“QE2 Blues” Blog

Cunard Line

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All text and photographs copyright Peter Knego 2008. Click on photo to view larger version.

Daniel Crosswell.

Veteran travel industry maven Daniel Crosswell was in New York when QE2 made her maiden arrival in 1969 and a special guest on board during her first visit to Los Angeles in April of 1975. This morning, he was among a group of seventy members of the Steamship Historical Society of America gathered in the Yacht Club to bid farewell to the legendary, beloved ocean liner. “I remember when she first came out, just how modern and different she was from the original MARY and ELIZABETH. She was a real departure from anything Cunard had ever built. I thought building a giant ocean liner at that time was too much of a risk and that two 35,000 ton cruise ships would have been a wiser, safer move. But the QE2 was a huge success and got even better with time. She looks wonderful today with the larger funnel, wearing the traditional Cunard red/orange and black livery.”

My “chain link” maiden encounter with QE2 in 1975.

I, too, remember QE2’s maiden Los Angeles visit, staring in frustration and wonder at her mighty presence through a chain link fence at Pier 93 on a sunny morning thirty three years ago. I pined with pure teen envy as limousines and fancy cars drove past the guard gates (back then the tight security stemmed from the IRA bomb threats made to the ship in her early years). My father, never a particularly patient man, suffered an earful of my rants on the freeway home, and was understandably relieved to deliver me back to my mother.

1976 pre-magrodome stern shot collage at Pier 93, courtesy of Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20.

I finally managed to visit the world’s most important ship after joining a television production class the next year. I convinced the producer to let me do a feature on the QE2, after finding an angle that met “student interest” critera. In 1976, I stepped triumphantly on board with a camera man to explore and savor the mystery and majesty that was the then queen of the seas. I saw it all, from the quirky Tables of the World restaurant to her terraced stern and two outdoor pools to that slender white funnel and the ultra-modern Double Room.

Post Falklands pebble gray at Pier 93 in ’83.

I returned to the QE2 almost every year after that, to visit or ogle from afar as she made her annual world cruise call. I even recall her looking a bit tattered in the early 1980s before the Falklands War and seeing her “post FW” in the controversial pebble gray hull.

Original funnel in Cunard red/orange with black hull before the advent of the “new” Pier 92.

For a brief time, QE2 wore the original thin funnel in red/orange with a black hull before her re engining. A magrodome came and thankfully went along with the pocket instamatic camera. The dining rooms, Queen’s Room and other spaces got major make-overs; most, like the Double Room were renamed or completely rebuilt in the process.

There were the midnight sailings, viewed in awe with friends from the terrace of Ports O’Call Restaurant in San Pedro. She and the tranquil waters formed a passing cosmos of twinkling lights while that basso profundo whistle pierced the solar plexus of everyone within a mile’s radius.

One thing that never changed about the QUEEN was her prestige and status. There were bigger, fancier ships to come but she held her own against the best of them. Her annual visits to Los Angeles were always an event of sorts, bringing admirers of every ilk out of the woodwork to see her.

A bit of QE2 amid the palm skyline of Los Angeles’ Pier 92.

This morning was bittersweet: “bitter” knowing it was her final visit and quite likely the last time I would ever see her; “sweet” knowing that I was able to say goodbye (thanks to the gracious Cunard PR department) and watch her sail off in daylight for the first time in many years. Queueing up with old friends and acquaintances at the terminal was like attending a farewell party for someone who would never return. The event itself would be joyous but the aftermath, well, maybe not so…

Follicle alert!

Was the sign at the shell door the same icon of Britishness my head scraped in youthful times?

Midships Lobby, facing starboard.

It was so nice to step into that marvelous, sunken, compass-shaped lobby, long since altered from its original “’Star Trek’ starkness” yet still unlike any other space afloat.

The Queen’s Room, facing aft.

Totally random shot of the Queen’s Room carpet Tudor Rose detail.

Although we were to proceed directly to the Yacht Club, I had to spend a moment admiring the empty Queen’s Room, which once seemed so vast. It took me a long time to “get” those Eero Saarinen-esque white fiberglass pillars and that space age ceiling, but once I did, there was no going back. And the egg-shaped windows of its perimeter galleries seemed as sublime as ever.

The Yacht Club, facing starboard.

Totally random Yacht Club carpet sample.

Even the relatively new Yacht Club has acquired a patina with time and now meshes well with the original, altered and “inbetweeness” of the QE2’s patchwork of interior design styles and eras.

Stephanie Mardesich (left), Captain Perkins (center), Bruce Vancil (right).

The Southern California SSHSA group was honored with a visit from Captain Perkins, a good-natured man who reminded us not to be too maudlin, since QE2 will at least be preserved in her retirement, unlike other recently-departed favorites, namely NORWAY. He also confirmed that some quarter billion USD will be spent in bringing her back to her original look following delivery to her Dubai owners in November. He exchanged farewell plaques with Bruce Vancil from the QUEEN MARY and Stephanie Mardesich, representing local Los Angeles councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The Mauretania Restaurant, facing forward.

