October 21, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
I am delighted to enclose the second part of Peter Shank’s reports from Queen Mary 2’s historic Around The British Isles Voyage this week. So over to Peter:
Tuesday 20 October will go down as a very special day in the history of Cunard Line – the day that Queen Mary 2 came to visit the spiritual home of Cunard Line – the historic city of Liverpool. It was hard to imagine after the spectacular departure from Greenock the night before that things could get any better – but they did.
My start to the day was on the bridge as we sailed into the River Mersey. There was a strong tide with us pushing the ship along. As we neared the centre of the city it became clear why the day was going to be so special – many thousands of people had come out to greet us. In front of us were the three famous Grace buildings and from the central building, the Cunard building, flew the Cunard house flag.
I don’t think the people of Liverpool knew what to think as the mammoth Queen Mary 2 performed a perfect 180 degree turn as she came down on the tide – ending up perfectly in line with the berth. I am not sure how many times the ship’s whistle blew – but there was no doubting we had arrived.
I stepped off the ship with Commodore Warner to a frenzy of local TV and Radio interviews. Perhaps the most fun interview was with Sky Sports. They were in town for the big Liverpool v Lyon football match that evening. They had come down to film Queen Mary 2 and ask the commodore who he thought would win. He predicted a 3-1 win for Liverpool – then went on to say he was a Leeds supporter. (As it was they sadly lost 2-1 – oops!)
The day then unfolded with a series of events including;
· Plaque Exchange – we invited the Lord Mayor of Liverpool on board with local dignitaries for lunch.
· We invited the local Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) on for a tour of the ship and afternoon tea. We are big supporters of all they do and it is right we are able to repay them in a small way for all that they do. After Commodore and I had said a few words of welcome they said they had something for us. Up stepped a beautiful young girl. She gingerly walked up to the two of us, looked up and said ‘I was born on 8 January 2004 – I have the same birthday as Queen Mary 2’ and then handed Commodore a birthday card for the ship – well we were speechless, what a lovely and unexpected moment. Of course we recovered our composure and sent for some Cunard teddy bears to give in return. That has to be the best ‘Plaque Exchange’ I have witnessed.
· Queen Mary 2 Birthday Concert – I suspected all along that what we had planned would work but could never have expected such a fine concert. The Royal Court Theatre was packed for two shows in the evening. We had 63 members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic on stage, the wonderful soprano Helen Williams, the famous tenor Jon Christos and of course our good friend and conductor Anthony Inglis. Anthony took the audience through the concert with a script depicting the history of Cunard Line, Liverpool and of course Queen Mary 2. The music included just what you would expect ;
National Anthem – yes we sang all the verses
Song of the Clyde – Jon sang this famous tune depicting ships and the Clyde
Orpheus in the Underworld – by Offenbach, the orchestra were stunning
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Oh my goodness – on Queen Mary 2, on the Mersey – awesome!
Queen of the Sea – a wonderful song all about the original Queen Mary
Battle Hymn of the Republic – this had our American guests enthralled
Happy Birthday – we all sang happy birthday Queen Mary 2
Jerusalem – works every time and the singing by the audience was terrific – well done all!
And if that was enough – out came the expected Union Jack flags as we finished with Pomp and Circumstance and Land of Hope and Glory.
We have had some big nights in the Royal Court Theatre over the last 5 years – Shirley Bassey, James Taylor, Skellern and Stilgoe, Lesley Garrett – well this was right up there with the best of them and left everybody feeling inspired.
· The Beatles – well of course we had the best Beatles tribute band in the country on board and later that evening they played two concerts to a packed Queens Room.
Lastly – to the departure from Liverpool as the ship sailed at 2300 hours. We were amazed at the tens of thousands of people lining the river. They had come down to wave goodbye to Queen Mary 2. A wonderful firework display lit up the night, Queen Mary 2 slipped off the berth and we sailed out of Liverpool down the Mersey.
It was not ‘Goodbye’ – Queen Mary 2 will return to Cunard Line’s spiritual home many, many more times in the future. Thank you Liverpool – you did us proud!
Best Regards – Peter Shanks
President and Managing Director – Cunard Line
Thank you again to Peter for a great post. It sounds like a remarkable day and you’ll be pleased to hear that he’ll have another post coming soon with details of Queen Mary 2’s call to Cobh in Ireland. Meanwhile I’ll be back tomorrow with the regular weekly Blog. Cheers Alastair