Cunard Trio Sails Together for First -- and Last -- Time

January 14, 2008
Three cruise ships from the same company sailing out of the same port at the same time is usually not such a big deal. But when the ships are the three Queens of Cunard, and they're departing from New York ... well, that makes big headlines.

Between 8:30 and 9 p.m. yesterday, Queen Mary 2, the new Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 lined up in New York for their first ever rendezvous (and last; Queen Elizabeth 2 is being retired at the end of this year). It was a big event, even in a metropolis like New York. In Battery Park, thousands of spectators arrived to witness the historical lineup, which ended with fireworks as the Queens passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge -- Queen Mary 2 heading to Barbados on her 10-night Caribbean cruise, and Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 to Ft. Lauderdale on their World Cruises.

While this is the first World Cruise for the Queen Victoria, it will be the last for the Queen Elizabeth. Fortunately, the ship still has scheduled calls in New York prior to its retirement.

In addition to spectators on the shores of Battery Park and on the numerous private boats, Cunard had arranged a lavish party on the 14th floor Rise Bar of the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park Hotel and Cruise Critic was there. On hand were approximately 170 invited guests, ranging from travel industry partners to the cruise line executives. As a matter of fact, it almost reminded us of a board meeting of Carnival Corporation & PLC as we spotted their personalities, including Chairman and CEO Micky Arison; Vice Chairman Howard S. Frank; board members Pier Luigi Foschi and Peter Ratcliffe; and cruise line presidents such as Cunard's Carol Marlow, Princess Cruises' Alan Buckelew and Holland America's Stein Kruse.

Interestingly, the evening could have turned differently if the ships had been delayed several hours. During the first days of their tandem crossing from Southampton to New York, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 encountered some bad weather. Peter Shanks, Chief Marketing Officer of Carnival UK, told us there were contingency plans if the weather had delayed arrival of the QV and QE2 to New York on Sunday morning. Thankfully, the ships were required to slow their speed only slightly, which did not result in a major delay; they were able to make that up during later days of the crossing. "The ships passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at 5:30 a.m.," Shanks says.

One passenger sailing onboard the QE2 for the tandem crossing went on joking on the weather: "Passengers of Queen Victoria had a better view, but we had a better ride."

The royal rendezvous was a carefully orchestrated event. Queen Mary 2 departed her Brooklyn Terminal first and proceeded on the Hudson River, making a turn to await the two other Queens. The ship was holding her position for quite a while when we first glimpsed Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 sailing from the New York Passenger Ship Terminal. The ships' bridge staffers were simultaneously on a conference call with various Carnival UK marine operations executives to receive last-minute instructions. Heavy rain did not spoil the party; as the fireworks started around 8:30, the guests followed the event outdoors rather than indoors.

At the end of the fireworks, the ships immediately started to proceed toward the Verrazano Narrows and the Atlantic. I asked Peter Shanks, "When shall we next see such an event?" He replied: "It will be for awhile when three Queens [a new Queen Elizabeth will be delivered in 2010] will meet next time, but next month our next big event will be the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 rendezvous in Sydney, Australia."

Image appears courtesy of Ben Lyons.