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Friday 2 October 2015

QM2 - the word's largest ocean liner

The RMS Queen Mary 2 was introduced in 2004 and is the largest, longest, tallest and widest passenger liner in the world today, writes Alex Naughton.

When she entered service she took over the mantle of the transatlantic ocean liner tradition from the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Remarkably she is the first true transatlantic ocean liner to be built for over 30 years since the introduction of the QE2.

RMS Queen Mary 2 - the Biggest Ocean Liner in the World (supplied)
She is a dual role ship combining the transatlantic crossing (Southampton to New York) and world cruising. When not on the transatlantic route she cruises around European waters, the Caribbean and to South America. In 2006 she will make a historic voyage around South America from New York to Los Angeles, thus becoming the largest passenger liner to pass the Cape Horn and circumnavigate South America since the original RMS Queen Mary. In 2007 she will make yet another historic voyage when she departs on her Maiden World Cruise and thus joins the QE2 in this noble tradition.

Design and Construction (1998 – 2003):

It took 33 years from the maiden voyage of the RMS Queen Mary for Cunard to finally commission the replacement ship to the original Queens, the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. But as things have turned out there has been an even greater time interval between the entry into service of the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and the new flagship, the RMS Queen Mary 2.

Since her entry into service till 2000 the QE2 had exceeded all expectations in her unique dual role, attracting an unrivalled reputation as a cruise ship and proving without a doubt that there is still a continuing interest in scheduled transatlantic crossings, albeit only in the summer months.

The QE2’s passengers, rather than arriving dishevelled, disorientated, stressed and unprepared for their business meetings, they can adapt gradually to changing time zones, relaxing in the vibrant ocean air, while connected to the outside world via modern telecommunications. They also have plenty of time to prepare for demanding business meetings without distraction and without irritating their fellow passengers. Also transatlantic crossings by sea are scarcely longer than a long weekend, causing little impact on work schedules. The QE2 also has demonstrated that on cruises with the right mix of itinerary accompanied by impeccable shipboard service will overcome any impediment that size may have in restricting her operations. Besides today the QE2 is a comparatively small ship when compared to today’s giant cruise ships.

Cunard QM2
QM2 (supplied)

In the mid 1990s the climate was still unsuitable for considering a successor to the renowned QE2. However when Cunard was purchased by Carnival Corporation in 1998 the financial outlook changed and it became possible to seriously contemplate a new Cunarder. In June 1998 Cunard Line announce Project Queen Mary to build a successor to the QE2, to create the world’s largest and most expensive liner ever but one that will be a true transatlantic liner and not a cruise ship. In May 1999 Cunard unveiled preliminary plans for the new ship and announced that the ship would be bigger than the previous Cunard Queens, the France, and the Normandie. It was always anticipated that any new Cunard Queen would be impressive. But what resulted was the largest passenger liner ever built. She would also be fitted with the most technologically advanced propulsion, stabilisation and environmental protection systems. She would also be lavishly appointed (in a style that evoked memories of the previous Cunard Queens but yet had a distinct modern flavour). She would also introduce amenities and features never before seen on board a ship. She would be a record breaker in every aspect except for her maximum speed. The record of the United States would remain unchallenged. She would exceed the then largest cruise ships, the Voyager of the Seas class cruise ships, and would also exceed the dimensions of the Norway (former France) and indeed the RMS Queen Elizabeth.

Cunard Line and Carnival Corporation declared their firm intention to build a new Cunard superliner on the 8th June 1998 and later on the 10th March 2000 the order for the new giant was confirmed when the letter of intent was signed with her builders – Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St Navaire, France. Later on the 6th November 2000 the formal contract was signed. This ship would not be British built like her predecessors as Britain no longer had the shipyard skills or capacity to build such a ship so sadly the order had to go abroad. Thus the new Queen was different to her predecessors in that she would be truly international (rather than exclusively British) in both her origins and operation. She would be British designed and registered under the British flag with a British master and officers. But she would be American financed; French built and have an international crew.

