December 1, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Updates
I am now back in a rather damp and certainly cold Wiltshire, and I have to say it feels a little weird to be home after just 12 days on Queen Victoria, rather than my normal three or four months that I usually spend at sea. I still have part four on the TOGS voyage which I’ll post later in the week and I think it’ll be a great one. In the meantime, when I got home, I received a great E Mail from Peter Shanks that I wanted to post today. Peter Shanks is Chief Commercial Officer for Carnival UK. I promised some feedback from QE2’s farewell voyage and arrival in Dubai so here is the first of what I hope will be a few different posts on the subject and of course we’ll also keep you up to date with her new life. Here is Peter’s message.
Alastair – a remarkable few days in Dubai and I wanted to share my own personal experience for your Cunard bloggers. It’s Friday and I am returning from Dubai having just handed over QE2 to our friends in Dubai. At Cunard we are famed for making history – and over the last two days we have taught the city of Dubai what history is all about – we made some with them.
QE2 arrived into Dubai at the end of her final voyage on Wednesday. We had worked hard to make sure it was a spectacular arrival. Having met with the lawyers in the morning to make sure all was well with the transaction, I was invited to board the Royal Yacht MV Dubai with around 100 local dignitaries to sail out to welcome QE2 into Dubai. Quite some yacht I can tell you, the biggest private yacht in the world. We set sail out past the Palm of Jumeirah to find QE2. We had arranged for the British Navy to be in attendance to pay their respects and they sent HMS Lancaster. As we sat having lunch, I looked out of the window and there she was; there was a rustling amongst the guests on board as they set eyes on QE2 for the first time.
HMS Lancaster sailed alongside QE2 with every member of their crew in formal uniform standing to attention along the ship. This was the very first time that a British Navy ship had paid a full salute to a merchant ship – a very special moment for our Captain and crew. As the ships closed, the crew on HMS Lancaster gave the Captain of QE2 three cheers, and raised their hats. The 1800 guests on board QE2 gave three cheers back. Awesome, and not a dry eye on the ship.
So then we lined up – MV Dubai in front, followed closely by QE2 with HMS Lancaster following on behind. Next surprise was that we had arranged for a fly-past from the brand new Emirates A380. She came over the flotilla at just 1,000 feet – an unbelievable sight.
Here was the most famous ship in the world, the most modern aircraft in the world, a flotilla of hundreds of boats and 1800 of our valued guests toasting the event with a glass of champagne as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ played out over the ship’s tannoy. Now I met the Chief Pilot of Emirates a couple of weeks ago as we had a meeting to plan the event. He said that if all went well he would fly over the ship three times. Well he was at the controls, and talk about ‘Boys with new Toys’ – he flew over no less than 12 times from a range of different angles – fantastic.
So – on the MV Dubai we sped back to the port. QE2 took her time; pausing to attach two tugs to help her through the narrow port entrance (well we did nudge into Southampton only two weeks ago so best to be careful). On the dockside were thousands of people and a press pack to be proud of. She was due to dock – after 41 years – at 17:45 and she was on-time to the minute.
My next task was to welcome the local delegation and escort them onto the ship. As we stood waiting for the ship to be tied up, with all of our guests waving flags from the decks, a local band struck up with bagpipes for some true British welcome music. Our President, Carol Marlow stepped off the ship and together we took the delegation (or in my language the buyers) up to the bridge wing. Now for the fireworks. They had to shut down air traffic space for these and we only had a fifteen minute window. My job was to phone the event manager once we were ready to go on the bridge wing. That was pretty cool; I called, said ‘Hit it’ and seconds later fireworks lit up the sky.
Then we just let the ship deliver a wonderful last night for our guests. Walking round the bars and restaurants during the evening was a wonderful experience. Guests and our staff were as one, sharing stories, talking about the future and looking forward to seeing each other again on Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth. It was a sight to behold as was everybody dancing the night away for once last time the look-alike-Beatles. We had also arranged for Des O’Connor to fly out and he performed two shows for our guests.
After all of our guests had disembarked the next morning, we completed the formalities and a small group gathered on the Bridge Wing for the flag exchange. This was one of the most moving events I have been privileged to be part of. Carol Marlow spoke first brimming with emotion and asked the Captain to lower the Cunard Ensign. Down it came in silence, fluttering proudly for one last time. Then a few words from the ship’s new owners, who spoke of how proud they were and just how much care they would take of QE2 in future and up went the new flag. It was indeed a moment of history. They say life begins at forty – and I think we will all be able to experience a new QE2 in Dubai in the future. Having seen their plans in detail, I am confident that when the project is finished it will be prove to be the right home for QE2 in the future. Many of the famous features of the ship will be kept and refurbished to their original state and every piece of memorabilia on the ship will be displayed so that our history is kept intact.
But now – overnight – Cunard has the youngest and most modern fleet in the cruise industry and the future for the brand is brighter than ever. Later that day, Carol and I walked off the ship together. As we did so, we were helped by some of our smiling staff. My lasting memory of QE2 will not be about all of the famous events, all the excitement, the millions of miles she’s travelled; quite simply it will be about the Ship’s Company. They are true heroes and it is they who made QE2 what she was – They Are Cunard!
So Alastair – it was awesome and hopefully I have tried to share with your bloggers how much fun it is to be making history. But now it’s about the future – Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World. And we hope to see many thousands of our valued past QE2 guests travelling with us in the future as we continue to make history.
All the Best
PS – I thought we were meeting up for a curry in London?