December 31, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Updates
Just before I introduce this special President’s Blog, I would like to thank you for all your lovely comments about the Blogs and Vlogs during the year and for logging on as often as you do. It’s been an amazing year with over 134 posts and I would like to take the opportunity to thank our guest Bloggers and those who have been the subjects of some of the fascinating Blogs, for all your help in making it such a great year. Finally big thanks go to my colleagues on board, as well as the hard working team in Southampton, Richard, Matt, Shelley and Lisa for all their support.
Now it’s over to Peter Shanks as he looks back at Cunard in 2010
President and Managing Director
Well that was certainly an eventful year for Cunard Line. It’s always worth a slight pause at this time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and – in no particular order – I thought I would share my reflections with our bloggers.
Lots to do – that was top of mind as I drove down to Southampton for the first day back in the office after New Year last January. A new ship to complete and launch , a trip down under, our largest ever program to confirm and put on sale for 2011 and a sluggish economy that had not really shown us any green shoots.
A Float-Out – It was freezing when we arrived in Monfalcone for the float-out ceremony for Queen Elizabeth in early January. Would the ship float – that was the obvious question. Of course it did and as our Madrina smashed a bottle on the side of the ship and we saw the name ‘Queen Elizabeth’ for the first time I shivered. Not with cold as my wife had rightly persuaded me to buy a black presidential overcoat in the January Sales – no I shivered with emotion as it dawned upon me just how special Queen Elizabeth was going to be, no ordinary name, no ordinary ship.
Australian Welcome – February saw my first ever trip to Sydney to see both Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2. To support the National Breast Cancer Foundation we turned Queen Victoria pink in Sydney Harbour, I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge (you have to do it its fabulous) and both ships were so warmly welcomed by our Australian friends. There is something quite magical about one of our Queens in Sydney, surrounded by thousands of small boats – I can’t wait till our Two Queens event this coming February.
Archbishop Tutu – It was an honour for all of us to meet him as he spent three days with us sailing into Durban and Cape Town. He asked if he and his wife could stay an extra day to attend our World Voyage Dinner at a beautiful vineyard setting just below Table Mountain. He said grace for us at the dinner and I shall never forget the look on the faces of the local South African students who were looking after us at the dinner. We were in the presence of somebody very special. I shall never forget his delightful cheeky laugh and although he has since announced his retirement from public life, he and his family are welcome back on any of our ships whenever they would like.
The only way to cross – Who would have thought that during the Ash Cloud Crisis in Europe we returned to the glory days of old when an Ocean Liner was the only way to cross to New York. During the time the skies were shut we had a planned Queen Mary 2 sailing to New York – well we had a waitlist of 1,800 people. It was a reminder to us all of how special the crossing on Queen Mary 2 is – every cruiser has to do it – hopefully for many 2011 will be their year to cross.
A Presidential Crossing – In late May I travelled on Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton. It was a terrific experience. We me a wonderful chap onboard who was 101 years old, I listened to our guest guitarist from the famous Juilliard School of music – he told us that he actually taught George Benson to play the guitar. I lapped the ship each morning – three times round for a mile. I sang with a choir made up of our guests along with our conductor friend Anthony Inglis and his Orchestra. And – a highlight for me – I conducted the orchestra, in the Royal Court Theatre in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
I was so impressed by many of the guests I met and it was wonderful to hear how many of them had a link through their family to crossings on our previous Queens. I spent a very motivating day with a group of new staff as they went through the White Star Academy and it was a real pleasure to be at their graduation later in the voyage.
Building Queen Elizabeth was not plain sailing – As we went through the year we had some challenges, some questions as to whether the ambitious build timescales could be achieved, some setbacks, some interesting meetings at the ship yard – but we were all determined to make it. We had certainly prepared the world for her arrival and we knew we had to deliver to the very high expectations of our guests.
And then came 11 October – The naming of Queen Elizabeth by Her Majesty The Queen was a very special day for us all. The sun shone, Her Majesty put everybody at ease, our Ceremony made most present cry and the word I heard most during the day was ‘pride’. Pride in Britain, Pride in Her Majesty and for me, Pride in every member of the ship’s company who had worked so hard to prepare the ship. There are some moving videos on YouTube for anybody who has not yet seen the moment – yes the moment that Her Majesty sat up and giggled with Pride as we reminded her that she was the only person to be present at the naming of our three Elizabeths in 1938, 1967 and 2010.
The proudest moment of my own year was being able to present my wife to Her Majesty as she toured the ship. It was also very important that so many of the ship’s company were able to see Her Majesty as we walked through the ship – especially to see Her Majesty smile so beautifully.
A step change for Cunard Line – From 11 October we had the youngest fleet in the world of cruising and we now have the widest range of holiday options we have ever been able to offer our guests. The world noticed our launch and we went through a sustained period for the rest of 2010 where our sales were twice that of the previous year and that gives us tremendous confidence as we look ahead to 2011.
So what lies ahead in 2011 – Well when I drive down to Southampton next week to start a new year I am very excited at the year that lies ahead. Three Queens in New York, Two Queens in Sydney and the opportunity to work with and lead a fantastic group of people within Cunard. It is the people in our company – especially the ship’s company on each of our Queens that make Cunard very special. We have many new people in the company now that we have three ships. Our challenge in the year ahead is to make sure we give our valued guests the experience they are expecting. I will be working my socks off to make sure we keep Cunard every bit as special as our guests expect.
I had a lovely email from a guest this morning. They had just returned from a voyage on Queen Mary 2. It was quite a tough voyage as many had missed flights due to poor weather at UK and US airports, but this couple had taken the time to write to me. In their email they said something remarkable – and something that will remind me and all of us who work for Cunard Line what really matters. They said;
‘ For 50 weeks of the year we are a very ordinary couple living uneventful lives, for 2 weeks Cunard made us feel very special. Thank you Cunard and we are already looking forward to our next cruise’
So as we head towards 2011 our task is simple – to make our guests feel special. I hope that you have had a restful holiday period and on behalf of all of us at Cunard Line may I wish you a healthy, happy and successful 2011.
We hope to see you on board soon!
President and Managing Director
Thank you Peter, and yes what an incredible year it has been. I’ll post pictures from Queen Elizabeth’s first Christmas Day on Tuesday and then as promised there’ll be Deputy Captain Andrew Hall’s final instalment of Queen Victoria’s recent refit in Hamburg.
All it leaves me to say is from all of us at We Are Cunard, we wish you a very Happy New Year. Alastair