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.
President and Managing Director
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’.
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