March 9, 2011
We Are Cunard
While Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth were enjoying their rendezvous in Sydney our other sister, Queen Victoria was having a rendezvous of her own. Last week she met up with the first Queen Mary in Long Beach California and fortunately Richard Curtis, Cunard’s Head of Marketing, was there to tell us the story in this special guest Blog;
Head Of Marketing
A couple of times a year I take the opportunity to spend a few days with my Cunard colleagues in North America based in Santa Clarita in Southern California. Last week I was lucky enough for my visit to coincide with the first ever rendezvous of Queen Victoria and her older sister Queen Mary at her home in Long Beach.
This is the 2nd Royal Rendezvous I have attended this year, the first being that remarkable occasion on 13 January when our three Cunard Queens met for the first time in New York. Every Royal Rendezvous is a special occasion enjoyed by the guests on board and by the many onlookers who turn out in their thousands and each is special in their own way. For me, the meeting of Queen Victoria and Queen Mary would arouse my emotions in an especially personal way as my relationship with Cunard began just over 44 years ago when I sailed on her as a 3 year old. I was the youngest passenger on board Queen Mary’s final Christmas Voyage in 1966.
I have since returned to visit this remarkable ship twice, in 1989 and 2002 although this would be my first time since joining Cunard some 4 years ago. Unusually for Southern California the day started grey and slightly damp with little likelihood of brightening up. I thought; well, at least if it stays dry people will enjoy the event without getting wet, fingers crossed.
Before driving down to Long Beach to visit Queen Mary, I was lucky enough to join a special delegation of Cunard’s friends from the Tournament of the Roses in Pasadena for lunch on board Queen Victoria. You may remember that this year Cunard entered a float into the Rose Parade which takes place every New Year’s Day in Pasadena. It’s a spectacular event witnessed by over a million spectators on the route and tens of millions of TV viewers in North American and beyond. Queen Victoria has been sailing out of Los Angeles this year on a series of roundtrip voyages including voyages to the Hawaiian Islands. As it was her last turnaround in Los Angeles before heading back to Southampton via Mexico, the Panama Canal and Fort Lauderdale, it was the perfect opportunity to show her off and to thank the volunteers and designers we had worked with on constructing our Rose Parade float.
Queen Victoria was looking as wonderful as ever and needless to say we were treated to a delicious lunch in her elegant Britannia Restaurant. Over lunch I got to know famous interior designer Raul Rodriguez who has designed many landmark hotels and restaurants around the world but also designed Cunard’s award winning float. Remarkably Raul has been designing Rose Parade floats since he was 14 years old.
The problem with having lunch on any of our ships whilst in port, is the necessity to disembark rather than stay on board for the voyage ahead, but we had to leave and head on to Long Beach.
Seeing Queen Mary’s unmistakable and beautiful three funnel profile is like seeing an old familiar friend again and never fails to impress. Stepping on board after my earlier visit that day to Queen Victoria was like going through a time warp but also confirmed just how much of the traditions of ocean liner style and elegance are reflected in our Cunard Queens today.
This year Queen Mary celebrates the 75th anniversary of her maiden voyage and I was delighted to discover during an excellent tour that she is looking considerably better than on my last visit 9 years ago. Major investment in restoring her grand public rooms and the 350 First Cass Staterooms, which comprise the Queen Mary Hotel, has paid off and I can thoroughly recommend a stay on board should you ever be in Los Angeles, perhaps just before joining one of our Americas voyages! You can find out more about staying on board here: http://www.queenmary.com
I can only remember fleeting glimpses of my time on board as a three year old. My grandfather spent his entire career with Cunard; with his last days at sea being as head Chef in the Verandah Grill, before becoming land based as Catering Superintendent. It’s good to know I have a little of Queen Mary’s soul in my blood.
Here you can see her Bridge, note the wonderful old style wheels for manoeuvring the ship’s rudders, amazing how technology has changed things over the years!
Here you can see the art deco splendour of her First Class Lounge
And here is her famous Observation Bar (which an insider tells me is by far the best bar in Long Beach!). Fancy a Martini anyone?
And finally what is perhaps her most spectacular venue, the glorious first class swimming pool. Wow!
Thank you Paul Haught, Director of Events for The Queen Mary for the personal tour, and good luck with the 75th Anniversary!
And now back to our Rendezvous. By 5.30pm when Queen Victoria was shortly due to make her appearance around the headland and into Long Beach Harbor, several hundred people had taken advantage of free entry for the day to Queen Mary and had gathered on her aft decks; people of all ages and all suitably furnished with Union Jacks. In true Californian style the weather had improved throughout the day and we were now blessed with a clear and bright twilight and a rapidly gathering nightfall. Here Queen Victoria is just coming into view.
As she came closer she gave a stirring long blast on her whistle to announce herself to her older sister, who promptly responded with a throaty baritone greeting of her own.
Queen Victoria looked absolutely stunning, very different to her older sister but every bit a traditional Cunarder with her own style and grace. I couldn’t help over hearing remarks made by my fellow admirers, many of whom had not witnessed one of our current Queens. Needless to say they were suitably impressed. I’m sure that the view of Queen Mary from the decks of Queen Victoria was quite a sight, and judging by the countless camera flashes we made an excellent picture! There were several more blasts of the whistle by each ship before a spectacular firework display in the true Cunard tradition.
What a wonderful day to remember!
Thank you Richard for that great Guest Blog; it certainly sounds like a very special occasion and another great Cunard Celebration.
I’ll be back on Thursday with a special Blog featuring Cunard’s Star of the Year and on Friday another report from Queen Victoria from her America’s season of voyages. Cheers for now, Alastair