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Forever Cunard

Thank You Mr President…

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.

Best Regards


  1. Grant Thomas says:

    What a great read Peter, and a special ‘day out of the office’. I saw a brief mention of these special guests when QM2 docked in New York but great to read the preparation of the sail-off on April 27th.

    I’ve yet to do a Transatlantic on Queen Mary 2 but it absolutely on the 2013 to do list, even with a date circled! Keep up the great blog and 4 weeks until I am back on Queen Mary 2 for the magical Jubilee Celebrations.

  2. Ellen Bannin says:

    Thank you all for taking such good care of our former President and his family!

  3. Jacki says:

    What an amazing story. I too would be very excited to meet President Bush. And while I have never sailed on Cunard, my father has. Back in 1962 my father immigrated to the states from the United Kingdom. He came across on a Cunard ship. He often talked about that sailing, and how wonderful Cunard was. I still have all the papers from that trip (menus, passenger list, and daily news), well at least I think I might, my storage unit flooded last night and I have not gotten in there to see what was damaged. One day I do plan on sailing a TA on Cunard in honor of my father.
    Thank you for sharing this experience with us,

  4. Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing this story and pictures. Glad the Bush family had a memorable time.

  5. Brian says:

    Another monumental day In Cunard;s history to have such distinguished guest as President G W Bush and his wonderful wife Barbara and family on board QM2 speaks volumes of the special care and unique attention one get’s when voyaging with Cunard. A fantastic picture that capture’s a special ocassion with Hotel Manager John Duffy gleaming.

    My wife and I Janet back on board QM2 in May NY to Southampton Transatlantic Voyage, the only real way to travel.

    Best wishes,

    Brian & Janet

  6. Steven Trembath says:

    Well done Peter. You are a fine ambassador for Cunard.

  7. Carolyn Kethcart says:

    Peter, I am a fan of John Heald’s Blog and he passed this along to his followers on Face Book. I have just finished reading the whole thing, and I especially liked the part regarding Jack Bauer, as it was and still is my favorite TV show. How honored you must feel to have been able to meet the Bush Family, he was a great President to America, as was his son. I found your story to be a wonderful tribute to your ship, your company and especially to the past President and his wife. Thanks for allowing us all to read it and thanks to John Heald for sharing with us.

    Carolyn Kethcart
    Tinley Park, IL

  8. Great article, about a wonderful subject…cruising w/style. The Bush’s are a classy couple, modest and grateful. I would love to meet them also. I have made only one crossing in 1956 on the SS Independence, an experience/good. Past 0 years we have limited time, so have limited our cruises to the Caribbean. Must add a Queen Mary to “bucket list” to co-inside w/Edinburgh Festival. Thank you again for article and pictures…classy!

    Rick Whalen

  9. Jo Ann Sprague says:

    My husband, Warren, and I crossed the Atlantic and back with Cunard in the summer of 2008 as guests of our daughter, her husband, and their two sons. It was the vacation of a lifetime. And we, too, enjoyed the terrific food and excellent service provided in the Queen’s Grill. And also, a cocktail in the Commodore Club.
    For my husband’s 85th birthday this month, our daughter presented him with two large volumes of photos of that wonderful trip.
    Each time we sit down and look at our photos, we enjoy, all over again, our trip of a lifetime.
    Jo Ann

  10. Rob Holloway says:

    A great article to read Peter and regardless of ones political views, one can only admire President Bush and his wife Barbara for their knowledge and experiences that is shared with us.
    Ever thought of having a few ex-presidents as featured speakers on a cruise. You certainly would have one of the most secured ships on that trip.

    I do hope your dog that you sneaked out on in the wee hours of the morning was walked by someone while you were absent.
    Cheers /Rob

  11. David Burket says:

    My wife and I took our first Cunard voyage last week on the Queen Mary 2 and were surprised to find the Bush party on board . . . in fact, right around the corner on the same deck. It was great fun seeing them out-and-about having a good time at the same events that we and everyone else were enjoying. We found the Bushes cordial and unassuming at all times and willing to share a comment or two. The entire voyage was delightful, but this special company just added another tidbit to share with our friends.

  12. Beryl Moss says:

    What a great blog with some fantastic pictures. I wholeheartedly agree with President Bush that the care and attention that guests receive on a Cunard ship is first class which always make me feel very special everytime I step on board one of the Queens. Looking forward to our next cruise in a few weeks on Queen Elizabeth.

  13. Judith Sayers says:

    Great blog, I agree with Beryl, wonderful care and attention on board . Looking forward to the Jubilee sailout. Will dinner be delayed for the Red Arrows flypast?

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