrived back in its home port of Southampton, England.
All of Cunard’s three ships, the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria, and the flagship Queen Mary 2, arrived home on the same morning for a Royal Rendezvous in Southampton, each having completed its own world voyage.

That evening, all three ships departed Southampton, sailing together as they left the harbor en route to their separate destinations.  It was quite a sight to see!

The last big event occurred on the transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York.

One of the passengers was very ill and was airlifted from the Queen Mary 2 by a U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter to a hospital in Massachusetts.  This occurred as we sailed about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.  The event was reported on television evening news with video of the whole operation.

You never know what might happen on a world cruise.

(Sharon Wright Cottrell retired from TVA in 2003 as a Data Analyst in IS Enterprise System Solutions in Information Technology after 29 years of service.)