Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 by Shawn Dake
QUEEN ELIZABETH Meets QUEEN MARY In Long Beach
Shawn J. Dake
For two decades following the second World War mid-ocean meetings between the QUEEN MARY and the original QUEEN ELIZABETH were a fairly common event as the two liners plied the waters of the North Atlantic. The last time their paths crossed was in the early morning hours of September 25, 1967, when the QUEEN MARY was Eastbound on her last trans-Atlantic voyage in Cunard Line service before retirement. As the Westbound QUEEN ELIZABETH sped past, Commodore Geoffrey Marr and his counterpart on the QUEEN MARY, Captain Treasure Jones, exchanged salutes, flashing the funnel lights on and blasting steam through the mighty typhon whistles that could be heard ten miles away, creating one of the most poignant moments in the history of ocean liners. For the QUEEN MARY a final voyage across the Atlantic and around Cape Horn would bring the “stateliest ship” to Long Beach, California.
Fast forward over 45 years and the scene was set for the first meeting of a new ship bearing the name QUEEN ELIZABETH, to pay a royal visit to her grandmother, or if you prefer great-aunt, the original QUEEN MARY, since that historic date on the Atlantic. With a great sense of history, on March 12, 2013, at 7:00pm the newest QUEEN ELIZABETH sailed into Long Beach harbor for the latest in a series of Royal Rendezvous events that have drawn crowds of ship-lovers around the world. Because of the famous names involved, this one would be even more historic than most.
The setting was one of those picture perfect, late winter days that happen in Southern California from time to time. Clear skies with temperatures on the water hovering in the high 70’s Fahrenheit. Typical evening cooling brought a slight chill to the air. Across the channel the peaks of Catalina Island were visible in the distance. The QUEEN ELIZABETH had spent the day berthed at pier 93 in nearby San Pedro. An hour or so before sunset she began making her way from Los Angeles harbor, cruising within the breakwater over to the Port Of Long Beach. The QUEEN MARY, not surprisingly, waited for the young ship at her permanent home on pier J. An aerial escort was provided by the Goodyear airship SPIRIT OF AMERICA which flew overhead spelling out greetings to the two ships below. The blimp has been a long-time fixture in Southern California, operating from her base in nearby Carson, California.
The QUEEN MARY offered free admission to the general public to view the spectacle of the Royal Rendezvous and by 6:00pm the aft decks were thronged with what appeared to be at least a couple thousand visitors. It brought to mind scenes of these same decks crowded with troops during World War II. Fewer people lined the decks of the QUEEN ELIZABETH, although admittedly there was a good crowd along the portside rails. The QUEEN MARY’s honorary Commodore, Everette Hoard was aboard the QE, providing a knowledgeable narration for the ship’s passengers.
As the skies darkened, the newest member of the Cunard Line fleet slowly passed the stern of the oldest surviving Cunarder, and the last remnant from the Golden Age of trans-Atlantic travel. After executing a pivoting turn to port the QUEEN ELIZABETH blasted another whistle salute which was returned by the QUEEN MARY and a impressive fireworks show lit the skies over Long Beach harbor. By 7:50pm, after about an hour in each other’s company, it was all over and the meeting of these two Queens was already a new entry for the history books. The QUEEN ELIZABETH continued on her cruise bound for Puerto Vallarta and on through the Panama Canal to Florida and New York.
In their time sailing together in the post-war era both the original 81,237 ton QUEEN MARY and the 83,673 ton QUEEN ELIZABETH were the two largest passenger ships in the world. Today, the newest QUEEN ELIZABETH with a gross tonnage of 90,901 surpasses them both by that measure, although at 965 feet in length she is considerably shorter. The legendary reliability and service aboard the original QUEEN MARY of 1936 cemented the already illustrious reputation of Cunard Line as the epitome of luxury in the mind of the traveling public. The current QUEEN ELIZABETH is the third ship to bear the name but without the numeric notation of her predecessor the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. This QUEEN ELIZABETH was christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in October, 2010. The present ship is capable of carrying 2,092 passengers, based on double-occupancy and is promoted as the second largest vessel the company has ever built. Cunard Line publicity sums up the goal of the current ship “Recalling the rich heritage of the first Cunarder to bear the name, her elegance echoes that legendary age and enhances her modern allure.” In reality, the interior artwork aboard the QUEEN ELIZABETH most closely resembles that found aboard the original QUEEN MARY more than any other Cunarder. Several major pieces are copies of paintings and bas-relief panels from the First Class Restaurant, the Main Lounge and other public areas on the original Cunard Queen.
This was the fourth time that a Cunard Line ship has paid a visit to the QUEEN MARY. The first was a courtesy call by the CUNARD PRINCESS on September 28, 1983. The Royal Rendezvous concept with the latest generation “Queens” started on February 23, 2006 when the QUEEN MARY 2 sailed as close as her deep draft would allow, to salute her namesake as thousands of onlookers lined the harbor and the decks of both ships. More recently, the QUEEN VICTORIA paid an evening visit to the QUEEN MARY, pirouetting in Long Beach harbor on March 3, 2011, under cold, clear skies and the thunder of exploding fireworks and countless whistle salutes. Now the QUEEN ELIZABETH has joined that illustrious group.
After all that has passed in the world of shipping and through history in general, it is absolutely astounding that the QUEEN MARY has survived it all as she approaches her 80th birthday. It is a great tribute not only to her longevity, but continuing popularity that the newest generation of cruise ships still come to call, whether at these very special Royal Rendezvous events or simply in regular commerce as they sail from the Long Beach Cruise Terminal located at her stern. Cunard Line is to be commended as well for being one of the only companies in modern cruising that understands and appreciates the great importance of their history, which largely relates to their commercial viability today. Long live the QUEEN MARY, and long live the Cunard Queens.
Thanks to Jackie Chase, Martin Cox, Caroline Dake, Johanna Felix and Elizabeth Lascaze.