My fascination with ocean liners began early. When I was a boy, I devoured Captain of the Queens by Captain ( later Commodore) Harry Grattidge and was enthralled. It was the biography of a man who had captained both the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth , which in their time had held the Blue Riband for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing. With their multiple funnels and their raked back look which made them look as if they were moving even when they were moored, they were beautiful to behold. Even then though the handwriting was on the wall; the days of the ocean liners were coming to an end. With air travel becoming cheaper and more convenient , there were fewer and fewer people willing to spend the greater part of a week crossing the Atlantic, no matter how luxorious the journey. Soon the Queens were out of business. The Queen Elizabeth was re-fitted as a cruise ship and , many years later, destroyed in a fire in HongKong harbor. The Queen Mary became a floating museum and later a luxury hotel in Long Beach, California. In 1987, my family and I visited her and it was a thrill to stand on her deck and imagine what it must have been like when she was serving as a troopship during World War II.
Cunard later commissioned two new ships the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, more luxorious than their earlier namesakes, which became cruise ships. Very recently, they commissioned a third , the Queen Victoria , which made her maiden run recently. A couple of weeks ago she was in New York harbor at the same time as her sisters and it was a grand sight to see the three of them together.
I have often wondered what it might be like to travel on one of the Queens but I am curious no longer. Agood friend took a Caribbean cruise on the Queen Mary and he said that on the whole he would have preferred to have traveled on an American cruise ship. While the Queen Mary’s appointments were first class, he found the atmosphere and his fellow passengers too staid and formal for his liking. On American ships, people are more out to have a good time, jump in the pool, chat freely with their fellow passengers etc. The shipboard entertainment also is conducive to jollity since it usually features Las Vegas style shows and raunchy comedians and magic acts. On the Queen Mary, the entertainment ran more to opera and musical performances which did not constitute my friends idea of a good time. The British passengers , on the other hand, thought it was just ducky.