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Ship's Company


September 27, 2010

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Ship's Company

Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 15 days

Thank you again, for all the tremendous feedback from all the recent Blogs, but in particular regarding our 2nd anniversary and the coverage of Queen Elizabeth. With only two short weeks before her Maiden Voyage, it’s great to feel the growing anticipation of our new Queen joining the fleet, from both readers and the crew here in Italy, many of whom have been following her progress on the Blog during their leave.

I’ll be sharing some more great pictures with you over the next few days, but today it’s time to turn to our flagship and the recent retirement of Captain Nick Bates. To tell you more, I’ll hand over to Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks.


Peter Shanks

President and Managing Director

Cunard Line


A few months back, I asked Captain Nick Bates what he would like us to do on the occasion of his retirement after 45 years with Cunard Line. ‘Please don’t make a fuss’ was the response in his soft Northern Ireland accent, ‘I would just like to go down the gangway quietly – no fuss at all’.

So having consulted Nick, I set about making as much fuss as possible; after all it is not often we get to recognize and celebrate such wonderful loyalty to Cunard Line. To have served Cunard Line ‘man and boy’ and to have been Captain of our famous QE2 and Queen Mary 2, is a marvellous achievement for any sea-going person, and I was determined to make sure we planned his retirement in a traditional way. Actually, having known Nick myself for some 8 years, I recognized that he did not want ‘fuss’ but I was sure he would not mind the sort of dignified and traditional send-off we had in mind.

Nick’s last voyage was to bring Queen Mary 2 across from New York to Southampton followed by a Northern Fjords Voyage, taking in Hamburg, before leaving the ship in Southampton.

I asked our team in Southampton what would be appropriate after 45 years. Firstly we sourced a beautiful sliver and crystal decanter, and had it inscribed ‘On the occasion of your retirement from Cunard Line after 45 years’. That was the traditional gift, but I was also after something a bit more personal. One of our famous Maritime Artists, Gordon Bauwens, had sent me a set of his wonderful paintings. I chose one that showed both QE2 and Queen Mary 2, to depict the last two liners on which Captain Bates was Master, and I had that inscribed in my local framing shop with ‘From your many friends at Cunard Line’.

So now I had the raw ingredients, the only thing to do is to go and join the ship. I flew up to join Queen Mary 2 in Allesund and what a beautiful place that is. As we flew right over the ship, I could not help whipping out my Blackberry and taking a picture of the ship down below us; but I got me a jolly good telling off from the SAS Stewardess for not having all my technology turned off!

We had a wonderful sail away as I joined the Captain on the bridge; the scenery up in that part of the world is gorgeous. I am not sure if it was for the ship or for Captain Bates, but a fire tug escorted us out of the harbour:

I did mention to Nick that I had not just come to see how the ship and our guests were doing but that I was also planning on saying just a few words that evening, at the Cunard World Club party.

So let me set the scene; we are in the Queens Room with around 1,000 guests, all looking splendid in Black Tie. I always enjoying saying a few words to our guests, and as usual I encouraged a warm round of applause for all of our staff for their attentive White Star Service. The cocktail party passed as you would expect as we recognized our most travelled guests, and Captain Bates thought he had got away with it. That was until I said ‘Ladies and Gentlemen; the real reason I have joined you here this evening is to recognize and applaud 45 years service from Captain Nick Bates, and I would like all of the Senior Officers to join me here on the stage’

We then presented the engraved decanter.

I then put up on the screen behind the stage a large shot of the picture of QE2 and Queen Mary 2.

I mentioned that this particular gift was a personal one from me, and I recounted the story as to when I first saw Captain Bates eight years ago. I had just joined Cunard Line and I went down to visit him on Caronia in Southampton. Well I was new to shipping protocols, so I just boarded the ship, made my own way up to the Captain’s cabin, knocked and entered. Well how was I to know that Nick had just joined the ship, although the fact that he was standing in his cabin is his underwear was a clue. This chap is quite a character I thought, and he certainly is. Standing in front of many of our guests, and with our Senior Officers behind Captain Bates received a warm round of applause.

We passed him the microphone, but nothing came out. For the very first time in 45 years we had managed to render him speechless.

