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

Shawn Dake continues his coverage of three Cunard Line Queens (their newest QUEEN ELIZABETH and QUEEN VICTORIA and the eldest, the first QUEEN MARY) and a very special visit with Cunard Commodore Ronald Warwick, all in one long weekend.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

QUEEN VICTORIA visits Los Angeles. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

This morning the QUEEN VICTORIA arrived at the Port Of Los Angeles for the third time in her career. The first visit had been on the exact same date in 2008. Today the ship was greeted with scattered showers throughout the intermittently cloudy day. The QUEEN VICTORIA docked along the main channel, sharing the port with the DISNEY WONDER, which had just begun a series of cruises to the Mexican Riviera the previous week. QUEEN VICTORIA would be taking up station in Los Angeles for the next month, with the first cruise leaving this evening for 14-days roundtrip to Hawaii. Following that voyage the schedule offers a 4-day Getaway cruise, February 13th over Valentine’s Day, another fortnight trip to Hawaii on the 17th , and a return voyage through the Panama Canal on March 3, 2011. A fairly ambitious schedule for Cunard which previously had taken the QUEEN MARY 2 on a similar series of cruises in 2006, which were the first since the CUNARD PRINCESS operated seasonally to Mexico in the 1980’s. Other Cunard Line ships have called at the port as part of longer cruises, but the ones noted are the only times the line has based ships at Los Angeles.

The Grand Lobby of the QUEEN VICTORIA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Since the general arrangements of the QUEEN VICTORIA are similar in most ways to the QUEEN ELIZABETH, all of the details do not bear repeating. It is worth noting that despite their similarities, both ships possess a unique character of their own. There was no predecessor named QUEEN VICTORIA, so the art and design does not need to pay homage to another ship. If anything, the decoration seems to have evolved more from the QUEEN MARY 2 which was completed in 2003.

The Queens Room looking aft from the balcony. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
The Royal Court Theatre. (QV) Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The Royal Court Theatre for example uses the bright red color palette of the earlier ship, while the monumental artistic centerpiece in the lobby is a bronze not unlike that found on the QM2. The indoor/outdoor Winter Garden of the QUEEN VICTORIA located near the swimming pool has evolved into the more impressive Garden Lounge on the QUEEN ELIZABETH with the addition of a domed roof on the latter ship. Other than that, the public rooms are basically laid out in a similar fashion, with differences only in the colors and artwork.

The Winter Garden on the QUEEN VICTORIA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Contrasted with the Garden Lounge of the QUEEN ELIZABETH. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

The tonnage for the QUEEN VICTORIA is listed as 90,000 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 same as her sister ship. With fewer cabins aft, the ship carries less passengers, with a capacity for 2,000 guests.

The QUEEN VICTORIA departing from Los Angeles. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
Looking every inch a Cunard Line ship. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.
QUEEN VICTORIA setting a course toward Hawaii. Photo by Kevin Anthoney, c.2011.

The QUEEN VICTORIA set sail a full hour earlier than her sister, blowing her whistles at 5pm, before heading down the channel. She politely allowed the DISNEY WONDER to lead the two ship parade. Once out to sea, the ship set a southwesterly course to Hilo, Hawaii where she would arrive five days later.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The QUEEN MARY, after 75 years afloat, still never fails to impress. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Visiting new ships is always exciting, but even after having her in Long Beach for 44 years, there is still great joy in stepping aboard the QUEEN MARY once again. As a 18 year old kid, I got my first job ever guiding tours and exploring every possible section of this massive ship, in my time off. Putting on the uniform, it was fun to man the bridge and pretend that I was captain of this great ocean liner. On foggy days, it was easy to imagine being out at sea, rather than floating at a specially built pier in Southern California.

Imagining myself as Captain of the QUEEN MARY at age 19 in 1973. From the collection of Shawn J. Dake.
Southern California’s very own Queen. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

I’m older now, and this day was brightly sunny. But it was to prove no less enjoyable or exciting as those old times. My wife and I were going aboard this particular evening to have cocktails with a true master of the sea, Commodore Ronald Warwick and his gracious wife Kim. The venue would be the Churchill Suite on Main Deck, the very room that Sir Winston would travel in during his crossings on the QUEEN MARY. Perhaps that sense of history embedded in the wood-paneled walls of this suite, affected my feelings that this was going to be a very special evening indeed.

If these walls could talk. Photo by Shawn J. Dake c.2011.
Churchill slept here and so did Commodore and Mrs. Warwick. Photo by Shawn J. Dake c.2011.

I had met Commodore Warwick on a few previous occasions but had never been able to spend a great deal of time visiting with him. After all, aboard Cunard Line ships, he was working and had an awesome amount of responsibilities. He had safely brought my wife and I back from England on the maiden voyage of the QUEEN MARY 2 in January 2004. Here in the comfortable environment of this stateroom and without the burden of command of the world’s largest liner, he seemed much more relaxed. Retirement seems to be suiting him well.

