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Queen Victoria

Happy 170th Birthday Cunard – And No Better Way To Celebrate

August 2, 2010

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Queen Victoria

Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 70 days

I’ve just got back from an amazing visit to the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy to see our new Queen and will be posting the first of those photos and Video Blogs on Thursday. She is looking fantastic and what a difference from when I last saw her in January, so the excitement is definitely building, with just ten weeks to go!

Meanwhile as you will know from my last post, Queen Victoria has just completed her first Round Britain Voyage.  These voyages are always special, but it’s even more so, when it’s the first one marked by a visit from the ship’s Godmother. Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks visited Queen Victoria in Liverpool so I’ll hand over to Peter to take up the story.


President’s Blog

Peter Shanks

President and Managing Director

Cunard Line

At Cunard we are blessed with special events and very special days. Last week,on Queen Victoria’s Round Britain Voyage, we had just such a day. The ingredients were pretty special –a maiden call to our spiritual home of Liverpool, a Royal visit from the ship’s Godmother, The Duchess of Cornwall and a celebration of 170 years to the month of the first ever voyage by a Cunard ship, The Britannia from Liverpool to Boston and Halifax in 1840. With ingredients like that, it had to end up with a cake; it did of course and I thought I would share my experience of the day with you.

Friendly Banter – I travelled up to Liverpool the night before. I had invited a very good friend of mine, a chap called John Heald who is a fellow blogger and writes brilliantly on his Carnival Cruise Line Blog. We met for breakfast and whilst waiting for a taxi to take us down to the port enjoyed some friendly banter with the hotel reception staff. It was pouring with rain and had been for a week, but the powers that be had imposed a hosepipe ban in the city. They should have known better as it rained when QE2 came to the city to say farewell in 2008, it rained when Queen Mary 2 made her maiden visit last year and for forward planning purposes they should be aware it will rain twice in July next year when both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth will be in Liverpool next July.

Would there be any interest? – Well we arrived at a damp and drizzly dockside at 0800. I was not sure what to expect. Queen Mary 2 had attracted many hundreds of onlookers. I was very pleasantly surprised. The first sight was Queen Victoria going sideways down the river Mersey. There is a strong river tide, so as the ship makes her 180 degree turn to come alongside, the tide continues to push her down the river; quite a sight but I knew that Captain Wright had things under control. 

The second wonderful sight was the many hundreds of Liverpool people who were on the dockside. There is so much pride in Liverpool – it’s a fabulous city. And here they were, just yards from the iconic Cunard Building, welcoming a Cunard Liner into Liverpool for the first time, as many people have done over the last 170 years – remarkable.

Getting Ready – There was a buzz of excitement in the cruise terminal, not just for the ship, but also for the pending Royal Visit. John and I were rather amused to see that the band was a Ukulele band. I asked the cruise terminal manager why a Ukulele band and she said it had worked well recently for a German cruise visit. John and I share a blank and rather amused look. But do you know what, when they struck-up their fist tune – and I have never heard 20 Ukulele’s all at once – they sang Beatles Songs. Well of course it was going to be Beatles, we are in Liverpool and it was actually rather good and received a huge round of applause from the arriving guests looking on with interest from their balconies.


She is going to be an hour late – Oh, Oh – first sign of trouble. On boarding the ship I heard that our Godmother, Duchess of Cornwall was going to be an hour late for her visit. Her helicopter had broken down. My first thought was what a good excuse that was. It was one I thought I could use in the future; only problem being that unlike her I don’t have a helicopter. It was marvelous to watch the seamless way in which our on board team calmly set about changing plans for the morning. As it happened she was only 45 minutes late, but she stayed with us for the full hour that she had promised and it was really very touching to see her come back to visit her ship and to see so many of our crew.

Meeting Queen Victoria’s Crew – On arrival in the Grand Lobby our crew were right around all three levels of the lobby and gave a very warm welcome.

The Duchess of Cornwall seemed very happy, and at home to be back. She unveiled a silver plaque and toured the Galley, meeting many of our Chef’s and cooks.

She came up to the Bridge.

We had planned that she would blow the ship’s whistles across the city at 1200. Problem – it was now 1245. No problem, The Captain announced ‘Maam – it is precisely 1200, would you care to blow the ship’s whistles’. And blow then she did to great effect.

