December 18, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
Firstly to answer a question regarding Warren Smith, who was most recently the Entertainment Director on board QE2, he has actually just joined Queen Mary 2. Meanwhile Chris I haven’t forgotten your question regarding the Staff Captain on the Cunard Princess – I am still working on it. Before we get to our next blog, here is this week in Cunard’s history for the 12th to the 19th December.
December 12 1946
The Media is launched at John Brown Shipyard at Clydebank and will become the first new passenger ship on the Atlantic after the war. Although originally designed as a freighter she was converted to be part cargo part passenger.
December 13 1995
QE2 makes her maiden call at Amsterdam, Holland
December 14 1954
Ivernia II is launched and goes in to service on the Canadian emigrant run a year later
December 14 1955
Carinthia III is launched at John Brown Yard at Clydebank, and along with the Sylvania II they are the last liners to be built purely for the North Atlantic market. She becomes the last Canadian emigrant ship
December 18 2007
Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Hamburg
Queen Victoria has just crossed the Atlantic for just the second time to join her bigger sister in the Caribbean for the festive season. On next week’s blog I’ll be sharing some pictures from both ships in their seasonal décor and tell you a little bit of what happens on board for the guests and crew at Christmas time.
Meanwhile I heard that one of our favourite Cunard lecturers, Bill Miller had written an article about QE2’s farewell from New York for Ocean & Cruise News which is published monthly by the World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society. They and Bill were kind enough to let us reproduce the article for our blog. By the way you can find out more about them through these links. www.wocls.org and www.oceancruisenews.com
I first met Bill when he joined Queen Mary 2 as she met Queen Mary in Long Beach for the first time in an emotional rendezvous. Bill is considered an international authority on the subject of the great ocean liners. He has written some 65 books on ocean liners and cruise ships. Among his many other titles, he is the adjunct curator of the Ocean Liner Council at New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, the assistant editor of Ocean & Cruise News and created the ship database for the Ellis Island Museum. He received the National Maritime History Award in 1994 and the Silver Riband Award in 2005. I am also pleased to be welcoming Bill back on board Queen Victoria for the New York to Los Angeles leg of the 2009 World Cruise. I’ll be back next week with a festive blog but in the meantime here is Bill Miller’s article.
Dramatic Farewell: The QE2
By Bill Miller
The elements played their part to absolute perfection. It was the great exit scene, the stirring piece in the glorious maritime operetta. Late on an autumn afternoon, battleship gray clouds were looming as otherwise rather milky sunlight cast a soft glow on the skyline of Manhattan. Other thickening clouds soon formed, the winds kicked up a bit and then there was mist and some drops of October rain. Soon, above the harbor were “Wizard of Oz” skies! Aboard a specially chartered harbor ferry several hundred of us had eyes and cameras mostly fixed, however, on the north berth of Pier 90. The iconic Queen Elizabeth 2 was in her final hour in port, soon to be undocked by two Moran tugs and then sent on her way.
It was, of course hardly all ordinary departure. The 70,000 ton Cunarder was leaving New York, after 710 visits for the last time. Unquestionably the most beloved, famous and possibly popular passenger ship afloat, sentiments ran deep and often high ‑ saddened smiles, great hand waves of goodbye, some tears of course. Many onlookers had happy memories of the 963 ‑ foot long ship, from aboard her countless voyages (Altogether the 32 knot ship has the greatest records of any big ocean liner in history: 1,428 voyages clocking 5.9 million miles, carrying 2 million guests and making 25, 90 ‑ 100 day world cruises.)
Finally, the throaty whistles sounded, the Queen was undocked and then sent southward along the Hudson where she joined her successor of sorts, the far bigger and taller Queen Mary 2, which had departed from Cunard’s Brooklyn Terminal and which was wailing off the Battery. Then with roaring whistle exchanges the two great liners departed together ‑ QE2 in the lead, of course, and as both ships glowed much like diamonds against the deep purple skies of twilight. New York Harbor was at its most romantic, the two ships stunning and almost ethereal, the mood exciting, almost exhilarating and yet poetically sentimental, even quite sad. Earlier, I was a guest speaker aboard the Elizabeth’s Farewell Voyages – 10 days around the British Isles (touching in at some class liner – linked ports: Cobh, Liverpool, Belfast, Greenock, Edinburgh and Newcastle) and then connecting on a final 6 night westbound crossing to New York. All the ports gave rousing receptions and farewells – fireworks, spraying fireboats, escorts of tugs and small boats. The 39 year old Queen gleamed in her well deserved celebrity. Clearly no ship is more beloved. In November, after a final two week voyage from Southampton by way of the Mediterranean and Suez, she reaches her new home, out in Dubai, where she will become a permanently moored hotel, museum and entertainment center. Sold for $100 million, the 1,700 berth liner will undergo extensive rebuilding before opening on newly created Palm Island
Captain Ian McNaught, her master and who has served aboard the ship for the past 23 years, will sign her over to Dubai officials. “It has been very, very touching to see everyone waiting around to wave us off on these final, farewell voyages. We always had a large flotilla of vessels to accompany us out of port. There have been some great sights. It is fitting in that on her last roundtrip crossing from Southampton to New York and back that we are sailing in tandem with our big sister Queen Mary 2. But it will be very, very sad, an almost tearful day when I say the final goodbye in Dubai. It is actually quite bittersweet. There are many mixed emotions for me. After we disembark for last time in Dubai, the 900 crew members will be spread around the other vessels in the Cunard fleet. The Queen Victoria will be my next command. She might not be QE2, but I am looking forward to it. I’ve been with QE2 since September 1987, but I am a “New Boy” compared to some of the other crew. We will have 4 people who have been with her since day one, through all of her working life. QE2 will always be special to all of us I suppose she stands for something great that we don’t have any more. Like Concorde, she is a symbol of the 60’s. But we don’t have to remember things that do move on.”
Eighty nine year old Bea Muller has been “living” aboard the 1969 built ship for the past nine years. I’m heartsick. I will miss her so.,” said over 4 o’clock tea in the liner’s fabled Queens Room. “After all, she’s been my “home” off and on for the past 14 years and for 9 years permanently. I’d visit up to as many as 48 ports a year on QE2. We will never see a ship like her again. I’m going to cry a lot, but now I must find it new “home”. Mostly I will miss the wonderful QE2 personnel. First, I’m going to Queen Victoria and try to live at 21 knots, and then to Queen Mary 2 for her World Cruise”
Others were equally as sentimental, “It is the passing of an era, a very great era.’” commented Thomas Quinones the ship’s social host for some 15 years. She is a ship of history, a great reminder of the golden age of travel and a ship of countless memories, distinctions, records and occasions.”
London based passenger Martin Grant added. The normal clichés apply ‑ it is indeed the end of an era! But it is a very personal loss too, I had my very first cruise on QE2 in 2002 and she is the ship I most traveled on. She is the Queen that introduced me to the joys and comforts of cruising. I simply fell in love with her!”
Carol Marlow, the president of Cunard, was sentimental but quite practical and in fact positive about the ship’s transition. “QE2 is a wonderful ship and will continue to be,” she said, “She will remain essentially a Cunarder in her new career in Dubai. She is after all, an icon, a maritime icon.’”
Captain McNaught offered some form of closure as the great ship neared New York for the very last time. “We now have but 24 hours until the final arrival into New York harbor. It is the end of many happy and successful crossings for the ship. It is also very sad that she is leaving active service, but she will be like the original Queen Mary is out in Los Angeles. QE2 will have a new life and a new career out in Dubai.”