In the past I have been fortunate in that I have been on a cruise to a number of the world’s cruising regions.
An exception, however, has been a transatlantic voyage. It definitely has been very high up on my ‘bucket list’ and was happily achieved in July/August this year when I was able to travel from Southampton to New York and back on the QM2.
An undoubted fan of this magnificent ship is Prince Philip and I recall his comments writing in a foreword to a book on the vessel a few years ago. The Duke of Edinburgh praised the ship’s technology and engineering.
“The age of the engine powered ocean liner was relatively short, but its technical development was nothing short of phenomenal,” said the Duke. “Queen Mary 2 is the last in the line of the Atlantic Ocean passenger liners and by far the most technically developed.It must be quite a challenge to design and build a skyscraper, but it cannot compare with the complication of creating such a monster ship capable of coping with the conditions on the North Atlantic in all weathers at speeds of up to 30 knots.” Well written and vivid word imagery!
Prior to embarking on my transatlantic adventure, I had written to Cunard requesting a brief interview with the Captain to assist me in putting together these notes and I appreciated receiving his agreement to that meeting.
Meeting the Master
At the appointed time, which was 10.25 am on the 7th August this year, I met Jenny Yates, the Captain’s secretary in the Lift Foyer on Deck 12 which also happened to be the Bridge Deck. She then took me through to meet Captain Peter Philpott, the Master of this immensely impressive and almost imperious vessel, a unique true thoroughbred express North Atlantic Ocean Liner. At that particular time incidentally, the Queen Mary 2 was approximately half way between New York and Southampton on the eastern transatlantic route between those two ports. Although I had met Captain Philpott briefly after coming on board in Southampton, I, along with many other passengers, became better acquainted with him through his impressive daily broadcasts at 12 noon each day. They were informative and interesting and I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get a print out of this daily broadcast. ‘From the Bridge” if such a document existed . It would have been a memorable record of a most special fortnight. Having said that, an abbreviated albeit fairly brief related comment appeared in the “From the Navigator” within the printed Daily Programmes.
_auto_generated_thumb_ Back on the Bridge, a relaxed and affable Captain Philpott answered my questions. During our call, and turn-around, in New York a few days earlier, the vessel had berthed at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and not in Manhattan, the traditional “Luxury Liner Row” which was a familiar image of berthed ocean liners over the years. Whilst the QM2 had berthed in Manhattan previously, I should imagine he had been asked that question before because he readily gave me the answer. He mentioned that with the overall 345m length of the Queen Mary 2, she was too long for the berth. The overhang, allied to the, at times, currents experienced, didn’t contribute to an ideal berthing procedure.
Enter Brooklyn into the equation. They stepped forward and their facilities were on offer. Accordingly, on our arrival in New York, the Queen Mary 2 was promptly berthed and efficiently cleared at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
The Duracell of Transatlantic Liners?
Whilst the QE2 enjoyed an exceptional working life as an operational ocean liner for some 39 years, followed by a subsequent hiatus of 10 years when it seemed to hover too closely to a final voyage to the ship breakers, she has now opened in Dubai as a hotel ship. I asked Captain Philpott if such longevity could be anticipated for the 15 year old Queen Mary 2. The impressive £90 million ”Remastering” exercise in Hamburg two years ago was extensive and appeared to mainly major in areas other than the engineering aspect. Another emphatic and positive answer was instantly delivered by the Captain, ”I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be the case“.
For a vessel that, when delivered at the end of 2003, as “the greatest, fastest and in many ways most structurally and technically advanced ship in the world, “that is a more than fair answer. One of the displays within the vessel today is a very large picture of the QM2 and it bears a quote from the London Times dated 7th November 2000 which no doubt appeared when the intention to deliver a replacement for the QE2 was first mooted.
“She will be heir to all that has gone before, and will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future”. For a vessel that was intended to take over the mantle from the QE2, she has too date been eminently successful.
An impressive finale
There was a fitting farewell on the last day of our adventure. In recent times, there have been a number of occasions when Cunard’s three vessels have met, which has generated much media attention and many thousands of persons gathered at suitable vantage points to enjoy the spectacle. Ports that have ‘hosted’ these get togethers have included New York, Southampton, Liverpool and Lisbon, and possibly more than that.
On the return of our voyage to Southampton, one of these auspicious meetings had been scheduled! So it came to pass that on Friday the 10th August 2018, it was the 13th time all three Cunard Queens were together.
It was also the 9th coming together in their home port of Southampton since they began this theatrically choreographed occasion in January 2008 when QE2 was still in the fleet. The attached image (in the print editrion) captures a former event which took place in Lisbon after which the three vessels travelled in convoy to Southampton.