Queen transports passengers in time as she plies
the Mississippi. The paddlewheeler will go out of
service in 2008.
Tuesday afternoon in November of 2008, the legendary Queen
Elizabeth 2 will slip out of Southampton's harbor bound
for Dubai and an indelible role in maritime history.
It will be
the 40-year-old Cunard ship's last cruise, capping a
career that has seen this regal vessel cross the Atlantic
more than 800 times, make more than 25 world cruises,
carry troops to the Falkland Islands, survive bomb threats
and rogue waves, and win the hearts of millions of
final sailing will come about the same time that another
celebrated vessel makes its last run. The 81-year-old
Delta Queen, a revered fixture on the rivers of America's
heartland, also will sail into oblivion in November of
1926, the Delta Queen is the last operational
steam-powered overnight stern-wheeler in America. Listed
on the National Register of Historic Places, the paddle
wheeler is being retired because its superstructure is
made of wood, no longer permitted by law for vessels that
sail overnight, and the exemption it had obtained from
Congress for decades was not forthcoming this year.
happen to the Delta Queen after November of 2008 has not
yet been determined. Its owner, Majestic America Line,
says it is exploring options. There's still a chance -
admittedly slim - that Congress could renew the boat's
exemption before its November 2008 expiration, and some
groups are clamoring for that. One is
www.save-the-delta-queen.org, organized by a German
other hand, the QE2's future is settled. Sold for $100
million, it will become a hotel permanently docked in
Dubai, and many past passengers view that as a good thing.
them, Ben Lyons, who has made 10 voyages on the QE2, wrote
a tribute to the ship for CruiseCritic.com, an online
he wrote, "will be able to spend the millions needed
to convert her into a hotel and keep her for years to
come. She will be docked in the middle of a major tourist
center, and a steady stream of visitors seems
assured," he wrote in his letter to CruiseCritic.
"This is indeed a time to be sad, but not a time to
dwell on the sadness.
she leaves us with dignity."
their maritime lives play out, though, both ships will
make a series of special farewell sailings.
voyages previously planned for fall of 2008 have been
replaced with a British Isles voyage and two transatlantic
crossings, and a final sailing to Dubai has been added.
The itineraries will include a final call to the Clyde
(Greenock) in Scotland, where the QE2 was built, and a
final Farewell to America Crossing from New York (its
806th such voyage).
As for the
Delta Queen, Majestic America says it will dedicate the
2008 season to the ship. "We will make every sailing
in 2008 a special event," said David A. Giersdorf,
the line's president.
40 years, the QE2 has taken more than five million
passengers on itineraries that ranged the world over.
Among its more famous passengers: Queen Elizabeth,
Princess Diana, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Nelson
Mandela, George Bush, Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds and
Shimon Peres. A special guest was Millvena Dean, the
youngest survivor of the Titanic.
exudes glamour. In port, its distinctive red funnel and
black hull regally announce its presence. Aboard,
understated elegance is the byword for the decor. Formal
nights bring out exquisitely dressed passengers.
It's not a
cookie-cutter ship. Staterooms are sometimes oddly shaped,
and nooks and crannies appear here and there. It has a
full-time librarian and a huge selection of reading matter
as well as facilities unheard of on modern cruise ships -
a nursery, dog kennel and garage for cars.
It has also
won devotion from thousands of passengers as well as crew
like a good home," says Erma Klindt, 78, of Pasadena,
Calif., who has sailed on the QE2 85 times and has already
booked one of the upcoming farewell cruises. Klindt is
proof that one does not have to be wealthy to enjoy
cruising on the QE2: She only books low-cost inside rooms.
officers and crew members also have a special feeling for
something magical about this ship," QE2 Capt. Ian
McNaught told me in 2003, when I last sailed on it.
"It's a special ship."
devotee Lyons, who is now a Cunard officer (but has never
worked on the QE2):
say that while not every ship has a soul, QE2 does... .
Like most things in life, what you take away in memories
are the people, and I associate so many good times on QE2
with family and friends, both old and new, that
accompanied me on my sailings."
on the QE2 are well remembered, but over its decades of
voyages, the ship also has hit some rough spots.
Warwick, who was captain of the QE2 for 13 years and now
is the retired commodore of the Cunard Line, was on board
the ship during some of its most traumatic and
second officer when we had a bomb and ransom scare in
mid-Atlantic in 1972. The RAF flew a bomb squad out,
parachuted them into the ocean and we picked them up in
lifeboats. They found nothing," Warwick recalled in
an interview last month.
In 1982 the
British government commandeered the QE2, repainting it in
camouflage colors, tearing out partitions to accommodate
helicopters and loading it with troops to take to the
Falklands Islands, which Argentina had tried to seize.
"It took eight days to get ready to go, eight weeks
to convert it back to a passenger ship," said
Warwick, then chief officer of the ship.
