June 18, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 447 days
Many of you will remember the Heritage Trail on QE2 and its host Thomas Quinones, well as he comes to the end of his first contract on Queen Victoria we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with him on the newest Queen. I also have some answers to your questions and comments coming up, but firstly, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 19th to the 25th June:
June 19 2008
Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Olden
June 20 1914
The Bismarck is launched at Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. She becomes the Majestic after the war. When Cunard and White Star merge she flies the Cunard flag, but becomes the cadet training ship HMS Caledonia in 1936
June 20 1975
QE2 offers medical assistance to a sick seaman from the Russian fishing trawler “Luga”.
Before I get to Thomas I would like to answer some of your questions and comments. Firstly Jim and Margaret Egan were asking after David Pepper who is currently working for one of our sister companies, P&O Australia and although missing Cunard is apparently enjoying it. Sorry I missed you Paul (Weyhill), but hope you enjoyed your crossing on Queen Mary 2. The feature “This week in Cunard’s History” appears each Thursday and then sometimes I post an extra blog on a Monday.
I was delighted to read that Anthony Gaiani Jr is interested in a career at sea and is after Commodore Warner’s job! Ned Tutton is a newly qualified third Officer, (he posted a guest blog as Queen Victoria transited the Suez Canal), will be doing a special Blog in a few weeks time about the cadet programme on Cunard ships – so watch out for that, I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.
Shaun was asking about how the ships pick up pilots and indeed that is a great question which often comes up, so I’ll get a special blog together about that in a few weeks time.
I know many of you will know Thomas Quinones, who has become one of those great Cunard personalities, but just in case you haven’t here’s more about him.
Thomas was born in Mannheim, Germany where spent his childhood, before moving to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fluent in three languages and having gained a degree in Business Administration his career in the travel industry began not at sea, but in the air working as a flight attendant for German Airline, Lufthansa. It was whilst he was working there that he was offered a short term contract as a Spanish translator aboard Cunard Countess in the mid 80’s. He has remained with Cunard ever since and for more than 25 years has fulfilled a variety of social and public relations roles on various vessels in the fleet including Cunard Countess & Princess, Sagafjord, Vistafjord and Queen Elizabeth 2. This has enabled him to meet and engage with a number of the world’s leading and influential figures. Keenly interested in the history of the Cunard Line, he is probably best known for his passion in sharing the past with guests on QE2’s “Heritage Trail”. Home is now Birmingham, the big heart of England where he enjoys classical music, opera and spending time in the wonderful English countryside.
I first met Thomas when I joined QE2 in 2006 and his passion for Cunard is certainly contagious. He taught me a lot about Cunard’s incredible history and it was fascinating to hear first hand, how QE2 evolved over the years. Thomas is one of those great Cunard characters; no one will ever forget his Heritage Trail or for that matter his role in the annual Christmas Pantomime! Here’s a picture I found of us in Spitzbergen (The Norwegian Island in the Arctic Circle), watching out for Polar Bears!
I was delighted when he joined Queen Victoria in February this year. It was great to catch up and he told me that when he was working for Lufthansa he had no idea what it would be like to work on a ship. Joining Cunard Countess made him realise he had been missing something in his life. He said he was hungry for a big change in his career and has never looked back since deciding to leave the airline and commit his time to working for Cunard.
I asked Thomas what “We are Cunard” means to him. “It means a lot” he said, “looking back; it’s incredible that from just two weeks, I have now covered a quarter of a century. You go through different stages in life and being on a ship is the same. The secret is you have to find the heart and soul of it; that helps you to understand the product and what the company is looking for. It also helps you to understand the needs of our guests and what they are looking for to have a holiday of their life. It may be a short break or even a World Cruise, either way, you are Cunard for them and they have high expectation from you.”
QE2 has a very special place in Thomas’s heart. “My life on QE2 was my home away from home, meeting so many wonderful people over the years like President Mandela of South Africa, who I met on a World Cruise in 1998. When QE2 was involved in a rescue of a Spanish Fisherman in the mid Atlantic I was the translator. Meeting Her Majesty the Queen on her last visit on June 2nd 2008 and also the Duke of Edinburgh, saying farewell to her from Southampton were real highlights. For me, QE2 was not only the last ocean liner of the 20th century she was one of the great hotels on the high Sea.”
“The Heritage Trail was something that I conducted for a long time, showing guests the past, present and future of Cunard from 1840 up to 2008. It started as a 45 minute event, but soon became a real production when occasionally I dressed in period costumes, lasting up to 2 hrs!” If any of you have ever attended one of his incredibly popular Heritage Trails you’ll know what a unique and unforgettable event it was.
As for the future Thomas says “Yes I want to continue the tradition of the Cunard History; this time on Queen Victoria because I feel we have to let our guests know how important Cunard is for future generations.”
It was an emotional day for many when we arrived in Dubai and saw Queen Elizabeth 2 docked in front of us. This is the closest Thomas was able to get to a ship that held so many memories.
As we sailed that evening we chatted about fond memories; “The farewell voyage and leaving QE2 forever was something you cannot explain at the time, but now that time has passed and you realise that her new home in Dubai and it’s time to let her go. I started my new experience on Queen Victoria in February 2009 and she is my new home from now on. It was great to be a part of QE2’s history, but now my future is on the new Cunarders, and I would love to be part of the New Queen Elizabeth, with friends and family that I have met all these years. To all my friends we are Cunard for you.”
I couldn’t have put it better so thank you Thomas for this special Blog. As for a Heritage Trail on Queen Victoria – we’re working on it! Thank you all for logging on again. Until next week; cheers for now. Alastair