Terry Hutson's cruise news & views

Sep 14, 2007
Author: Terry Hutson

Queen Victoria to get the royal nod of approval

In what has become something of a tradition, one that is no doubt fiercely guarded, Cunard’s latest passenger liner the 90,000 ton QUEEN VICTORIA is to be christened on 10 December 2007 by a member of the British Royal Family.

The ceremony will take place at Southampton before 2,000 invited VIP guests from around the world, during which Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall will officially name the ship QUEEN VICTORIA.

HRH The Duchess will be attending together with her husband Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the event is set to be one of the maritime social gatherings of the year, as far as the UK is concerned anyway. There is bound to be considerable international interest as well, as there is for any of the Cunard ships (quite apart from those who go ga-ga over everything royal).

Queen Victoria, 90,000 tons of lovely classic design, and set to sail from December. Image courtesy Cunard and White Star Cruise & Travel

“This will be an historic occasion,” says Carol Marlow, President and Managing Director of Cunard Line. “We are most honoured that Their Royal Highnesses have accepted our invitation and that Her Royal Highness will name our newest Cunarder. Every one of our Cunard Queens has been named by a member of the Royal Family and we are therefore delighted that Queen Victoria will follow in that tradition. In addition, this particular ceremony will mark the beginning of a new era, as it will be the first time in our 168-year history that we will have three Cunard Queens in service at the same time”.

In its press statement Cunard says that not only will Queen Victoria be a classic Cunard ocean liner, offering the very best of our heritage and traditions, but will also be the second largest Cunarder the company has ever built.

The grand ship will remain in Southampton for four days, during which something over 7,000 guests from around the world will descend on the port to visit the ship, which departs on her maiden voyage on the day following her naming, Tuesday, 11 December 2007.

Queen Victoria, at least in this scribe’s view, is one mighty impressive and regal looking lady (the ship, of course) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her become every bit as popular as QE2, the ship she replaces. She is certainly more balanced and therefore attractive than the massive and somewhat overbearing Queen Mary 2, and will have that added attraction of being able to sail into many ports denied her larger sibling on account of size.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to see the ship in all her glory out here on the African coast.

Even after all these years the old girl pulls them in...

Tomorrow (15 September) QE2, the grand old lady of ocean cruising (and liner operation, let it not be forgotten) will set off on a historic ‘lap of honour’ around Britain to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of her launching by HM Queen Elizabeth on 20 September 1967.

That’s a long time for any ship, not the least one that has remained in the limelight throughout, has soldiered on through one war (the Falklands) and completed umpteen circumnavigations of the globe. Not long after entering service the nature of passenger ships altered irrevocably, with transatlantic crossings fading away in face of the onslaught of modern airline travel – the age of the Boeing jets had arrived.

As a result Cunard had to reinvent itself and QE2 was turned into a ship suitable for cruising, then still in its infancy and nowhere near as certain of financial success as now. The transatlantic crossings continued, as they do today, but on a seasonal basis, and the world became QE2’s playground, with the ship completing a record 25 circumnavigations by the most recent count. She also managed to chalk up 801 transatlantic crossings and completed 5.6 million nautical miles – the most recorded by any passenger ship ever. Meanwhile some 2.5 million passengers paid to travel in her – which must surely be another record.

Still the world’s most famous ship, but now on her last ‘hurrah’ – picture by Allan Jackson

Now of course all that is about to come to an end. The ship has been sold to Arab interests and will become a floating hotel and conference centre in the calm (mostly) waters of Dubai, becoming yet another drawcard for that phenomenal city in the desert. But before she goes, QE2 has a few duties to complete, and it is one of these that commences tomorrow.

According to Cunard, while the primary purpose of the voyage is to celebrate the anniversary of QE2's launch, two other significant Cunard anniversaries will also be marked. One is the 100th anniversary of MAURETANIA’S departure from the Tyne for her first sea trials on 17 September (it’s no coincidence that this is the day QE2 will also be on the Tyne) and the 40th anniversary of QUEEN MARY’s final departure from New York (22 September).

When she slips her moorings at 5pm local time tomorrow, QE2 will be escorted by a flotilla of small boats and a display of daytime pyrotechnics – or fireworks to the rest of us. The ship will then sail around Britain, close enough inshore to be seen from many vantage points, weather permitting of course, and thousands are expected to venture out from the smaller harbours like Scarborough, Whitby, Sunderland and Hartlepool to wave to her as she goes by.

It’s all going to be awfully emotional and of course strongly patriotic, even allowing for the fact that the ship hasn’t been British for a long time. Which won’t stop the Poms of course… QE2 is THEIR ship, built on the Tyne and let no-one forget it.

QE2 will sail on the Firth of Fourth to receive a visit by dignitaries from Edinburgh including the Lord Provost, after which she crosses the north of Scotland to reach her birthplace, the Tyne, next Thursday (20 September) where the ship will no doubt again receive a welcome from thousands. Locals have vowed to turn the river into something of a floating red carpet, metaphorically speaking of course (don’t let the greenies nearby, whatever you do). Her arrival on the Clyde of course coincides to the day with her launching here 40 years earlier.

At a celebratory lunch in Greenock some 100 people who worked on building the ship will join the larnies on board to a lunch, with the ‘afters’ being a 20 minute display overhead by the Red Arrows, the aerobatic team of the Royal Air Force.

The exact moment of her launch at 2.28pm will be marked by the sounding of the ship’s whistle and a recording over the tannoy of the Queen launching the ship.

After crossing to the north of Scotland QE2 will next visit her spiritual home, Liverpool (where a new cruise terminal has just been opened), where the local Anglican Cathedral has been roped in for a Celebration Concert to be attended by all guests on board the QE2 and local civic leaders. Once again it will be a rousing display of patriotism, pomp and glory (and why not) during which tributes to the ship will be paid.

