If you have read my previous A-Z posts, you will know that I used to have strong links with the cruise industry despite a personal aversion to cruising.
I used to work with all he major cruise lines of the world and as part of my role I have held meetings and dined on ships owned by P&O, Norwegian Cruise Lines, MSC, Louis Cruises, Costa Crociere, Star Clippers, Seabourne, Silversea & Carnival, but my favourite visit ever was to Cunard’s iconic Queen Elizabeth II (QE2) where I dined in 1999.
The great vessel that was launched in 1969 and was then Cunard’s flag ship was actually an ocean going liner, a far sleeker design than modern cruise ships and a real throwback to the bygone age of Titanic and the White Star Line. It even still ran a class system on board with separate dining rooms for first and second class passengers. OK pretty dated by today’s standard, but a ship steeped in history.
It was all mahogany, polished brass and fabulous works of art for my three-hour tour and five-course lunch. All very grand. She is now permanently docked in Dubai, where she acts as a floating hotel.
A few years later I was invited on her new sister ship the Queen Mary II (QM2), whilst she was docked in Southampton ahead of her inaugural cruise. I took my sister and we were very happy to act as guinea pigs to test out the catering and other logistics. Very nice the ship was too, although the highlight was when my sister commented that they had designer quilt covers. “I have never heard of LUGGAGE,” she uttered as she looks at the luggage mat at the end of the bed. Thankfully only I heard the comment, which we still laugh about heartily.
I have actually also viewed QMI, on a business trip to LA in 2003. She is permanently moored in Long Beach, where she plies her trade as a hotel, dining venue and exhibition centre.
My final queen related story took place during the real Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. It had been arranged for the three current queens (the ships Mary, Victoria and the new Elizabeth ) to all be in Southampton at the same time as homage to the current majesty. Ever the ship spotter, I talked Mrs Wilbur into accompanying me on a Red Funnel ferry to sale around the harbour viewing the three queens before they set sale for somewhere more interesting.
Unfortunately it hammered down incessantly so that we got very wet and the glorious firework send off was little more than a damp squib. Oh well, at least I made the effort.