Chris Frame of the Chris Cunard blog is my guest blogger today. He is a maritime historian, author, public speaker and travel writer, and he recently had the pleasure of joining Queen Elizabeth on her ‘QE2 50th anniversary voyage’ from Southampton.
September 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the most famous ocean liner in recent memory. Named and launched on 20 September 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the liner was the QE2.
The last large ocean liner to be built at the famed John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, QE2 went on to sail for more than 39 years, carrying 2.5 million passengers a staggering 5.6 million miles – that makes her the furthest travelled ship in history!
To celebrate this significant anniversary, Cunard hosted a celebration cruise aboard their newest Queen Elizabeth. The sold out 17 night voyage departed Southampton on 8 September with a full complement of QE2 devotees.
The round-trip voyage from Southampton sailed south and into the Mediterranean calling at Cadiz, Messina, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Split, Venice and Gibraltar. And despite the port-heavy schedule, the itinerary allowed for a number of glorious sea-days; five of which were specially themed for various events that occurred during the QE2’s career.
Each of these theme days were paired with commemorative collectible menus, specially written noon speeches broadcast by Captain Hashmi as well as themed daily programmes, delivered to each and every stateroom.
As the longest serving express liner in Cunard’s long history, the QE2 was unique among the fleet and to celebrate there were talks on these theme days about the company as well as QE2’s legacy from myself as well as past-QE2 Captain, Commodore Warwick and Maureen Ryan one of the ship’s original Social Hostesses and long-serving Cunarder.
The first of these themes was Triumph of a Great Tradition. This day paid tribute to the transatlantic ocean liner as well as QE2’s triumph over the great tradition of ocean voyages.
Special activities that day included a QE2 past passenger and crew gathering which I hosted along with Ed Moffatt, Queen Elizabeth’s assistant entertainment director. It was so popular that we held another three events like it, which saw guests, share their memorabilia collections that many had brought aboard the cruise.
This day will always be memorable for me as along with Rachelle Cross who was also aboard, we launched our newest book – QE2: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. There was a queue of passengers from the Golden Lion Pub to the Queens Room and we signed books for well over an hour – what a thrill!!
The next theme day was themed The Falklands, which acknowledged QE2’s role in the 1982 conflict. The key event that day was a first-hand account of the campaign from Commodore Warwick who served as part of QE2’s 600-person volunteer crew during the ship’s action in the South Atlantic.
Moving in Royal Circles followed, with the theme concentrating on QE2 (and Cunard’s) long connection with the Royal Family. QE2 hosted many members of the Royal Household during her career, with Prince Charles as the first official passenger back in 1968 and Prince Philip as her last on 11 November 2008 – not to mention a number of visits by HM. The Queen.
On 20 September as the Queen Elizabeth sailed to Gibraltar, QE2 Day was celebrated; with the theme of “I name this ship”. This marked the actual 50th Anniversary of the launch of QE2.
My talk about QE2’s long history kicked off the day’s celebrations, followed by a panel with Captain Ian McNaught (QE2’s last master) who joined Captain Hashmi (himself a former QE2 officer), Commodore Warwick and Maureen Ryan. The panel took unfiltered questions from the audience; which was a fun, engaging and entertaining way to learn more about QE2 and her legacy.
A QE2 Ball followed the gala dinner that evening. Here photographs and video of the ship were shown on screens in the Queens Room to the sounds of the Queen Elizabeth Orchestra.
Following the final port of call, one last theme day took place – The World’s Flagship. This day acknowledged QE2’s role as a ground-breaking dual-purpose liner, with her cruise ship capabilities allowing her to complete 26 world cruises and a number of extended voyages.
These world voyages made QE2 a celebrity worldwide and resulted in thousands of people in ports across the world growing affection for the greatest ocean liner of our time. During this, a QE2 Country Fair was held with over $5,000 raised for the Princes’ Trust Charity during the event.
The celebration voyage was a great success, with many happy passengers sharing their appreciation of the events at the final QE2 themed gathering on the last sea day.
It was a fitting way to acknowledge the great ship for all of us who had sailed or worked aboard her, while the few passengers who hadn’t travelled with QE2 left with a new appreciation for that remarkable ship.
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