The new ship was given the yard number G32, but unlike the old RMS Queen Mary there would be no mystery as to her name. She would be known as the RMS Queen Mary 2, and like the QE2 she was the second ship of the name and was named to honour her illustrious predecessor. After completion of model tank tests in February 2001 her construction accelerated and in June 2001 the general arrangement plans for the interiors of the new Queen Mary 2 are completed and announced by Cunard and on the 16th January 2002 the first steel for the ship was cut. As a modular construction method was used, as is typical in today’s modern shipbuilding industry and like many modern cruise ships, her construction was rapid in comparison to her predecessors with a total construction time of just 33 months. On the 26th April 2002 the QE2 departs Fort Lauderdale with one of the original whistles from the RMS Queen Mary which is destined for use on the new Queen Mary 2 along with a replica. Thus appropriately the new Queen Mary 2 will have the same voice as the old Queen Mary. The QE2 arrived in Southampton with her special cargo on the 18th May 2002. On the 11th June 2002 Cunard release the first brochure of the new Queen Mary 2.

On the 4th July 2002 a ceremony was held to mark the laying of her keel. The ceremony took place exactly the same day that Cunard’s first ship Britannia set sail from Liverpool on its first transatlantic crossing to New York 162 years ago. In the QM2’s keel laying ceremony according to tradition a commemorative Queen’s Golden Jubilee £5 coin (To mark the country where the ship’s home port will be) and a silver French 100 Franc coin (To mark the country where the ship was built) were placed under her new keel. The 5th July 2002 marked the 37th Anniversary of the keel laying of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in Glasgow in 1965. On the 15th July 2002 Cunard announce that the first Master of the Queen Mary 2 will be Captain Ronald Warwick, currently Master of the QE2. His father, Commordore Bil Warwick, was also the first Captain of the QE2 when she first entered service. Her engines were installed in January 2003 and her funnel on the 14th March 2003. On the 16th March 2003 the QM2 Dry Dock Party is held at the St Navaire shipyard and the Carnival Mast Stepping Ceremony took place. In the early hours of the 21st March 2003 with little fanfare the Queen Mary 2 was floated out into her element for the first time and she was transferred to her fitting out berth. On the 28th May 2003 the new Queen Mary 2 is drydocked again for the fitting of her propulsion pods. On the 22nd June 2003 painting of the Queen Mary 2 into traditional Cunard livery begins. On the 20th August 2003 the new propulsion pods on the Queen Mary 2 are tested for the first time.

Her designer, the British marine architect Stephen Payne, built her to be a true transatlantic ocean liner with classic hull lines and is designed to cope with the heavy North Atlantic seas, even at her full service speed of 30 knots. But yet she has a draft of only 32ft. Her design is inspired by modern and historic ships such as Normandie, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Rotterdam, the QE2 and of course modern cruise ships.

Her main engines comprise two General Electric LM2500+ aeroderivative gas turbine generators and four Wartsila diesel generators in a CoDaG (Combined Diesel and Gas) configuration, the powerplant providing 118 MW of electrical power for the propulsion equipment and for all on board services. Propulsion is by four hydrodynamically shaped Rolls-Royce Marine “Mermaid” pods (the first ever installation of this number on one ship) – two fixed and two of the azimuth or 360 degree rotation variety. This arrangement removes the need for a conventional rudder while delivering maximum manoeuvrability along with low noise and minimal vibration. Weighing 250 tons, each pod, generating 21.5 MW of propulsive power, is heavier than a fully laden Boeing 747 airliner.