That night a fireworks display will light the skies over Liverpool – lock up or tranquilise your pets all you Liverpudians.

QE2s final day at sea on this voyage, on the 22 September, while completing what the Spanish Armada couldn’t, also marks the last sailing of the old Queen Mary, and by happy coincidence (of course) QE2 and the present Queen Mary 2 will pass each other shortly after dinner is over – the larger ship being outward bound for New York.

This is another of those special re-enacted occasions, being the first time two Cunard Queens have passed each other at sea since Queen Mary passed Queen Elizabeth in mid-Atlantic (guess what… 40 years ago) on 25 September 1967.

Most guests will be lining the decks for this re-enactment.

The 40th Anniversary Voyage was sold out as long ago as 2005, soon after going on sale.

RCCL eyes the French market

Further indications of how well-established cruise operators are going further afield and outside of their ‘comfort zones’ to look for new markets comes with the news that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) is getting ready to launch a new brand that targets the French market.

The new company, Croisieres de France (CDF) will at least initially make use of the HOLIDAY DREAM, a 1982-build former Hapag Lloyd cruise ship, which our records show as being of 37,012-gt and a capacity for 750 passengers. Holiday Dream currently operates with Pullmantur, RCCL’s existing Spanish brand operating in the Spanish market.

CDF begins operating the new French service from the beginning of the second quarter of 2008 when the ship will be renamed BLEU DE FRANCE.

The vessel was built at the Bremer Vulcan shipyards in Germany for Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten and when launched as the EUROPA was considered to be the last thing in luxury and class. Since then and several charters and sales later, the ship has operated under the names SUPERSTAR EUROPE and SUPERSTAR ARIES. In 2005 as the Spanish gained enthusiasm for the magic of cruising, she went to Pullmantur.

End of the line for SS NORWAY

SS NORWAY passing Cape Town in July 2005 while under tow, bound for Malaysia and supposedly (but incorrectly as it turned out), for conversion and a return to cruising. Instead the ship was sold for breaking up. Picture by Ian Shiffman

Talking of French ships, the curtain appears to have come down on the former SS NORWAY (the former SS FRANCE) when India’s Supreme Court issued its long-awaited finding that the ship, now called BLUE LADY, can be dismantled on the beaches at Alang.

It’s taken more than a year for the Supreme Court to finally make up its collective mind on this issue, after the ship was illegally beached in June 2006 in the face of strong opposition from environmentalist bodies and shiplovers across the world. Earlier that year Bangladesh banned the ship from its waters on account of reports of toxic substances on board.

Environmentalists claim the Blue Lady carries large amounts of toxic substances including asbestos cladding – something in excess of 1,000 tonnes (which is denied), and radio-active items such as about 5,500 smoke detectors.

The court’s ruling said the situation was already a fate accompli in that the ship was on the beach with little likelihood that she could be safely refloated. Nevertheless the judges asked Indian authorities to take the required precautionary measures to ensure nobody comes to harm while dismantling the former transatlantic liner.

The judges said they based their decision on the report submitted by the expert committee appointed to examine the claims and counterclaims and the facts pertaining to the ship. This committee had to recommend whether it was safe to dismantle the vessel.

"Since the court has accepted the technical expert committee report, we permit the Blue Lady to be dismantled," said Supreme Court judge SH Kapadia.

Environmentalists say they will not accept this ruling and intend filing a revision petition.

Deutschland returns

The flagship of Peter Deilmann Cruises, the 22,496-gt DEUTSCHLAND is returning to Africa on her 2008/09 world cruise.

It has been several years since Deutschland last visited South Africa – on one of her former visits I took a coastal cruise on board this lovely ship and experienced at first hand the genuineness of the publicised Old World cruising standard. If this is really what Old World cruising is all about then I’m all for it – rather this than some beer fest at sea for four days. But then who am I to be so choosy? Ah… we can but dream.

With her teak decks and well appointed classic staterooms, spacious cabins, decorative lounges and dining rooms and a fully personalised service it becomes easy to slip into the habit of thinking this is the way it is all supposed to be (and what I was born for).

One amusing incident from that journey – the menu, which was otherwise excellent in presentation, offered meals in both German and English. Not being a German speaker I can’t comment on that side of the menu but on the English half those of us at our table were puzzled by the translation of several items – one of which read ‘Jumping Buck Leg’. Eventually one of our group left to enquire, and came back with the explanation ‘Roast Leg of Springbok’.

The gourmet food on that short voyage was excellent, the ambience even better. I liked the ship.

The 2008/09 world cruise has 33 itineraries ranging from 5 nights to 20 nights and will include visits to remote Spitsbergen at one end of the globe and Cape Town at the other. Also included on the tour is the Middle East, India, South East Asia with visits to Bali and Borneo, Vietnam and ports in Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. In southern Africa the ships visits Walvis Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban, with visits to Zanzibar, Mombasa, the Seychelles, Maldives, Madagascar and Mauritius among others.

The nine-deck Deutschland is rated five star and has all the usual on-board attractions (don’t look for a casino however, at least there wasn’t one when I travelled on her – another reason to like her).

More details of her visit to southern Africa will appear in PORTS & SHIPS in the Cruise Schedule, which is now in preparation.


SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER in Cape Town earlier this year. Picture by Bob Johnston

Liverpool’s new City Cruise Terminal opened this past week at the Pier Head when the SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER docked alongside. Since then it has already received visits from DEUTSCHLAND and OCEAN MAJESTY, but her crowning glory will come on next Friday when QE2 arrives to officially inaugurate the facility.

The new terminal has been several years under construction.

More cruising news next time



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