October 16, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
Even after four and a half years and over 20 crossings, I still feel enormously proud when I step on board Queen Mary 2. But today was special. Today was the start of the final tandem crossing of Queen Mary 2 and QE2 and the final eastbound Transatlantic Crossing for the Grand Dame before she heads further east to the start of her new life in Dubai.
Arriving in Brooklyn, the excitement in the terminal is tangible and feels like a slight vibration, a pre-celebratory energy. Security and check in staff are excited for us and memories of Queen Mary 2 Maiden Voyage return. I feel as I do every time I step on to the ship. I feel as though I am the start of a great adventure, and I have the whole glorious time stretching out in front of me… I feel as though I have the best job in the world.
My role on board for this voyage is to host a lady from a world renowned publisher who is teaming up with Cunard to present a series of high profile speakers on board with an exciting twist. At this stage I can’t say too much more but our new partnership is due to launch next April. Having boarded the ship, my first stop is to meet with the Entertainment Director, David Pepper, discuss the timetable of the talks and entertainment on board and to run through the highs and lows of recent weeks. There’s a lot to discuss with the recent Ian Fleming Centenary Voyage. Queen Mary 2 transported the Ian Fleming Bond Exhibition on the first leg of its world tour from Southampton to New York for the inaugural exhibition at Bonhams.
Soon, David and I are joined by Robert Hardman, series writer of the BBC Documentary “The Monarchy At Work”, six one hour episodes which form a series to be screened on PBS. The American version has an additional episode with more unseen footage of the British Royal Family – so we are proudly presenting a ‘World Premier’ on board. This voyage also sees the return of one of our most successful Cunard Insights speakers Barry Brown Documentary Maker of the ‘Hollywood Greats’ and two new speakers include Dr. David Whitehouse from the Royal Astronomical Society and Dr. Eric Dolin a marine expert talking about the history of whaling – which took grip of the islands not far from New York over 250 years ago.
The ship holds a magic. This magic works a spell with time. This magic is intertwined with a new vocabulary which everyone adopts on board. The days of the week are replaced and we no longer refer to Monday, Tuesday or the weekend. We talk about the first, second and third sea days and these time units are punctuated by ‘formal night’, a Ball in the Queens Room, Captains Cocktails and Martinis in the Commodore Club. Soon this becomes the norm and I’m shocked once again to notice how quickly I adapt to the luxury and attention on board. Gaining a dignified balance between professional politeness and embarrassed gratefulness towards my on board colleagues who serve me the bars and restaurants is not always easy. I’m always proud to be associated with them in front of guests and people I bring aboard the ship.
Sailaway starts at around 5.30pm and I join my companion from the publishers up at the Terrace Bar on Deck 8 aft. The weather is warm, on the better side of humid, but the soft breeze reminds me we are no longer in summer. We set sail along the Hudson, passing alongside the Statue of Liberty and wait for QE2 to join us. Musicians from the Queens Room are playing on deck with a set list from the trad jazz era. It feels suitably traditional and as the World’s Press and NYPD helicopters swoop above and the water hydrant ships spray coloured water we spot our sister ship in the distance. Queen Mary 2 blows her horn - a maritime metaphorical hat tipping towards the wisdom of an older relation? Whatever it is, there is a definite element of respect in this gesture as fellow guests on board wave their flags and cheer QE2.
She moves majestically towards us and Queen Mary 2 turns slightly to the side leaving enough room for her to catch us up and sail beside us, eventually taking the lead guiding us towards the Verrazano Bridge. Guests on board both ships whoop and cheer, flags are waving and cameras are flashing. It’s a very proud moment in Cunard’s history. As she sails by the port side of Queen Mary 2, we make our way inside and up to Deck 9 forward to the Commodore Club, from here we can watch QE2 sail in front of us as she guides us slowly towards the bridge. The light is fading quickly now and it’s not long before darkness provides the backdrop for the glistening ships. Both ships are moving very slowly and everyone is savouring the final moments of the Tandem Hudson Goodbye. As we close the distance with the Verrazano, we gain in speed and with optical reassurance the QE2 seems to slip easily under the Bridge, whilst Queen Mary 2 follows protectively behind.
The video below shows spectacular footage of our two Queens departing New York together for the last time.