We’ve already had P&O UK’s in 2012, when they achieved the remarkable feat (and logistical nightmare!) of having all 7 of their ships in their home port of Southampton. Next year it is the turn of Cunard to celebrate the same milestone. I wonder if the lines’ founders could have imagined when they started them, that they would still be going all these years later. Both are now under the Carnival umbrella and managed in Southampton by Carnival UK. As usual, Cunard’s celebrations will see a meeting of all three Queens. A Royal Rendezvous, as it has been known, was first called that in 2006, when a slight tweak in the itinerary of a three night cruise from Los Angeles, saw Queen Mary 2 meet her illustrious predecessor in Long Beach. Due to her deep draft, she was unable to get too close. Since then, both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have done the same. There have been many occasions where ports have two Queens in over the years but three was first done in New York in January 2008 when QE2 and Queen Victoria sailed across the Atlantic from Southampton in tandem, docking in Manhattan and meeting QM2 off Brooklyn for sailaway. There wasn’t another scheduled until QE2 was sold resulting in them cancelling her dry docking in Bremerhaven for April that year, having her doing a wet dock alongside in Southampton instead. So on the 22nd April 2008, the UK witnessed the first meeting of all three Queens. Plus we had Pacific Princess.
QE2 had to be turned around first, which happened at 12.30pm, she and the Princess exchanging whistle salutes.
Due to excess luggage issues, the timings all went awry as did the decent light. This was what they originally planned:
The plan for the departure of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will be as follows:
1700 Queen Mary 2 slips from 38/39 Berth and manoeuvres to a position between 101 and 105 Berths
1730 Pacific Princess slips 106 Berth and departs to sea
1745 Queen Mary 2 maintains position between 101 and 105 Berths
1755 Queen Mary 2 departs to sea
1800 Queen Victoria departs to sea
What happened was Pacific Princess left at 5pm, Mary moved 40 minutes later and didn’t do the positioning while Victoria followed leaving poor old QE2 all alone finishing the work to make her ready for the new cruise on the 27th April.
There was another in New York in January 2011 to show off the current Queen Elizabeth but the UK had to wait again. However, unlike 2008, these were now coming along like buses for there was not one but two in Southampton during 2012. The first, on the 5th June, was to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The ships arrived at sunrise, although QE lagged behind somewhat meaning Mary had to wait at the Upper Swinging Ground.
I was on Mary for this one with my friend Rob Ellerington Parr. The Red Arrows were cancelled due to weather and Mary headed up to the other two for fireworks as it continued to pour.
The three met again on the 13th July and this time, not only was the weather dry, but they also left in daylight. Cunard weren’t really pushing this one surprisingly, though did mention it on social media a few times in the run up. I was on a boat again, this time Blue Funnel, with my dad and friend Fay. QE left first, followed by Vicky then they slowed as Mary went astern to turn.
This year all three will be together again to celebrate Mary’s 10th birthday. But 2015 is the biggie as the company commemorates 175 years since Britannia first sailed from Liverpool on the 4th July 1840. Cunard have issued details of the itineraries.
3rd May 2015 – Three Queens in Southampton, arriving early morning together and sailing in formation later that day. Possibly fireworks.
24th May 2015 – QM2 arrives in Liverpool for an overnight stay.
25th May 2015 – QE and QV sail up the Mersey and drop anchor. QM2 will sail late morning, QE will take her berth at the landing stage until she sails later that day. QV will then move to the landing stage and remain overnight.
2nd July 2015 – QM2 sails from Southampton on the 175 cruise, calling into Liverpool on the 4th to pick up some passengers for the first sailing to the US from there since January 1968. The Liverpool leg is one way to New York, arriving the 14th. You can book either Southampton one way as well or round trip which includes an extra call to Halifax, returning on the 22nd.
One call which hasn’t been mentioned is Greenock, where Mary calls before Oban and Liverpool on May. This is to celebrate the 125 Cunard ships built there.
Also, Vicky will be commemorating 100 years since the Lusitania sinking with a cruise from Southampton on the 3rd May, arriving in Cobh (Queenstown) on the the anniversary (7th).
So it will be a busy time for everyone working for Carnival UK and Cunard Line. I hope they have plenty of booze, food and party poppers handy for all these celebrations!
More details of the itineraries can be found on Cunard’s site and are available to book from 1pm UK time on the 13th March 2014.