QE2's 1,000th voyage in the summer of 1995 was in many ways a turning point for the ship.
In the preceding winter, the ship had undergone a massive refurbishment that had cost her
owners some $45 million. However, because the work was not finished on time and
because of an ill-judged decision to attempt to finish the work while the ship had passengers
aboard, the ship received a massive amount of bad publicity. By June of 1995, the work
had been completed and a new revitalized QE2 was ready to show what she could do.
The 1,000th voyage presented an opportunity to do just that. Some voices argued that it
was not a good idea to talk to loudly about the fact that the ship had completed that many
voyages. Wouldn't that just underscore that this was an old ship at a time when the public
was enthralled with the new mega-cruise ships that the competition was starting to bring on
the market. However, others, particularly those onboard QE2, wanted to celebrate. In the
end, they won out even though the event was not marketed as strongly as other special
sailings of QE2 have been over the years.
It was a good thing that the celebration did take place. It was a flawless voyage both
weather-wise and operationally. The new facilities and decor were as impressive as they
were originally intended to be. The passengers and those in the media who covered the
event saw that perhaps there still was something to the old ship. There would still be rough
times ahead for QE2 and Cunard but at least this was the first step in a comeback.
QE2 in 1995 with a new image. Her hull was painted dark blue and a
"racing stripe" ran along either side of the superstructure.
THE 1994 REFIT
To put the 1000th voyage of QE2 in perspective, it is first
necessary to look at the 1994 refit - - a disaster in the short term
but also a step that enabled the ship to survive.
In 1994, Cunard scheduled QE2 for a large-scale refit. Eight
years before, there had been a massive technical renovation of
the ship that changed her propulsion system from steam to diesel
electric. Without that change, the ship could not have gone on
sailing for very much longer. This new refit was aimed at
revitalizing the “hotel,” i.e. the public rooms and passenger
accommodations. It was every bit as ambitious as the 1986 re-
When the ship had gone into service in 1969, she had a unifying
theme to her interior thanks largely to the head of the design team
Dennis Lennon. It was a space-age design utilizing plastics,
bright colors and pillars with swooping lines in an effort to make
the new Cunarder reflect the Swinging Sixties rather than the
“boring,” as Cunard’s promotional literature put it, previous
generation of ocean liners. Over the years, as her original style
became passé, various rooms had been altered and redecorated
at different times so that the ship had evolved into a polyglot of
styles. One of the goals of this refit would be to unify the interior
with a décor that was contemporary but which harkened back to
the classic ocean liners.
On the agenda were also a long list of changes that would
involve altering the ship structurally. One of the larger projects
was to convert the Quarter Deck pool area into a permanent
buffet dining venue. Originally, the pool had been outdoors but it
had been covered by a retractable glass “Magrodome” roof in
1983. However, the roof almost always remained shut. It was
too cold to open it on the North Atlantic run and when the ship
was in tropical waters, opening the roof let out the air
conditioning. In addition, the pool itself was rarely used.
However, the area was not unoccupied. It was a pleasant place
to sit with large picture windows offering scenic views. In
addition, the practice of serving trays of food near the pool had
evolved into a large-scale informal dining operation with large
mobile carts that had to be wheeled in from the kitchens at the
other end of the ship. Why not eliminate the useless roof and
the seldom-used pool and turn the area into a permanent informal
dining venue with the necessary support facilities, Cunard
reasoned. It was to become today’s popular Lido buffet.
Eliminating the Magrodome would also enable Upper Deck to
be extended further astern. As it was, in order to get to the back
of the ship along Upper Deck, one had to go out of the Yacht
Club, past a paddle tennis court, then up a half-flight of stairs,
walk between the Magrodome and two large tenders known as
Alpha and Beta, and then back down a half flight of stairs. With
the Magrodome gone, Upper Deck could be one level, the
popular Yacht Club could be expanded and an area of open
deck for sun worshipers could be created. In addition, a new
sports area could be built on top of the expanded Yacht Club on
Boat Deck. Alpha and Beta, which were impressive looking but
never used, could be eliminated and replaced by catamaran-
hulled tenders that would hang from davits along Boat Deck with
the other lifeboats.
Underneath the new Lido on One Deck, the designers
conceived of a new room facing the outdoor pool. There had
been an open hatch here where hamburgers and hot dogs were
passed out to people sunning themselves by the pool. The new
Pavilion would continue to serve such fare but it would have
considerably more style than the old Hamburger Haven.
Other major changes to the public rooms included the creation
of the Crystal Bar, the transformation of the Midships Bar into
the Chart Room, elimination of the Card Room and the creation
of an expanded Library and Book Shop, changing the Theater
Bar into the Golden Lion Pub and yet another redecoration of
the Midships Lobby. The stairs in the Grand Lounge would be
eliminated and the stage expanded. On the upper level, the
shops would be redesigned.
Another major change stemmed from a plan to upgrade some of
the original transatlantic class cabins into higher (i.e., more
expensive) cabin categories. If the cabins were upgraded, the
passengers occupying them would not want to dine in the
transatlantic class dining room. Therefore, the capacity of the
dining room that served those cabin categories would have to be
expanded. It would be impractical to do this to the existing
dining room on Quarter Deck (then known as the Columbia
Restaurant). So, the designers came up with a scheme to
upgrade the original transatlantic class restaurant (then, as now,
called the Mauretania restaurant) and make that into the
restaurant that served the passengers in the higher cabin
categories. The existing Mauretania Restaurant would then be
renamed the Caronia Restaurant and the Columbia Restaurant
would be called the Mauretania Restaurant. (For numerous
reasons, this rather complicated scheme did not work and after a
year, the restaurants were swapped back so that the Mauretania
Restaurant is back in its original location. What had been the
Columbia became the Caronia).
In addition, the bathrooms in most of the passenger cabins were
Clearly, the planned refit was going to be a major undertaking.
In November, QE2 completed its 1994 season with a cruise to
the Caribbean that ended in New York. Indeed, workmen
started coming onboard in Fort Lauderdale, the last port before
New York. As a result, when the passengers were leaving,
discarded furniture and furnishings followed them down the
gangway. The ship then sailed without passengers to Hamburg,
Germany where the bulk of the work was to be done. There
was a look of doubt in some officers’ eyes as to whether all this
refurbishment could be done in time for QE2’s upcoming world
cruise in the beginning of January 1995.
ABOVE: The Quarter Deck Pool beneath the
Magrodome added in 1983 was an attractive area.
Indeed, many were sorry to see it go. In the photo
above the Preservation Hall Jazz Band played an
impromptu farewell at the end of the November 1993
Caribbean cruise. Below: Unfortunately, the area
was impractical as a dining venue operating with
mobile serving carts stationed in the passageways
connecting the pool area to the Queens Room.
ABOVE: The new Lido informal dining area may
not be as attractive as the Upper Deck pool area was
but it is more practical. BELOW: The Lido can,
however, look spectacular during a gala midnight
ABOVE: Prior to the 1994 refit, the area now
encompassed by the Lido also included the ship's
nightclub. BELOW: D Stairway outside of the
Columbia Restaurant was one of the few areas on the
ship that retained its original decor.
The Midships Lobby just prior to the refit.
The paddle tennis court outside of the old Yacht Club.
The tender Beta can be seen in the upper left corner.