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Forever Cunard

Signing off…

September 27, 2013


Posted in: Forever Cunard, Forever Cunard, Updates

After 11 years with Cunard Line I shall be leaving the business at the end of September. I will miss all the many friends and colleagues across Cunard Line and I shall miss the many passengers that I have so much enjoyed meeting over recent years. At the same time after 11 exciting years, I am looking forward to finding a new personal challenge.

The first thing I should say is that Cunard Line has probably never been in such good shape. If I think back to when I joined the business in 2002, we were sailing with QE2 and Caronia. Today we have three fine ships and one of the youngest and most successful fleets in the world of cruising. Indeed – it was wonderful to hear last week that the 2014 Berlitz Cruise Guide named our ships the top three large ships in the world. There is no question in my mind that the success of Cunard, both today and over many years, is down to our people on board the ships. The leadership shown by our Officers and the White Star Service so proudly displayed by our Crew is our secret to success – and I have so much enjoyed working with them. I have also made some great acquaintances amongst our passengers – most notably when visiting our ships on the other side of the world. And I am very confident that our officers, crew and passengers will continue to make Cunard even more successful in years to come.

Over recent years through social media I have shared many of my experiences – especially through the ‘WeAreCunard’ blog where many of our bloggers have responded with interesting and sometimes challenging comments. So I thought what better way to sign off than recall some of my personal highlights from the last 11 years. So here goes – and in no particular order;

Queen Mary 2 – without doubt the most exciting aspect of my time with Cunard. To be involved in the design and launch of what was the largest, widest, tallest and most expensive ship ever built was simply awesome. She is just different and magnificent. Whether cutting through enormous seas, arriving in New York or Sydney or just being onboard she continues to turn heads wherever she goes. We named her on a very windy day in Southampton in 2004 – the ship was revealed to the song ‘What have you done today to make you feel…Proud’ as right on cue, a huge silk curtain fell to the ground to reveal the ship.  As a ship launch, I believe it has yet to be beaten and maybe never will be beaten. She is 10 years old next year – and still magnificent.

Special Relationships – I have been very fortunate to represent Cunard in meeting many famous people from around the world. Her Majesty the Queen has graced us by naming two of our ships as well as coming to say farewell to QE2. The Duchess of Cornwall has been a wonderful friend to Queen Victoria and visited several times. President George Bush was a real gentleman, Lesley Garret a true friend to us, Terry Waite always welcome and Deputy Prime Minister(at the time) John Prescott always a character and usually a challenge. If I had to single one person out, then it would be Desmond Tutu. He sailed with us into Cape Town and said grace at our World Cruise Dinner.  He showed great interest in everybody he met and it was an honor to meet him – an inspiration. When asked who he would invite to his Captain’s table he replied ‘The Dalai Lama, Mandela, Bono – and then with a twinkle in his eye – Madonna’

New York – Such a big part of our history and lots of memories for me. I watched Captain McNaught bring QE2 into New York for the first time and he scraped the ship down the side of the dock – ouch. We held 2 Three Queens events – and both were awesome and freezing at the same time. On the 2nd occasion I was asked to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange which was very special – and just before pushing the button our Chairman Micky Arison said ‘keep it open a bit longer, our share price is down..’.

Sydney – Another place with special memories. There is a magic that happens when our ships arrive in the harbour and it is always very moving. The most special was when we held a memorial service on the aft deck of Queen Mary 2 for Australian 2nd World War veterans who had gone to war on our first Queen Elizabeth. Around 40 of them came – with an average age of 95.  It was another moment where we made everybody cry and it was very moving –  remarkable men.

Liverpool – OK so I may have generated some unhelpful competition and rivalry between Southampton and Liverpool. Well the former is our ‘home’ and the latter is our ‘spiritual home’. Talking of Liverpool, I was there last week and I had a personal tour of the famous Cunard building. It was quite something with the original panelled Board Room and the cavernous marble check-in halls. It reminded me just how enduring Cunard Line is. Over recent years we held three very moving Cunard concerts in Liverpool Cathedral where the Cunard magic moved many present to tears. I am hopeful that Liverpool will play a special role in Cunard’s 175th anniversary in 2015.

Great People – It would be wrong to single out too many people who during my time at Cunard have made such a difference as there are so many of them. But a special mention is deserved for some of the Captains who I considered friends –  McNaught, Wright, Bates, Wells, Olsen, Philpott, Clarke, Oprey as well as Commodores Warwick, Warner and Rynd. All great leaders and all considerable characters. I have worked with some terrific Hotel Managers including John Duffy, David Hamilton, David Stephenson, Robbie Howie, Jacqui Hodgson and David Sheppard – always calm and so proud of what they and their teams do. We have had some real characters amongst our Chief Engineers and in Entertainment Directors then Ray Rouse and Paul O’Loughlin – take a bow. And one special lady who has managed to keep all onboard focused and supported – our Hotel Operations Director Tracy Jessop deserves an enormous amount of credit. But when I look back at my time I will remember so many of the very special people on our ships – Bedroom Stewards, MaitreD’s, Waiters, Butlers and the chaps who work so hard down below and keeping the decks in such great condition. I have also enjoyed working with our shore based and sales teams in Southampton, Hamburg, Los Angeles and Sydney. Together – as we have said so often – We are Cunard !

