When Pfizer retiree, Melvin Katz, raised his hand offering to share his upcoming travels on the Queen Elizabeth II with us, we couldn't resist. Mel spent over 40 years with Pfizer and retired as Senior District Manager/Master Level Manager in 2007. He and his good friend and former colleague, Chandler Williams, who traveled with Mel and their wives on the cruise, continue their relationship with Pfizer as Sales Ambassadors. Read on as Mel tells his story of the "cruise of a lifetime" on the QE II.
A Cruise of a Lifetime, submitted by Melvin Katz
|Pictured from L-R in front of the ship's model outside of the Corona Dinning Room are Melvin Katz, Elsie Katz, Les Lenham, Mary Kellett, Mary Metcalfe, Esther Primrose, Terry Primrose, Robbie Williams, and Chandler Williams.|
It was just over 40 years since the day I started as a salesman working for Pfizer Laboratories Division in The Richmond District. After I retired as a Senior District Manager/Master Level Manager, someone gave me the book, "1000 Places to See Before you Die." There they were, on page 34, Cunard's Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth II. I was mesmerized and decided right then I wanted to take a cruise on the QE II.
When I called to book the cruise, much to my chagrin, I learned that the ship had been sold and was to become a hotel in Dubai in 2009. If I did not book it right then, the opportunity would be lost forever. So, I booked the cruise for my wife, Elsie, and me -- a 14-night cruise out of Southampton, England, with ports of call including Lisbon, Cagliari, Sardinia, Athens, Zakinthos, Palermo, Sorrento, The Almafi Coast, Naples, and Valencia, complete with six formal black-tie evenings.
We shared our excitement with our good friend and a fellow retired Senior District Manager, Chandler Williams, and his wife, Robbie, and they booked the same cruise the next day and booked the cabin right next to ours!
Upon our arrival in London on the morning of August 27, 2008, we were met in customs by Cunard Lines and escorted directly to the ship in Southampton for our sailing that afternoon bound for Lisbon. The trip was exciting enough because of the itinerary and spectacular ports of call. But, we decided to reserve our dining table so that we could meet some new people, and we met five of the most interesting and entertaining people who added an extra spark of excitement and humor to the cruise and made it that much more enjoyable and enriching.
There was a couple from Scotland, Terry and Esther Primrose. On formal nights Terry wore his Kilt and looked stunning in it accompanied by his adorable wife Esther. Terry is a recognized collector of ship memorabilia and has a legacy of ship-loving ancestors who, like himself, have authored articles relating to the past glories of the shipping industry. Esther also authored cookbooks.
There was Mary Metcalfe, a widower from a village near Hampton Court on Thames, whose zest for life and expressions of excitement radiated the room. Mary told us stories of her son, the detective, her grandchildren, Rosebud and Ellie, her future travels to South Africa and her daily encounters with fellow travelers throughout the ship. Interestingly, she revealed to us that the
QE II is the only sailing ship that has a Synagogue on board - that's once she found it!
There was another couple, Mary Kellett and Les Lenham, from the United Kingdom. Les is a well-known Cricketer, coach and author of books related to his sport. They had a keen interest in our U.S. Presidential election and quizzed us about McCain and Obama and their differences and positions. McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate while we were on the cruise, and that sparked even more interest and conversation. Les and Mary, who knew the lyrics to every Abba song we heard on the ship, were the life of the party.
Lastly, by spending more time with our good friends, Chandler and Robbie Williams, we have strengthened our friendship even further and have bonded more closely. As a great story-teller, Chandler kept everyone spellbound during meals at table.
I cannot over emphasize enough the wonderful times we shared, especially at our table. The exciting cities that we had only read about in books became our morning ports of call. The guides took us to unique destinations while our cameras snapped away trying to capture the sites before us. A lifetime of memories and new found friends will always be with us. My wife and I have now vowed to do this again next year with a different ship and locations.
If you have not dreamed of an adventure like this, you should consider getting the book, "1000 Places to See Before You Die." Pick out where you want to go and make a plan to get there. As Chandler said, "This is our Bucket List and we have notched another location off the list with this trip."
Retirement from Pfizer has allowed us to do many things. My advice to you is, do not just read about the adventure, just DO IT!
here to see Melvin Katz's photo gallery.