Posts Tagged ‘RMS Queen Elizabeth’

… and raise a glass to David Bowie who lost his battle against cancer this week. He was a musician and artist who was a trailblazer for musical trends and pop fashion, reinventing himself and his music over  many decades.  He published his latest and last album “Blackstar” on January 8, 2016 –  his 69th birthday – 2 days before his passing.

Like many artists, David Bowie was suffering from fear of flying, so the only way to cross the Atlantic for his overseas concerts was by sea.

David Bowie on QE2 – Getty Images, Photo Credit Theo Wargo

The first time Bowie toured the US in 1972, he crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth 2, departing Southampton on September 10, 1972 and arriving in New York on September 17. He returned via sea again on the Royal Hellenic Mail Ship Ellinis on December 10. He later sailed on other famous liners such as the SS Canberra, SS France or SS Oronsay.

On one occasion he turned up for dinner in his colourful Ziggy Stardust costume. It must have been quite a sight for his fellow diners.


David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust costume on QE2 1972,  Photo Credit Mick Rock


He travelled with George Underwood and his wife  who recalls that Bowie wouldn’t come out of his cabin after that. He said, “They were all looking at me.” I said, “What do you expect?”

In 2002 he opted again for the QE2 for his North America tour. He disembarked at Pier 62 in New York on July 26, 2002.

Getty Images has some great shots of David Bowie on the QE2 which you can view here.

Recognize some familiar faces from the QE2?

David Bowie on QE2 Bridge

David Bowie on QE2 Bridge

David Bowie was one of the prominent GQ Men of the Year. In the inteview originally published in the QG Magazine in 2002 he talks about his QE2 experience.

Quote from QG Magazine 2002 Interview:

What’s the best thing about travelling on the QE2?

Well, right now, at this moment, I’ve got my phobia about flying back again. I’m coping with it to a certain extent. I flew the whole of Europe. We flew. But I just can’t face that transatlantic trip. I don’t want to be on a place going over the Atlantic. I got my phobia before 11 September – it started when my baby was born.

What’s it like being on the ship, though? Is it fun?

Oh, I love it. It’s like this hotel, only at sea. But bigger. I mean, you cannot believe how big the Queen Elizabeth is. It’s bigger than this hotel. It’s got five restaurants, two cinemas, two or three theatres. Gym. Swimming pools. Shopping malls. I mean, it’s just beyond… There’s about 1,800 passengers. But there’s also about 1,800 crew to look after you. I’ve never been on a Caribbean cruise but I get the impression that it’s a bit Club Med and a lot of party nights, and all that stuff. But the QE2 isn’t like that. People who go across the Atlantic go for very different reasons. I think a lot of people bring books with them, and they’re quieter, more academic. I’ve bumped into writers, musicians, painters, politicians and, on the last trip, John Cleese. I wanted to see what it was like to be adrift for seven days. It’s a challenge, because you know you’re not going to stop off at any exotic locations.

And so a normal day for you on the QE2 would consist of what exactly?

I sleep in and try to get up at around seven. Then I order a quick breakfast or muesli or porridge, or whatever. Then I normally go and jog round the desk, which is like a fifth of a mile, and so you do a few rounds of that. Then I do some regular aerobic lifting. And then in the afternoon I’ll just lounge around reading. I usually take an enormous number of book with me. I’m quite happy… I can read all day long and float between two or three books at the same time. And then I go down and choose which restaurant I’m going to have lunch in. I tend to ask for solo sitting, because I can take a book with me for lunch. But then at dinner I usually see who else is around on board, and who’s on my table, and kind of stick with it.

Davie Bowie has left us, and we believe him when he says:

i don't know where I am going

The music world for sure is more boring without him.

R.I.P. Major Tom!

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The QE2  may no longer be in service but she sure stays in the headlines. The latest news about her being transferred to Cape Town as a floating hotel  has fuelled media interest again, and many QE2 fans are happy that at least for now she is safe from drastic transformation or should I say deformation. Some friends are already making plans to spend their next holiday on the ship in 2010.

