In October 2008 we crossed the Atlantic on the QE2's final East to West sailing into New York. The end of an era in so many senses of the word, and an emotional journey I would not have missed for anything. Below are images of the QE2 and the new Cunard liner, Queen Mary II, which sailed in tandem on this historic occasion. And, of course, a look at fabulous New York.
To give a further flavour of the trip I have added notes from our diary. Please note the pictures are in random order, and do not follow the diary.
Friday 10th October 2008, The final West bound Transatlantic crossing of the QE2. Arrival at QE2 terminal at Southampton around mid day. Photos taken and ID cards issued. This card was to be used for all on board purchases. Boarded around 2pm. Time to unpack before lunch in the Lido Restaurant.
Due to sail at 5pm so wandered round the ship before we were called to muster stations at 4.45 for lifeboat drill. It was around 5.30 before we finally followed the Queen Mary II out of Southampton Water. Lots of flag waving and champagne drinking to the accompanying band. A few tears were shed as the smaller boats gathered to escort us out to the Channel.
To my delight, windy and rough on deck. Everything was wet from the earlier dense fog which we observed swirling past the window during breakfast. That soon cleared, and from the comfort of our cabin porthole, we watched dolphins leap from the water, and head to the prow of the ship.
Visited the bookstore, and then returned to our cabin to read, resisting the classic cruise life of eating, eating and more eating. Later, walking on deck, we saw nearby whale water spouts. As it was fairly cold we were back inside by 4pm. By now we were quite expert at finding our cabin without too many wrong turns. More reading. Very easy to relax with the gentle rolling and creaking. Had excellent dinner in the almost deserted Lido Restaurant. Tuxedos and diamonds, and queuing at the formal restaurants for the customary souvenir photos, was not part of our plan.
Clocks go back an hour every night, which is lovely. This is the way to get to America, and to help the realisation of just how far away it really is!
Wonderful. Even rougher sea this morning. Dramamine for Janet! Did not deter me though from a hearty breakfast. A very high wind outside, and the steps to the high point of the prow, were, much to my disappointment, closed for safety. We later heard that the wind velocity combined with our speed produced a force of over 40 miles per hour.
Walking round the deck 5 times equals one mile, so lots of energetic people pacing back and forth. Later, in the afternoon, we sampled the tea ritual in the Lido, and adored the fresh baked scones with cream. Another spin round the deck before dinner! Must have air! Exploring the ship in the evenings, found it almost deserted, as formal dinners took much longer. More reading, and forcing down of the evening 'pillow chocolate' ! Clocks back again. The cabin creaking and ship rolling induced a quick and blissful sleep.
Another windy morning with the Queen Mary II looking stunning against a black sky and bright sun. A rainbow seemed to be showing her the way, before she disappeared into another rain storm. She re-appeared after 10 minutes, again greeted by a rainbow. The 'Danger High Wind' sign had at last been removed from the prow, and in my eagerness to climb the steps, I nearly failed to see Janet visibly lifting off the deck, and clinging keenly to the hand rail. I helped her back inside to the relative safety of the shops. I returned to enjoy the elements, and take yet more pictures.
Lovely sunny calm morning. Sat in wooden loungers wrapped up in blankets and tried to read. But too much to see at sea. The QMII, dolphins, birds and whale water spouts. Tried snoozing, but the energetic 'five-times-round-the-deck-is-a-mile' joggers pound heavily on the wooden decking. Anyway, must be lunch time by now! From inside the Lido, watched many dolphins rushing towards the ship. Presumably the vibrations call them in, and they enjoy the bow wave, and travel with the ship for the pure joy of it.
Today QMII crossed our bow and took the lead. 700 metres between us when all the cheering and horn blasting started. Camera flashes looked like fireworks from all decks. Our captain reminded us, that those onboard the QMII, had the better view by far. A very emotional half hour as we watched QMII sail past on a very calm sea, to the deep 'horn duet' from both ships.
I have always wanted to sail into New York, and it was every bit as exciting as I had expected, but, we both felt very reluctant to leave the comfort, easy routine and safety of the ship. So, we both stepped ashore somewhat subdued, and, a little envious of those setting sail on the later return journey.
Day 7– Arrive NYC
We were on the crowded deck soon after 4.30am well wrapped up from the cold dawn air. Our lecturers from the cruise gave a narration of the sights we were passing. QMII left our side and went into Brooklyn, and we headed on to Manhattan, alone. We passed the floodlit Statue of Liberty, and soon the commentary informed us we were sailing past ground Zero – a big gap in Manhattan's skyline, and still a site to induce deep contemplation. By 6.30 the tugs had gently nudged us into pier 92. Time for breakfast in the Lido for the last time.
We spent the next couple of hours, prior to disembarking, just walking the decks and gazing sleepily at the Manhattan skyline, now our forward horizon. The Captain was busy giving TV news interviews for station 10, amongst others. A historic day for NY and the QEII. This evening she would leave this city for the very last time.
New York was exciting, fantastic, vibrant, mad and visually stunning under a week of crisp blue skies. Great to enter shops and restaurants any time of the day or night, and to be greeted as if you mattered. I wont go into details of the rest of our stay, we walked miles and saw plenty. The Egyptian Galleries in the Met held us for at least two of our days, and we did most of the tourist places. Where else could one find a store with three whole floors devoted to M&Ms!
The only other detail I have to mention, was our final treat to ourselves, a night at The Waldorf Astoria. Do it at least once in your life, and dine in its Bull and Bear Steakhouse; even if you are a vegetarian! We have never eaten such filet mignon. My Waldorf Salad (naturally) was wonderful, and our bowl of mixed berries with cream for desert... out of this world. Re-living this meal during the gastronomic delights of British Airways the next day and night, is the only thing that kept us both sane.
Fortunately, this feeling gradually faded, with every mile of our 20 minute cab ride to our Hotel, the Da Vinci, on West 56th Street. We paid our first visit to Joe G’s, the Italian restaurant in the basement, and immediately felt at home. Ship, what ship?! After a superb pizza and plenty of great coffee and tea, we took a walk to Times Square – saw the ‘naked’ cowboy. (He dropped out of sight from then on, something to do with the drop in temperature I think) Back to hotel for check-in.
A great choice and in a great location, we dumped everything in our room and headed for the subway. Off to Battery Park – saw several ex QEII passengers who were also waiting for her to sail out of NYC.
The Queen Mary arrived first, from her Brooklyn berth, into the Hudson towards Battery park, and sat waiting for the Queen Elizabeth. She then turned as the QEII appeared, and they headed out together into the fading light. Fire hoses were spraying from fireboats as helicopters circled overhead. We briefly became friends on that fishermens' quay, with fellow passengers passing round the Kleenex. Together, we watched that lovely ship sail away.
MIKE SHEPHERD IMAGES