February 28, 2011
We Are Cunard
What an amazing day last Tuesday was, and another milestone in Cunard’s 171 year history. In the first of three Blogs we will go back to those two very special days, and to begin today’s blog, it’s a pleasure to hear about the arrival of our two Queens from our President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks.
President and Managing Director
Each year I venture down to Australia and New Zealand to spend time on our ships as they reach the half way point of their World Voyages. It is a long way from my front door, my family and my trusted Labrador, and I have to admit it was quite a daunting prospect to be away from the family and away from the office for such a long time. But I have to tell you we have encountered some very moving moments down under on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth and I would like to share some of those moments with you.
Welcome home……after a 27 hour flight, and struggling to get to grips with a 13 hour time difference, I arrived onboard Queen Elizabeth in Auckland. I was greeted by our Hotel Manager, Robert Howie, who said: “Welcome home”. After such a long journey and in the familiar surroundings of Queen Elizabeth, I really did feel at home amongst my Cunard colleagues and loyal guests. It was a busy time in Auckland and Wellington as there was so much interest from the local press. There were also presentations to Travel Agents and the first highlight of the trip; the Queen Elizabeth World Voyage Dinner. In line with Cunard tradition, we take all of our full world voyage guests out to dinner to thank them for coming with us. It was a marvellous evening, including a full New Zealand ‘Hakka’ to welcome our guests. We’ll have a separate post about that next week after I return from Queen Mary 2’s World Voyage Dinner which will also be in Auckland. As Queen Elizabeth left Wellington, I flew to Sydney to prepare for the arrival of our two Queens.
Oh Dear……….quite an amusing moment on Sunday morning as I became a tourist and took a two hour Captain Cook’s tour around Sydney Harbour. It turned out that there were about 200 people on the boat; 199 Holland America guests and me. As much as I respect our sister cruise line, I could not helping seeing the funny side as the lady providing the harbour commentary spent most of the two hours telling all the Holland America customers about the pending arrival of Cunard Line and their two Queens. So I kept my hat on, head down and enjoyed the irony of the moment.
The magical arrival of two Queens……..Fast forward to 0600 on Tuesday morning. I am standing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House surrounded by thousands of people. Some had paused on their morning jog, some had stopped by on their way to work but all had come to see the arrival of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth. There was a marvellous feeling of expectation in the air; where were they, would they be on time and would they come in together, but I had every faith in our Captains.
Then round the headland and into the incredible Sydney Harbour came Queen Mary 2. I have seen her so many times, but back came the goose pimples and all around me I could sense the excitement. But hang on a minute, where was Queen Elizabeth? I could not stand the suspense so I called a colleague on the Bridge of Queen Elizabeth to be told ‘don’t panic we are just coming round the corner’. And round she came; the two ships approached Fort Denison as the sun came up.
There were nine news helicopters in the sky above us, and both ships were a wall of flash bulbs as over 4,600 Cunard guests were treated to a moment they would never forget.
I was proudest person lucky enough to be standing on the steps of Sydney Opera House. After much whistle blowing Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 headed for their respective berths.
It was apparent that Cunard had arrived in Sydney and we were set for an interesting 24 hours!
Thank you Peter for a great perspective of this incredible day. For all of us on Queen Elizabeth it was so wonderful to be guided in by our Flagship, and as she turned in front of the Sydney harbour bridge she looked so graceful.
As she came even closer you could almost hear the cheers from Queen Mary 2’s guests, if it wasn’t for all the cheering from our guests!
Then as our sister headed for her berth, Queen Elizabeth started to turn towards Circular Quay, with the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge creating a wonderful backdrop for our stay.
Sydney is always a highlight for our crew as well as our guests and for our Australian crew on board it’s a fantastic homecoming. For one of our Hair Stylists in the Royal Spa, this was an opportunity to meet up with family members after four months away. Beverley Chilcott, from Brisbane, has worked on all four Queens and was very excited to see a banner from her parents and children on the quayside as we got closer:
By 7.00am Queen Elizabeth was nearly at her berth as Queen Mary 2 edged towards hers, but you could still see her iconic red funnel above the trees.
As Queen Elizabeth got closer and the lines were being tied up, we could see Peter Shanks, on the quayside being interviewed by the Sydney TV news programmes.
I’ll have more pictures from Sydney in a couple of days but talking of reunions you may be interested to hear of another important date coming up. On 3 March maritime history will be made, when Queen Victoria and Queen Mary will meet for the first time. At approximately 6:00pm, Queen Victoria will sail into Long Beach Harbour to meet Queen Mary, and the two ships will exchange whistle salutes amidst a sparkling fireworks display.
This rendezvous marks only the second time in Cunard’s history that a modern Queen has visited her docked sister ship; the first was in February 2006 when, on her maiden call to Los Angeles, Queen Mary 2 met her namesake.
This historic event also signals the celebration of a significant milestone: the upcoming 75th anniversary of Queen Mary’s maiden voyage from Southampton, on 27 May 1936. Talking about the event Peter Shanks said:
“After the spectacular Cunard Royal Rendezvous in New York with our three modern Queens back in January, it is quite fitting that we continue the grand celebration on the West Coast. Queen Mary is an important part of our history and legacy and what better way to salute her than with a visit from Queen Victoria to celebrate the completion of her debut Americas season.”
For those not lucky enough to be on Queen Victoria the best viewing location will probably be on the Promenade deck of Queen Mary, at the aft of the ship. The good news is that I understand admission will be free for guests to board the ship to experience her attractions, including different tours, shopping as well as the Observation Bar and dining at the Promenade Café, Sir Winston’s and the Chelsea Chowder House
That’s it for the moment but I’ll be back in a couple of days with part two of the Sydney Rendezvous Blog with some wonderful video footage as well. Cheers for now, Alastair