It was really quite moving to see the beaming faces of so many of the ship’s company as they met our Godmother.

Of course most of them these days have mobile phones with cameras. I am convinced that many of them would be sending their photos home to their families. Our crew are such proud people, and to make their day special was, for me, the absolute highlight of the day. So on we went to The Queens Room. There we asked our Godmother to cut our Birthday Cake.

Yes – our 170th Birthday and I reminded those present in my short speech that our first ship Britannia would have fitted inside the Queen Room, a sign of just how Cunard Line has developed over 170 years.

As she toured the ship many of our guests were able to see and meet The Duchess of Cornwall. She was very warmly welcomed by all, relaxed, interested, chatty and it was really a very impressive sight – good for her.

And off she went – Our allocated 55 minutes passed in a flash. As I escorted our Godmother down the gangway – taking extra care as it was pouring with rain and it would be most careless to lose her – I thanked her for coming and explained how much the Ship’s Company appreciated her coming back to see her ship. She said she would love to come back again but for longer next time. To me that’s a lead, and there is a brochure in the post already!

If that was not enough for one day – Later that evening we had two concerts in the theatre. Not normal concert; we had the 65 piece Halle Orchestra along with tenors and sopranos and our famous and friendly conductor Anthony Inglis. They were a triumph and saw standing ovations – especially as they performed the famous Liverpool Anthem Never Walk Alone – on Queen Victoria, on the Mersey, in Liverpool 170 years from when Samuel Cunard gave birth to this remarkable brand. If that was not enough we followed with fireworks and then to finish the evening off we had a Beatles Band to perform on board.

And I was on the train – I have to admit that I missed the concerts and the fireworks. I had to be back in Southampton the next morning so had to leave the ship before they started. So during the concerts I was stuck on a train to London. Standard class was £70, First Class was £200 – a scandalous amount of money. So as I sat in standard class on a busy train, surrounded by other people’s cheeseburgers and screaming children – I kept thinking how the first concert was going. I should not have been worried. I had told John Heald that the as he sat through the concert he would be immersed in one of those magical Cunard moments and that the hair on the back of his neck would stand on end. At 2000, just as the first concert would have finished, my blackberry buzzed with a message from John. Turns out I was wrong – it was not the hair on the back of his neck that was tingling – it was every single hair on his body … remarkable.

So that was our day in Liverpool and I hope I have helped bring it to life. It was just one day in the life of Cunard, just 55 minutes of our Godmother’s time, just one day for the fine people of Liverpool but a very special day in the 62,000 days of our history and hopefully a very special day for our crew and for our guests. I can’t wait to do it again next year both Queen Mary 2 and our new Queen Elizabeth will do Round Britain Voyages. Both will call in Liverpool and both will feature a famous concert. Why don’t you join us – you would be most welcome.

With Best Regards

Peter Shanks 

Thank you Peter for another fantastic President’s Blog and what an amazing day for everyone. There’s lot’s of news to share at the moment so I’ll be back on Thursday (if not before!) with those much anticipated pictures Of Queen Elizabeth in Italy. Cheers for now, Alastair

  1. judith appleton says:

    Wasn`t on the Round Britain trip but was on QM2 last year which was just remarkable and the concert was incredible as were the singing and the banter on deck later.It WAS spine tingling.

  2. Michael Kremer says:

    Hello Alastair, what a lovely report. My wife and I will do the 2011 round Britain on the QE and now look forward to it more than ever. We do hope that the weather forecast will turn out to have been too pessimistic.
    Best Michael

  3. Ian says:

    I’m really looking forward to being on the Maiden Voyage of QE.I was looking on the Cunard site for details of the musicians onboard.I noticed Pianists and a String Quartet,but sadly there was no mention of a Harpist. Please can you tell me if you will be having a harpist too?

  4. Ian says:

    I am really looking forward to being on thew Maiden Voyage of QE.Looking at the list of Musicians onboard I see there will be Pianists and a String Quartet. Will there also be A Harpist? I have really enjoyed hearing the harpists on your other ships.