Ronald Warwick began his seagoing career in the late 1950’s aboard Port Line cargo ships. Throughout the 1960’s he rose through the ranks including a stint as Fourth Officer on Royal Mail Lines RMS ANDES. By 1968, he had obtained his Master’s ticket. Captain Warwick joined Cunard Line as a junior officer aboard the CARMANIA in 1971. His first command was the cruise ship CUNARD PRINCESS. In July of 1990 he was appointed Master of the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, just as Cunard Line was celebrating it’s 150th anniversary. He made history personally and professionally becoming the first son to command the same ship as his father. Commodore Bil Warwick was the first Master of the QE2. Previously, the senior Commodore Warwick had commanded the QUEEN MARY. In 1996, Commodore Ronald Warwick was appointed Marine Superintendent of the Cunard Line fleet and the following year as permanent master of QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. At the keel laying ceremony on July 4, 2002 for the ship that would become the QUEEN MARY 2, it was announced that he would be that ship’s first Master. The family history with Cunard was continued.

Commodore Ronald Warwick while consulting on the building of the QUEEN MARY 2 in 2003.

Among the personal highlights he related to me, was participating in a dive in a MIR submersible to the wreck of the TITANIC. On that dive he carried a White Star Line flag that had flown aboard one of the ships his father had worked on earlier in his career. On the 100th anniversary of the disaster, April 14, 2012, Commodore Ronald Warwick will once again be at the site of the sinking aboard a special memorial cruise on Fred. Olsen Lines BALMORAL. Commodore Warwick retired in 2006, ending a brilliant career in command of the most famous ships in the world. He and Kim now reside in Somerset, U.K.

Commodore Ronald Warwick and Kim Warwick aboard the Queen Mary. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Like the person writing this, and those of you reading it, Commodore Warwick is a ship buff. His appearance in Long Beach on this “Cunard Weekend” was not a coincidence. He and Kim had come over from Southampton aboard the new QUEEN ELIZABETH, disembarking in L.A., and were now spending a week on the old QUEEN MARY. Among the many anecdotes told to me was the story of taking Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II around the QUEEN MARY 2 just prior to the christening ceremony. Apparently there is a specific protocol to be observed even with something so small as removing the cap from a fountain pen. It must be handed to her with the cap on. Commodore Warwick took out one of his treasured possessions, a pen made from the bronze propellers of the original QUEEN ELIZABETH, for the Queen to sign the guestbook and a portrait of herself on this special occasion. When she saw it, the Queen smiled and said something to the effect of “I have this pen as well.” When you’re Queen, I suppose you have everything. The moment was captured in the photo below.

Queen Elizabeth II holding Commodore Warwick’s very special bronze pen.

A more diverse and convivial group of people has rarely been brought together and gotten along more famously. In addition to our sea captain guest host and his lovely wife, there was a train engineer, people with various connections to the airlines, a medical doctor (who had sailed in the same suite as a child), a bookkeeper, personnel from the QUEEN MARY, an actress and even a fellow who plays John Lennon in the Beatles tribute band Rain. There was also the guy who writes stories like this.

Perfect hosts and a perfect setting make for a perfect cocktail party. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2011.

Everyone continued talking pretty much right through dinner. Good drinks, snacks and friends made the time pass by too quickly. Those that were able decided to continue the festivities the next evening with a formal dinner at Sir Winston’s on the Sports Deck of the QUEEN MARY.

Nights can be a magical time aboard the QUEEN MARY. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, c.2010.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This day was a bonus for everyone, making an extra-long weekend stretch into the week. We met at 7:30pm in the bar adjacent to the restaurant. Sir Winston’s has long been one of the finer dining restaurants in Southern California. It was built into a space that once housed the Engineer Officer’s quarters aboard the QUEEN MARY, directly above the famous Verandah Grill.

Sir Winston’s Restaurant located high on the after end of the QUEEN MARY. Both photos by Shawn J. Dake, c.2009.

The meal was as delicious and expensive as always, but once again it was this very special group of people that set the evening apart. The one thing everyone had in common was a love of the QUEEN MARY; or loving someone who loves the QUEEN MARY. At one point we all went around the table relating what our connections were to this wonderful old ship that still seems almost like a living, breathing entity. Near the end of the night Everette Hoard made a special presentation to Commodore Warwick on behalf of himself and the QUEEN MARY. Everette is one of the world’s authorities on the captains that have served aboard Cunard Line ships. His gift tonight was a set of flags including the “red duster,” a White Star pennant and the Cunard house flag of a golden lion rampant on a red field. It was an appropriate and touching gift. We all thanked Commodore Warwick and Kim for their graciousness, not only the last two evenings, but over the years, and for safely transporting us across the world’s oceans during his long career. It was very late at night by the time we made the walk down the decks, some heading back to their cabins in the hotel and some like myself heading home, with a head and heart filled with new memories.

A deserted Promenade Deck in the wee hours after a fabulous evening. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, C.2011


Article and photographs copyright 2011 by Shawn J. Dake

Thanks to Jackie Chase from Cunard Line, Martin Cox, Caroline Dake, Bruce Vancil, Peter Knego, Bruce Lyons, Nelson Arnstein, Kevin Anthoney, Everette Hoard and of course Commodore Ronald Warwick and Kim Warwick.

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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