Passion for Transatlantic Passenger Liners

New Cunarder Queen Elizabeth (3) Begins Career

This past year has been an roller coaster ride for the ocean liner enthusiast. The SS United States was put up for sale and we feared the worst. The SS Independence was involved in scrappers controversy which ended very badly for a beautiful liner from the ’50s. The SS United States was granted a ’20 month stay of execution’ thanks to a very generous multi-million dollar donation by Philadelphia philanthropist ‘Gerry’ Lenfest. (Save the SS United States! Donate, donate, donate, spread awareness and donate some more! SOS!) And finally, Her Majesty the Queen officially named Cunard’s newest addition to their luxury fleet. Her name is Queen Elizabeth! This name is significant in Cunard history. The story begins in the year 1940.

The legacy of ships named Queen Elizabeth begins in Clydebank, Scotland at the shipbuilders John Brown & Company. In 1940, the world is at war. The largest passenger liner ever built up to the time is the new RMS Queen Elizabeth. She is 83,673 tons of luxury that is about to begin her maiden voyage in secret. She is painted wartime gray and Winston Churchill orders the new pride of the British Merchant Marine to New York Harbor to keep her safe from air attack by the Germans. On March 7, 1940, the RMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York surprising the world. She is quickly converted to a troop transport and joined her sister RMS Queen Mary in trooping duty. After a wildly successful tour of duty during the War, RMS Queen Elizabeth returns to passenger service in 1946 as a fitting running mate to her very speedy, yet slightly smaller sister Mary. During the 1960’s, the popularization of airline travel nearly ruined the ocean liner industry and RMS Queen Elizabeth was laid up in 1968 in Port Everglades, Florida with the intention of turning her into an east coast floating hotel like her sister RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. These plans never came to be and she sat until late 1970, neglected and rusting. She was finally bought by a Taiwanese shipping billionaire and renamed Seawise University. She was to be turned into a combination cruise ship and floating college. While she was being refit into her new career, she caught fire and burned to death in Hong Kong. Her burned out hulk appeared in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun” as the headquarters of MI6. She was finally broken up and removed from the harbor the following year. You may read more about the original RMS Queen Elizabeth…HERE.

Just before the company realized the era of the ocean liner had come to an end, Cunard ordered the construction of a new superliner to compete with Italy’s duo Michaelangelo and Rafaello, and the SS France from her namesake nation. Her keel was laid in 1965 under the name “Q4” and was intended to represent the new image of Great Britain. She arrived in New York for the first time in May 1969 with the name RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Cunard took quite a gamble with this new ship and for a while she was believed to be a bust. 95% of the transatlantic passenger service had been taken over by the airlines by this point. Fortunately, Cunard had decided to make her easily converted into a cruise ship for part of the year, while still making the traditional transatlantic voyages ocean liners were famous for. Her popularity grew and she became lovingly known by the nickname QE2. Queen Elizabeth 2 no longer sails for Cunard. She was retired in November 2008 and is now in the hands of Nakheel (Dubai World) and her future is uncertain. Hopefully, her life does not end at the scrappers. You can read more about the career of QE2…HERE.

The naming ceremony for this newest addition to the Cunard cruise fleet took place on October 11, 2010. The new Queen Elizabeth is a Vista class cruise liner just like her running-mate Queen Victoria. MS Queen Elizabeth is the third and probably final ship to join the Cunard fleet which also includes the last of the purpose built ocean liners, the fabulous Queen Mary 2.

Queen Elizabeth sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK on Tuesday October 12th 2010. Her maiden voyage will include the Spanish port of Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Gran Canaria, Tnerife, La Palma and Madeira. Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to arrive in the port of New York, USA on September 11, 2011. During this time there will be an exciting and historical meeting of all three of Cunard’s Queens. Oh to be able to attend! Perhaps one day I will be able to afford to take part in a real transatlantic crossing and follow the course of the great liners of that bygone age.

Here is to a very long and successful career for the newest passenger ship to carry the name Queen Elizabeth. Long Live the Queen!

If you are interested in learning more about the new Queen Elizabeth I would highly recommend Cunard’s website. For some fantastic photos, Peter Knego’s website Maritime Matters has some great ones! (His website is one of my favorite sites out there!)

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