QE2's Final Voyage Approaches

November 10, 2008
It's fitting that Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) will set sail for her final voyage from Southampton on Tuesday, November 11. Whether you call the day Veteran's Day, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, we will all be remembering the illustrious history of this cruise ship veteran, as it bids adieu to England and its career as an active passenger vessel. QE2 faces a new life as a floating hotel in Dubai.

Southampton will be rolling out the red carpet, so to speak, for QE2's last British hurrah, and Cruise Critic's U.K. Editor Kelly Ranson will be reporting live all day tomorrow from the scene in Southampton. Kelly will be providing a running commentary of the day's events and talking to some of the thousands of well-wishers expected to join the party in Mayflower Park.

You can find the full schedule of QE2's final call here, but highlights will include a planned fly-past by an RAF Harrier, a performance by the Silver Beatles, and a fireworks display prior to the ship pulling out of port at 8 p.m. To commemorate the historic date, one million poppy petals will rain down on the ship's decks; poppies have been a symbol of WWI since John McCrae wrote the famous poem, "In Flanders Field."

If you're going to Mayflower Park to join the well-wishers, or if you want to be counted among QE2's most fervent fans, you're going to have learn your QE2 trivia. Here are some tidbits about the famous queen's long career you can use to wow friends and strangers alike (many taken from Carol Thatcher's QE2: 40 Years Famous).

The Beginning: When QE2 entered service on 22 April, 1969 (with an eight-day preview cruise stopping at Las Palmas, Tenerife and Lisbon), two stowaways were discovered. The ship had to turn back shortly after departure to rendezvous with a pilot cutter and get rid of the extra baggage.

Even Earlier: More than 3,000 people worked on the construction of the ship. Computers -- quite a novel idea at the time -- were used extensively to guide the construction process, analyzing how many workers were needed, and to keep a tally of costs and progress.

A Near Miss: Following QE2's first visit to Israel in spring 1974, the Egyptian military considered sinking QE2 to avenge the deaths of more than 100 passengers killed when Israel show down a Libyan airline in 1972. However, Anwar Sadat, Egypt's president, countermanded the order to destroy the ship.

The Celebrities: Among the famous feet to walk the ship's hallowed halls were Nelson Mandela, David Bowie, The Cure, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond and of course British royalty of every stripe and hue.

The Danger: In September 1995, the ship encountered a 95 ft. rogue wave when sailing through Hurricane Luis. Hundreds of tons of water broke over the bow, but most of the passengers slept through it!

The Disgusting: In April 2005, while en route from Southampton to Madeira, QE2 ran into the body of a decomposing whale. The captain estimated the animal was 60 feet long, but luckily no damage was done to the ship.

Only on a British Ship: On QE2, 912,500 tea bags are consumed annually, and over 2 million doilies are used.

The Cost: Millions of pounds have been spent to keep QE2 afloat over the past 40 years (more than her original cost). The ship cost just under 29 million pounds to build, but later refits cost 32 million pounds in 1994, 30 million pounds in 1999 and $15 million in 2006.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor