Posted on Sunday, July 4, 2010 by Peter Knego
The day began a bit early as my New York-based friend Rob Di Stefano and I hopped into a cab from Houston St. to Battery Park to witness the maiden arrival of NCL’s new behemoth, the NORWEGIAN EPIC. At 153,000 gt, she is the largest cruise ship to berth at Manhattan’s passenger terminal and an exciting, innovative vessel that promises to be one of the year’s most talked about. The weather and lighting were simply perfect as the squared off apparition passed the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Hoboken skyline, begging for a proper fireboat salute. A lone helicopter swirled overhead, following her up to her mid-Manhattan berth. More on the EPIC in the next blog as I join the ship for a two night inaugural cruise tomorrow…
With two and a half hours to get to the Red Hook Cruise Terminal in Brooklyn to board the QUEEN MARY 2, we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the East River past the Lower Manhattan skyline with its amazing variety of early to mid twentieth century architecture.
On the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, we encountered a red admiral butterfly, coincidentally sporting Cunard Lines colors in its distinguished markings. A perfect specimen, too!
From the western approach to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, we had an unencumbered view of the mighty QM2.
The incomplete, 76 story Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower pierced the City Hall section of the lower Manhattan skyline, reflecting the morning sun in its silvery sinews.
Once across the famous bridge, we crossed through Brooklyn Heights to the Promenade until catching a cab to Red Hook. QUEEN MARY 2 looked absolutely splendid in her sparkling, dressy Cunard livery.
After checking in, we had a little free time to explore some of the QUEEN MARY 2’s public areas on Decks 2 and 3. It had been almost five years since my last visit to this genuine ocean liner, which is looking ever better with the passage of time.
The MARY has two large show venues, the traditional Royal Court Theater and Illuminations, which is both auditorium and planetarium.
The gallery-style Chartroom is a marvelous space with its oversized seating and a soaring ceiling whose true loftiness is lost in photos. Largely based on that of the late QE2, it is certainly a space I would want to spend a good deal of time in should I ever get to cross in the QM2.
The QUEEN MARY 2 has some posh soft fittings that are standing the tests of time quite nicely.
The three deck Britannia Restaurant is the QUEEN MARY 2’s most spectacular venue with its massive tapestry of a liner that looks more like Blue Ribband-winning BREMEN or EUROPA than the QM2. We proceeded along the port side balcony to the Queen’s Room, where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were on tap for the 200 or so “Mr .Ocean Liner” premiere attendees.
After posting this blog, I received the following message from Kyle Johnstone regarding the mural:
“In regards to Barbara Broekman’s famous tapestry in QM2’s Britannia dining room, I once spoke with her about it. She explained to me that her inspiration for the ship was 30’s era Holland America posters, so I think we can safely say that the NIEUW AMSTERDAM of 1938 is what we see in the Britannia. She simply appreciated the artistry of the poster. Ms. Broekman also explained that the squiggly lines represented the mythological sea snakes which were believed to bring good luck to the ancient mariners, and which probably account for the now sadly extinct tradition of streamers at sail-aways. I once visited Ms. Broekman’s studio in Amsterdam, where she was very welcoming and eager to share about her work.” Thanks Kyle!
Bill Miller’s stats are impressive by any measure — he is by far the world’s most prolific authority on ocean liners, having penned 75 books and more than 1,000 articles on the subject. He’s won several major awards and has lectured on over 50 ships but it is his infectious enthusiasm and larger than life personality that has captured the hearts and minds of budding passenger ship enthusiasts. He is keeping the legacy of the great liners alive through his works.
Both Bill Miller and director Robert Neal Marshall were introduced and speeches were made by Captain Nicholas Bates, the MARY’s current master, and Peter Ising, who composed the music for the film.
“What a tremendous pleasure it has been to work so closely with Bill Miller on this story of his life,” said Director Robert Neal Marshall. “As the film portrays, he is an amazing inspiration to so many, fueled by a passion that is his driving force. I am honored he has put his faith in me and that we have shared this year-long journey together,” he added. Marshall is a successful actor, writer, producer and director and the man behind the popular “Three Queens, An International Rendezvous” DVD.
From the Queens Lounge, we marched off to Illuminations where the featured stars were Miller, Marshall and “Mr. Ocean Liner”.
Peppered with footage from the Mark B. Perry collection, including vintage shots of UNITED STATES, AMERICA, NIEUW AMSTERDAM, QUEEN MARY, QUEEN ELIZABETH, ANDREA DORIA and many others, the approximately one hour film is expertly edited with interviews of Miller’s friends, co workers and fans to tell his story. Guest stars include Commodore Bernard Warner; Captain Ian McNaught; Theatrical Producer and former General Manager of Radio City Music Hall Steve Rivellino; Cunard Assistant Entertainment Director Amanda Reid; Chief Purser Jonathan Leavor; Social Host Thomas Quinones, Richard Faber and more. It was informative, nostalgic, funny and even at times a little misty-eyed. Bill and Robert received a well-deserved standing ovation when the lights flickered back on.
There was still a nice chunk of time before Rob and I had to disembark, so we continued our self-guided tour of Cunard’s regal flagship from the nicely terraced stern up to the top decks and then forward.
Boat drill began just as we reached the magnificent Commodore Club with its view over the MARY’s whaleback prow. The QUEEN MARY would soon depart for a weeklong cruise to Canada and New England, with Miller, Marshall and many revelers in tow.
The official “Mr. Ocean Liner” DVD release is scheduled for 9 August and advance DVD orders are now available at www.MrOceanLiner.com. In addition, the film will be available for sale on board both QUEEN MARY 2 and QUEEN VICTORIA.
Special thanks: Jackie Chase, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Michael Hadgis, Kyle Johnstone, Robert Neal Marshall, Bill Miller