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Ship's Company


November 6, 2008

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Ship's Company

Firstly, thanks to Caroline Mathieson for her report on the Tandem Transatlantic Crossing on board Queen Mary 2. It’s always interesting to be able to see the voyage through another’s eyes. Thanks as well for the questions comments and links to your videos. Firstly regarding the successful installation of drawers on Queen Victoria, I have been in touch with the ship and thanks to our Executive Housekeeper Rosemarie Christiner and her team I can confirm the remaining space under the bed is 110 cm x 85 cm x 25 cm. (In inches it’s 43 x 33.5 x 9.5). Don’t forget that’s per bed! Rosemarie has also suggested that guests bring suitcases that fit inside each under and then she reckons you may be able to bring as many as twelve cases! I can also confirm that the rumour about Queen Victoria and the wrap around deck is indeed just a rumour! Regarding the other questions – I’ll get back to you soon. In the meantime as the countdown continues to QE2’s farewell voyage you may be interested in hearing about her final emotional Sailaway from Southampton. More details are available on this link:



 I’ll be there in Mayflower Park and will hopefully meet some of you at what will no doubt be a very emotional event but I’m sure it will be an amazing send off.  Before we get in to meeting Cunard’s Commodore, here is “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 1st to the 6th November:




November 1 1921

Andania II is launched.


November 2 2003

Queen Mary 2 undertakes her second set of sea trials and achieves a speed of 30 knots.


November 3 1970

QE2 makes her maiden call at Luanda, Angola.


November 5 2004

QE2 becomes longest serving Cunard Express Liner surpassing RMS’s Aquitania’s 35 Years 6 months 1 day (1914 – 1949) by 2 days.


November 6 2000

Cunard signs the final contract for Queen Mary 2 and unveils key design details of the largest, longest, widest and tallest passenger ship in history that will enter service in 2004.


Now it’s a great pleasure to share an interview with Commodore Bernard Warner.


I first had the pleasure to work with Commodore Warner some 11 years ago and it was great to see him again as the master of Queen Mary 2 when I joined Cunard. He is currently in Hamburg on Queen Mary 2 during her dry dock refit, so I was grateful that he found the time to answer some questions.


Could you please give us an idea of your career so far?

A lifetime friendship with the sea was cultivated at Sandsend near Whitby on the north east coast of England, where I spent the summer holidays sailing and fishing with my father.


At sixteen I entered the Warsash School of Navigation at the University of Southampton.  Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth would frequently sail past the college as they made their way up Southampton Water into the port and it was these ships which gave me the inspiration to one day command a Cunard transatlantic liner.


In 1965 Cunard Line would only consider employing navigating officers who had attained a Master’s Certificate. I would be twenty five years old by the time this had been achieved. The alternative was to join P&O, which was the other great passenger shipping company of the day. I signed indentures and commenced a four year cadetship with them on 1st January 1966. P&O had a large passenger fleet but an even larger fleet of cargo ships. My first voyage was from King George V dock in London to the Far East aboard “Somali”, a 7000 gross ton freighter.


Nearing the end of my cadetship in 1969, I joined my first passenger ship “Oriana,” and by the early seventies I was sailing as a Junior Deck Officer aboard the P&O ship “Iberia”. I was later to be appointed to the legendary P&O liner “Canberra,” where I also sailed as Deputy Captain in 1988.


P&O took over the British India Company (BI) in 1972 and I became one of the first P&O officers to serve on board “Uganda”. This ship specialised in educational cruising and carried up to one thousand school children suitably partitioned from four hundred first class passengers!


In 1974 P&O bought Princess Cruises and I sailed as First Officer aboard “Pacific Princess”. A lucrative contract was signed by the Company to film the television show “Love Boat” aboard their ship. This series was so successful in the United States of America that it proved to be the catalyst for cruising as we know it today, but it failed to inspire the same amount of enthusiasm in the United Kingdom!


By 1984 I had been promoted to Chief Officer on “Royal Princess,” the new revolutionary cruise ship being built by P&O. This was the first large cruise ship ever constructed with all outside staterooms. About seventy percent of the cabins were designed with balconies and a whole new cruising trend had begun. Her Royal Highness Princess Diana was invited to name the ship. Her infectious personality made her the perfect Godmother for the ship and she kept in touch with the crew for the remainder of her life.


In 1994, I was appointed to my first command – the 20000 gross ton ship “Island Princess” – and since that time have commanded seven other passenger ships. I was designated the first Master of both “Golden Princess” and “Diamond Princess”, which at a 116 000 gross tons, are slightly smaller than “Queen Mary 2 (148,500 gross tons”).


I was appointed to Queen Mary 2 in the summer of 2005, and became Commodore of the Cunard Fleet in January 2007.


