Three Queens For A Day (One Day At A Time) Part One

In one long weekend, Shawn Dake visits three Cunard Line Queens (their newest ships, QUEEN ELIZABETH and QUEEN VICTORIA and the eldest, QUEEN MARY) along with a very special visit with Cunard Commodore Ronald Warwick.

Cunard funnel triptych. Photos Shawn J. Dake.


The Port Of Los Angeles did a fair imitation of it’s New York City counterpart with the back-to-back visits of two Cunard Line Queens in one weekend. The new QUEEN ELIZABETH was the first to arrive, making a stop on it’s 103-day maiden cruise Around-The-World, and serving as the embarkation point for passengers taking shorter segments of the voyage; lasting up to 79-days for those going all the way to Southampton. The next day the QUEEN VICTORIA took the place of her near-sister ship at the end of a cruise through the Panama Canal. The ship is making the port a temporary home-base for a series of four cruise departures. This represents the first time that Cunard Line has returned to the U.S. West Coast for more than a single sailing, in many years. To cap off the Cunard long-weekend, we traveled the seven miles to Long Beach, California, for a visit with a very distinguished guest, aboard the RMS QUEEN MARY.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

MS QUEEN ELIZABETH, maiden call at the Port Of Los Angeles. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Captain Julian Burgess, Master of the QUEEN ELIZABETH, remarked that he had always wanted to see the Port Of Los Angeles, and with this morning’s arrival he still hadn’t seen it. A dense fog enveloped the harbor as the new ship approached in reverse up the channel to Berth 87 of the expanded World Cruise Terminal. Gradually the fog lifted producing a cool, overcast day in San Pedro, California. Following customs clearance, in-transit passengers trooped off the ship for tours of Los Angeles and Hollywood, High Tea in Beverly Hills or visits to the nearby QUEEN MARY. Pierside was a beehive of activity and traffic congestion as three large ships were in port, disembarking one group of passengers, while boarding a fresh load in the afternoon.

Overlooking the QUEEN ELIZABETH’s Lido Deck it’s hard to tell where one ship ends and another begins. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Docked astern of the QUEEN ELIZABETH was Norwegian Cruise Lines 91,740 gross ton NORWEGIAN STAR, while just around the corner at Berth 93 Princess Cruises 116,000 gross ton SAPPHIRE PRINCESS moved 3,000 passengers off and back on. Comparatively, the atmosphere at QUEEN ELIZABETH was one of serenity. Quite a few passengers were embarking today for various segments of the World Cruise including the next leg, a 23-day trans-Pacific crossing with stops in Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand, before reaching Sydney, Australia on February 22nd. Groups of travel agents embarked for a tour and luncheon, while members of the press viewed the ship and witnessed the exchange of commemorative plaques, marking the maiden visit.

The Grand Lobby. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Nine types of wood veneers were used in the marquetry panel by David Linley. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

So much of the new QUEEN ELIZABETH is purposely designed to conjure nostalgic memories of her predecessors; the QUEEN MARY of 1936, the QUEEN ELIZABETH launched in 1938 and the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 from 1969. Right from the start, that impression was enhanced by the familiar face of cruise staff member extraordinaire, Thomas Quinones.

Thomas Quinones holding court on the new QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Thomas was a ubiquitous, indefatigable presence aboard the QE2, and is now fulfilling that same role on the new QE. Nostalgia begins the moment guests step into the three-deck high Grand Lobby and view the monumental artistic centerpiece of the ship, a marquetry panel of the original QUEEN ELIZABETH created by David Linley, son of Princess Margaret and nephew of Her Majesty the Queen. Nine types of wood were used to depict the ship against a background map of both sides of the Atlantic ocean, done in a superb Art Deco style. Heading any direction from the lobby confronts you with another piece of Cunard Line history, whether in the Café Carinthia, the Verandah Restaurant, or Cunard Place all on Deck 2, or in the Midship’s Bar one deck higher. Interesting to note, that much of the artwork is either inspired by, or directly copied from that of the QUEEN MARY, much more so than the QUEEN ELIZABETH.