Many of our own staff and many of our guests will miss Nick. Many have read his wonderful and amusing book and many will miss his quite Irish tone. If you managed to see the Blog we ran a few weeks ago, when Queen Mary 2 met up with the Artemis Atlantic Rowers, well that video says it all. If you didn’t see it you can click on this link:


After arranging the meet, and allowing all of our guests to cheer on the four lonely rowers, Nick signed off the radio from the rowers by wishing them ‘God Speed’. Well Nick, ‘God Speed’ to you; we will all miss you.

After I had left the ship in Hamburg and during Nick’s last day at Sea with Cunard Line, the ship’s company honoured Nick in the Crew Mess.

This was a very touching occasion, mostly for our ship’s company who had grown very fond of Nick, but also respected his professionalism and his strong leadership. Forgive me for the picture below, but there is nothing wrong with a grown man crying, especially when that man is bursting with pride and proud of his achievements.

When the ship arrived in Southampton, Captain Bates was pipped down the gangway by Commodore Warner and the ship’s company. At the bottom of the gangway we had beautiful silver Mercedes to whisk him off to a long, happy and healthy retirement. Nick only recently married, for the first time so I was delighted that his beautiful wife Kefah was with him on that last voyage. I am so pleased she was able to see how fondly he was regarded by all of his friends at Cunard Line. And Nick; as you drove off to Edinburgh along with your wife, I hope you had a sense of pride, a sense of achievement and felt safe in the knowledge that all of your friends at Cunard Line wish you and Kefah ‘God Speed’.

Peter Shanks

Thank you Peter for a great Blog. I know from speaking to many of the Queen Elizabeth’s ship’s company that he will be missed, but at the same time wish him and his wife a happy retirement.

Well that’s it for now but I’ll be back on tomorrow with some more photos from Queen Elizabeth as she nears completion. And then on Thursday as she is handed over to Cunard by the Fincantieri shipyard I’ll have a Vlog featuring a very special crew event and the official handover. Cheers for now, Alastair

  1. Louise Saxon says:

    What a lovely blog!! Captain Bates was a highlight of our Transatlantic Crossing – happy retirement!! :)

  2. Carol kane says:

    Best wishes Captain Bates.
    I guess it will be strange to be on land after so long at sea. As a past passanger of M2 we all wish you a long retirment.

  3. Rolan Powell says:

    Captain Bates – It was always a pleasure to sail with you! Thank you for taking us safetly accross the Atlantic! Enjoy your retirement and sail often, as a passenger!

  4. David A. Walker says:

    Mr Greener Sir,

    I have two requests:

    Would one of your staff please give me access the UK Cunard website rather than the Canada or US one. I am a resident of Canada, however I travel with UK friends, book from my UK bank account and when we plan I realise that we are not always seeing the same details and deals.

    Secondly, as a Research Associate of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic I wonder if you have published a booklet on the new Queen Elizabeth similar to the ones Cunard published prior to the inauguration of QM2 and QV. we have two reference copies of each in the museum library. If here is such a booklet please send two copies to me c/o
    The Martitime Museum of the Atlantic,
    1675 Lower Water Steet,
    Canada, B3J 1E2

    As I am sure you know, the museum is home to one of the larger international Cunard collections of artifacts, models and paper documents, Halifax is proud to be the birthpalce of Samuel. Thank you. His G. G. Grandson Hugh ‘Pete’ Paton of Charlottetown, PEI is a friend of mine. How’s that for name dropping?


    Dvid A. Walker

  5. mark napier says:

    Capt Bates was Staff Captain on QE2 to Rolly Hasell on our honeymoon in 98.A lovely chap. Have a fantastic retirement.

  6. Marilyn and Alan wish all the staff serving on board our best wishes
    and take this opportunity to thank for your past services.
    We will see you all on December 14th.

    Drinks are on MARILYN>???????

  7. Peter Lockhart says:

    Fantastic achievement, nice to see the warmth from the Crew towards The Capt.
    Well done to Cunard as well!!

  8. Jeff Towns says:

    I met Nick bates on the QE2 and I last saw him on QM2 recently and we showed each other pictures of our dogs. He also has a cat. He was looking forward to being home with his wife and animals. It was so funny to be standing in the Queens Room on QM2 showing pictures of our beloved animal on our smart phones. I wish him all the very best.

