|QE2's awe inspiring bow in 1995.
AN IMAGE LOST
Unfortunately, the plan proved too ambitious for the time
allotted. In January, QE2 sailed from Hamburg with workmen
still onboard. The idea was that the work could be finished
during the ship's crossing to New York. In Southampton,
approximately 1,000 passengers joined the ship. Then, the
situation rapidly deteriorated.
A severe Atlantic gale, not uncommon for a winter crossing,
prevented the work from being completed. According to the
New York Times, "passengers complained about brown water in
toilets, dangling electrical wires and other malfunctions." In
addition, "passengers recalled plumbers shouting 'Niagara,
Niagara' as toilets overflowed or worse exploded. Hot water
poured from cold water taps, some cabins weren't finished and
furniture was stacked in corridors." The British press called it a
"floating construction site."
More trouble awaited in New York. When a foreign
passenger ship enters a United States port for the first time each
year, the United States Coast Guard comes aboard for a safety
inspection. The inspection found openings in the fire-resistant
bulkheads that divide the ship into seven compartmentalized
zones for fire fighting purposes as well as fire doors that did not
close properly and obstructions in the passageways. The Coast
Guard refused to certify the ship for carrying passengers until
these defects were repaired. Consequently, QE2 sat in the
Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal while repairs were made.
Meanwhile, the media chortled over how the mighty had fallen.
News teams sought out passengers and attempted to interview
the crew by shouting questions from the pier. John Olsen, then
head of Cunard, apologized saying that Cunard had been "remiss
in not delivering the ship in absolutely perfect condition."
As a result, what should have been a rebirth for the ship was a
public relations disaster. When the noise had subsided and the
work completed, QE2 was a much improved ship. Indeed,
much of what people think of when they think of QE2 as a
classic ocean liner was actually done during this 1994 refit - - the
wood veneer in the staircases and public areas, the maritime
paintings, the Cunard Heritage exhibits and the décor of most of
the public rooms. Furthermore, with the elimination of the
Magrodome and Alpha and Beta, the stern of the ship had
regained something of its original stepped profile.
While stories of "exploding toilets" on a luxury liner may have
seemed like harmless fun in some newsrooms, it was a very
serous blow. Cunard and its then-owner Trafalgar House
Limited had spent some ₤30 million (about $45 million in those
days) on the refurbishment. Trafalgar House had made the
investment in hopes of offsetting setbacks it was sustaining in
other areas. In a little more than a year, the ailing company
would be taken over by Kvaerner. The question was whether
QE2 would be able to recover from this blow.
Following the refit, QE2's silhouette resembled the
sleek, stepped stern design that she had had when she
entered service in 1969.
Although not specified on the list of improvements to
be made during the refit, QE2's bridge received a face
lift. Legend has it that supplies from the Ward Room
were exchanged for some of the wood paneling left over
from the refurbishment of the public rooms.
REGAINING AN IMAGE
14 June 1995, was a mostly sunny day in New York City.
QE2, as was the custom in those days, sat at Pier 90 at the
Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan. The pier itself had a
double helping of the balloons that Cunard normally decorated
the terminal with to give QE2's sailing a festive aura.
Any question about why this was to be a special sailing was
cleared-up by the Daily Programme, which proudly announced
that this crossing to Southampton was "the historic 1,000th
voyage of QUEEN ELIZABETH 2". Passengers were invited
onto the open decks for the sail away party including
complimentary champagne. Each passenger also received a
special pin depicting the ship's trademark funnel and "QE2
1,000" written upon it.
On the open decks, Maureen Ryan, the Social Hostess who
had worked on the earlier Queens and who would later go on to
work on QM2, distributed small British and American flags for
people to wave as the ship left Pier 90. Music played over the
loudspeaker system as the ship with the aid of several tugs pulled
out of the terminal and headed down the river.
Overhead, a small airplane trailed a banner saluting QE2.
More dramatically, a New York City fireboat escorted the
ocean liner down to tip of Manhattan with great plumes of water
Thus, the 1,000th voyage got off to an exciting start. All of
QE2's departures from Manhattan, passing the legendary skyline
from midtown to downtown, then the Statue of Liberty and then
under the Verazano Narrows Bridge, were exciting to one
degree or another. But, this one was more so. Everything went
smoothly and there was a feeling that this departure was a tribute
to all that had gone before.
Weather on the North Atlantic is often a wild card. It can
confound the best forecasts. And, the weather during the
1,000th voyage was unexpected. It was like sailing on a lake
with the sun shining brightly overhead. Captain (later
Commodore) John Burton-Hall commented that it was more like
a Caribbean cruise than an Atlantic crossing. Thus, even the
The 1,000th voyage was a five-day crossing. This meant that
the ship would leave New York late in the afternoon of the first
day and arrive in Southampton, England late in the afternoon of
the fifth day. There would be four nights onboard. In order to
maintain this schedule, the ship would have to run at 28 to 30
knots, close to her full speed of 33 knots. The pulsation of the
engines and the ship speeding through the waves added to the
Pier 90 in Manhattan decorated with more balloons
than usual. Often the balloons were brought onboard and
released as the ship proceeded down the Hudson where
they would drift high above the City.
American and British flags were distributed to the
passengers as QE2 left the Manhattan Passenger Ship
Terminal. Passengers also received pins commemorating
A New York City Fireboat salutes QE2 as the ocean liner
embarks on her 1,000th voyage.
A quartet plays in front of a large model of the MAURETANIA on Quarter Deck
by the D stariway. When QE2 first went into service, Cunard made a strenuous
effort to distance QE2 from the "boring" (i.e. money-losing) ocean liners of the
past. In the 1994 refit, an equally strenuous effort was made to preserve the
Cunard heritage and memorabilia, models and paintings of by-gone Cunarders
were given places of prominence.