“”Unicorns In Battle” on the QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The original artwork in situ, Main Lounge, 1st Class on the QUEEN MARY. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.1973.
The gilded gesso panel was created by Alfred J. Oakley and Gilbert Bays in 1935 for the QUEEN MARY. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
“Decorative Map Of The North Atlantic” by MacDonald Gill in the 1st Class Dining Room of the QUEEN MARY. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2010
The same work in the Midship’s Bar on the newest QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Peter Knego, c.2010.
A variant on John Skeaping’s “Deer Group” graces a corner of the Café Carinthia. The original from the QUEEN MARY has been lost. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

As it was explained to us, an Italian design team from Fincantieri came over to Long Beach to soak up the atmosphere of the old liner and freely adapted those impressive themes in creating the artistic spaces on the new cruise ship. Although it is derivative, the results are magnificent. The combining of old world liner elements with the necessities of modern cruising are probably better executed on this ship, than on any other vessel sailing today.

The Royal Arcade with a casino on the lower level and shopping above. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

With a limited amount of time available, and Thomas in the lead, our group embarked on a fast-paced jaunt, focusing on highlights of the new ship. Among the lounges designed to a grand scale are the two deck high Queens Room, spanning the width of the ship on the lower level, and the massive triple level Royal Court Theatre, featuring 14 Royal Boxes for more private, show time viewing. Sight lines appeared to be good from all areas of this beautiful room.

Queen Elizabeth on the QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Queen Elizabeth when her bust was residing on the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2008.
The Queens Room looking forward. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The entrance to the Queens Room held a nice surprise. The bust depicting H.M. Queen Elizabeth II that graced the Queens Lounge on the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 throughout it’s career, now greets a new generation of passengers. Other items retrieved from the QE2 include the wonderful silver model of the ship which is now found in the new ‘Yacht Club,’ named after the lively aft lounge and nightclub on the QE2. The new version is circular, offering guests 270 degree views overlooking the Pavilion Pool from high on Deck 10.

The Yacht Club. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Builder’s Plate of the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Italian Builder’s Plate for the 2010 QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The Commodore Club is the forward observation lounge situated on the same deck overlooking the bow. Here, perhaps the finest pieces of memorabilia from the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 can be found; the original John Brown & Co (Clydebank) builder’s plate and the ship’s bell. The Club itself is elegantly furnished, accented with paintings, large and small, highlighting recent Cunard history. In fact, the starboard bulkhead portrays an event yet to happen at the time of this writing, depicting the new QUEEN ELIZABETH in Sydney harbor. The equivalent space on the port side shows the three QUEENS, ELIZABETH 2, MARY 2 and VICTORIA at their meeting in Southampton.

A corner of the Commodore Club. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Captain Julian Burgess accepts a commemorative plaque from Everette Hoard. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
This gift from the Port of Los Angeles will travel the world with the QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Janice Hahn, Captain Burgess and Dame Barbara Hay. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

It was in this lovely lounge that the exchange of plaques took place. Captain Burgess welcomed attendees with a champagne reception. Dignitaries included Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn whose district includes the port, British Consul General, Dame Barbara Hay and Everette Hoard representing the Southern California Chapter of the Steamship Historical Society and the Queen Mary in Long Beach, among others. The exchanges were cordial, the speeches mercifully short, and like the ship itself the affair exuded an atmosphere of refined graciousness.

Beautiful Robert Lloyd painting of MAURETANIA (ii). Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Still wanting to see areas of the ship that were missed on the tour, I dashed around like the Mad Hatter, trying to visit a lot of places in the remaining half hour allotted. Dashing down the staircase; (Oh, there’s a lovely painting of the second MAURETANIA), running through the Lido Restaurant; I made my way to the aft Lido Pool. Due to the extension of aft decks all the way to the stern to accommodate more cabins below, this Lido is considerably larger than that of the QUEEN VICTORIA. From there it was back up to Deck 11 for a look at the exclusive section of the ship, the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and the adjoining Grills Lounge.

