QUEEN VICTORIA Versus QUEEN MARY

Three MaritimeMatters contributors were on the scene to catch Thursday’s Royal Rendezvous between Cunard’s QUEEN VICTORIA and the first Cunard QUEEN, the preserved 1936-built QUEEN MARY. The day began aboard QUEEN VICTORIA with a special lunch for the Rose Parade officials who helped Cunard realize an award winning float in 2011’s Tournament of Roses.

Cunard Line

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Please click on image to see larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego, Martin Cox or Shawn Dake 2011, unless otherwise noted.

Cunard atop the palms.

My day began not unlike many a Southern Californian’s, with an endless hurtle along a network of potholed freeways in the hopes of not being snared in a traffic jam. 75 miles later, I finally reached the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal at Pier 93 in San Pedro at 11:30, just in time to join a large group of visitors at the gangway of Cunard’s handsome QUEEN VICTORIA.

QUEEN VICTORIA Lobby, facing aft from Deck 3.

We traversed the ship’s largely empty Deck 2 public rooms on a rather business-like bee line to the double deck Britannia Restaurant.

Cunard in the table setting.

A special lunch awaited, honoring the Pasadena Rose Parade officials and staff who helped realize the award-winning Cunard float in this year’s Tournament of Roses.

Decisions in Red. The Rose Court has been seated in the Britannia Restaurant.

Our throng included the float’s acclaimed designer, Raoul Rodriguez (of Fiesta Parade Floats), the pretty “queen” and her court of “princesses”, whose rose red attire was just a shade or two away from Cunard’s own orange/red.  Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johanson had better keep an eye on these local beauties.

Britannia Grilled Asparagus Bocconcini with sun-blushed tomato relish and garlic-thyme crostini appetizer. The other choice was a Baked Mushroom and Crab Brioche Thermidor.
Tian of Aubergine and Buffalo Mozzarella with fire-roasted red pepper and tomato pesto sauce entrée. Other choices: Pan Roasted Salmon or Roasted Beef Tenderloin.
Tarte Aux Pommes With Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream dessert.

During our three course lunch, I learned that there are four main builders who design and oversee construction of almost all the floats, each of which must undergo a stringent series of inspections (both aesthetic and structural) before it can actually become part of the parade. Floats on average cost $350,000 but their international visibility tends to more than offset the price tag. A Rose Parade official pointed out that the Superbowl charges $3 million for a similar amount of exposure in its television commercials.

Rose Parade plaque exchange in the Britannia Restaurant.

Towards the end of lunch, there was an exchange of gifts between Rose Parade officers and Cunard’s savvy PR team, Brian O’Connor and Jackie Chase.

Cunard Rose Parade plaque depicting the award-winning float.

As the group queued up for a tour of the ship, I snapped a close up of the plaque, then headed out for my own speedy docu-fest.

The actual Cunard Line "Rose Parade" float. Photo courtesy Cunard Line.

But first, a parting glance at the float. No firm decision on a Cunard float for 2012 has yet been made, although I was told by the Rose Parade rep that another Cunard float would be most welcome in the next Tournament of Roses Parade.

Queens Lounge, facing forward.

After lunch, the ship’s public spaces had begun to fill up. I got lucky with the as-yet-unoccupied double deck Queens Lounge, one of my favorite spaces on the QUEEN VICTORIA.

Aft lido, facing forward.

By the time I reached the aft Lido area, it was time to disembark. The cool morning had evolved into a toasty afternoon, coaxing a few guests into deck chairs.

ANNE ELIZABETH and QUEEN VICTORIA at Los Angeles. Photo by Peter Knego 2011.

When I disembarked, the fuel barge ANNE ELIZABETH was still tied up to the QUEEN VICTORIA’s starboard side. Even the fuel barge had a royal name (or two).

QUEEN VICTORIA edges away from Pier 93.

I hate to miss a good sail-away, so headed to the nearby Ports O’Call Restaurant in San Pedro, my favorite spot for tracking departing cruise ships in Los Angeles for some 3.5 decades. Its open terrace is one of the few spaces in the harbor with a relatively unobstructed view of the oncoming ships. It also has good food, very friendly service and reasonable prices.

Don't be tardy for the party! QUEEN VICTORIA emerges from a stack of containers on Terminal Island.

I would be young again if I had back all the time I have spent waiting for ships to sail. Despite her important “Royal Rendezvous” with the QUEEN MARY in Long Beach being scheduled for 5:30 PM, the QUEEN VICTORIA did not finally slip away from her berth until 5:20.

QUEEN VICTORIA departs Los Angeles.

Just as she approached, the sun began to disappear behind a fog bank.

Ports O'Call passage.

Even without the enhancement of a bright sun, the QUEEN VICTORIA looked very attractive as she passed. Despite an enthusiastic welcome from the restaurant, she slid silently by. Perhaps she was saving her “voice” for the upcoming event.

The two QUEENs exchange whistle salutes as a fireboat curtsies.

