October 27, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
Here as promised is the final instalment of Peter Shanks’ reports from Queen Mary 2 having just completed her historic round Britain voyage. So it’s back over to Peter:
Thank you so much for the positive comments on my Queen Mary 2 Around The British Isles Blog. I last updated you as we left Liverpool on our way to Cobh in Southern Ireland – a famous port near Cork and a stop-off point for many famous liners over many years.
Our arrival into Cobh was beautiful – sailing past the lighthouse into the natural harbour entrance and coming nicely alongside despite a lively 25knot wind. After all the buzz and excitement of Liverpool our guests were looking forward to a restful day seeing all that Ireland has to offer. The welcome was indeed an Irish one – they are such a friendly bunch. There is a very impressive museum at the port which brings back all the history of the many liners that have called there, including The Titanic, they used to stop briefly in the bay whilst on their way to New York. The history and heritage of the Irish leaving their shores to find a new life in North America is fascinating and I always think of that when in New York which has such a wonderful link to Ireland even today.
But we had a different job to do in Cobh today – more of a time for reflection of the past and the part that The Lusitania played both for Cunard, for Ireland and literally for the free world, as her sinking played a major role in the course of the First World War. In 1915, 1198 lives were lost just off Cobh with the sinking of Lusitania by a German U-Bout submarine. We had decided it would be only fitting and appropriate if on behalf of Cunard, Commodore Warner and I were to lay wreaths at the Lusitania Memorial in the town.
As we walked down to the town, we were not sure what to expect. I had in mind a small gathering, a few onlookers and a small memorial. When we turned the corner into the town square I was stunned. In front of us were hundreds of local people, old soldiers lined up proudly wearing their service medals and bearing flags from their regiments. As we arrived, the crowd went silent and we stood before the magnificent and very moving memorial to those that perished on The Lusitania. We were each handed a beautiful floral wreath and then one by one called forward to lay our wreath at the base of the memorial. I was taken a back – I had not considered the heavy responsibility of the moment and both the Commodore and I found it very moving indeed. Once we had laid the wreaths it was time for the local Reverend Father to say a few words of prayer. As he opened his mouth the heavens literally opened and we stood there getting soaked – you know that made it all the more poignant. This was then followed by a warm round of applause. I was so pleased we were able to pay our respects and decided on the spot that we would repeat this in July next year when Queen Victoria makes her maiden call to Cobh.
Then we invited the local dignitaries back to Queen Mary 2 for a White Star Afternoon Tea and they certainly enjoyed the hospitality.
Each of the ports of call has been very special on this Around The British Isles Voyage – but you have to award the ‘friendly warm welcome’ prize to the Irish. I did say that the only way we could improve the call next year would be to stop for a pint of Irish Murphy’s at the pub on the way back to the ship.
I left the ship late that afternoon to fly back to the office. The ship continued with a marvellous call to see our good friends in Cherbourg before returning home to Southampton. As I sat waiting for my flight I could not help reflecting on the many special and incredible events all of us – guests and staff – had witnessed during the voyage. The feedback from our guests was some of the best we have had this year so I am pleased we were able to make the voyage so special. It also proved as a timely reminder for me that Queen Mary 2 really is very special indeed – she is of course now the most famous ocean liner in the world and deservedly so.
But the last line has to go to the 1,250 members of the ship’s company for this very special voyage. Over the five days I had spent on the ship, I was able to see the effort and the pride that each member of the ship’s company puts into looking after our guests. Fireworks , Opera Singers , Command Performances, Concerts, The Beatles , Special Welcomes , Historic Moments – yes they were pretty cool – but the staff on board Queen Mary 2 are my heroes every time.
Next year Queen Victoria will go on her Maiden Around The British Isles Voyage on the 22nd July – not one to be missed and I look forward to seeing you on board.
President and Managing Director
Thank you again to Peter for another great post and I know all of us on Queen Victoria are looking forward to what will be a truly remarkable voyage. Meanwhile I’ll be back tomorrow with the regular weekly Blog featuring one of those Queen Mary 2 Stars. Cheers Alastair