The Queen Mary 2 undertook her first sea trials on the 25th September 2003 and she returned to the shipyard on the 28th September 2003. On the 7th November 2003 she headed to sea again for her second sea trials which continued until the 11th November 2003 when she returned to the shipyard. These trials took place off the French coast and she consistently exceeded 30 knots on three runs along a 10 mile course and passed with flying colours rigorous tests of her power output, vibration levels, manoeuvrability and stability. Sadly on the 15th November 2003 tragedy strikes the Queen Mary 2 when in dry dock during a ship workers family visit to the ship a gangway collapses by accident killing 16 people and injuring 32. The following day French president Jacques Chirac visits the scene to comfort relatives. On the 22nd Dec 2003 the Queen Mary 2 is officially handed over to Cunard and sails from St Navaire bound for Southampton via Vigo, Spain.

"I name this ship Queen Mary 2. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

Words of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Naming Ceremony, 8th January 2004.

On the 26th December 2003, slightly later than planned, the Queen Mary 2 arrives in Southampton for the first time on Boxing Day at 1pm after delivery from her builders Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique at St Navaire, France amid great celebrations at the Port of Southampton. That day her captain, Captain Ronald Warwick, is promoted to the rank Commodore. Then after a series of shakedown cruises the ship is officially named by HM Queen Elizabeth II in a lavish ceremony at the QEII Terminal in Southampton. In a speech at the ceremony the President of Cunard Line announces that Royal Mail have awarded the Royal Mail designation to the Queen Mary 2 thus meaning that she can be called RMS Queen Mary 2 and fly the Royal Mail pennant. The ship then undertook a further series of shakedown cruises prior to her maiden voyage to Fort Lauderdale.

The Maiden Seasons (2003 – 2007):

Finally amid much celebration and a spectacular fireworks display the RMS Queen Mary 2 departed on her maiden voyage on the 12th January 2004, unusually bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA via Las Palmas, Funchal and Barbados. She arrived in Fort Lauderdale on the 26th January 2004 and is welcomed by Governor Jeb Bush (brother of President George W. Bush) amid great celebrations. For the next few months she sails from Fort Lauderdale on a series of Caribbean cruises and on the 11th February 2004 she sails to Rio de Janiero for the first time for the Rio Carnival and on the 17th February 2003 she crosses the Equator for the first time. On the 26th March 2003 she retraced the route of her maiden voyage and returned to Southampton from Fort Lauderdale to prepare for her maiden transatlantic crossing to New York. This finally took place on the 16th April 2004 amid great celebration when she departed Southampton at 17:00 on her maiden transatlantic crossing westbound. A special Pullman boat train was operated by VSOE from London to Southampton Docks in connection with this momentous event.

On the 25th April 2004 after meeting up with the QE2 for the first time in New York (this occasion being the first time two Cunard Queens had been seen in New York together since the Second World War) both ships, in an event unparallel in the history of transatlantic travel, sailed from New York together bound for Southampton. On the 1st May 2004 both ships arrive in Southampton together and this marks the first occasion since the old Cunard Queens that Southampton had seen two Cunard Queens in port together. Then in a special ceremony the flagship status was handed from the QE2 to the new RMS Queen Mary 2 as the Boston Cup was transferred from the QE2. Traditionally the flagship of the Cunard fleet always carries the Boston Cup on board. From this time onwards the RMS Queen Mary 2 would be the Cunard flagship and take on the mantle of the transatlantic crossing from the QE2. Again a special Pullman boat train was operated by VSOE from Southampton to London for passengers from both ships. On the 19th July 2004 the Queen Mary 2 made her maiden call at Hamburg in Germany.

On the 3rd August 2004 the Queen Mary 2 set sail from Southampton on a special positioning cruise to Piraeus / Athens in Greece to position her for use as the flagship hotel ship during the Athens Olympic Games from the 12th to 30th August 2004. Former US President George Bush Snr. Is one of the notable visitors on board the ship. On the 30th August 2004 she departed Athens on a cruise to return her home to Southampton.

Later that year on the 19th September 2004 the Queen Mary 2 departed New York on her first cruise to Canada, homeland of Sir Samuel Cunard (Founder of Cunard Line), and makes maiden calls at Halifax and Quebec City.