  9. Linda Crooks says:

    Congratulations to Captain Nick…. oh how he is going to be missed!! My friend and I travelled for 20 days this past July/August from New York to Norway and back and Captain Bates was our captain for the whole trip…. what a wonderful man!! So friendly, always with a smile and some quiet Irish Humour. We kept meeting up with him all over the ship… even on a nice sunny day on the Transatlantic EB voyage we went up to see if the dogs were out playing from the kennels and there was Captain Nick up visiting with them too…..we were on the voyage where we met up with the four rowers. What an adventure that was and Captain Nick was just so proud to have been able to accomplish that meeting !
    My late husband and I also travelled on the QE2 when Captain Nick was staff captain and my husband said at that time, that he felt that Captain Bates would go on to become one of Cunard’s best captains and yes, that he did…. I also have his book which he signed and that will be part of my memories of a wonderful voyage with him. I hope he has a well deserved and enjoyable retirement.
    I suppose his good friend Patrick O’Shaughnessy has retired with him ?
    Thank you Captain Nick from a loyal Cunarder…..Linda Crooks, Ontario Canada

  10. Gloria Bulen says:

    We were on the Queen Mary this time last year and looked forward to his Captains report from the bridge and his saying for the day. He apeared a very humble man and I met with him once or twice around the ship on a casual basis and was very inpressed with his friendly and down to earth manner.

  11. Fred & Shirley Bernard says:

    We always felt secure sailing with you, and just want to extend our thanks, and warmest good wishes
    for a healthy, peaceful, and happy retirement. We will miss you.

  12. Roger Hallett says:

    Greetings from Australia! Have a wonderful retirement. Any cruises planned (as a passenger)?

  13. Alex Craig says:

    Sailed with Captain Bates twice once Southamton-New York 2009 and to Norway July this year my wife and I enjoyed the daily words of wisdom at noon have a long and happy retirement Captain.

  14. Good luck to Captain Bates. I wonder if he took with him the poem about QM2 that I sent him on our way back from Norway in early August, which was never acknowledged?

  15. Beryl & Paul Clayson says:

    The picture we had taken with Captain Bates on a November 2009 crossing has pride of place among those from our many Cunard voyages,from an our first Saxonia crossing, when we moved to Canada from the UK, to our many voyages on the 3 recent Queens. We are now looking forward to our first trip on the new Queen Elizabeth in 2 weeks.
    Happy retirement Captain Bates

  16. Congratulations Captain Bates on your well-earned retirement. The picture we had taken with you has pride of place alongside the others on Cunard ships over the years, from the Saxonia in 1059 to the 3 recent Queens, and we look forward to more on the new Queen Elizabeth in 2 weeks time
    Beryl & Paul Clayson,Canada

  17. Your picture with us on a November 2009 crossing shares pride of place with many others taken on other Cunard liners, from Saxonia in 1959 through the 3 recent Queens, and soon to be joined with some on the new Queen Elizabeth in 2 weeks. Happy retirement Captain Bates
    Beryl & Paul Clayson, Canada

  18. Andy says:

    Congratulations on a job well done and may you and you family enjoy a long and well earned retirement.

  19. From everybody over at TheQE2Story.com, we’d like to wish Captain Nick the very best for the future. He is enormously popular, and many of our members remember him very fondly indeed!

  20. Anita Knight says:

    I have great memories of Nick back in the 1970′s on board the QE2 and Cunard Countess. We were all so young and everyone had hair.

    Have a great retirement fondest wishes, Anita U.K.

  21. barbara london says:

    My very best to Captain Bates for a fabulous retirement! I first met Nick aboard the Cunard Princess in the ’70′s when I was berthing the ships for Cunard. We went salmon fishing once in Alaska together on one of the tenders and got stuck with engine trouble!

    I treasure those friendships still today!

  22. Pat Chandler says:

    Good luck, Nick, on your retirement. It seems a very long time now since we sailed together on the QE2 back in the 1970′s and 80′s. We were both very junior in those days, and I am so pleased you made it to the very top of Cunard’s sea-going staff. I can thoroughly recommend retirement and I hope you have a long and happy one.
    My very best wishes.

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