|Its all about ships
It is not unusual for three large cruise ships to be in New York harbor on any
given day. It is also not that unusual to have three cruise ships from the same line
in New York at the same time. However, on 13 January 2008, when the three
Cunard Queen-class ocean liners came together in New York it was something
altogether different. "The visit and departure of the QE2, QM2 and the QUEEN
VICTORIA was an impressive and significant event for the international maritime
community and New York City," commented Captain Robert O'Brien,
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, Sector New York and Captain of the Port of
Cunard Line has a special place in maritime history. In 1840, the British
company began the first regularly scheduled transatlantic passenger service and it
is the only line that continues to provide regular transatlantic service.
While there have been many famous passenger ships on the Atlantic, at the
pinnacle are the first two Cunard Queens: QUEEN MARY of 1936 (81,235 g.r.t.)
and the QUEEN ELIZABETH of 1940 (83,673 g.r.t.). Technologically, these
two 1,000-foot ocean liners were a step beyond almost everything of their day.
In addition, they had an unsurpassed reputation for luxury, reliability and service.
Furthermore, with their ability to carry an entire division at speeds over 30 knots,
these two ships played a vital role in World War II. Indeed, Winston Churchill
credited them with shortening the war by a year.
The reputation of the Cunard Queens was further enhanced when QUEEN
ELIZABETH 2 (QE2) (70,327 g.r.t) went into service in 1969. Designed to do
both transatlantic crossings and cruising, QE2 became the world's most famous
ship. Technologically far in advance of her time, QE2 was constantly able to
adapt to changing times over a nearly 40 year history. She was a familiar sight in
New York until 2004 when she was taken off the transatlantic service and
stationed in England to do cruising. Like her predecessors, she too played an
indispensable role in wartime, allowing Great Britain to transport sufficient troops
to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982 (See The Log Fall 2005 at
While it was presumed for many years that QE2 would be the last ocean liner,
in 2004, Cunard put QUEEN MARY 2 (QM2) (151,400 g.r.t) into service doing
both transatlantic crossings and cruises. Currently the world's largest passenger
ship in terms of physical dimensions, QM2 is both fast (30 plus knots) and highly
maneuverable. Just as importantly, she has emerged from the shadow of her
famous fleet-mate with her own style of sophisticated elegance. (See The Log,
Winter 2006 at p. 17).
Designed to complement QM2, QUEEN VICTORIA (90,000 g.r.t) is the
second largest Cunard ship ever built in terms of gross tonnage. (See The Log,
Summer 2007 at p. 21). Her role will be to do cruises including world cruises.
"She was launched back in December, one month ago. A spectacular naming
ceremony - - she was named by her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall,
Camilla, and her husband, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Prince
Charles, was also in attendance. We were delighted to have them for the very
first ship naming ever that they have performed together," said Carol Marlow,
President of Cunard Line.
Thus, the Cunard Queens are special ships and when the three remaining
Queens came together in New York on 13 January, it was a special event. "It is
not only special because this is the first time we have had these three ships
together, it is special because it will never happen again. QE2 is leaving our fleet
to go on to pastures new in November of this year and they are not programmed
to meet in any other port between now and then," noted Ms. Marlow.
This event was not a spur of the moment thing. "We plan our programs [ship
itineraries] some 18 months to two years in advance so this has been planned for
a very long time. We put together the schedules and our guests noticed that all of
our Queens would be in New York at the same time and as you can imagine, the
sale of these voyages were very strong," said Ms. Marlow.
"We are delighted to have them all here today in New York because New
York is actually the port that Cunard has been coming to continuously for the
longest period of time. We have come continuously to New York more and for a
longer period than we have for Southampton in England, which is their homeport,
but also Liverpool, which was the home of Cunard in the 1800s. So, this really is
a very special place for us."
The three ships arrived from different directions. QUEEN MARY 2 has
adopted New York as her homeport for the winter, doing a series of New York to
the Caribbean cruises. Consequently, she approached New York from the south.
QUEEN VICTORIA and QE2 had just begun world cruises, the first for the
former and the last for the latter. They came across the Atlantic together
weathering the rough seas that are commonplace this time of the year on that
body of water. Nonetheless, they arrived ahead of schedule to rendezvous with
QM2 at Ambrose.