The Queens Grill. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The Princess Grill is nearly identical to it’s counterpart. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The Grills Lounge adjacent to the restaurants. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The Grills, of course, provide a’la carte choices in addition to the extensive menu items. In good weather, Grill guests can choose to dine in the small outdoor Courtyard adjacent to their restaurant. The most spacious stateroom accommodations on the ship are the Queens Grill Suites measuring 1,375 to 1,493 square feet. All have large balconies and are coded in the “Q” category as Q1 through Q7. The top six suites are cleverly named after former Cunard Line Commodores who have received knighthoods. Category P1 through P4 Princess Suites range from 335 to 513 square feet in size, with prices determined primarily by deck level selected. Category AA Club Balcony cabins on Deck 8, dine in the newly created Britannia Club Restaurant, a windowed space on the starboard side of Deck 2, but separated from the main restaurant. The remaining 20 grades of staterooms from the A1 balconies on down to the D8 standard insides all dine in the two-level Britannia Restaurant located on Decks 2 and 3. Chandeliers, a dual staircase, faux-wood accents and another piece of monumental Art Deco décor achieve the desired effect of creating a space that once again has to be described as elegant, on a grand scale.

Entrance to the Britannia Restaurant looking forward. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Britannia Restaurant facing aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Every new Cunard Line ship creates enormous anticipation, but with a name like QUEEN ELIZABETH, this one has generated even more buzz than usual. This third QE is the sixth Queen in Cunard Line history and the second largest Cunarder ever. While having its own unique character, the QUEEN ELIZABETH is a near sister ship to the existing QUEEN VICTORIA with a few important changes. The easiest differences to recognize are the more built up section, forward up top, housing a croquet, lawn bowling and paddle tennis area, and at the stern where the decks extend all the way aft. The ship shares a very similar profile to Holland America Line’s EURODAM and NIEUW AMSTERDAM, of course with a different funnel configuration. The gross tonnage for the QUEEN ELIZABETH is 90,400 gross tons. Principal dimensions are a length of 964.5 feet, a breadth of 106 feet, height of 179 feet and draft of 26.2 feet. The new ship carries slightly more passengers than her sister, with a capacity for 2,092 guests. Cruising speed is slightly slower at 21.7 knots compared to 23.7 for the QUEEN VICTORIA.

A superb model of the original QUEEN ELIZABETH in the Midship’s Bar. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Detail of the forward superstructure. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The QUEEN ELIZABETH left me with a very favorable first impression that I reserve for few ships. It has a nice feel to it. In coming years it will be up to her passengers and crew to endow her with the soul and spirit that makes a good ship great.

QUEEN ELIZABETH preparing for her maiden departure from Los Angeles. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

After disembarking, I headed down to the part of San Pedro known as Ports Of Call Village. It provides a good overview of the harbor and is one of the favored locations to watch ships pass by. The port side of the QUEEN ELIZABETH was clearly visible at her berth on the main channel. It is always uncertain when a ship will actually depart, and in the winter that can mean a race against the setting sun. With ship photography, the dark of night can be an enemy. At 5pm, the NORWEGIAN STAR eased away from the pier and began a backwards departure on her voyage to Mexico. The first time I witnessed this reverse traversing of the harbor was on the last call of the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 in Los Angeles, when it suffered the indignity of sailing out backwards. With the new QUEEN ELIZABETH firmly attached to the dock, the SAPPHIRE PRINCESS backed into the channel, turning for her correct, bow first departure. For a few minutes it looked like a gridlock of ships as the three vessels seemed to be facing in every possible direction.

In Los Angeles it’s not only the freeways that are gridlocked. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
NORWEGIAN STAR backs off. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The SAPPHIRE PRINCESS was the next in line. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

It was still light enough to get some good photos of the weekly visitors to the port, but unfortunately nightfall had come before the QUEEN ELIZABETH finally cast off her lines at 5:55pm. Ten minutes later the ship finally blew her whistle, signaling forward progress toward her maiden departure from the port. A fireboat led the way sending sprays of water skyward in salute.

It was fully dark by the time QUEEN ELIZABETH departed. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Bon Voyage, QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Nelson Arnstein, c.2011.

The ship made a majestic sight as it passed by my location. Lights from the vessel illuminated the water, with the traditional Cunard funnel crowning the scene. I watched until she was headed toward the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse then walked back to my car. While I was driving to my home in The O.C.. passengers onboard were enjoying cocktails in the Commodore Club, the Golden Lion Pub or at the sail away party by the Lido Pool. The latter may not have been the favored option as it was a bitterly cold night. In a few days the ship would reach the warmer climes of Lahaina on Maui.

End of Part One

Click here for Part Two


Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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