Friday, January 8, 2010

When The Water Hits The Hull: Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Floats Out

Special ceremonies at Fincantieri’s shipyard near Trieste, Italy, were held this week to mark the float out of Cunard Line’s newest liner, Queen Elizabeth.

Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks, was joined by 79-year-old Florence (Dennie) Farmer, who served as guest of honor at the event. Dennie’s husband, Willie Farmer, joined Cunard in Sept 1938 and served as Chief Engineer on both the first Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2 until retirement in Oct 1979. Since her husband’s passing, Dennie has sailed with Cunard many times and her link with the two previous Queen Elizabeth ships is unparalleled. In recognition of this, Cunard bestowed Dennie with the honor, in Italian tradition, of being “Madrina” to the third Queen Elizabeth.

The first ceremony involved the welding of significant coins beneath the mast of Queen Elizabeth for good luck. Three coins were chosen–a half crown dated 1938 (the year the first Queen Elizabeth was launched), a sovereign dated 1967 (the year Queen Elizabeth 2 was launched) and a sovereign dated 2010 (to acknowledge the new Queen Elizabeth being floated out in 2010). After the coin ceremony, the focus moved to the dockside, where the liner was blessed and a bottle of Italian prossecco was smashed against the hull by the Madrina. The valves of the dry dock were then opened and the liner met the water for the first time.

“It is only a little over six months since the keel for this great ship was laid. In that short time, a solitary block at the bottom of the dry dock has, as a result of the skill and discipline of the workforce here at Fincantieri, grown into this awe-inspiring vessel,” said Shanks. “Even in her present unfinished state, devoid of the carpets and curtains, furnishings and facilities, paintings and porcelain that we associate with a Cunard luxury liner, she is awesome. Of our 170 years of history, there has been an ‘Elizabeth’ in the fleet for more than 70 and this ship–the second largest Cunarder ever built–will take the name far into the 21st Century.”

Queen Elizabeth will feature many unique Cunard traditions linking her with her sisters, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, and their predecessors. It also will feature all the modern day luxuries Cunard’s guests have come to expect. Additionally, there will be features that will give the vessel her own style and personality.

The first Queen Elizabeth was one of Cunard’s greatest ships, and the new Queen Elizabeth will reflect her predecessor in interior grandeur, décor and style, but with a modern twist. From the outside, her distinctive black and red livery will hint at an experience that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. This will be most evident in the ship’s adherence to liner traditions, with elegant double- and triple-height public rooms on a grand scale, luxuriously endowed with rich wood panelling, intricate mosaics, hand-woven carpets, gleaming chandeliers and cool marbles. Art Deco features will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth and will allow the new ship to reflect a more civilized era of travel. As successor to Queen Elizabeth 2, the ship will also reflect this great liner through artwork and memorabilia, and its very own “Yacht Club.” Queen Elizabeth will acknowledge the links that Cunard has enjoyed with royalty and the maritime world over the years with photography, memorabilia and exhibits.

Queen Elizabeth’s now sold-out Maiden Voyage will depart on Tuesday Oct 12, 2010. This 13-night celebration will leave from the company’s home port in Southampton (UK), and will call at Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (overnight call) and Funchal.

Her Maiden Season will run from October 2010 to January 2011 and include voyages to the Western and Central Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Queen Elizabeth will depart Southampton on Jan 5, 2011 on her 103-night epic Maiden World Voyage, which has just opened for sale. This tour will feature 35 maiden calls, including Cunard’s first call ever at Port Denarau (Fiji). In total, Queen Elizabeth will call at 38 ports in 23 countries as she makes her way west around the globe, with maiden transits of both the Panama and Suez Canals and calls at Los Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Lisbon.

Queen Elizabeth will be in great company, as her sisters will be on hand for several Cunard Royal Rendezvous meetings during the voyage: she will sail in tandem en route to New York with Queen Victoria before all three Cunard Queens meet in New York on Jan 13; she will meet Queen Mary 2 in Sydney on Feb 22 and in Civitavecchia on April 13; and she will meet Queen Victoria again in Aruba on Jan 19.

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