The three ships entered the harbor in the pre-dawn hours. QM2 diverted
from the others and proceeded along Buttermilk Channel to her usual berth in
QUEEN VICTORIA and QE2 went up the North River to the Passenger Ship
Terminal on the West Side of Manhattan. The new ship berthed at the recently
renovated Pier 88 while QE2 continued to Pier 92.
For the Coast Guard the event presented a number of challenges. "Our
primary concerns were for the security of the ships and facilitating safe transit of
other vessels in the vicinity," Captain O'Brien explained.
"A safety zone was established around the three vessels in New York's Upper
Bay from 1900 until approximately 2030. The zone closed off marine traffic to a
large portion of the upper bay, extending from the mouth of the Hudson River to
well south of the Statue of Liberty. Vessel movements were restricted within this
area. This zone was enforced by a collective group of law enforcement assets
including: USCG, NYPD, New Jersey State Police, and National Park Service
vessels. The Coast Guard Cutter STURGEON BAY acted as the Patrol
Commander and coordinated the effort to successfully complete this mission.
Sector New York, with its state and local law enforcement partners, has a long
history of securing major marine events in New York Harbor."
In addition, there was the question of inspections. As a condition of allowing
foreign-flag passenger vessels to take on passengers at U.S. ports, the Coast
Guard mandates that such ships meet the requirements of the International
Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (often referred to as SOLAS). SOLAS
and other international regulations set forth rules regarding structural fire
protection, firefighting and lifesaving equipment, watercraft integrity and stability,
vessel control, navigation safety, crewing and crew competency, safety
management and environmental protection. To insure compliance, the Coast
Guard conducts a number of ship inspections. Among these inspections is a
control verification examination focusing on structural fire safety and proper
lifesaving equipment that is conducted the first time a ship enters a U.S. port.
QUEEN MARY 2 had made a call in New York earlier in January so she was
not subject to this inspection requirement. However both QUEEN VICTORIA
and QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 were making their first 2008 calls in the U.S. While
the Coast Guard recognized the historic nature of the occasion, the requirements
of the law had to be met. Nonetheless, despite the additional frenzy of press,
VIPs, and sightseers that such events generate, "we finished initial USCG
inspection of the QUEEN VICTORIA [and] an annual inspection was conducted
on the QE2" and the ships were able to embark their passengers and sail in time
for the planned festivities.
"The logistics of all our guests disembarking and going off to enjoy themselves
in New York went extremely smoothly and we were helped greatly by all of the
authorities here in New York, by the Coast Guard and by the Customs
gentlemen. And I have to say it has been an incredibly smooth day so far. We
have already embarked our guests for the next voyage," Ms. Marlow was able to
say by 3 p.m. on the day.
QM2 was the first to sail and took up a position just off of the Statue of
Liberty. She was followed by QUEEN VICTORIA, which sailed down the river
from Pier 88 with lights ablaze and took up a station to starboard off of QM2's
stern. Last to leave was QE2, which moved majestically past the midtown
skyline on the route that she has traveled so often and halted astern of QUEEN
VICTORIA off of lower Manhattan. Overhead, law enforcement helicopters
circled and on the water, Coast Guard and police vessels kept the numerous
dinner cruise and charter boats a substantial distance from the three liners.
When the ships were assembled, a fireworks display by the famous Grucci
family began. By this time, a cold heavy rain had begun. Still, passengers on the
charter boats and on the ships stood on the open decks to watch. When it was
over, the three ships moved out under the Veranzano Narrows Bridge, discharged
their pilots at Ambrose and dispersed into the darkness on their own itineraries
never all to come together again.
IN NEW YORK
By Richard H. Wagner (Originally published by the
Navy League of the United States New York
Council, in The Log, Winter 2007.
Left to right: QE2, QUEEN VICTORIA and QM2 in New York.
(Photo courtesy of Cunard Line).
Carol Marlow looks on as New York City Deputy Mayor
for Economic Development and Rebuilding Robert C.
Lieber reads a proclamation marking the visit of the three
queens to New York.
QUEEN VICTORIA at Pier 88 in Manhattan.
Above: QE2 as seen from QUEEN VICTORIA at Pier 92
Below: QE2 silhouetted against the lights of New York.
Captain Robert O'Brien, USCG, Captain of the Port of
For the remarks of Cunard President Carol
Marlow at the 2008 Royal Rendezvous
For a photo essay on the 2011 Royal
Cruise ship article - Cunard - Royal Rendezvous - New York January 2008