A distant queen


WHILE Coffs Coast residents gawped at the world's largest ocean liner Queen Mary 2 as she glided along the coast, Coffs Harbour residents Roger and Ellie Hallett were gawping right back.

Mr and Mrs Hallett embarked on the Queen Mary 2 in Sydney on Tuesday and are travelling to England aboard the ship described as the most luxurious ocean vessel ever built.

Yesterday morning they were at the rails of the 23-storey-high $800 million liner, admiring the sun shining on the South Solitary Island lighthouse, watching Muttonbird Island and the Jetty sliding by when friend Ken Sheehan surprised them with a 'shore-to-ship' mobile phone call.

While ocean haze marred coast watchers' views of the ship, Roger Hallett said from out at sea the mountain range of the Dorrigo Plateau was clear and distinct and made a splendid showing and they could even see their own house.

He said American tourists on the ship thought the Coffs Coast was the Barrier Reef.

Mrs Hallett said the ship's departure from Sydney was 'a three-ring circus' with fireworks and 'practically every boat in the harbour' escorting them.

The Queen Mary 2 and her sister ship the QE2 caused traffic chaos in Sydney as droves of people rushed to see the ships during their brief visit.

The Queen Mary 2 is considered the last word in luxury and Ellie Hallett said the ship was so big they did not feel crowded, while three laps of the promenade deck equalled a mile-long walk (1.6km).

Mrs Hallett said the ship's decor was 'lovely ? all gold and yellow tonings'.

They have a stateroom on the 12th deck and Mrs Hallett said although Queen Mary's prices were at a five-star hotel level, they were cheaper than some other well-known cruise liners.

The giant Cunard liner carries more than 2600 passengers and has one staff member for every two of them and its lavish facilities include 10 restaurants, five swimming pools, a grand ballroom, $5 million worth of artworks ? and the only planetarium afloat.

"We're getting all the trimmings," Mrs Hallett said.

"If we want a snack at 3am, we can have it."

The Halletts, who booked their trip last May, originally planned a Rhine River cruise but decided it was 'too tame'.

Their first stop is Hong Kong, then they will enjoy visits to a string of exotic ports before going through the Suez Canal and on to England.

Ken Sheehan, who watched the giant wake created by the ship's 157,000 horsepower engines through his telescope but failed to pick out his friends on deck, said he was astonished at how quickly the ship travelled from South West Rocks to Coffs Harbour.

"They've been saving up and they've been so excited. All their friends are green with envy," he said.

The Halletts will arrive at Southampton on March 26 and said their return trip would be a shock after the ship.

They plan to fly back to Australia 'cattle class'.

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