The role of Master has often been described as the mayor of a small town. Please could you describe how you see your role on board?

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of my job is that every day is different and I have to be prepared to work at any time, be it day or night.


My primary responsibility is for the safe navigation of Queen Mary 2 and the well being of all the guests and crew on board. I chair an Executive Committee with all the department heads reporting to me and ultimately I have the final responsibility. My brief includes overseeing the health, environment, safety and security of Queen Mary 2.


The ship is magnificent but she is only successful because of the outstanding crew we have operating the ship. It is therefore most important that the ship’s company are well looked after and enjoy their duties on board. Very little gives me more pleasure than visiting and chatting with our crew and I try to get to most areas behind the scenes every day.


Dependent upon the ship’s itinerary I often have to spend long periods on the Bridge particularly when we are in close proximity to the land, reduced visibility or heavy traffic. Handling the controls of Queen Mary 2 and taking the ship in and out of each port allows me to put into practice the ship handling aspects of my position, something which I enjoy and find very rewarding.


It is impossible to be Commodore without enjoying the many social functions. If they wish, every guest has the opportunity to meet me at the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. Whenever navigational duties allow, the Captain’s table is an enjoyable end to the day. Different guests are invited on formal evenings and many lasting friendships have been made.


Could you tell us how it felt taking command of Queen Mary 2 for the first time?

My appointment to Queen Mary 2 was very special for me because it brought to fruition all the goals I had set for myself from the moment I first came to sea in 1966.


 I am well aware of the tremendous responsibility placed upon me to be in command of such a fantastic ship. However, we have an exceptionally fine management team on board and a very dedicated Ships’ Company who are all proud to be working for Cunard Line and to be a part of this great ocean liner.


Happy guests at the beginning and end of each voyage ensure that we all remain proud to be aboard Queen Mary 2.


What is the most frequent question you get asked – and how do you answer it?

When walking around the ship or at a cocktail party I am often asked “If you’re here, whose driving?” I usually reply “I’ve no idea!”


Please could you tell us something about your job that would surprise us?

When giving the command to alter course this is done in much the same way as on a conventional ship, but the difference here is that there are no rudders to steer the ship!


Queen Mary 2 has four propellers at the stern of the ship, each one attached to a pod containing the electric propulsion motor. The forward two are fixed in the forward and aft direction but the after ones act as rudders to steer the ship while at sea and rotate through 360 degrees to assist in docking. The propellers pull rather than push, giving greater efficiency and less cavitation around the propellers. They enable the ship to be driven at very low speeds and with much greater efficiency at high speeds (29.5 knots when at full speed).


I succeeded Commodore Warwick on 8th January 2007 and became the 31st Commodore of the Cunard Line. The first was Charles Henry Evans Judkins who was appointed in 1872.


What do you think it is about Queen Mary 2 that makes her so special?

She is special because she offers so much more to her guests compared to an ordinary cruise ship. From a comfortable ride in all states of sea to providing so many activities for her guests to enjoy. Queen Mary 2 is an elegant Ocean Liner with fine lines, a very streamlined hull, a deep draft, and a long bow to handle every type of weather imaginable. Having said that, I always try to find the smoothest route across the ocean and avoid the major areas of rough sea! Even in bad weather she is amazingly stable and the roll is dampened by 90% using two pairs of Rolls Royce fin stabilisers.


Her interior features are like no other ship. Because it was decided she would not use the Panama Canal, she is a very wide and long ship which allows exciting spaces for our guests. Wide and high alleyways run along decks two and three. Most public spaces are 15 feet high instead of 12 and two deck public rooms are 36 feet high.


In Illuminations we boast the first planetarium at sea which can also double as a lecture theatre and cinema. A Transatlantic Crossing is more than just elegant transportation. We want our guests’ day to be such that they can choose between reading in our elegant 8000 book library or alternatively it can be packed with interesting choices of activities and experiences.


 The recently introduced Cunard Insights programme offers something for everyone. We tend to offer guests more than just lectures and they are able to interact with the experts, many of the famous, in fields such as show business, exploration, oceanography, finance, history and sport.


The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art presents workshops, lectures and performances, enabling the guests not only to watch the stars of tomorrow in person, but actually study the skills of acting with them.


The Cunard ConneXions conference centre features abundant space for conducting business at sea with more meeting facilities than any other ship.


The West End Stage is bought to full effect in the two-tier Royal Court Theatre with dynamic musicals and celebrity entertainers.


The ship is filled with memorabilia depicting past great liners and the famous that have traveled with us. Our guests can follow the Maritime Quest which relates in audio the history of the Company from Samuel Cunard’s first transatlantic with Britannia in 1840, through to the present day.


