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Downpours and storms may have put a damper on a historic royal rendezvous in the early hours, but it didn’t stop Queen Mary 2 and her younger sister Queen Elizabeth reigning over Sydney Harbour today.

The royal pair were a crowd puller despite the weather. And despite his ship’s reputation for formal nights and black-tie dinners, Captain Christopher Wells showed his sense of humour when he agreed to a unique photo op  – yes. that’s him standing on top of the Opera House while his 150,000 tonne ocean liner is moored at the Overseas Passenger Terminal!

(Well done, ace Sydney lensman James Morgan for arranging)

The Cunard flagship was carrying 1,200 Australians among its 2,600 passengers – and Cunard’s director of International Development David Rousham was both impressed and pleased by the huge Aussie presence. Expect more Aussie deployments next year and watch this space for more reports next week.

The visit of the two Queens comes almost a decade to the day since Queen Mary 2 first sailed into Sydney, staging a Royal Rendezvous with her older sister, the now retired QE2, which brought the city to a standstill.

Queen Mary 2 has returned to Sydney fresh from a AU$145 million “remastering” which saw 50 new staterooms added, including its first ever single staterooms, as well as Cunard’s first wine cellar at sea and a new Carinthia Lounge. There are also 10 new kennels for Queen Mary 2’s four-legged travellers as well as a lamp post (for English dogs) and a fire hydrant (for American dogs).

The Queen Mary 2 is an “ocean liner” – and as our proud guide told us, that means 40 tonnes of extra steel in a hull with a “proper keel” – not the same for ordinary cruise ships who have flat, square keels.

She’s made for the Trans-Atlantic marathon she carries out more than  20 times a year between Southampton and New York.

Because she spends more days at sea than most cruise ships – 70% at seas as opposed to 70% in ports –  the corridors are wider and the ceilings higher – to give the guests a feeling of space.  The ship has two theatres, eight shows, a 10,000 book library, a planetarium and guest lecture theatre to keep guests occupied.

There are only 2,600 guests for a ship of 150,000 tonnes and 1,135 feet. A cruise vessel would have 600 more guests, according to veteran guide Edward Moffet.

Of course, there is food.  And plenty off it. From the ornate Britannia dining room to the Gold Lion Pub. British cooking is always a talking point, but I can’t think of any other line serving such delicacies as Beer Battered Atlantic Cod with mushy peas and chips, or steak and Guinness mushroom suet pudding.

There is a chocolate and coffee bar featuring Belgian chocolate legend Godiva, for instance. And  Verve Clicquot champagne bar.

The Corinthia lounge offers ports at $4,000 a bottle dating back to 1840 – that’s 177 years old!

Mr Moffet maintains the black-tie formal nights are a proud part of the brand – and there are no plans for relaxation.

Ann Sherry, Executive Chairman of Carnival Australia which represents Cunard, said Queen Mary 2’s maiden visit in 2007 had been a catalyst for a surge of interest in cruise tourism in Australia.

The result – this year’s cruise audience is likely to be well over the million.

High Tea next to the world’s largest ballroom dancing floor is not just special because we are on the QM2.  The scones, eclairs, egg and cucumber sandwiches are uniquely British.

As is the ballroom dancing – the tea dance is a great hotel tradition.

We shared our table with two young bloggers.  They didn’t know much about cruise – but they certainly experienced something they had never considered before.

And tucking into the Devonshire cream, they obviously liked it.

Mr  Rousham said Cunard’s ongoing popularity in Australia had encouraged the cruise line to plan longer deployments in Australia in 2018 and 2019.

“Australians have a real bond with Cunard which strengthens every year as our Australian guest numbers grow,” Mr Rousham said. “Over the past decade, the number of Australian guests cruising on our annual world voyages has increased fifteen-fold and Australia is now our second major market for world voyages and our third largest passenger market overall.”

Queen Mary 2 is visiting Australia as part of her 118-night world voyage which will see her spend 23 days in local waters including her first short roundtrip cruises from Melbourne and Sydney. The 2080-guest Queen Elizabeth is calling at Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns as part of her 120-night world voyage.

Queen Mary 2 will sail from Sydney tonight at 11.30pm to make her maiden visit to Tasmania as part of a five-night roundtrip cruise. Queen Elizabeth will then move to Circular Quay and spend tomorrow at the Overseas Passenger Terminal before departing for Brisbane around 6pm.

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