As Cunard Line's famed QE2 continues her farewell season - the iconic ship's 40th year since her maiden voyage - her final year with the fleet will be highlighted by a series of poignant voyages, including three calls in favorite North American ports that are expected to draw an outpouring of well-wishers. Widely considered the most famous ship in the world, QE2 has logged more than 5.6 million nautical miles (equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 13 times), carrying over 2.5 million passengers. The regal ship will complete her service for Cunard Line in November 2008 as the company's longest-serving liner.
"Without question, QE2 is legendary. One of the most beloved ships in our 169-year history, we anticipate a good showing of QE2 enthusiasts in each of her final ports," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line. "She has been a hostess to royalty, celebrities and the most noted personalities from all over the world. In addition, she has been a witness to history, serving magnificently as a troop carrier in the Falklands Conflict. Adored the world over, she is, quite simply, irreplaceable," Marlow added.
Following her 26th and final World Cruise, which departed New York amid unprecedented fanfare on January 13, 2008, QE2 will embark on a series of 19 voyages, including stops in such quintessential favourites as the Mediterranean, Norway, Portugal and Canada. "These voyages, which are extraordinarily popular with longtime Cunarders, afford our guests an opportunity to connect for the last time with one of the 20th century's most celebrated cultural icons," said Marlow.
Her final visits to Los Angeles (March 30), Ft. Lauderdale (April 10) and New York (Oct. 16) will be duly celebrated by Cunarders, with her final New York departure marked by commemorative festivities, as Cunard's historical North American connection is strongest here. "From 1847, when Cunard's Hibernia first sailed into New York, to today, the city has been an integral part of Cunard's history," said Marlow.
Among the highlights are the Line's starring role in the immigration movement of the late 1800's, when over 2.5 million immigrants sailed to New York from Liverpool (Cunard's first home port) and, more recently, QE2's 707 calls, to date, to New York.
Forty Years of History
Named by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 1967, QE2 immediately captured the upbeat mood of the era. Admired for her sleek, elegant lines and contemporary interiors, she was embraced on both sides of the Atlantic. Upon her launch, the Queen's sister, HRH Princess Margaret, viewed the ship as a symbol of change, noting "This new Cunarder will show that design in Britain is exciting and full of vigorous common sense." Lord Snowdon concurred, writing "what you have achieved with QE2 makes one proud to be British...the mood is breathtaking."
Throughout her history, QE2 spent part of the year sailing Cunard's signature Transatlantic route and the rest in pursuit of the sun. Today, her sister ship Queen Mary 2 carries on the Line's Transatlantic tradition, sailing 24 Crossings this year.
Not surprisingly, in her four decades at sea, QE2 has garnered her fair share of "firsts," "onlys" and "only-on-Cunard" anecdotes. Among the fascinating facts:
· With a top speed of 32.5 knots, QE2 is the fastest passenger ship in the world. She can sail backwards (full speed astern is 19 knots) faster than most cruise ships sail forward.
· QE2 is the only luxury liner in the world to have transported cars and motorcycles.
· In 1982, she became the world's largest hospital ship when transporting injured troops from the Falklands War.
· In 1996, the first satellite transmission of a TV programme from a ship at sea went out from QE2.
· The first seagoing branch of Harrods opened aboard QE2 in 1996.
· QE2 has hosted more celebrities than any other ship. Early guests included Lord Mountbatten, Lynn Redgrave, Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, Count Basie and Gracie Fields; more recent regulars include David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Sir Jimmy Savile.
Youngest Fleet, Oldest Traditions
With the completion of QE2's service to Cunard Line, and with the upcoming debut of the company's new ship, Queen Elizabeth in 2010, Cunard is poised to become the youngest fleet in the industry. "Although 37 years passed between the launch of Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967 and Queen Mary 2 in 2004, only three years passed before the launch of Queen Victoria last year. The Cunard lion is roaring again and in true Cunard fashion, it is doing so with unerring style," added Marlow.