A farewell to the QE2

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The Queen is sold! Long live the Queen!

Little did we realize when boarding the QE2 in Los Angeles on Jan. 22, 2007, for her Silver Jubilee world cruise that the ship’s time afloat was limited*. But soon everyone knew that the venerable old lady of the seas had been sold to

“. . . Dubai World, which plans to turn the liner into a floating luxury hotel anchored at Palm Jameirah, the world’s largest man-made island, in Dubai, UAE,” as reported in ITN (Aug. ’07, pg. 95).

While my wife and I are not cruise buffs, per se, we have enjoyed a few sea voyages, starting in 1957 when American President Lines transported us across the Pacific Ocean to my first foreign service post. Back then, the ships sailed between Los Angeles or San Francisco and Hong Kong. In those days, they were methods of transportation rather than cruise ships.

Since our retirement, however, we have enjoyed traveling the world, visiting places that foreign assignments never permitted us to see or revisiting old foreign service posts abroad. So far, these trips have been taken aboard the Princess and Cunard lines.

On all of these sea voyages, fellow passengers often mentioned that their fondest memories were from experiences aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. After hearing this so often, we felt that we, too, had to give it a go, so we signed on for a 98-day trip around the world.

As many experienced travelers already know, such long journeys (at least, the first time) are not undertaken in a vacuum; preparations are many, some of which are complicated. There are passports and visas, medical considerations, selecting clothing for various climatic changes, arranging to pay bills during a 3½-month absence from home, notifying friends who may wish to meet us and the ship at some foreign port, etc.

Taking all of these challenges into consideration, we were determined to find out for ourselves what elevated the QE2 to such high standards in the minds of so many travelers. At the same time, however, we hoped not to make unfair comparisons with the Queen Mary 2 on which we had twice sailed, including her maiden voyage in 2004.

Unexpectedly upgraded to the Queens Grille level, we enjoyed a comfortable 3-porthole stateroom with a full bath, complete with tub and bidet, and considerable wardrobe space, which was especially welcome. After all, the ship required that all passengers conform to a dress code, including for 53 formal occasions! What woman could travel light under those circumstances?

Looking back, however, we wished that they had modified these requirements, especially while traveling through the tropics when the ship’s air-conditioning failed us over a period of several days.

After a while aboard, we discovered that the QE2 was, after all, 40 years old and beginning to show her age. The cabin decor and upholstery had seen better days. Overall, compared to the many other newer ships with their glitzy colors, first-class entertainment, Internet wiring and enticing amusements, often including ice skating rinks and mountain climbing, realistically the QE2 could never catch up.

On the other hand, we also slowly began to understand why so many repeat passengers were so devoted to the aging ship. And the reason for that, above all, was the service.

Except for the Purser’s Office, which could have been considerably more helpful, we would commend every segment of the ship for the attention shown by the staff. Room service was prompt and accurate, and teatime attendants were always there, but it was our dining room table servers (Dominika from Poland and Agnello from India) who were the embodiment of top-notch professionalism. Not only were they excellent at their job, they were very personable. They helped to make the trip on a vessel past its prime worthwhile.

Like an aging prima donna after a few face-lifts, the QE2 has, sad to say, reached a time in her life where wrinkles and sagging can no longer be avoided nor ignored. Let us hope that retirement for her in Dubai will be kind and that memories of her many voyages and gala nights will be remembered fondly, because in her time she was, indeed, a great ship.

Now let us see what Cunard’s new Queen Victoria has to offer.

DONALD R TREMBLAY

Santa Monica, CA

*On her final voyage, the “QE2” will sail Nov. 11, 2008, on a 16-day voyage from Southampton, England, to Dubai by way of Portugal, Italy and Egypt. Contact Cunard Line (Valencia, CA; 800/728-6273, www. cunard.com).

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

The Queen is sold! Long live the Queen!

Little did we realize when boarding the QE2 in Los Angeles on Jan. 22, 2007, for her Silver Jubilee world cruise that the ship’s time afloat was limited*. But soon everyone knew that the venerable old lady of the seas had been sold to

“. . . Dubai World, which plans to turn the liner into a floating luxury hotel anchored at Palm Jameirah, the world’s largest man-made island, in Dubai, UAE,” as reported in ITN (Aug. ’07, pg. 95).

While my wife and I are not cruise buffs, per se, we have enjoyed a few sea voyages, starting in 1957 when American President Lines transported us across the Pacific Ocean to my first foreign service post. Back then, the ships sailed between Los Angeles or San Francisco and Hong Kong. In those days, they were methods of transportation rather than cruise ships.

Since our retirement, however, we have enjoyed traveling the world, visiting places that foreign assignments never permitted us to see or revisiting old foreign service posts abroad. So far, these trips have been taken aboard the Princess and Cunard lines.

On all of these sea voyages, fellow passengers often mentioned that their fondest memories were from experiences aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. After hearing this so often, we felt that we, too, had to give it a go, so we signed on for a 98-day trip around the world.

As many experienced travelers already know, such long journeys (at least, the first time) are not undertaken in a vacuum; preparations are many, some of which are complicated. There are passports and visas, medical considerations, selecting clothing for various climatic changes, arranging to pay bills during a 3½-month absence from home, notifying friends who may wish to meet us and the ship at some foreign port, etc.

Taking all of these challenges into consideration, we were determined to find out for ourselves what elevated the QE2 to such high standards in the minds of so many travelers. At the same time, however, we hoped not to make unfair comparisons with the Queen Mary 2 on which we had twice sailed, including her maiden voyage in 2004.

Unexpectedly upgraded to the Queens Grille level, we enjoyed a comfortable 3-porthole stateroom with a full bath, complete with tub and bidet, and considerable wardrobe space, which was especially welcome. After all, the ship required that all passengers conform to a dress code, including for 53 formal occasions! What woman could travel light under those circumstances?

Looking back, however, we wished that they had modified these requirements, especially while traveling through the tropics when the ship’s air-conditioning failed us over a period of several days.

After a while aboard, we discovered that the QE2 was, after all, 40 years old and beginning to show her age. The cabin decor and upholstery had seen better days. Overall, compared to the many other newer ships with their glitzy colors, first-class entertainment, Internet wiring and enticing amusements, often including ice skating rinks and mountain climbing, realistically the QE2 could never catch up.

On the other hand, we also slowly began to understand why so many repeat passengers were so devoted to the aging ship. And the reason for that, above all, was the service.

Except for the Purser’s Office, which could have been considerably more helpful, we would commend every segment of the ship for the attention shown by the staff. Room service was prompt and accurate, and teatime attendants were always there, but it was our dining room table servers (Dominika from Poland and Agnello from India) who were the embodiment of top-notch professionalism. Not only were they excellent at their job, they were very personable. They helped to make the trip on a vessel past its prime worthwhile.

Like an aging prima donna after a few face-lifts, the QE2 has, sad to say, reached a time in her life where wrinkles and sagging can no longer be avoided nor ignored. Let us hope that retirement for her in Dubai will be kind and that memories of her many voyages and gala nights will be remembered fondly, because in her time she was, indeed, a great ship.

Now let us see what Cunard’s new Queen Victoria has to offer.

DONALD R TREMBLAY

Santa Monica, CA

*On her final voyage, the “QE2” will sail Nov. 11, 2008, on a 16-day voyage from Southampton, England, to Dubai by way of Portugal, Italy and Egypt. Contact Cunard Line (Valencia, CA; 800/728-6273, www. cunard.com).