I hurtled myself into my car once again and raced the QUEEN VICTORIA to Long Beach as the skies transformed from late afternoon to twilight. The normally ten minute drive morphed into a white-knuckle episode of “The Amazing Race”, with an inexplicable closure of the Gerald Desmond Bridge, a circuitous detour and the intervention of a mile long train at a key crossing. It was almost a full hour later before I managed to get to the Hyatt Hotel in Long Beach. The QUEEN VICTORIA had won the race and had already begun her exchange of salutes with the QUEEN MARY, which will be celebrating her 75th Anniversary this year.

MARY reflections. Photo by Martin Cox 2011.

Fortunately, MaritimeMatters editor Martin Cox and regular contributor Shawn Dake were already staked out in their positions to capture the exchange. Martin had boarded the QUEEN MARY early in the afternoon as the crowds began to fill her after decks and Shawn was on the balcony of an Ocean Drive apartment overlooking Long Beach harbor.

The gathering crowd at the stern of the QUEEN MARY.

As a former Southampton “lad” who grew up with the great original QUEENs ELIZABETH and MARY coming and going from his home port, Martin recalled “watching grown men cry when the QUEEN MARY departed on her final voyage to Long Beach back in 1967,” adding, “It was a flashback of sorts to be standing on the MARY’s teak decks, welcoming a ship registered in Southampton. This was as close as I could get to being back home without leaving mild California…”

QUEEN VICTORIA rounds the Dome.

Martin mused: “Some media-savvy visitors pulled up the QUEEN VICTORIA’s bow cam on their phones but her approach past the outer Terminal Island container cranes was clearly visible and just as the light faded into deep blue, the glittering ship rounded the moon-like Carnival terminal (which was built to house Howard Hughes’ since-departed Spruce Goose) and she hove into view.”

QUEEN VICTORIA as seen from the QUEEN MARY's starboard promenade. Photo by Martin Cox 2011.

More from Martin: “Moving at quite a clip, the QUEEN VICTORIA came much closer than QUEEN MARY 2 had in the 2006 version of this meeting, pulling past the stern of QUEEN MARY to reveal herself at the mouth of the L.A. River.”

Cunard-colored fireworks. Photo by Martin Cox 2011.

Cox reports, “Whistles blew, the crowd cheered and after a few sporadic fireworks, the show was ‘on’! I moved further forward past the glorious QUEEN MARY’s funnels and was able to capture the scene from the flying bridge.”

Royal fireworks between the QUEENs. Photo by Martin Cox 2011.

“As the chill of night set in, fireworks from the base of the QUEEN MARY’s second funnel and the rock wall surrounding the ship lit up the sky. When it was all over, QUEEN VICTORIA elegantly pirouetted without tug assistance and slowly pulled away…” Cox concluded.

Fireworks and two QUEENs. Photo by Shawn Dake 2011.

Shawn Dake added, “It was a beautiful night with thick offshore clouds but clear in the harbor. The QUEEN VICTORIA sailed around from Los Angeles harbor to the Port Of Long Beach where the ships exchanged whistle blasts, then the QUEEN MARY shot off some periodic fireworks which ultimately evolved into a pretty good show.”

QUEEN VICTORIA versus the oil island at Long Beach. Photo by Shawn Dake 2011.

“The QUEEN VICTORIA never approached the Long Beach Cruise Terminal at the stern of the QUEEN MARY, instead remaining just off the closest oil island. Then she left and that’s basically the story in a nutshell — not a bad way to spend an evening, all in all,” Dake concluded.

QV versus QM in a show of red.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, I caught a few views of the spectacle.

How ironic that the QUEEN MARY, the ship Cunard Chairman Sir Percy Bates had in legend intended to name QUEEN VICTORIA, should be having a rendezvous with a new Cunarder bearing the actual name.

And a lovely, puffy white chrysanthemum...

Cunard seems to be the only cruise line that can muster the interest and support of the general non-cruising public with its fleet of QUEENs. Despite the chill, a large number of people were lining hotel balconies, the waterfront and decks of both ships.

...that fizzled into a dandelion.

Aboard the QUEEN VICTORIA, under the command of Captain Christopher Rynd, dress was “elegant casual” for what must have been a magnificent evening under the fireworks and stars.  After the Royal Rendezvous, QUEEN VICTORIA’s guests had a full agenda of activities awaiting. First of course, there would be dinner in one of four main restaurants or the extra tariff Todd English.  Then, would it be the Welcome Aboard Trivia in the Golden Lion Pub, Ballroom and Latin Dancing in the Queen’s Room, the Welcome Aboard Show in the Royal Court Theater or Disco Dancing in Hemispheres? Or perhaps a bit of each?

Final fanfare in the skies of Long Beach.

And so it went — fireworks, camera clicks and chattering teeth on an unusually chilly Southern California night. When the spectacle ended, the QUEEN VICTORIA continued on her way to Cabo San Lucas, the first stop on her “Panama and Mexico Adventure Voyage” and I hopped back onto the freeway.

Special thanks: Jackie Chase, Martin Cox, Shawn Dake, Brian O’Connor, Mary Porter, Stephen Robbins, Jayme and Normamae Munster Wilson, Winter

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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