Special menu for a special day.

Dynamic dessert duo.

Tablemate Martin Cox, MaritimeMatters’ editor in chief, picks petites-fours.

Soon we were off to the Mauretania Restaurant to enjoy selections from a menu specially created for our visit, starting with tartare of salmon or wild mushroom bisque, a main course choice of pan seared lemon sole, medallion of beef tenderloin or a roasted vegetable tart tatin and finishing with a wonderful desert duo of bread and butter pudding and macerated strawberries in caramel sauce.

Afterwards, we were free to roam, photograph, reminisce, explore, tap on real wood, and mingle among QE2’s ever eclectic, interesting mix of well-traveled world cruisers. I covered just about every space, save for the conference room and indoor pool, which was closed off during boat drill.

The Chart Room, facing aft.

Totally random view of the Chart Room carpet.

In the Chart Room, an imposing lady with platinum hair held court while at the starboard gallery underneath the painting of MAURETANIA, an intense voyager glowered over a huge jigsaw puzzle, or perhaps the man across from her.

Missed opportuni-tea in the Queen’s Room.

Silence in the synagogue, facing port.

Norman F
oster bass-relief from RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (1940) in the Crystal Bar.

Lovely lino in the Crystal Bar.

A bit of MAURETANIA II on the Heritage Trail to Dubai.

Tom Nicolai browses in the Ocean Book Shop.

Getting a grip on the (Queen’s) Grill.

Britannia Grill, facing forward.

Grand Lounge, facing forward from port balcony.

In the Queen’s Room, the most exquisite tea afloat was being set up but time was running short and other portals needed to be darkened: the marvelous Synagogue, unaltered from its inception in 1968; the Princess Grill and its statues (an acquired taste); and exclusive enclaves like the Queen’s Grill Lounge and Boardroom.

Close Encounter at the Purser’s Office: Richard Dreyfuss (left) and Ken Marschall (center).

And a last queue-up at the Purser’s Desk for the final Los Angeles Daily Programme and a post card stamped with “Farewell World Cruise 2008”. Meanwhile, that friendly man who looked like Richard Dreyfuss actually was Richard Dreyfuss…

SS LANE VICTORY from the observation platform.

Aft from port observation deck.

Sign and symbol.

Helipad, facing forward.

Steps and shadows.

Forward port Boat Deck.

Target market.


Outside, in the warm California sun, people reclined in real wooden deck chairs on a real teak deck and a lone wader rippled the pool, its Cunard Lion pulsating ad Hoc-kney.

When I finally disembarked at 4:40, the security officer seemed displeased. Apparently I was the last person off, although I didn’t hear any announcements for first call, let alone last. Mea Culpa!

I raced to my car, regretting that I would not be able to see the Los Angeles Pipe and Drum Corps play at dockside as the old QUEEN sailed away. Instead, I gambled on securing a good spot at Ports O’Call to document her departure. A gathering of the loyal, including friends and fellow shiplovers like David Davila, Tom Nicolai and others whose names I did not know were already there. Meanwhile, at land’s end, liner fans like Ken Marschall, Amy Blume and Patricia Dempsey (in from Southampton) awaited.

VISION OF THE SEAS, exits bow first.

Heading stern forward…

Slow astern…

A moment to reflect.

4/5 majesty.

QE2 and VISION in Blue.

Royal Caribbean’s VISION OF THE SEAS maneuvered into the channel from Pier 93 and sailed past, giving the cameras a nice practice run. Finally, at about 5:20, QE2 backed away from Berth 92, but instead of proceeding into the turning basin and, well, turning, she continued backing, with the aide of four tugs, past us. A giant container ship, EVER URANUS (someone at Evergreen has a great sense of humor!) was partially blocking the basin, so our gallant queen picked up her skirts and led herself in reverse all the way to the outer harbor. As she passed Ports O’Call and caught the sun in a perfect pose, her three long and one short roars shattered the Southern California air one final time.

Entering outer harbor.

Beyond the gate.

It was back to the car and off to the Pacific Avenue lookout to watch her, now bow first, slip past distant Angel’s Gate and into the Pacific. Another small gathering of admirers was there to see her off, marveling at her balanced beauty in an age of balconied boxes. I decided I would leave before she reached the horizon, my last view of her brilliantly lit and plunging into the tranquil Pacific. An Angeleno’s final perspective.

Very, very special thanks to: Jackie Chase, Brian O’Connor, Martin Cox, Danny Crosswell, Tom Nicolai, Bruce Vancil

Cunard Line

Ocean Liner Fittings, Furniture and Art For Sale at MidShipCentury.com

Peter Knego Videos Link: ON THE ROAD TO ALANG and THE WORLD’s PASSENGER FLEET, Volume Nine

Amended August 13, 2008

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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