March 16, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Ship's Company
I’m very pleased to announce that Cunard’s longest-serving four-stripe officer, Hotel Manager John Duffy, has received the prestigious Seatrade Insider Cruise Award, ‘Seagoing Employee of the Year 2008’, in recognition of his long and distinguished service with the company and his service on board QE2. I know many of you will know John from his years on QE2, and I have had the pleasure of working with him when I was there and soon understood why he has become a Cunard legend in his own right. With this in mind I thought it was a perfect opportunity to ask John if I could interview him for this blog. But before we get to that, I thought I would share John’s background and amazing career so far.
John was educated at Liverpool’s Jesuit St. Francis Xavier’s College and at New York’s Cornell University for advanced studies in Hotel Management. In 1965, he joined Cunard, working in a junior capacity on vessels such as Queen Elizabeth, Carinthia, Carmania and Franconia.In December 1968, John joined the new QE2 in the Clyde and he remained with her while he gained experience in all aspects of hotel operation at sea.The maiden voyage of Cunard Adventurer spirited him away in 1971 and six months later he was transferred to the Cunard Ambassador for its maiden voyage. By 1976 the Cunard Princess was being completed and John was seconded to La Spezia, Italy for the final six months of the building. He moved to top echelons two years later, when in 1978 he was promoted to become Hotel Manager of Cunard Princess, and in April 1981 he was again promoted this time to the position of Hotel Manager aboard QE2, and is currently the longest serving four-stripe officer aboard any of our ships. During his time as Hotel Manager John has looked after many of the most famous names in show business and many heads of state, including Nelson Mandela.He has also met many of the immediate Royal Family, including Her Majesty The Queen, Prince Phillip, The Queen Mother on a couple of occasions, and the late Princess Diana. In the early 1970’s John married a local girl, Marie, who was at the time a presenter with BBC Radio Merseyside. They live in a small village just outside Liverpool with their son, Johnny, who is a Barrister.
On presenting the award, Chris Hayman, Publisher, Seatrade, said: “This award is given to special people who have performed magnificently over the years and I can think of no better person than Cunard’s John Duffy to have received this recognition during the final year of QE2 service.”
Pictured with Carol Marlow, Cunard’s President and Managing Director, she added: “This award is well deserved by John who has served Cunard with distinction since joining the company in 1965. He played a key role in making QE2 the best-loved ship in the world and we look forward to his joining our flagship Queen Mary 2 in March 2009.”
And now, here is my interview with John.
Firstly, congratulations on being honoured with such an award. How were you first informed, and what does it mean to you?
Thank you.I was first informed that I was on the shortlist for the award by Carol Marlow on the Bridge of the QE2 in Dubai! I felt greatly honoured to be considered for this Award, but declined to go to Venice for the possible presentation as it was to be held a few days after I had left QE2 in Dubai. Whilst at home some weeks later, Public Relations Manager Eric Flounders, telephoned me to say that indeed I had won the Award and it would be presented to me at a Luncheon in London. I was of course very proud to receive this Award but I must say that the Award just reflects on my wonderful staff on board QE2 and the support of my family at home.
You have had an incredible career at sea. What do you think kept you at sea all these years?
Having attained the position of Hotel Manager QE2, in l98l, which of course was the most prestigious liner in the world, where else would I go to better myself?I was of course, over the years, offered innumerable prestigious positions elsewhere, but my loyalties remained with QE2 and Cunard Line.
Could you tell us what it was like when you first went to sea and how it has changed?
Life itself evolves and everything in the world evolves, likewise Ocean travel. In my early days at sea the ships I sailed on, such as the Queen Elizabeth, Carinthia, Carmania, Franconia etc., were transatlantic liners and our service was mainly confined to the North Atlantic, with some cruising in the winter months. The Carinthia for example used to spend the Spring Summer and autumn sailing from Liverpool to Montreal and in the winter months, when the St. Lawrence was frozen, we would sail from Liverpool to New York via Halifax Nova Scotia.In today’s world most Line voyages have ceased with the exception of course, of Queen Mary 2 and cruising is the main form of sea travel. This has been brought about of course, as we all know, by the advent of airline travel.In my lifetime the democratisation of cruising in my lifetime is a phenomenon
With so many memories and the numerous people you have met, could you highlight some of the most memorable moments in your career?
The 27.5 years as Hotel Manager of QE2 is indeed one long memory.The ship had the reputation of being the greatest ocean liner in the world, and to be involved in making her thus and maintaining thus, will be forever memorable……………….to categorise individual memories is most difficult there have been so many.However, to give a few examples, the visits of Her Majesty The Queen, Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and other Senior Members of the Royal Family including Diana the Princess of Wales; Nelson Mandela’s voyage on board and the beautiful personal letter he wrote to me after the trip;leaving Yokohama in the early eighties, and an estimated one million people watching our departure;the first visit to Liverpool in l990 when again one million people witnessed the sailing of the Great Lady, sail up the Mersey into my home port;Being the centrepiece in the Hudson River celebrating the Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and the wonderful welcome in Sydney each year on the World Cruise…….These are but a few of the thousands and thousands of memorable occasions which I cherish.
I know it is hard but could you sum up your feelings towards QE2 and on leaving her for the last time?
QE2 was a large part of my life and I was always immensely proud of the wonderful vessel she was.Admired and extremely popular throughout the world; I had this tremendous pride in her throughout my 27.5 years I sailed in her as Hotel Manager. She was iconic, a true symbol of prestige and elegance.My emotions were running high during the final days of de-storing in Dubai. I felt great sadness and a heavy heart when I finally walked down the gangway at 05.00am on the 2nd December 2008. Somehow she looked forlorn – an empty vessel without a sound!The flight path of the aircraft flying from Dubai to Manchester, flew directly over Her, shortly after daybreak, it was as though the Pilot had purposely flown over her, to give me one last lingering gaze of this majestic Lady!
You will soon be joining Queen Mary 2.How do you feel about this new challenge after so many years on another ship?
As I mentioned earlier, life evolves, and Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria are two great liners following in the wake of their famous predecessors, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and QE2……..Theyall uphold the Cunard traditions – therefore I am looking forward to joining Queen Mary 2, to help carry the baton forward in true Cunard fashion.
As a Hotel Manager what is the most frequent question you are asked and what is the answer?
Probably “How do you manage to keep the standards as high as they are on the QE2 for so many years?”, and the answer I give is that, the Crewmembers always take great pride in working on board QE2 and there has always been great teamwork in maintaining the high standards. I always added QE2 is a very happy ship affording ease of management. The management ashore has always worked closely with the on board team also
What does “We are Cunard” mean to you?
High standards through “White Star Service”, delivered with elegance and pride.
Is there anywhere in the world you have not been to yet and would love to go?
No, not really.
When you are on leave, what is your perfect night?
My perfect night – sitting on our verandah, on a warm summer’s evening, admiring our extensive gardens, in which we take great pride, and have been working in all day, with my wife, my son and our pet shih tzu Oscar, a “G & T” in hand – awaiting a wonderful dinner cooked by my wife and a glass or two of wine, till the sun goes down.Paradise!
Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
Yes…….Over the years whenever Everton have won the Cup at Wembley, I have always been away!I have been there when they have lost in the Cup Final, so my unfulfilled dream is to be at Wembley Stadium when Everton win the FA Cup………hopefully this year!!!!
What is your favourite quote and who said it?
“Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country.”John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech and can be applied also to the ship on which you sail.
Do you have any other stories we could include?
Well, one of many, I really felt part of the fixtures and fittings on QE2 when having met Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in l982, she made a return visit in l989 – upon greeting her at the Gangway, she said to me “My goodness, are you still here?” – I wonder what she would think if twenty years later, she were alive and able to see me aboard the Queen Mary 2!!!!
Thank you so much John for taking the time to talk to me and for some great answers. I love the fact there is nowhere really left in the world that you haven’t visited and you would love to go to – now there aren’t many people who can say that – myself invluded!
Thank you again for logging on and I look forward to filing another report from our World Cruise on Thursday including some great pictures from Queen Victoria’s Hong Kong Sailaway.
Cheers – Alastair