As much as we all hope that her characteristic features and interior design will be left intact, there is something that will be missed dearly when going aboard again: The wonderful crew of QE2!

After the ship’s arrival in Dubai, the crew got off the ship and dispersed into all directions. I have been wondering ever since what happened to them and where they would be working now. So imagine my joy when I encountered so many ex QE2 crew members on my QM2 back-to-back Transatlantic crossing in June. So many familiar faces resurfaced: On embarkation I bumped into John Duffy, Cunard’s longest serving staff member, I met the sommelier who served my table on the final Westbound crossing in October 2008, one of the Assistant Maitre D’s of the Mauretania restaurant, the Chief sommelier and many more. It was a great opportunity to catch up and find out what others were doing and on which ships they landed.

I am sure I am not the only guest who is missing these fabulous people who contributed so much to the many wonderful stays aboard. They deserve a special mention and place in the memory of QE2.

I was therefore delighted when some friends who worked aboard the ship many years ago started to put together some crew stories for a QE2 website.

The idea was to give ex QE2 crew members a place where they could tell their story and find long lost colleagues. They digged deep in their photo archives and came up with some wonderful material that has been published in ‘feature stories’ on the website.  When I look at the old photos from the 80s I keep thinking ‘oh my, that hair do – and those clothes’… Well apparently we all dressed up like that! I admit I suffer from convenient amnesia from time to time. But there is one thing that strikes me as important: You see so many happy and smiling people who seem to have a lot of fun. They look like they had the best time of their live.

Why don’t you proceed to the Wardroom where the reunion takes place. I am told there are quite a few stories in the pipeline, so this section will grow.

Some crew members have so many photos that they decided to  upload them to the website’s Members Gallery.

 A big thank you for those who worked on the ship in a time where everyone was struggling with bulky cameras and photo rolls. It is very time consuming work to remove the photos from albums and scan them for sharing on the internet.

I take this post to reach out to all exQE2 crew members who wish to share some of their best moments, stories, anecdotes and photos.

You can upload your photos into your own photo albums in the Members Gallery, all you have to do is register and assign yourself a login ID and password.

If you wish to join the ‘reunion in the wardroom’, please get in touch with the website administrator,  a former QE2 crew member. You can reach him easily through the Contact Form.

I hope there will be many crew members out there who would like to join the reunion, please come plentiful.

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On my June 2009 travel on the Queen Mary 2 I was seated next to a lovely couple for Florida. They have been long time Cunarders and told me how they got into ‘cruising’.

Years ago, as a very young couple, they travelled on the Queen Elizabeth, the original one. They lacked the money to travel First Class but they got a good glimpse of it. They found a spot from where they could watch the ladies walk down the stairs in their splendid evening gowns at dinner times. That’s what got them hooked. They later travelled on the S.S. France, The United States and quickly became Cunard Diamond members. Their story reminds me of  ‘The Forgotten Queen’ and her tragic ending. Let me tell you a little about ‘Lizzie’ as she was affectionately called by her friends.

QueenElizabethRMS Queen Elizabeth was a really tragic Queen that was denied a peaceful life in retirement.  She was one of the most elegant ocean liners, aptly dubbed ‘The Beautiful Lady’, who went into service on Sep 27, 1938. Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank,  Scotland she was the second of the two superliners (the other being Queen Mary) which Cunard had built for the New York service. With the war looming, her maiden voyage was cancelled and soon she and her sister found themselves in a very different role as troopships for the British Navy. Their speed allowed them to outrun the German U-Boats.

After the war, both ocean liners dominated the Transatlantic route. As her name indicates she was a Royal Mail Ship contracted to carry the Royal Mail across the big pond. Decline set in with the coming of the jet airliners and she became uneconomic for Cunard. She was sold to a group of businessmen in Philadelphia who intended to run the ship as a hotel and tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida.  The RMS Queen Elizabeth made its last Atlantic crossing on 5 November 1968.

