September 20, 2007

'Being on board is just magical... people hear QE2 and get excited'

This from:

She was almost home again. As the Queen Elizabeth 2 glided through the North Atlantic yesterday, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of the legendary Clyde-built ship, not a single person on board was unaware of the tremendous sense of occasion.

It was a fiercely cold day, but a clutch of hardy souls were up on deck, braving the elements on the last leg of the journey from South Queensferry to Greenock. Inside, in the warmth, window seats were at a premium as passengers gazed out at the distant Scottish coastline.

Tickets for the special eight-night voyage around the UK sold out within a week of going on sale in April last year. For many, being here marked the culmination of a life-long ambition.

Myra Hunter, a retired teacher from Glasgow, has waited 40 years for the trip. She had tickets to tour the ship before its maiden voyage to New York in 1969, but gave them to her parents.

"I told them I would come and see it for myself one day," she said. "This ship is extra special. Being on board feels like being part of a big family and the birthday girl is the ship. This ship belongs to the Clyde. I've watched from the shore before as the QE2 arrived. To be on board will be wonderful."

Of the 1628 passengers aboard, 1300 have travelled on the ship before. Among them are Maureen and David Anderson, originally from Glasgow and now living in Oxfordshire. This is their sixth time.

For Mr Anderson, the 40th anniversary is particularly poignant. His late father was one of the thousands who helped build the ship at Clydebank's John Brown shipyard. Now 65, Mr Anderson attended the launch in 1967 and has fond memories.

"I remember everyone in the crowd getting soaked as the chains went into the water when the ship was going down the slipway," he said. Mrs Anderson, 61, said: "Being on board is magical. People hear the name QE2 and they still get excited by it. It has such prestige."

Dressed, as ever, in his tracksuit, Sir Jimmy Savile was taking the air on the boat deck. He joined the ship at Scarborough on Sunday in the most unconventional fashion, commandeering a 50-year-old fishing trawler to sail alongside the QE2 and then scrambling up a rope ladder to climb aboard through the pilot's door. The veteran DJ has an enduring passion for the QE2, sailing on her more than 30 times.

Sir Jimmy, 80, who has a home in Glencoe, had hoped to convince Cunard, owners of the QE2, to make Loch Linnhe a port of call - but said today's arrival will more than make up for it. "To see the ship sail into Greenock will be a joy," he said.

Some travelled from across the globe to be part of the celebrations. Karl Johnstone, 46, a set dresser from Los Angeles, said: "I'm very excited. I booked 18 months ago and have been looking forward to it ever since."

On the bridge, Captain Ian McNaught was in good spirits. Born and raised in Tyneside, he has proud Scottish roots. His father is from Possilpark in Glasgow, and worked in the John Brown shipyard before pursuing a career at sea. "I feel very proud and excited," he said. "We are taking this great ship back to its birthplace. There are still so many people around who were involved in the building of the ship. We are arriving in Greenock very early because of the tides, but I think even at 7am there will be a lot of people waiting to welcome this ship home."

After leaving South Queensferry on Tuesday, the QE2 travelled up the east coast and through the Pentland Firth before passing the Western Isles. This morning, she will make the final approach towards Greenock.

There will be a flypast by the Red Arrows and a lunch on the ship to be attended by ex-John Brown workers.
At 2.28pm today - marking the exact moment of the launch in 1967 - the QE2's whistle will sound and a recording of the Queen's words as she named the ship will be played. There will be entertainment on the mile-long walkway at Greenock's Ocean Terminal, including pipe bands, a carousel, numerous stalls and displays.

The QE2 is due to leave Greenock at 6pm tonight to undertake a high-speed, measured mile off Arran. That formed part of the ship's original sea trials back in 1968. She will call at Liverpool tomorrow and return to Southampton on Sunday.

Today's arrival will mark the ship's penultimate visit to Scotland - she is still due a farewell voyage. Her final chapter will begin next year, when she becomes a floating hotel in Dubai.

All at sea for 40 years
QE2 has sailed 5.6 million nautical miles, including 801 transatlantic crossings.

It's still the fastest passenger ship in the world , with a top speed of 32.5 knots.
It has had 2.5 million passengers, including the Queen, Nelson Mandela, and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
The QE2 made its maiden voyage to New York on May 2, 1969, completing the transatlantic crossing in four days, 16 hours and 35 minutes.

On September 11, 1995, the ship encountered a 96ft wave in the North Atlantic but sailed on almost seamlessly. Most passengers slept through it.

Her final voyage will be from Southampton to Dubai on November 11, 2008. Afterwards, berthed permanently at the Palm Jumeirah as a luxury hotel.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...