Warwick was captain of the QE2 when it was struck by a
rogue wave - a 95-foot-high wall of water. "It looked
as though we were heading for the white cliffs of
Dover," he said. "The wave broke with tremendous
force over the bow ... and an incredible shudder went
through the ship." The QE2 survived with little
damage, though Warwick says, "I cannot begin to
imagine what effect it would have had on a smaller
vessel" - a tribute to the ship's sound structure.
weather on a 1986 crossing, I remember watching dishes,
tumblers, tablecloth and everything else on my lunch table
go flying when the ship heeled at a sharp angle in
near-hurricane force winds. A bit later, the lectern from
which broadcaster Edwin Newman was speaking suddenly took
off toward the wings of the stage as the ship made another
lurch. Newman, ever unflappable, continued his lecture as
if nothing had happened. We passengers, too, took the
inclement weather in stride. Somehow the QE2's regal aura
made such incidents seem more like adventure than
traumatic are some of the other tales told about the
story of the British passenger who insisted on having his
Rolls-Royce stowed in the QE2's garage on every trip he
made, but never took it onto shore. Another passenger
always booked a series of rooms for his family - and for
his teddy-bear collection. And there was Beatrice Mueller,
who liked the ship so much she decided to live permanently
aboard the ship after her husband died. She still lives
aboard the ship.
Queen, too, evokes emotional responses from its admirers.
has warmth and charm, almost like a person," recalled
Patty Young, who directed public relations for the Delta
Queen line for 13 years until 1998. "The first time I
went on board, I started crying. The captain asked me what
was wrong, and I said I felt I had just gotten a hug. He
Muster, daughter of Bill Muster, president of the line in
the 1960s and into the 1970s, took summer vacations on the
Delta Queen during her teen years and fell in love with
the boat. "It was so much fun," she recalled.
the ship will have a dignified afterlife, like the boat's
twin, the Delta King. An exact clone of the Delta Queen,
the King is a hotel/restaurant in Sacramento, where both
ships plied in their early years.
the Delta Queen sailed on the Mississippi and its
tributaries, giving its guests a unique view of heartland
America. Middle America flows by in slow motion as the
boat wends its way past small river villages little
changed from steamboating's romantic age. Guests watch in
admiration as a single tugboat pushes as many as 30 linked
barges up and down the waterway. Once in a while one sees
a fisherman in a skiff, angling for catfish.
Danny Back, who with his wife Sue has sailed on the
paddleboat five times, loves the steamboat feel and sound,
and its homespun itineraries. "It's always a treat to
arrive at a town where the boat has not been before,"
he said. Back particularly remembers going on a "trampin'
trip" from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, when the Delta
Queen stopped at seven little towns on the way. "The
mayor would meet us, kids were out of school and little
celebrations were held."
is leisurely, with little formal entertainment. A "riverlorian"
- river historian - gives talks on the history of the
region through which the ship is traveling. Meals feature
regional specialties like crawfish and fried dill pickles.
An 1897 steam calliope makes itself heard every now and
then. Snack items may include corn dogs, root-beer floats
and cheese fries.
As befits a
Queen, the ship's decor is rich in art and antiques, with
hardwood paneling, brass fittings, overstuffed furniture
and Tiffany-style stained-glass windows. All of which have
been enjoyed by such diverse guests as Britain's Princess
Margaret, Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Arlo Guthrie, Chief
Justice Earl Warren and three presidents - Herbert Hoover,
Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, who spent a much-reported
week aboard the ship campaigning in 1979.
all memories for Nori Muster, daughter of the man who
saved the ship in the 1960s, and they make the Delta
Queen's coming retirement especially painful for her.
father once told me that boats die and that it can be as
sad as losing a person," she said. "His words
ring in my ears now."
Cruising 25 knots, 32.5 knots maximum
Cruises of various durations out of Southampton, plus an
annual world cruise.
Cunard Line, 800-728-6273; www.cunard.com.
laid, July 5.
Launched by Queen Elizabeth II, Sept. 20.
Official maiden voyage to New York, May 2.
Rescues passengers from Antilles, which ran aground, Jan.
Ransom demand and bomb scare in mid-Atlantic, May.
Requisitioned for Falklands War.
Engines converted from steam to diesel.
uncharted rocks off Vineyard Sound.
by 95-foot-high rogue wave.
Cunard Line sold to Carnival Corp.
5 million miles at sea.
to a Dubai investment company to become moored hotel in
Dubai in 2008.
voyage, Southampton to Dubai, departs Nov. 11.
wheel: 19 feet wide, 28 feet in diameter
knots cruising, 16 knots maximum
Cruises of various duration on Mississippi River and
Majestic America Line, 800-434-1232,
Fabricated on River Clyde in Scotland, shipped to
California for final assembly.
Starts service on Sacramento River traveling between
Sacramento and San Francisco.
Navy leases ship, uses it as troop barracks.
by government for $46,250 to Greene Line (now Delta Queen
5,378 miles to New Orleans, sails to Pittsburgh for
passenger sailing, on Ohio River.
steamboat race between Delta Queen and Belle of
Congress passes Safety at Sea law outlawing overnight
cruises on boats made of wood, but Delta Queen gets
two-year exemption; continues operating under exemptions
Listed on National Register of Historic Places.
Designated a National Historic Landmark.
Inducted into National Maritime Hall of Fame.
to get exemption renewed.
voyage departs Oct. 31, Memphis to New Orleans. From