QE2 – The first time I set foot on QE2 was in Southampton in 2002. I have to admit I was not sure, she was getting old. But when I first sailed and experienced the ship I understood the magic of Cunard Line. There was something about QE2 that will never be matched – she was a part of history. It was a sad time in 2008 when she retired – although I stand by the decision to retire her and then introduce a new Queen Elizabeth as it was time. Her Majesty The Queen came to say goodbye, and I will always remember hosting Baroness Thatcher at that lunch – as well as the RAF Harrier that paid tribute in such a spectacular way. None of us will forget the cold November evening when she slipped her ropes in Southampton for the last time and the city said goodbye to their favourite ship.

Proudest Moment – A number of people have asked me what my proudest moment was during my 11 years with Cunard. It was without question at the launch of Queen Elizabeth. It was one of those special days – the sun shone and the world’s media was expecting. The build had not been easy and the teams involved had worked miracles. I was fortunate to be the one to stand up and make the speech prior to Captain Wells asking Her Majesty to christen the ship. During my comments I mentioned that ‘there is only one person present here today who was present at the christening of Queen Elizabeth in 1937, QE2 in 1967 and the new Queen Elizabeth today – and that person is Her Majesty The Queen’. Well on that mention, Her Majesty sat bolt upright and giggled with pride – that was quite a moment and something I shall always treasure.

Over the years our blog has covered all these special moments and more – and I am sure there will be some very special events in Cunard’s future – notably with the 175th anniversary in 2015. If I had to pick one moment that stands out in my mind – it is an example of the teamwork that has been so much fun and so inspiring over the years. Having watched the team work so hard on the build, introduction and launch of Queen Elizabeth, the ship arrived in Sydney Harbour. That afternoon I arranged a private climb of Sydney Harbour Bridge for our Chief Engineer, Hotel Manager, Hotel Operations Director and myself – or if you like Colin, Robbie, Tracy and Peter. During the climb, Chief and Hotel Manager mentioned it was the first time they had taken a few hours ashore since the launch of the ship. It was fun and when we got to the top of the Bridge, down below us was Queen Elizabeth. A spectacular sight, but that was not the moment I will remember. We finished the bridge climb and walked back towards the ship, I was late for a charity function – but on the Chief’s insistence we were forced into a bar. Four cold beers were ordered and as we clinked glasses, it was the culmination of a huge amount of work by everybody involved with Queen Elizabeth – and a moment of friendship that I will treasure for a long time and remember each time I visit Sydney.

I hope all of our bloggers continue to enjoy their voyages with Cunard in the future and thank you for all the interest you have shown in my time with Cunard over the last 11 years. One thing is for sure – all those very special people will be there to meet you and look after you when you next choose to sail with Cunard.

Best Regards


  1. Steven Trembath says:

    Thank you Peter for all your good work, and bon voyage.

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you. We have never met but I appreciate your dedication to making Cunard a world leader in her field. I have enjoyed a few sailings with the three Queens and can say it is a joy to step on board each and every one of them. It feels like you are coming home.
    Best wishes for the future.

  3. Mrs jones says:

    Farewell I shall miss your fantastic blog
    Looking forward to our next queen Elizabeth trip1

  4. John Maclean says:

    Thank you for your service Peter. Voyaging with Cunard is and always will be a wonderful experience and to have a Chairman who shares in the passengers love of the ships and excitement at sailing in them has been a pleasure. You will always “Be Cunard”.

    Good luck in whatever you do.

  5. Mrs Carol Baxter says:

    Thank you for your years of service to the wonderful Cunard line. I at this stage have sailed once with them, 2009, Hong Kong to Southhampton on the QM2, with my husband and daughter. A trip which we all thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, we were to do a trip on the QM2 again this year but due to ill health had to defer, but we are booked for a trip next year. I don’t think we could ever take a cruise on any other line but Cunard. Everything about the line was first class, the food, the people we came in contact with, whether it be in the dining room or the below deck staff, such as the cabin boys and girls. Everyone had a welcoming and happy smile. Nothing was too much trouble. Congratulations to all and to you Peter Shanks, a job well done, and I wish you every success in whatever the future may hold for you.

  6. Kevin Davies says:

    Thank you Peter, will the Blog continue?