On the 12th January 2005 the Queen Mary 2 celebrated her first birthday. On the 15th May 2005 she made her maiden call at Cannes for the Cannes Film Festival and the renowned film director, George Lucas, was presented with the “Trophy of the Festival” in a special ceremony on board the Queen Mary 2. On the 11th July 2005 the Queen Mary 2 continued the tradition of carrying Royal Mails on the transatlantic service when she carried the first author signed copy of J.K. Rowling’s new “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” book from Southampton to New York for its US launch.

On the 29th July 2005 during an extended call in Oslo, Norway, the Queen Mary 2 had one of her two gas turbines replaced. The ship sailed about five hours later than originally scheduled but Cunard announced that the maintenance would not affect the ship's itinerary. The two turbines, situated beneath the funnel, are used to provide the ship with higher speeds, while her four diesel engines handle the bulk of the ship's power needs.

On the 15th August 2005 (VJ Day), the RMS Queen Mary 2 was berthed in Southampton, like her predecessor RMS Queen Mary 60 years before. In 1945 the RMS Queen Mary was in port and celebrated the end of the Second World War by sounding her whistle to announce to the citizens of Southampton that the war was finally over and the Japanese had surrendered. In 2005 the new RMS Queen Mary 2 recreated the role of her illustrious predecessor and also sounded her whistle this time marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Remarkably one of the RMS Queen Mary 2’s whistles is an original from the RMS Queen Mary and was sounded in 1945! At the same time the RMS Queen Mary 2’s Master, officers and crew were awarded the Freedom of the City of Southampton. The awarding of the Freedom of the City of Southampton is a double honour for Cunard Line as the QE2 was awarded this honour in 1990 on the occasion of Cunard Line’s 150th Anniversary, and so now both Cunard Line’s famous ocean liners have this honour.

From the 8th November to the 19th November 2005 the RMS Queen Mary 2 was drydocked and overhauled for the first time since she entered service. She was drydocked at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany and classification work and repainting was carried out and the propulsion units, anchor winches and the four stablizers were all overhauled.

On the 12th January 2006 the Queen Mary 2 celebrates her second birthday. Her first two years have seen her complete 39 Atlantic crossings, sail 276,000 nautical miles, visit 67 different ports in 27 countries and carry almost 230,000 passengers of over 70 nationalities. She has been a crowd-puller at every port she has visited for the first time; almost three million turned out when she sailed up the east coast of England at close range, followed by half a million in Hamburg in August 2005.

On the 15th January 2006 the Queen Mary 2 made a historic voyage when she set sail from New York on her “South America Odyssey” cruise bound for Los Angeles via Cape Horn and thus became the largest ever ocean liner to circumnavigate South America. The last Cunard Queen to sail these waters was the RMS Queen Mary on her Last Great Cruise in 1968 to her permanent home in Long Beach, California, USA for preservation. However on the 17th January 2006 the Queen Mary 2 hits an underwater object and damages one of her propulsion pods off Fort Lauderdale. As a result she was forced to return to port. On the 19th January 2006 after inspection by the US Coast Guard she was cleared for departure and set sail bound for Los Angeles running on 3 pods. However due to the delay she was forced to miss out three Caribbean ports of call and shorten other calls on her voyage around South America. On the 22nd January 2006 the BBC reported that some furious passengers were threatening to mutiny and refuse to leave their cabins when the ship reaches her next port of call at Rio de Janiero to prevent the ship continuing her journey to Los Angeles. On the 24th January 2006 the BBC discovered that a UK law firm was to take legal action against Cunard Line on behalf of the upset passengers. Reports were received from passengers on board that the cruise was becoming rough as the Queen Mary 2 was deploying her stabilisers less in order to travel at speed to make up time, as she was two days late, in order to reach Rio de Janiero by the 27th January 2006. However this is apparently causing mass sea sickness among the passengers and some of the crew. On the 27th January 2006 the Queen Mary 2 arrived in Rio de Janiero one day late. The President of Cunard Line then boarded the ship and placated the furious passengers by offering them instead a full refund. As a result the passengers dropped their lawsuit and flew home to the UK. The Queen Mary 2 then continued on her voyage around South America, avoiding any further controversy. The Queen Mary 2 arrived in Los Angeles on the 22nd February 2006 after her momentous and historic voyage. On the 23rd February 2006 the Queen Mary 2 met up with the original Queen Mary at Long Beach for the first time as she called at Long Beach in the "Royal Rendezvous".