One of the amazing features of our ship is the Queens Ballroom. It is the largest ballroom at sea and provides big band dancing throughout the voyage. It’s very popular and very different from the show lounges you would expect to see on cruise ships.


Over 70% of staterooms have balconies and range from the Grand Duplex of 2294 sq ft to a deluxe balcony stateroom of 284 sq ft


There is a feeling of space and luxury everywhere you walk!



Where is your favourite place on board Queen Mary 2?

As you can see, we have so many outstanding features for our guests to enjoy. The modern technology afforded by our Bridge means that my workplace is an enclosed and air conditioned environment, which is an essential feature to protect the state of the art navigational equipment. A viewing gallery allows our guests to see the bridge team in action while the ship is at sea.


I enjoy going outside to walk in the open air on the wide and long promenade on deck 7. The deck encircles the ship and three times around makes one mile.


If you could pick any shore excursion to go on what would it be?

Machu Picchu – The Lost City of the Incas. This is a four day tour which will be operated overland from Valparaiso (Chile) to Lima (Peru) on Queen Mary 2’s 2009 World Cruise.

As I will be driving the ship between Valparaiso and Callao (Lima) I will have to find another opportunity to take this amazing tour!


What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?

It means that the Ship’s Company work together to provide the finest possible experience for our guests, in every area of the ship, during every moment of their day.


Where would you like to go in the world where you haven’t been yet?

Petra, the ancient lost city carved in to the walls of a desert canyon in Jordan.

Queen Victoria calls at Aqaba on her 2009 World Cruise and tours will be run to Petra. An opportunity not to be missed…I wish I was there!


Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?

To give my children the best start in life and enjoy as much time with them and my wife, Tina, as I possibly can. I am fortunate that we have all been able to travel together on board if I’m at work during the school holidays. This has made a tremendous difference to our lives


When you are on leave; what is your perfect night?

I have spent 42 years at sea and a lot of time away from my family. The perfect night would be spent at home in Warwickshire with Tina and my two sons – Tom and Charlie. Not forgetting our two dogs Tilly and Rio, yellow and black Labradors respectively!


Could you tell us a little bit about the Queen Mary 2 dry dock in Hamburg – and how’s it going?

We have dry docked at the Bloem and Voss shipyard in Hamburg for routine maintenance to our podded propulsion system. We are also taking the opportunity to replace many carpets and curtains throughout the ship and retain that wonderfully sophisticated Art Deco appearance.


What is your favourite quote and who said it?

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way”.


This was written by M.L.Harkins and used by His Majesty King George V1 for his Christmas Day Broadcast in 1939 at the commencement of World War 11. He concluded “May that almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”




  1. Felicity says:

    Thanks Alastair great interview, Commodore Warner was on board when we sailed into a New York heatwave of 40 degrees in June! It’s so nice to hear about the people who made our voyage so special. Can’t wait till next year.

  2. Jane Grover says:

    My husband and I sailed on the Queen Mary 2 for 12 days in the Mediterranean September 2007, and were fortunate to be invited to have dinner at the Captain’s Table with Commodore Warner.
    It was one of the most incredible evenings we ever experienced! We would love to know how we were selected! We’re just average Americans with no “connections”!

  3. Jerry Nuovo says:

    Alastair,Thanks for the interesting interview with Cunard Commodore Bernard Warner.When I did a roundtrip transatlantic crossing aboard the QM2 last year Commodore Warner was in command of the QM2 AND I really did enjoy the crossings and meeting Commodore Warner.I found these 2 videos that features Cunard Captain Paul Wright.In the first one he is being interviewed about his career at sea and in the second one he is autographing books about the Cunard Ship Queen Victoria http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfeyKq6Q8bc&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWztDxuasIs&NR=1 Regards,Jerry from New Jersey,USA

  4. kazzie says:

    BBC live coverage of QE2′s departure from Southampton – 11.11.08 (for non regional – you can see on Sky ?998)… I think @ 19:30 (don’t shoot me if info is wrong!).

  5. kazzie says:

    Ooops… starts at 18:30 for an hour (I think Sky is 984).

  6. Leesa - Portsmouth says:

    QE2′s send off was a glorious event and a memory to cherish. The Southampton docks, the Southampton waters and Mayflower Park were filled with a thrilling buzz and excitement as we all waited to watch this grand liner leave our shores. It was great to hear and feel the sound of her ships horn (it gave me goose bumps) as she bid us farewell in her own majestic way. She looked fantastic as she was lit up by the fireworks and slowly sailed off into the distance surrounded by onlookers in boats of all shapes and sizes. I was frantically waving my flag and enjoying every minute of it! She will be missed but I hope this is not goodbye just a cheerio for now, I always wanted a reason to go to Dubai. Now I have one!! If you want to see pictures and watch a video look at the BBC news website (select the region for Hampshire).

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