  7. Diane Warren says:

    Hi Peter, We are SO sorry to hear that you are leaving Cunard. We feel rather sad that you are leaving such a prestigious Company and we are sure we you feel the same way too. We have noticed some slightly different marketing strategies of late and feared that some changes were afoot. We are pleased, of course,that you have so many happy memories to take with you but this change must be difficult for you. We are avid Cunard fans and we too hold dear the many happy times we have shared with Cunard and all their wonderful staff . We hope to continue these happy times with future Cruises (sorry Voyages!) which we have already booked for December on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria in 2014. We remember fondly the day Queen Victoria sailed into Liverpool for the first time and then to have the bonus of The Duchess of Cornwall come aboard, later to be followed by a further surprise of the Halle Orchestra performing in the Theatre with Anthony Inglis conducting. Cunard don’t do things by half! Other fond memories include that of the 3 Queens in New York (as in your photo) what a day! We were on Queen Victoria having sailed the Atlantic in tandem with Queen Elizabeth. Another occasion which is so special to us is the meeting of the 3 Queens in Southampton for the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee when we were then on Queen Elizabeth. We are sure those occasions will be very happy memories for you too. We wish you all the best for the future wherever it takes you. Maybe we will meet you as a Guest on board sometime! Do hope so. We have always enjoyed your blogs but this one that we have received today is one that has saddened us. Suppose as the saying goes: ” All good things come to an end” is what you are experiencing right now.
    Hold on to those Good Memories Peter. A huge thank you for everything and sincere good wishes for the future.
    Take care. Very best wishes from us both, Diane & David Warren

  8. David A. Walker says:

    Peter, Peter, Peter,

    Farewell and good luck with whatever your “new personal challenge” may be; I hope it can be as rewarding and satisfying as Cunard has been for the past 11 years.

    I was a big fan of your earlier blogs as they tired to add meaning and substance to the Cunard Company and its valiant history. There were times when historic accuracy was not too closely adhered to, but they were enriching and ‘meaty’ never the trivial froth of latter entries. I was perhaps one of your minor challenges, but of course never knew – no replies.

    Bon Voyage sir, fair winds and calm seas.


  9. Lisa Page says:

    Brilliant last blog Peter! It was a real pleasure working with you over the years, all the best for your future endeavours!


  10. Barbara Holliman says:

    Your friendly face and wonderful articles will be sorely missed in our household. When we are not on a Cunard ship we feel connected through you. Best wishes…

  11. judith says:

    So sorry to hear you are leaving Peter, we have enjoyed your blogs immensley, especially this one, brings back happy memories of climbing the bridge at Sidney, and the Jubilee sail-out, and heartily endorse all the above comments. We are off again on Monday on Queen Victoria, have booked for Christmas on Queen Elizabeth, and Iceland next year on the Victoria. We love our voyages with Cunard, and have never been disappointed. As you say its down to the ships company and their wonderful spirit, They are Cunard, well done and thanks to all of them, and thankyou for what you have done, and good luck to you for the future, whatever you do.

  12. EDITH says:

    What a fantastic bit of reading! We have sailed on 4 Queens and spent nights on QM in Long Beach and enjoyed it all since 1993. Thank you for all you have done.

  13. John & Joan Smith-Tamworth Australia says:

    Thank you for your blog Peter. It has enabled us proud Cunarders to share in excellent & interesting postings both by yourself & of course other Cunard personnel & guests. We wish you every success in your future endeavours wherever that may take you. We are sure that the Company is sorry to see a professional like you leave,as we who have been aquainted with you over those 11 years or so. Good luck & thank you again Peter.You will be surely missed on board in the future.

  14. Solent Richard says:

    We have met on a number of occasions and I’ve always been impressed with what I’ve seen.

    Peter Shanks was a great ambassador for Cunard and the void will be hard to fill.

    Best wishes and bon voyage into the next phase of your career.

  15. Chris, Kathy & Betty, the 3 Queens says:

    Bye Peter and good luck, it has been a pleasure meeting you.

  16. Rob Holloway says:

    Cunard in my view is based on people of character , strength, wisdom, humility and of course pride of ownership.
    You Peter have all those attributes and have contributed to its success.
    All the best in your new challenges for yourself and your family.

    I have enjoyed your blog, admired your charity work and knew I would not be on the top of The Sydney Harbour Bridge. :)

  17. Tom & Carol says:

    Very nicely said, Peter. The very best to you.

  18. Matthew Elgie says:

    All the best Peter

    You were the best President Cunard ever had! Well done for all your great years.
    Enjoyed all our work together.


  19. Robert - Hunter Valley says:

    I and my family wish Mr. Shanks every endeavour in his future. Whilst he may be laudatory in his exhortations on the known famous, I am of a view, that he shall remember, the vast many passengers, who were not of the famous mould. It is they, who have made what Cunard is to the majority.