23rd February 2006: The Meeting of the Queen Marys "The Royal Rendezvous"(Long Beach, California, USA)


After her Royal Rendezvous with the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the Queen Mary 2 returned to Los Angeles on the 25th February 2006. That day the RMS Queen Mary 2 departed Los Angeles on her "Royal Hawaiian Liner" cruise to Hawaii amid great fanfare, returning to Los Angeles on the 8th March 2006. On the 8th March 2006 she departed Los Angeles eastbound back around South America bound for New York where she arrived on the 15th April 2006 after another historic and momentous voyage.

On the 15th April 2006 the RMS Queen Mary 2 shifts her New York terminal from the Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan to the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The QE2 will also call at the new terminal on her annual World Cruises instead of at the Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan. Sadly this will mean that these ships no longer sail up the River Hudson past the Manhattan skyline to the Passenger Ship Terminal there in central Manhattan.

The 23rd April 2006 marked another notable occasion in the life of the two Cunard Queens when once again they were together in their homeport of Southampton.

This St George’s Day also was a notable occasion for the Port of Southampton as it was the first occasion since the 1960s that 5 cruise liners were in port together. In addition to the QE2 (berth 105 Western Docks), Queen Mary 2 (QEII Terminal Berth 38/9 Eastern Docks) being in port there was also the Oceana (Mayflower Cruise Terminal Berth 106 Western Docks), Saga Ruby and Saga Rose (both berthed at the City Cruise Terminal in Western Docks). In late morning the QE2 left her berth in Western Docks and sailed out past the Queen Mary 2 exchanging blasts on their whistles as the QE2 sailed to Bremerhaven for a refit. She will return to service on the 8th May 2006. This occasion also marked the first time that the two Saga sisters (former Sagafjord and Vistafjord now reunited in the Saga Cruises fleet) were in port in Southampton together.

The Departures were as follows:

11:30 – 12:30 QE2 departs Western Docks bound for refit in Bremerhaven, Germany.

17:00 Oceana departs the Mayflower Cruise Terminal in Western Docks bound on a cruise to the Canary Islands.

17:00 Saga Rose departs the City Cruise Terminal in Western Docks bound on a cruise to Egypt.

18:00 Queen Mary 2 departs from the QEII Terminal in Eastern Docks on a transatlantic voyage to New York.

18:30 Saga Ruby departs the City Cruise Terminal in Western Docks bound on a cruise to the Atlantic Isles.

On the 5th May 2006 the Queen Mary 2 departs Southampton bound for Hamburg for dry docking to have her damaged propulsion pod removed for repair. She returns to service on the 11th May 2006 with a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords from Southampton. On the 13th May 2006 while on this cruise to the Norwegian Fjords a Filipino crew member was injured during a fight on board. He was airlifted to hospital but sadly died en route. A team of British detectives from Hampshire Police was flown out to the ship to investigate the death. Hampshire Police are conducting the investigation as the ship is registered in Southampton. The ship continued its cruise as planned and is due to arrive back in Southampton on the 17th May 2006.

In 2006 she also commences transatlantic crossings from Hamburg to New York via Southampton and Southampton to Fort Lauderdale as well as the traditional Southampton to New York route. The first "eastbound transatlantic crossing" from New York to Hamburg via Southampton departs on the 8th July 2006. The first "westbound transatlantic crossing" from Hamburg to New York departs on the 16th July 2006. While the first "westbound transatlantic crossing" from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale departs on the 18th November 2006.

