October 26, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
This will be another busy week blogging as we will have Peter Shanks’ post on the last stage of Queen Mary 2’s fantastic Around The British Isles Voyage as well as some other special articles including meeting Queen Mary 2’s latest “Star of the Month”.
It still amazes me that although Cunard has a history stretching over 170 years, we now have one of the youngest fleets in the industry. But our ships aren’t all that’s new at the moment, with Cunard having recently moved in to shiny new headquarters in Southampton (more of that in a special Blog coming soon), and both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria beginning to dock at the new Ocean Terminal in Southampton. Located conveniently at dock gate 4 (the same gate that is used for the QE2 terminal), this is the view you see as you approach the new terminal.
Guests and visitors are enjoying the covered canopy where there is plenty of room for taxis, buses and cars dropping off guests. As always there are plenty of porters to help with baggage as well as new trolleys that haven’t developed a will of their own yet! Inside, the two levels of the terminal feel very spacious and airy with a warm welcome from friendly staff.
Guests are then guided to very roomy lifts or escalators to take them to the upper level where the check in desks are. Being purpose built for today’s ships, there is plenty of room and embarkation is very smooth, as guests then make their way along the modern jet way to board the ship
Many of you will know Bill Miller (see the 18 December 2008 post), as one of Cunard’s favourite maritime historians who has an incredible passion for our industry. His lectures about the Cunarders of yesteryear, as well as the golden era of ocean liner travel, are always packed, as he tells wonderful stories with his inimitable contagious enthusiasm. Known as “Mr. Ocean Liner”, he has written over 70 books about passenger ships, both past and present and has traveled on over 350 voyages aboard some 250 different ships in the past 35 years. I caught up with Bill again recently on our Canada and New England voyage and having just arrived at the terminal, he offered to write an article about our new Ocean Terminal which has an historic name:
Guest Blog – Bill Miller – Maritime Historian
On an overcast morning last September, the mighty 151,000 ton Queen Mary 2, inbound from New York, berthed at Southampton’s newest cruise facility. The 1,132 ft long Cunard flagship docked bow-first and among her, nearly 2,600 guests. I was one of the first off, being in the “self help” group so as to make an early train up to Shropshire. The reception, baggage handling and taxi access could not have been more efficient. “Landing was as smooth as soft sand,” commented a fellow guest, heading off to make an early flight from Heathrow. It was my first experience at the fourth of the three cruise facilities at Southampton.
Officially opened last May 29th, the $35 million terminal, created in a joint venture between the Port of Southampton and Carnival UK (Cunard’s parent company), is a response to Southampton’s (and Britain’s) booming cruise business. In 2008, the port handled 289 cruise calls, representing a processing of some 900,000 passengers. That figure represents a doubling of the amount of passengers just four years earlier, and could hit the million mark by 2010. Named the Ocean Terminal, it is a supplement to the three existing cruise facilities at the port: Berth 101, Berth 106 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 Terminal. The new facility is accurately Berth 46 in the Ocean Dock.
Ocean Terminal is a rather iconic name to the Port of Southampton. The previous facility was a grand, late Art Deco creation that, because of the Second World War, was actually not completed until 1950. Finished in blonde, burl woods on the inside and painted white on the outside, it had sweeping waiting rooms, baggage areas, a flower shop, newspaper stand, spectator galleries and, most conveniently, a ground level link to trains to and from London. Passengers could be at Waterloo Station, London in less than 2 hours. Business boomed back in the 1950s & ‘60s, for example, when legendary liners such as the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the United States and the France called regularly on their trans-Atlantic crossings. Passengers, including small armies of celebrities, then traveled with trunks, servants, pets and even big American cars. Myself, I recall using the Ocean Terminal during an eastbound crossing on the France in July 1973 and then, for the last time, returning there from a cruise on the Canberra in October 1980.
Sadly, in 1983, that original Ocean Terminal fell to the wreckers’ ball. It should have been saved and today would have been ideal for reuse for contemporary cruise liners, including the likes of the mighty Queen Mary 2. After demolition, the idea was to rebuild the site as a cargo terminal, but that never came to pass.
Southampton has future expansion plans as well. Rumours are that the 1968-built Queen Elizabeth 2 terminal might give way to a newer, more efficient facility and that some other port areas might be further developed to include a moored, floating hotel, possibly using the 24,000-ton Saga Rose (the former Sagafjord), which is being retired this fall after 44 years of service. Meanwhile, Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth, a 92,000-tonner, will start her regular departures next October. Indeed, cruising is booming at the port of Southampton.
That’s it for the moment but I’ll be back soon with more news including the final post from Queen Mary 2’s round Britain voyage. Cheers for now – Alastair