Introducing The QE2
Many people believe she was the greatest ship ever. Here's just some of the reasons why.
She was the flagship of the British Merchant fleet for 35 years from her entry into service in 1969 until her replacement arrived in 2004. She was the last of many British-built Transatlantic Liners, born on the Clyde using the skills and knowledge that had built her legendary predecessors. She was fast and extremely strong, the last express transatlantic liner, designed to operate across the formidable Atlantic for decades at high speed - 5 night crossings, but capable of doing it in 4. She was world-famous and a household name. "QE2" meant ultra-luxury, something big, something for the rich and famous. She travelled further (6 million miles) than any other ship ever has, or ever will, at average speeds that modern cruise ships aren't capable of at all. She was a heroine of the Falklands War, the only ship capable of transporting a huge number of soldiers at high speeds, thousands of miles.
She was stunningly beautiful. She was a maritime design classic, both inside and out. In 1969, after her 'staid' predecessors had retired, QE2 was a revelation. Ultra-luxurious, ultra-modern "space age" design, she was the best that the British Swinging Sixties had to offer, from our very best designers.
Lots of 'experts' at the time said she'd be laid up or even scrapped but her advanced, forward-thinking design meant that she wasn't. Not even close. She saved Cunard. She made money. Lots of money and she continued to do so. She was dual-purpose, and just as well suited to a tropical cruise as to the Atlantic ocean. The 70s and 80s passed by with her receiving lots of updates and money spent on her, for she was worth it.
Because she was so famous and successful, she was the only ship ever to be converted from steam turbine power to efficient state of the art diesel-electric power, in an operation that cost more than building a new cruise ship would have done. This made her even more powerful than she had been, as well as more reliable and efficient. She could now do 19 knots backwards, a speed which most cruise ships could barely achieve forwards... and could outrun any cruise ship in the world at 28 knots even with a third of her engines not running.
As cruise ships got bigger and uglier all around her, starting to look like apartment blocks, people began to notice that one ship was standing out above them all. A classy, elegant, sleek looking ship looking a bit like a beautiful big yacht.
in 2008, her final year in service, she was offering something very different from the rest, something unique, and some people were discovering her only as it was too late.... Impeccable service from a crew that loved their ship almost as much as her many, many repeat passengers did. A traditional stateroom with portholes took you back in time to another era. Afternoon tea in the Queens Room. A more sociable ship than any other with a much greater chance to meet fellow passengers on the boat deck while sailing away from another port of call. A fun ship, in a mature way. A relaxed ship with cosy corners and many modern amenities but you were aware you were travelling on a piece of history. Dinner in the lovely Princess Grill, once the reserve of the World's wealthiest people, was now within reach.
As news spread that her time was coming to an end, the crowds that had always turned out to see her, got even bigger, everywhere she went.
On November 11th 2008, a full day of celebration in Southampton was a fitting tribute to Britain's ship. As tearful passengers waved from Boat Deck, and from the flotilla of small boats and ships surrounding her, 8 decks below her engineers worked on their tribute, bringing her up to maximum power, and just minutes later, she passed the Isle of Wight in excess of 30 knots... the fastest liner in the world was on her final voyage.
As QE2 left Britain for the final time, an entire era came to an end.