On the 31st July 2006 Commodore Ronald Warwick OBE, LLD, FNI retired after 36 years service with Cunard Line after hosting his final crossing on board the RMS Queen Mary 2 from New York where they departed on the 24th July 2006. During the voyage the Commodore and his wife, Kim, hosted a variety of functions during the 6 day voyage. Special lunches were held in the Commodore's honour in both New York and Southampton and all the passengers took part in a "Commodore's Dinner" during the voyage complete with commemorative menu. Captaining the Cunard Queens is something of a Warwick family tradition. Commodore Warwick holds the unique distinction in Cunard Line's long history of notable Captains by following in the footsteps of his late father, Commodore William Warwick CBE, who sailed as master of the RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Queen Elizabeth, and then the first master of the QE2 in 1968. He also was promoted to Commodore of the Fleet in 1970. Commodore Ronald Warwick joined Cunard Line as a Third Officer in 1970. He first sailed as Captain in 1986 on board the Cunard Princess, and also sailed in command of the Cunard Countess and Cunard Crown Dynasty until his appointment as Master of the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 in July 1990. From April 1996 he sailed permanently as senior Master on board the QE2 until his appointment as Master-designate of the new RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2002. He continued as Master of the RMS Queen Mary 2 since then. In December 2003 he was promoted to the rank of Commodore of the Fleet. In June 2005 his service to the Merchant Navy was recognised by his being awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Commodore Warwick also holds the rank of Captain in the Royal Naval Reserve and is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute. Once the Queen Mary 2 arrived in Southampton a traditional bagpipe procession signalled a jubilant send off for Cunard Line's Commodore Ronald Warwick on the 31st July 2006 following the conclusion of his farewell transatlantic crossing in command of the RMS Queen Mary 2. Cunard Line's President Carol Marlow escorted the Commodore after distinguished guests and crew gathered aboard the Queen Mary 2 to celebrate in his honour. Departing in style the Commodore and his wife waved goodbye to the hundreds of QM2 well wishers before being flown home by helicopter to their cottage in nearby Somerset. The revered seaman and Cunard legend has sailed into virtually every port in the world, navigating the QE2 and the Queen Mary 2, the most famous ocean liners in the world. Happy retirement Commodore!

On the 10th August 2006 a traditional Royal Mail postbox was installed on board the RMS Queen Mary 2. The postbox on the Queen Mary 2 is located outside the Golden Lion Pub. Stamps, including an exclusive QM2 stamp available only onboard, can be purchased at the Pursers Desk. The postbox recalls Cunard Line's unique place in history as the first provider of transatlantic mail service between England and the USA. When Samuel Cunard was awarded the rights to the first transatlantic mail shipping contract it gave his company the right to use RMS (Royal Mail Ship) as a prefix to the ships' names. This tradition continues today in the 21st century as the Queen Mary 2 is also a Royal Mail Ship and hence has RMS before her name. The Queen Mary 2 is not alone in having a postbox, as the QE2 also has a Royal Mail postbox located outside the library on Quarter Deck. This tradition is set to continue when the Queen Victoria enters service in 2007 as she too will have a Royal Mail postbox onboard.

11th November 2006 the Queen Mary 2 sails from Southampton to Hamburg for dry docking to have her damaged propulsion pod that was removed in May 2006 for repair refitted. She returns to service on the 18th November 2006 with a cruise from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale.

The Age of the Three Cunard Queens (2007 - 2008):

In 2007 the Queen Mary 2 is set to make history again when on the 10th January 2007 she departs Fort Lauderdale on her Maiden World Cruise. This voyage will be undertaken at the same time as the legendary QE2 makes her Silver Jubilee World Cruise marking her 25th circumnavigation of the world. In fact the two Cunard Queens are set to leave Fort Lauderdale together on the 10th January 2007 and thus the QE2 will induct the RMS Queen Mary 2 into the tradition of world cruising like she did with the transatlantic crossing in 2004. The two Queens will sail on different itineraries but will meet up again on the 20th February 2007 in Sydney. This occasion is also notable as it will be the first time two Cunard Queens have been seen in Sydney since the wartime visits of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in 1941 and 1942 on their troopship duties during the Second World War.

