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How I became a security threat on my cruise vacation

I looked forward to celebrating Robbie Burns day in full Celtic regalia, but the purser’s office had a problem with that.


Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

You'd think a cocktail party aboard Queen Mary 2, the storied luxury liner, would have a bit more panache. But the Commodore – no mere title of captain for the flagship of the Cunard Line – had hundreds of us herded like cattle at the Calgary Stampede – and cocktails with the captain was is turning into a very long 40 minutes.

But never mind: As an ex-pat Scot from Anstruther, Fife, I'm waiting for the ship's celebratory Robbie Burns evening. Since booking the trip, my wife and I had looked forward to the music, recitations of the Bard's iconic poems, and a nice climax of Scottish country dancing. But then I ended up being labelled a "security threat" the moment I stepped on board.

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On Day 1 of our 16-day voyage from Southampton to Dubai I was greeted by our cabin steward, Christian, who welcomed us with a bottle of bubbly. Sorry, I was told, Cunard was into cost cutting so neither Moët et Chandon nor Mumm's. Then, the real bombshell: Christian reported that QM2 security would not release my suitcase.

As a bald, gaunt and decidedly retired 68 year old I have never been considered a "security threat." I headed to the purser's office and found a security person guarding my suitcase. I was told to unpack it. A compressed pack of clothing for a 16-day journey can be a bit of a Pandora's box but at last the source of my torment, and their interest, was revealed. It was my sgain dubh. The ceremonial knife is a Celtic adornment, which you tuck into a long woollen stocking worn under a kilt.

I was told, firmly but politely, that this "thing" would be held by security and only released at the end of the voyage. I was surprised, but was far better off than another Scot, who was held by security on Southampton docks and came within a whisker of not making it on board.

During the voyage I came across no less than seven other disgruntled Scots whose luggage had been detained for exactly the same reason. One gentleman called the Commodore and angrily harangued him about personal liberty and human rights. His dirk (wee knife) was delivered to his cabin within the hour.

I chose a different tactic. Displaying an unaccustomed blend of tenacity and bonhomie, I turned up at the purser's office every morning, afternoon and evening. By the fifth day, my campaign of cheerful nuisance paid off. The head of security said the knife could be released to me, but, I was admonished to, "not brandish it."

And I didn't – until Jan. 25. That's when all of us former security threats gathered to celebrate the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Surreptitiously, I held up my sgain dubh and tidily sliced into an unsuspecting portion of haggis.

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