The cold wind gnarled and lashed cruelly against my cheeks as I stood on the deck of the ship, paralysed, trying to hold on to the rails. Glass shattering. Furniture crashing. More screams and cries. A bellowing sound, like a giant beast was dying a terrible death. But I lost my grip. As I fell for the umpteenth time into an endless oceanic abyss, I splashed into the freezing, flesh and soul-searing dark water ... This dream has recurred for years now. Ever since I had taken a fancy to the story of the Titanic and the celluloid version of it, the tale replayed itself in my mind! Tonight, was no different, I woke up with a start. But as I sat up on the bed, I realised I was actually on a ship, but it wasn’t the RMS Titanic that I so frequently came in my dreams.
We were on The Queen Elizabeth 2, often referred to simply as QE2 — a floating hotel in Dubai and a retired ocean liner built for the Cunard Line, which was operated by Cunard as both a transatlantic liner and a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008. I was always enchanted by “ships” and marine life. The first time I heard a reference to the term “ship” was as a five-year-old, when my aunt went about her ritualistic lecturing of my elder cousin, “You are as unambitious as a ‘ship without a rudder’!” The repetition of that phrase aroused curiosity in me. Then came on the listing of the different “means of transport” in kindergarten and I would love to leaf through the illustrated, abridged versions of Moby Dick and Treasure Island. My repertoire of ship stories grew and then the movie Titanic happened! The romantic tragedy touched me so deeply that it remained in my heart for posterity!
Thus, the stay on one of the last legendary ocean liner, was a “weekend” treat. As soon as we entered the foyer of the ship, the lavishly done up, cosy library greeted us. Guests walked in, excited, as if they were about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime! The QE2 was launched by the Queen on the Clyde in 1969, the same year the Apollo 11 mission reached the moon. The enormity of her proportions bowled me over as we were led to our rooms. The steward who accompanied us tried to fill us in about fast facts, and waited to see our faces struck with awe and wonder. The ship it seems had “five restaurants and two cafes, three swimming pools, a 481-seat cinema, a hospital and casino, when it sailed through the oceans and regaled passengers”!
As we wandered around the ship, on a tour of the beauty that she was, I almost felt that I saw Captain Edward Smith (the captain of the Titanic) walk past me, with a grim smile on his face! I nudged myself out of my reverie and began paying attention to what our guide had to say.
The chart room where maps were kept was very interesting, they were intact, rolled carefully in drawers. The bar, where sailors met felt unbelievably warm. The ship included a shopping arcade including a branch of Harrods. Our guide showed us a few dresses that were still on display, just in case “we needed one to go to the evening ball on board” he joked!
Somebody so truly had described the vessel as — “The only thing QE2 has in common with other ships is that she floats”. A few lines that I saw on display in one of the parlours aboard the Queen, still reverberate within me,
‘The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
the sails swell full, to sea, to sea!’
So, ahoy! Aboard the QE2! A slice of maritime experience that’s really worth it!
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp.