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Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria’s Master – Captain Ian McNaught

May 21, 2009

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Queen Victoria

When you choose a career at sea, life is always a little bit different and occasionally plans change. Whilst on leave you can get the phone call to say; “There’s been a change in the schedules and we need you back……….” This was the phone call I received last week, while I was busy in the garden. Less than 24 hours later I had repacked and got myself back to Southampton and on board Queen Mary 2. My colleague Ray Rouse had to go home for a couple of weeks on some family business, so of course I was happy to help and here I was back on board Cunard’s flagship. Having being involved with Queen Victoria’s innaugural team, it had been almost two years since I had been here, but it’s amazing how, just like riding a bike, it all comes back and you soon get in to the rhythm of the ship. Anyway I’ll tell you more about that next week, but as promised, this week I have an interview with Captain Ian McNaught. Before the interview though, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 22nd to the 28th May:

May 22 2008

Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Bergen

May 23 1912

The Imperator is launched. She becomes the Berengaria in 1913

May 27 1936

Maiden voyage of RMS Queen Mary from Southampton to New York. It was hoped she would take the blue ribband from the Normandie but due to fog had to slow down and didn’t achieve it. A few weeks later however she achieved the record for the fastest round trip

May 27 1969

QE2 makes her maiden call at Cobh, Republic of Ireland

Many of you will have sailed with Captain McNaught over the 22 years he was been with Cunard, but before the interview, here’s a little more about his career so far.

Ian McNaught was born in Sunderland, and as the son of a Glasgow born Marine Engineer, the sea was in his blood. He visited ships that his father served on, and after watches in the Engine Room with his father, he decided that life on board with the Second Mate on the 12-4 watch on the Bridge was a little more palatable, and so the seeds were sown for a career as a deck officer in the Merchant Navy. After leaving Monkwearmonth Grammar School and spending a term at Fleetwood’s Nautical College for pre-sea boys, he joined BP Tanker Company as a navigating cadet in 1972. Four years later he joined Hullgates Shipping of Grimsby, a company which ran a fleet of small coastal tankers. Hullgates took management of a small LPG tanker in 1986, and a year later Ian McNaught felt it was time to move on. Having studied for Masters at South Shields in 1985 with a deck officer from P&O, he wrote to P&O and Cunard applying for deck officer positions. He was accepted by Cunard and joined Queen Elizabeth 2 in September 1987 as a Second Officer. After two years he transferred to Cunard Princess as a First Officer, returning to QE2 in 1991. He was promoted to Chief Officer in September 1994, and after another two years, he moved to Sea Goddess II as Chief Officer. He became Staff Captain on board QE2 in 1999, and his first command came in June 2001, when he was appointed Master of Sea Goddess I. Two years later Pam Conover announced at the World Cruise Dinner in Singapore, that when the ship arrived home in Southampton from the World Cruise in April 2003, Ian McNaught would take over as QE2’s 21st appointed Master in the 34th year of the ship’s career. At 48 years old, he would be the youngest to have achieved that position. He was honoured to be the last Master, on QE2’s final voyage to Dubai in 2008. Captain McNaught still lives in the North East of England with his wife Susan, who he married in 1980, and their son Steven, who is now following in his father’s wake, presently serving on board Aurora as a Deck Cadet.

Special Interview With Captain Ian McNaught

Now you have been on board Queen Victoria for two months how are you settling in

Very well I think, but then you have to ask everybody else I suppose. It’s a very happy and settled ship with so many regular Cunarders on board that you feel at home very quickly on here.

What is the biggest adjustment you have made coming across to Queen Victoria from QE2?

The biggest change for me has to be in the technology in the ship, especially of course with Queen Victoria being an azipod ship; it means that I had to learn how to drive again!So it has been a steep learning curve for me over the last two months, a big challenge but an enjoyable one and a satisfying result when it all goes well.

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

One of the most frequently asked questions, particularly at lines for the receptions, as guests are introduced is “Where is the real Captain”, I think some people expect the archetypical grey bearded Titanic style Captain from the movie, so I take it as a compliment that I don’t look too grizzled and grey and reply “I am sorry and hope you are not too disappointed, but I am all you get for your money this voyage”.

Where is your favourite place on board Queen Victoria?

There are many fine areas here on Queen Victoria, but I think that compared to QE2, the best example of great progress is the Royal Court Theatre, and it really is a spectacular space.When I think of the dancers on QE2 performing on the table top stage area in the Grand Lounge, it really brings home to me just how much ships have advanced, and to be able to sit in one of the boxes and be served canapés, chocolates and champagne during the show must be an evening that you probably would find difficult to experience even in London these days.

What would be your favourite golden nugget of advice to guests coming on a voyage for the first time?

I always think that first time guests are always amazed by what we have inside our ships, both with regard to the facilities and the service provided by the ship’s company; it’s just another world compared to how a hotel ashore works, so all I would say is, “Relax, enjoy it and let us do all the work, all you have to do is whatever you want and have a good time!”

What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?

Being part of Cunard is being part of a rich tradition formed over some 170 years, a tradition of excellence in ocean travel which I hope we will be able to carry on for many years to come, and to have been a small part of that story, particularly with QE2, makes me very proud indeed.

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

The one place I would like to go is down to the Antarctic in one of the small adventure ships that go there; to be able to visit places that the likes of Shackleton and Scott explored at the turn of the 20th century, and to be able to stand on the ice and enjoy one of the last untouched wilderness areas of the world would be a real adventure.

Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?

To be honest I am a very lucky man, my father went to sea, and as a boy that was what I always wanted to do. I can remember watching QE2 being launched on the television, and setting that as my dream. Having achieved that makes me feel very lucky indeed, and now my son is at sea, I hope he can realize his dream as well, which is to be the final Captain on the new Queen Elizabeth as I was on QE2.

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

The perfect evening on leave is to be at home in the garden with family and friends and have dinner outside on the patio, and a few drinks, and just watch the sun go down over the woods behind our garden, enjoying an English summer’s evening in good company.Not a ship in sight!

What is your favourite quote and who said it?

You meet so many interesting people on ships, you just never know who you are talking to and everybody has a story to tell.One night on QE2 the astronaut Buz Aldrin came up to the bridge for a cup of tea as we were crossing the Indian Ocean, and we were out on the bridge wing just looking up at the sky and just enjoying the night, and he looked up at the moon, pointed and said “I’ve been there “. That’s pretty hard to match really!

I’d like to thank Captain McNaught for a great interview. Next week I’ll have a special Blog from here on Queen Mary 2 and there’s a lot more to come in the next few weeks with hopefully more news on Queen Elizabeth and her progress in the ship yard. Thanks again for all the comments and questions; please keep them coming in.

Cheers Alastair

  1. Chris Frame says:

    Hi Alistair,

    Thank you for including Captain McNaught’s comments in the blog.

    As you are no doubt aware, he wrote the After Word for our book QE2: A Photographic Journey (http://www.qe2book.com/) and offered us fantastic hospitality aboard the wonderful QE2.

    We’re looking forward to hopefully seeing him aboard Queen Victoria soon.

    All the best,

    Chris Frame.

  2. Gail Roberts says:


    Thanks so much for the wonderful guest blog from Capt. McNaught. My husband and I were fans of his from our first cruise in 1991. After many cruises, we were delighted that he became the final master of QE2 and wish him many more years of success! He is a wonderful credit to Cunard! I have a question for you, however: Why does your blog only appear on the UK website of Cunard? The US Cunard website is way behind with news of the fleet and doesn’t have your wonderful blog!
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Shaun says:

    I would like to know how the pilots for each port are picked up. I have been on a recent transatlantic crossing and I didn’t quite notice the ship stopping to pick up the pilot before entering New York. I’m quite interested to know how it is done.

  4. Gillian Walker says:

    Excellent interview, having sailed on both ships recently I was delighted to find that Ian Macnaught was Master on Queen Victoria. Keep up the good work Alastair. Also you mentioned the Queen Elizabeth. Are you going to the keel laying ceremony???, i WAS HOPING YOU WOULD BE because we would like a special blog on it please – and who do we write to to get it.. It would be nice for all of us to find out what happens so MAYBE A BLOG WITH PHOTOS …

  5. Elsewhere says:

    “May 23 1912

    The Imperator is launched. She becomes the Berengaria in 1913″

    Since she was handed over to the British as a part war reparations, I’m sure she wasn’t handed over before WWI actually started, had to be afterwards!

  6. With respect to the comment about the Imperator/Berengaria, as the Berengaria, she was the first (and more likely the last)to sail with a full service branch office of a New york Stock Exchange brokerage firm on board. On one West bound crossing in 1929, the many wealthy passengers in her first class consist had the dubious experience of watching their fortunes vanish as they crossed the Atlantic in the cofines of the on board brokerage — the ship docked in New York during the course of the great American stock market crash of 1929! A book was written detailing this fiancially disaterous crossing called “The Berengaria Exchange.”I often begin my law school securities law lecture with this little tid bit.

    The interview with Capt. McNaught was delightful. We first met him as second officer at a small party in Staff Captain David Pope’s cabin in QE2. That same voyage he also conducted a tour of QE2′s bridge for my daughter and me. He also had my daughter mark the ship’s position on the chart and initial the mark. He speculated that later Captain Woodall would question who “BER” (my daughter Betsy’s initials) was.

    I was privileged to sail with Captain McNaught on the occasion of his first command of QE2 (as I was with Capt. Rynd in 2006). I was also privileged to sail with Captain Peter Jackson during his last voyage. One of my treasured possessions is a hand written note thanking my wife and I for wishing him well. Sadly, Captain Jackson passed away last Christmas Eve. Of all the wonderful masters we sailed with in 43 voyages in QE2, he was perhaps, in carriage, demeanor, bearing and looks, the most nautical (or “nawtical”, as Commodore Warwick most likely would prononce it).During WW2, Captain Jackson’s ship was sunk, and he was rescued from a life boat by another future Cunard captain, Robert Arnott.

    Speaking of Captain McNaught, he evidently was aware of my propensity for collecting little mementoes of QE2 ( I even have chips of her grey paint, which was her unfortunate livery following the Falklands),for as we entered his cabin for a party, he advised that everything was screwed down! Kidding aside, he is a most gracious individual and competent Captain.

  7. Anthony Gaiani Jr says:

    Hello again!
    I would have written sooner, but I am still in high school but luckily I only have 2 more days left!!!!
    Anyway, my dream has always been to be a Captain of an ocean Liner. Specifically QM2. I really hope that I can but I realize that in Cunard’s 168 year history, only one American officer has been hired. Mr. Alastair do you have any suggestions? Or side information?

  8. Mrs Dawn Audoire-Jones says:

    A wonderful site with so much information. I wonder if you could point me in the right direction as I am trying to find the records showing who was Capt of the Queen Mary 1936. I believe he was related to me as his mother came Alderney Channel Island and her surname was Audoire. I would be grateful for any information you may have for 1936.
    Many thanks
    Kind regards
    D Audoire-Jones

  9. Alan Sellar says:

    I worked on the Qe2 as a waiter back in 1987, I remember Ian Mc Naught as one of the 2nd officers who helped me gain my steering certificate, which I passed under pilotage going up the river to Baltimore. A great achievement thanks to Ian Mc Naught.

  10. liz adams says:

    would the Staff Captain David Pope referred to in Willis Riccio’s note of June 2 2009 be the same, then Chief Officer, David Pope who sailed The Edinburgh Castle from Cape Town in the mid 1970′s and then took her to her grave in the far east soon after?

  11. Hi Liz. Thanks for question. Yes that would have been the same Capt David Pope who sailed previously with Union Castle Line on The Edinburgh Castle. Thanks again. Cheers Alastair

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