However, she did not last long: Losing money and forced to close after being declared a fire hazard, the ship was sold in 1970 to Hong Kong  tycoon C.Y. Tung who intended to convert her into a floating university named Seawise University. She arrived in Hong Kong in July 1971 and was scheduled to open after an expensive refit in 1972, however, it never came to that.

QE aka Seawise UniversityOn January 9, 1972 several fires broke out on the ship and she capsized in shallow water in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour. With her destruction so utter and complete she was dismantled for scrap in 1975. What a tragic end to the career of one of the World’s greatest, fastest and most luxurious liners.

There is quite some confusion as to whether the ship was entirely salvaged or not. Many sources on the internet, including Wikipedia quote that parts of the hull that could not be salvaged were later incorporated into landfill for the new Hong Kong Airport.

Ringo Varisco, Curator of the RMS Queen Elizabeth Historical Society, and author of a Queen Elizabeth book scheduled to be published in Fall 2010 explains:

To clear up all the confusion, the 15,000 or so tons which still remain of the Seawise University – the former RMS Queen Elizabeth, are now buried under about 40 feet of mud in the middle of the Rambler Channel which is the stretch of water that separates Tsing Yi Island and mainland Kowloon. The remains are no where near the new airport and have never been covered by a runway as has often been mistakenly claimed. The wreck was cut down as far as the waterline and then large sections were blasted apart underwater until all that remained was a 100 foot long section of double bottom hull containing the aft boiler rooms which were already mostly filled with the muddy sludge of the harbour bottom and deeply buried anyway. So to set the record straight, the original LIZZIE or what’s left of her, still has mud and then water above her, not a runway or other foundations. She was sufficiently buried deep enough to pose no threat to shipping. Her nearest landmarks are the Container Terminal 9 and the brand new Stonecutters bridge.

She even made it into film: The wreck of  the Queen Elizabeth was featured in the Bond Movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974) as a covert headquarters for the MI6. The event is commented on while James Bond is cruising on a boat from Macao to Hong Kong. The film commentary however is inaccurate as it mentions the year of the fire being 1971.

To many the Queen Elizabeth was the perfect Queen ever. It is comforting that somewhere on this Earth a part of here still exists, not just the memories of our minds.

If you are interested in more details about this wonderful ocean liner, you may find below list of film and book recommendations as well as links to interesting websites useful.

Top Ocean Liner 1948 is a wonderful video that give a tour of the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth as it docks in Southampton after a transatlantic voyage. Playtime is about 20 minutes.

I also recommend to watch the footage of RMS Queen Elizabeth during WWII

And finally, a recap of her life including some heart breaking pictures from her final days as Seawise University in Hong Kong.

On this occasion I’d like to take the liberty to point you to one website that is dedicated to this ship: http://rmsqueenelizabeth.com. If you have any interesting material like films or stories which you would like to see published here, please contact 3queensgirl@gmail.com. The site will grow over a time with the help of eye witnesses and Lizzie lovers.

Those interested in documentary drawings might want to check out Ringo Varisco´s post about a wonderful set of documentary drawings by Harry Philpot, founder of the RMS Queen Elizabeth Historical Society. Please click here.

In the library you will find a list of book recommendations from which I’d like to pick two for you: A relatively new book published in 2008 by Clive Harvey: ‘Queen Elizabeth – The Ulimate Ship which is an extremely authoritative, lavishly illustrated history of the ship.208 pages, 70 full-color and 108 b&w illustrations, two fold-out plans, cover painting by Don Stoltenberg, 8.25 x 10.75.

Anyone interested in the QE should read Leonard Stevens ‘Elizabeth: Passage of a Queen’. Unfortunately it is out of print but with a bit of luck you can find used copies on www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.com and on  http://www.antiqbook.com 

For those readers who would like to share photos of  RMS Queen Elizabeth, may I invite you to visit the CunardQueens Member’s Gallery where you can create your own albums and upload your photos. Go straight to the Gallery or click on Member’s Gallery while browsing : http://rmsqueenelizabeth.com.

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