    Australia is surely the area of the future. It is the new land of the voyager, the passenger, who in the expeditions of the world, have ensured the future of Cunard. Mr. Shanks has added to that legacy.

  20. Daryl Cooper says:

    Dear Mr. Shanks,
    Unfortunately in business changes happen. My wife & I have enjoyed 3 cruises with Cunard and are looking forward to our Queen Victoria ex San Francisco to Southampton March 2014. You have done very well to keep Cunard “British” and we hope your successor will do likewise. Did not always agree with your comments but you stated your case eloquently.
    If you are retiring enjoy but if not retirement best wishes in your new venture.
    Long may CUNARD be British in style and nature.

  21. Michael Kremer says:

    Dear Mr. Shanks, thank you very much for having been the “face to Cunard” for the last number of years. My wife and I are very sorry to see you leaving the company. We are not entirely sure whether the new management structure will work in the guests´ interest. A peoples business such as this need someone close to its customers and not behind some distant marketing desk. We wish you all the best for your future undertakings – and stay healthy. Michael and Ursula

  22. Roger Waterfall says:


    As well as the fantastic memories you have gained, you must be very proud of all you achieved for Cunard.

    Thanks for keeping us in touch, through ‘we are Cunard’, with what was happening throughout such eventful years.

    It was good to hear that Cunard Building in Liverpool still has some of the original features.
    I remember it well, during interviews there in the 60′s. I hope all the fantastic models of Cunard ships that were displayed there, are still in tact somewhere.

    Very best wishes for your future.


  23. Brenda Vessey says:

    Sorry Angela, on your behalf could not help me with our request regarding cabins on Queen Victoria in April 2014 and also very sorry to hear you are leaving, I have always enjoyed reading your blogs and wish you well in your next endeavour, whatever it may be, you will be sorely missed.

  24. Vanessa Smith says:

    “I totally agree with you Peter the Queen Mary 2 launch in 2004 was amazing and for me she still is truly magnificent”

  25. Peter Shanks says:

    Dear All – thank you so much for the positive messages and farewells – much appreciated. It has been a pleasure to write the Blog. I have always tried my best to repsond to the questions asked – although from time to time I may have dodged the difficult question and thank you for your patience on that. I hope you continue to enjoy all things Cunard and hopefuly we will meet in the future – as fellow passengers !

    Best Regards


  26. Terry Houston says:

    Best wishes in your next venture Mr. Shanks. My husband and I sailed the 2008 maiden world cruise of Queen Victoria and I recall you were on board for a portion of the voyage. It was an unforgettable experience and your contributions to the Cunard experience, along with that of the ship’s staff and officers, will always be a part of our lasting memories.

  27. Maggie Thorpe says:

    Dear. Peter. I would like to add my comments to you and say how you have done an amazing job with your time at Cunard. I feel you have seen the best years if Cunard and you helped make it happen.
    I was lucky to have sailed on QE2 and the last time was when she made her final trip to Norway in June 2008. We were waiting to board the ship in Southampton and it was the day HRH Queen Elizabeth was there to sign QE2 off. We saw her leave along with Baroness Thatcher and her daughter Carol. It was a very special moment.
    We ( husband & I) were also lucky again to be on the maiden world voyage of Queen Victoria and the tandem crossing with QE2. The magnificent sail away from New York and the fireworks were spectacular!
    It was so wonderful we did all again in 2011 for the maiden world on QE and saw the spectacular fireworks again in New York and the Empire State Building lite up in Cunard colours as you rang the bell for the close of play in Wall Street.

    QM2 is our favourite ship and we did the 2012 world cruise on her and I also have wonderful photo taken from the top of the Sydney harbour bridge after I climbed the bridge. An achievement for me as I had learned to walk again after back surgery!
    Such wonderful memories. We continue our Cunard travels in 2014 on Queen Elizabeth world cruise. We are looking forward to this very much.
    Peter, I wish you a all the success you deserve in the future. Good Luck and thanks for the memories.
    Maggie Thorpe. Cyprus.

  28. Phillip says:

    Dear Peter,

    Having been lucky enough at the age of 48 to have expirienced 16 Cunard Voyages (206 Days) since 1990 I know you have massively improved the Cunard expirience and you shold be very proud.
    Good luck

  29. Kenneth Eden says:

    I too am saddened to see Peter leave Cunard Line. Peter brought a certain moderninity to a traditional l product, and the blending of the too was seamless. I shall miss his blogs, photos and such, and I trust his future will be bright..

  30. Catherine says:

    Best wishes in your next venture! Enjoyed reading your blogs!

  31. may delory says:

    Clear and happy sailing, Peter. I have a few Word Press blog posts re my first and only voyage with Cunard.

    Sincerely yours,

    One splendidly happy Cunard guest,

    May DeLory

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