November 15, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Queen Mary 2 is just a day away from New York on her final westbound Transatlantic Crossing of the year, before heading to the Caribbean. Meanwhile Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are not far apart from each other in the Mediterranean. In fact they were less than 100 miles away from each other on Saturday night as Queen Elizabeth left Malta heading to Venice while her sister was heading to Malta from Messina in Sicily. It was a shame the schedules didn’t allow for a meeting, but we’ll see each other soon enough on 1 December in Southampton.
All but one of the ports this voyage are maiden calls for Queen Elizabeth, and it’s always great to receive a special welcome; and that’s exactly what Cunard’s latest Queen received in Malta on Saturday.
Malta is a small and densely populated island nation comprising an archipelago of seven islands, three of which are inhabited. Throughout much of its history, Malta has been considered a crucial strategic location due mainly to its position in the Mediterranean Sea. It was held by several ancient cultures including Sicilians, Romans, Phoenicians and Byzantines. There is of course a very strong legacy from Malta’s period as a British colony and the links between the nations are as strong today as ever. It’s an impressive entrance to the harbour in the country’s capital, Valletta, with the fortifications dominating the city’s waterfront, and these could be seen even from a distance, as Queen Elizabeth made her approaches.
As usual the local pilot boarded the ship as we approached, but this time they were very generous in allowing our ship’s Chief Photographer Petar Pecanac to climb down the ladder and board the Pilot Boat.
The reason was so that Petar could capture the excitement of our first visit from the shore side, especially as Queen Elizabeth was to receive a welcome salute from the city’s cannons. There was a very impressive boom as each of the cannons was fired in succession as we made our final approaches.
Petar managed to get up the ramparts on time to be able to capture this magnificent picture of a cannon firing as Queen Elizabeth entered the harbour.
As I have mentioned in previous Blogs there is always a Plaque Exchange ceremony with local officials and dignitaries upon our arrival, and Valletta was no different. But there was added significance to our first visit as the Managing Director of Cunard’s Agents in Malta, Ivan Mifsud presented Captain Wells with the traditional Plaque, as well as this special limited edition print of QE2’s maiden call to the island in 1998.
The original was presented to the Master of QE2 at the time, Captain Roland Hassell, and it marked fifty years of service of the Mifsud family to Cunard Line. QE2 called to Malta just seven times, and almost ten years to the day after her maiden call she made her farewell call, which was also marked with a Gun Salute.
As we looked over the newly refurbished harbour Mr Mifsud told us about some of the history of the island and the city, and in particular the origins of the brightly painted doors in the buildings by the quayside which have now been converted from stores in to chic restaurants, bars and apartments.
We were told that the doors were different colours for a reason. Apparently back in 1745 the buildings were donated to the University of Malta, and they used the rental income from the buildings to finance the University. The buildings were used as stores for all sorts of imported goods, and because of the low literacy levels at the time; each colour door represented a type of product such as yellow for grain etc.
I managed to get ashore for a couple of hours to have a look around the city, which although has been refurbished and modernised in many ways, it still retains the character of Maltese culture such as this; one of Valletta’s main streets.
There are stunning buildings all over the old city, many of which have the traditional Maltese balconies.
Speaking of special events taking place on our maiden calls, I have just received these lovely pictures from our agent in Tenerife, who took them as we prepared to leave on 19 October, so I thought I would include them for you.
QE2 is never far from our thoughts on Queen Elizabeth, with the significance being marked at our plaque ceremony in Malta and of course the memorabilia around the ship paying tribute to our namesake. But I also heard a great story yesterday from a guest who told me about a remarkable QE2 coincidence.
Mrs Jeannie Haywood was enjoying a coffee in the Lido on the first day of the voyage and sitting next to a fellow guest, they started chatting about the voyage. Jeannie noticed the other lady’s Liverpool accent, remarking that her mother came from Liverpool, and funnily enough on one of her first voyages on QE2; her Stateroom Stewardess was also from the city. The lady asked which year that was, to which Mrs Haywood told her it was 1982, and she remembered the stewardess’s name was Lizzie. The lady then smiled saying that she was that very same Lizzie from nearly 30 years beforehand.
What a remarkable coincidence, so when I was told the story a couple of days ago, I had to sit down with them both to hear more, and here they are, Jeannie Haywood on the left and Lizzie Rich on the right.
Jeanie Haywood is from Rutland and can even see the country house that was the Cunard Family home for many years from the late 19th century, and the Cunard flag that still flies from the rooftop. The voyage where the ladies met was on a Transatlantic Crossing, in November 1982, not long after QE2’s service in the Falklands conflict. Jeannie told me she particularly remembered Lizzie because she was so welcoming and even brought her Cocoa every night to help her sleep. She then showed me what was the Guest ID Card of the time on that voyage; the Passport,
It’s amazing looking inside the document where you can see the Cunard Ships, Hotels and Resorts of the time.
Chatting to Lizzie and her husband Andy, I found out that as youngsters they both lived in the same town but never met. Lizzie began her career at sea working on the Cunard Adventurer in the Laundry, and then met Andy on the Cunard Princess, who was Security Petty Officer at the time. They were engaged on QE2 in 1980 by which time she had been promoted by John Duffy to a bedroom stewardess. She particularly remembered Paul Wright who was Third Officer at the time, as he was very kind to them both. They eventually married in 1987and although Lizzie had left the company by that stage, Andy had been promoted to Security Officer and they spent their honeymoon on the Cunard Countess. Here they both are enjoying this voyage on Queen Elizabeth.
What a great story; it’s just incredible how many of these I hear all the time and it’s so much fun to share them with readers of this Blog, as it shows what an amazing family Cunard really is.
Well that’s it for today but I’ll be back again soon with another Blog from Queen Mary 2’s recent Transatlantic Crossing. Cheers for now, Alastair