  5. Ian Chorley says:

    I am really looking forward to being on the Maiden voyage of QE.Looking at the list of musicians I see mention of Pianists and a String Quartet but no mention of a Harpist. Will you be having a Harpist? I enjoyed listening to the Harpists on your other ships

  6. That was a truly amazing voyage, and the attention to detail from Cunard – even down to 170th Anniversary commemorative menus detailing the history behind each call – was something to behold. We will never forget the Liverpool welcome, the Halle rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, or dancing to the Beatles under the stars with fireworks exploding around us. Thank you Cunard for our fabulous memories.
    You can see the fireworks at gallery.me.com/paulhr#100192

  7. denise mackinnon says:

    Thanks again for your wonderful update on all the Queens. Each time we read about them we become more excited obout our trip on the new Queen Elizabeth from New York in January 2011. We know we will not be disappointed.


  8. ShipMaven says:

    Brings back memories of my 16-nights aboard QE2 in 1990 to celebrate Cunard’s 150th Anniversary – transatlantic round-trip (10 nights) and British Isles cruise (6 nights). Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip came aboard.

  9. Cruises Fan says:

    What a great blog, it has made me want to go to my nearest travel agent so i can book the QE round Britain cruise. If it is anything like you have described it I am sure we are going to have a great time.

  10. dear alastair, one question nobody seems to be asking is, who is actually going to launch the new queen elizabeth.

  11. julie says:

    I really can’t remember it raining in Liverpool on QE2 farewell visit………I remember it being a great occation “Fare ye well my own true love” being played over and over, and a brilliant firework display…..but no rain…….Do my happy memories over-shadow any bad rain? Anyone else there?

    Looking 4ward to QE on 8th Nov xxxxxxxxx

  12. Paul Cunane says:

    £70-£200 for a few hours day trip on a train ! Wow !! It just goes to show what good value a Cunard Voyage is, when you break the cost down ‘per day’. The above brought back happy memories of my visit back to Liverpool on QM2 last year. Thank you Cunard for taking good care of us. Looking forward to joining you for Christmas on the new QE. Paul.

  13. Paul Argent says:


    I was a player in the Liverpool Ukulele Orchestra at the welcome of Queen Victoria and it was a great thrill!

    Thanks so much for your kind words and we would love to play for you again in the future.

    We now say that we are ‘by Royal Appointment’, Queen Victoria of course!

  14. Andy Fitzsimmons says:

    Another interesting blog there Peter & thanks, though I do believe you meant to say that QE will be making her maiden visit to the ‘pool in September rather than July. Talking of QE, Looking forward to hearing about your latest visit to Monfalcone Alastair.

  15. Diane & David Warren says:


    We were lucky enough to be on board Queen Victoria for the Round Britain Voyage in July. We booked this Voyage in anticipation of some special events but had no idea how SPECIAL this Voyage was going to be! There were SO many lovely surprises. The day at Liverpool was amazing!. To be greeted by so many people on the dockside was a sight to be seen not to mention the hundreds of people who were there for ‘sailaway’ singing as a Choir ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and then the spectacular firework display. Earlier we had been treated to a wonderful Concert with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis.Not to mention the Royal visit of the Duchess of Cornwall. What a day! We have so many lovely memories and photos to cherish of that Voyage. To all of you who are boarding Queen Elizabeth in 2011 for the Round Britain Voyage you have much to look forward to. Enjoy it! A big thank you to all concerned for such a Special Voyage and a wonderful time.

  16. Margaret Hutchings says:

    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed being onboard for this Round Britain cruise, but Liverpool was definitely one of the highlights, especially as this is our ‘home port’. The Halle Orchestra was a real treat, but the crowds of local people really made the day, as did the real sense of affection for Cunard and its liners. We certainly won’t forget the experience. Many thanks to Cunard for making it such a special day.

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  18. Dr.Terence Gallagher says:

    We really enjoyed the Baltic Cruise in July- it is a shame that Cunard discriminates against expatriate British citezens when trying to book on board.

  19. Sarah Morris says:

    I was lucky enough to be on board Queen Victoria for the round Britain cruise. Liverpool was most definitely one of the highlights. I was fortunate to meet HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in the Queens Room, what a lovely lady! This was indeed a very special day!

  20. Janice & Gillian says:

    We booked this cruise to celebrate my father’s 82nd birthday and had no idea how amazing this voyage would be. The welcome in Liverpool with the Ukelele band, Town Crier, and the arrival of The Duchess of Cornwall to the departure with the fireworks and QV bidding farewell to the crowds on her very loud whistle will stay in our memories for many years to come.

    Thank you Cunard for making dad’s birthday so special and we’ll be back……………

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