Thursday 23 May 2019

QE2 cruise ship celebrates 50 years of glamour on sea and land

As the famous ship celebrates its golden jubilee this month, Heritage Tour supervisor Peter Warwicker recalls some key moments from the past.

Well wishers watch the departure of the Queen Elizabeth 2 from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York in 1969 (PA).
Well wishers watch the departure of the Queen Elizabeth 2 from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York in 1969 (PA).
The QE2 at Mina Rashid, Dubai
The launching of the newly-named Queen Elizabeth II by the Queen at John Brown’s Yard, Clydebank in 1967 (PA)
The Queen and Princess Margaret on the launching platform in 1967 (PA)
Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr getting ready for some deck games on board the QE2 at Southampton (PA)
QE2, deluxe room

Sarah Marshall

On May 2 1969, thousands of well-wishers gathered in Southampton to watch the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) set sail on her maiden voyage to New York.

In her lifetime, she completed 1,400 voyages, sailed six million nautical miles and played host to almost 2.5 million passengers.

She retired after 39 years of service in 2008, and Dubai has been her home ever since, where she opened as the Middle East's first floating hotel in April 2018.

One man who's lived and breathed the ship's great glories is Heritage Tour supervisor Peter Warwicker. He not only currently calls the QE2 home, but he previously worked on the liner for six years until 2001.

Here, he shares some of the ship's most interesting facts and a few of his favourite memories from life on board.

Facts and figures

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The launching of the newly-named Queen Elizabeth II by the Queen at John Brown’s Yard, Clydebank in 1967 (PA)

"The QE2 was built by John Brown in Upper Clyde, Scotland. She was the last Atlantic Ocean Liner to be built in the United Kingdom and she was launched on September 20, 1967 by HM Queen Elizabeth II.

"Her Majesty loved the ship and visited it often. In fact, she was the first British monarch to have sailed on a commercial ship with passengers and I was honoured to meet her once - we actually share a birthday!

"The QE2 circumnavigated the world more than 25 times and crossed the Atlantic 812 times during her time at sea. Her top recorded speed was 34 knots (39 mph) and her nine diesel engines were each the size of a double decker bus!"

An emotional new future

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The QE2 at Mina Rashid, Dubai

"The Dubai government bought the QE2 in 2008 to convert her into a floating hotel in the city's Mina Rashid port. The engineering and fit-out works have taken 2.7 million man hours to date and I'm so happy that they managed to retain her original style.

"When I first saw her as she is now, I was delighted as it really felt like I was coming home. So many people who previously travelled on the QE2 have already come to see her in Dubai and many burst into tears or stand there in silence when they first step on board as they're so happy to see her back to her former glory."

Memorable passengers

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Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr getting ready for some deck games on board the QE2 at Southampton (PA)

"Her Majesty isn't the only memorable passenger the QE2 has played host to - Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher and David Bowie are just some of the world-famous figures who spent time on board. I was lucky enough to meet Nelson Mandela, listen to Buzz Aldrin speak and see Aretha Franklin perform on board.

"Meeting Millvina Dean, the youngest survivor of the Titanic, is the most special memory for me. She was only two months old when the Titanic sank and she was the last surviving passenger until her death in 2009. I was truly honoured to meet her. It was also a joy hosting regular world cruisers Mr and Mrs Rosenberg - they kindly bought the 1,000-strong crew a drink for their wedding anniversary every year."

Unexpected events

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QE2, deluxe room

"The glamorous side of the QE2 is well known, but she actually rescued 500 passengers from a sinking French cruise ship in 1971 and even carried troops to the Falkland Islands in 1982. She also survived a 29-metre rogue wave during Hurricane Luis in 1995. I know this all too well as I was on board at the time, and I can't deny it was very frightening.

"I have to say I don't miss the rough seas - that's one of the great things about her now being permanently moored in Dubai."

The QE2 is open to overnight guests and day visitors. Heritage Tours and exhibitions are offered To find out more, visit qe2.com.

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