QM2 Royal Voyage around Australia
QM2 maiden visit to Sydney

20th February 2007: The Meeting of the Two Cunard Queens "The Royal Rendezvous"(Sydney, Australia)


The Queen Mary 2 will arrive in Southampton on the 26th February 2007 at the end of her epic Maiden World Cruise during which she will have made her second circumnavigation of South America and maiden calls at numerous ports around the world and also made her maiden passage through the Suez Canal.

In May 2007 the Queen Mary 2 is chartered by an American tour company, RSVP Vacations, for the first ever transatlantic crossing for gay and lesbian passengers only. The voyage departs from New York on the 29th May 2007 and arrives in Southampton on the 4th June 2007.
In 2007 the Queen Mary 2, the only ocean liner offering regular scheduled transatlantic crossings, offers an expanded programme of 22 six-day crossings between New York and Southampton from April through to October 2007. In addition, QM2 will introduce one seven-day crossing from Le Havre, France and four eight-day crossings from Hamburg, Germany in 2007; all including calls in Southampton for sightseeing in and around London. On the 25th June 2007 the Queen Mary 2 departs Le Havre on her first "westbound transatlantic crossing" from Le Havre to New York via Southampton.

On the 22nd September 2007, the Queen Mary 2 while outbound from Southampton bound for New York passed the QE2 inbound to Southampton during her 40th Anniversary Voyage around the UK. This was the QE2's final day at sea en route back to Southampton, activities on board marked the last sailing of the Queen Mary and after dinner the QE2 passed her newer sister Queen Mary 2 outbound from Southampton to New York. This historic occasion marked the first time two Cunard Queens had passed at sea since the Queen Mary passed the Queen Elizabeth for the final time in mid Atlantic 40 years ago on the 25th September 1967. Passengers crowded the decks of both ships to watch this historic sight. It was a truly momentous sight.

On the 13th January 2008 another remarkable historic moment occurs in the history of Cunard Line when the RMS Queen Mary 2 meets the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Victoria in New York. The RMS Queen Mary 2 was returning from a "Connoisseurs Caribbean" cruise while the QE2 and Queen Victoria had arrived from Southampton on the first leg of their tandem World Cruises. Indeed it was the Queen Victoria's Maiden World Cruise and the QE2's final World Cruise in light of her impending retirement in November 2008 which was announced on the 18th June 2007. So the Three Cunard Queens met for the first and perhaps last time.

On the 13th January 2008 New York witnessed maritime history as fireworks and fanfare marked the first and only meeting of the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2 and the new Queen Victoria. The regal fleet departed at 6.30 pm and Queen Mary 2 will depart from her American home port, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, while the QE2 will depart from Pier 92 and Queen Victoria will depart from Pier 88 both at the Manhatten "New York Cruise Terminal". Then the three mighty Queens will rendezvous and sail past the Statue of Liberty during a spectacular fireworks celebration at around 7pm. This is the first time in Cunard's long history that three Queens have been in service at the same time and with the QE2 retiring in November 2008 it will be the only time they will be in service together. It was truly maritime history in the making.

"This is a historic occasion for Cunard and New York, marking the only time that the three ships will be together ever! More history will be made as our grande dame QE2 departs on her 26th and final World Cruise and the Queen Victoria will depart on her maiden World Cruise."

Words of Carol Marlow (President and Managing Director of Cunard Line)

On the 22nd April 2008 a remarkable and historic sight not seen in Southampton before and one that will never be repeated again will take place when all three Cunard liners are in port together.This once in a lifetime event will bring together the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 for a unique event on the Southampton waterfront. At about 5.30pm the QM2 leaves her berth at the QEII Terminal in Eastern Docks and travels astern to a position close to her sister ships when all three bows will be pointing down Southampton Water. Originally the ships' timetable of voyages meant many Southampton people were disappointed they would be denied this one-off sight, but last minute changes to QE2's schedule has resulted in the city having the unique opportunity of seeing the three Queens together. Earlier this year, in January, the three Cunard ships did all meet up on the same day in New York in what was then thought to be a unique occasion but now, unexpectedly, Southampton will also have the opportunity to witness this dramatic sight. On the day, QM2 will be at Cunard's normal berth in the Eastern Docks, Queen Victoria will be at the City Cruise Terminal, next door to Mayflower Park, while QE2 will be further up the Western Docks at berth 105. All three ships will sound their whistles in salute before Queen Mary 2 departs on her first transatlantic crossing of 2008 (her 81st crossing) followed by Queen Victoria embarking on her first voyage to Iberia and the Canaries. After both QM2 and Queen Victoria leave the docks, QE2 will remain in port for the following nine days undergoing a maintenance period and refit in preparation for the final part of her cruise programme. QE2 is expected to remain alongside 105 berth until April 27 when she leaves on a cruise to Spain and the Canary Islands.
"We are delighted that this unexpected opportunity for Southampton to host our three ocean liners arose after we took the recent decision to have QE2’s scheduled 2008 refit in her homeport. We would like as many people as possible to witness this historic spectacle”.

Words of Carol Marlow (President and Managing Director of Cunard Line)

Later in 2008 the RMS Queen Mary 2 made her farewell to the QE2 with two tandem transatlantic crossings with her iconic sister. On the 10th October 2008 the RMS Queen Mary 2 departs from Southampton in tandem with the QE2 bound for New York. The QE2 was on her "Final New York Arrival Crossing" and the QM2 was on a "Westbound Transatlantic Crossing". The two ships arrived in New York together on the 16th October 2008 with the QE2 making her emotional final farewell to New York, her North American homeport. This voyage went down in history as only the second ever tandem westbound transatlantic crossing to be undertaken. The first, of course, was the tandem crossing from Southampton to New York undertaken by the QE2 and Queen Victoria earlier in 2008 while on the first leg of their tandem World Cruises.

On the 16th October 2008 the two ships again departed New York in tandem once again bound for Southampton. The QM2 sailing on a "Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing" and making her final farewell to the QE2 on its last transatlantic crossing. The QE2 was making her final departure from New York on a "Farewell to America Crossing" and her 806th and final transatlantic crossing. Thus the QE2 bade farewell to New York and America for the last time, never to return.

Indeed their arrival back in Southampton on the 22nd October 2008 was the last time the QE2 and the RMS Queen Mary 2 met before the QE2 is retired from service in November 2008 and heads off to retirement in Dubai. A truly sad occasion.

The New Cunard Age (2008 onwards):

With the retirement of the legendary QE2 in November 2008, Cunard Line entered a new era with a modern two ship fleet consisting of the RMS Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria.

In 2009 both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria will undertake their second World Cruise. Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will circumnavigate the globe during voyages of 84 and 107 days, meeting in Ft. Lauderdale for a spectacular Royal Rendezvous on the 13th January 2009. The Queen Mary 2 will depart on her second World Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, simultaneously with her sister ship Queen Victoria, on the 13th January 2009. She will then set sail on a 84-day Epic Expedition to 24 ports on five continents. Included is a port call to Alexandria (for Cairo/Giza) affording visits to the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. The ship will journey in a westward direction, sailing around South America to Los Angeles, across the Pacific to Honolulu, Hawaii. From there, stops include Pago Pago, American Samoa; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Her journey ends in Southampton on the 8th April 2009.

It seems that the RMS Queen Mary 2 is fast becoming a most remarkable ship and is sure to be a legend like the QE2 before long.

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