May 8, 2012
Posted in: Forever Cunard
On Friday 27 April I awoke with an extra spring in my step. It was a normal English Friday in many senses. It was raining – despite the fact that we are officially in a ‘drought’. It was an early start as I jumped into the car at 0545 – and I managed to escape the house without waking our Labrador up which was a promising start to the day. The early morning radio news was still banging on about how tough the economy is. The sports bulletins were speculating about the upcoming feisty clash at the top of the Premier Football League between Manchester United and Manchester City.
But despite the rain and the economy – I had a day to look forward for two reasons. Firstly – we were welcoming Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth back to Southampton from their World Voyages – both had been away from home for over 100 days. The ships are very busy when in Southampton – and so I tend to visit them early so as to leave the busy day clear for them – hence the early start. Along with a few of my colleagues we first boarded Queen Elizabeth at 0700 prior to going across to Queen Mary 2 at 0830. It was wonderful to see so many crew – they work so hard on a World Voyage and there was a sense of accomplishment, relief and excitement to be back in Southampton. We were really on board to listen to the Senior Officers – gain their initial feedback and listen to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the summer season. I also managed to say hello to some of our full world voyagers and to hear how they had been getting on.
So after a couple of hours it was back over to the office – but that spring in my step was still there, the highlight of the day was still to come – I was going to meet and welcome a former President of the United States of America. We are blessed with welcoming many special and famous people on board our ships – and it is something all of us at Cunard look forward to. President Bush was travelling with his wife Barbara, daughter Doro and granddaughter Gigi to New York.
Our team in the office had been working closely with the President’s office in Houston and all was in place. His office was a pleasure to deal with – as were his security people. I say ‘people’ because that seems to be a phrase that has developed over the years in these situations. As I was standing in the Grand Lobby awaiting the President’s arrival – one of his security team came up and whispered in my ear that ‘my people tell me they are 15 minutes away’. I found myself saying ‘thank you sir – I will tell my people’. Well ‘my people’ turned out to be our Hotel Operations Director Tracy – who I did call and all was in place. I did wonder too whether Jack Bauer from ‘24’ was hiding somewhere in the background just in case.
We were all set. The Queen Mary 2 Grand Lobby looked spectacular, our staff and Bell Boys were lined up and the Captain, Hotel Manager and I were stood to attention. On the deck below our pianist quietly played – he was of course briefed to switch seamlessly into a quiet rendition of ‘All Hail to the Chief’ as the President arrived. This was to be one of those special moments – and one we are very respectful of – in the same way our former colleagues would have been when welcoming President Roosevelt or President Eisenhower on board our liners in the past.
So on they came – and what lovely people. The first thing President Bush said to me was ‘I have been looking forward to this for weeks’. Mrs Bush immediately followed up with ‘He has been talking about nothing else for months’. Here are a few pictures of their arrival:
We were keen to get them settled as quickly and seamlessly as we could. I thought how well President Bush looked for being 88 years young and we had known he would arrive on his mobility scooter – during the planning our team had of course referred to this as ‘Scooter One’ – well you do have to keep a sense of humour these days.
We took the party up to the Commodore Club where they had kindly agreed to some photographs to be taken. We chatted as a small group for 10 minutes and it was very inspiring to meet President and Mrs Bush. They were very knowledgeable about Cunard and the President reflected on how much he enjoyed spending time on his own – somewhat smaller boat – at home. They were on holiday – but the fact that were able to take 10 minutes of their time to talk to us after a long journey was really very special indeed. I was able to introduce our Hotel Manager John Duffy to President Bush – who better than John with his 46 years of Cunard experience to look after them.
So after 20 minutes it was all over – the Bush family were in their staterooms and it was time for the ship to depart and for 2.620 guests to enjoy their crossing to New York – in the presence of a very special man and his equally special family.
As for me – well it was the end of a long day. So I jumped back in the car to head home – and yes the radio news was still talking about the economy and the rain – for goodness sake I thought you really need to get out more and experience some of the more inspiring things in life.
A week later President Bush and his family safely disembarked Queen Mary 2 in New York. They enjoyed a very busy voyage – experienced our famous Queens Grill, relaxed with the help of Canyon Ranch, enjoyed dinner in Todd English, took part in one of our new Apple iStudy classes and attended the shows in the Royal Court Theatre.
I am so proud of how well our team looked after them. I have mentioned many times of how proud we all are of the crew on board our ships and the wonderful experience we give our guests. Well – now you no longer need to take it from me – here is a direct quote from somebody who knows just what pride is;
‘Barbara and I have always wanted to make a Crossing, and it gives us great joy to be able to do so aboard Queen Mary 2. We have enjoyed the voyage from its beginning and our experience has been made even better by the amazing crew and staff. We will always have fond memories of our Transatlantic Crossing.’ – President George H W Bush.
There is no more to say……
Thank you Mr President and God Bless You.