QE2 at the new Cruise
Liner Terminal Opening
WHAT a contrast: Last week the
Clipper race began in bright sunshine, yet Friday, 21
September 2007, began with leaden skies and walls of
water, when the QE2 arrived for her special visit. She
had arrived around 5am and, for this historic visit,
she was proudly flying the flag of the White Star Line,
commemorating this precursor of Cunard. It is impossible
to quell the excitement that she stirs in the soul.
Always welcome in this port, she is such a special ship
that she captures the hearts of many, especially those
who have sailed on her. Nothing can douse the treasured
memories of the exhilaration experienced, when on a
previous visit, she entered in sunshine with a retinue
of attendant craft, including the fire boat spraying
rainbows ahead of her. Pride swelled the hearts of Merseysiders as she took up her
position opposite the Three Graces.
In the words of one
American visitor, "What a city! What a
welcome!" It was unfortunate that tide and
weather denied the passengers this experience on this
occasion, but there was still much to anticipate. Let us
hope these visitors have gone away with similar feelings
about our city.
Cunard and its fleet have played a very significant role
in the life of this city so it is fitting that the QE2,
on her 40th birthday and in Liverpool’s 800th
anniversary year, should be a key figure in this new
chapter of our history. She was chosen to be the
official vessel when the new cruise liner terminal was
formally opened, although both the US liner Voyager of
the Seven Seas and Deutschland had used the pontoon in
the previous weeks. This new terminal, which has cost
£19 million will, once more, allow the great ships
access to the shore without the use of tenders, and
should prove a big attraction to cruise companies.
During the build up to the ceremony as invited guests,
media and some of QE2’s passengers assembled in the new
well appointed terminal building, entertainment was
provided by a lively and accomplished group, "the
Travelling People". Distinguished guests
included the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, the Lord
Mayor, Lord Derby, the Leader of Liverpool City Council,
the Deputy Minister for Culture and Tourism and the
President and Managing Director of Cunard. In his
address the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr. Paul Clark,
reminded us of how appropriate this reopening was in
this anniversary year. King John, speaking in 1207, when
granting Liverpool her charter, had called this port
"a free Borough on the sea". Over the
centuries its trade too had ebbed and flowed, but the
abiding image of Liverpool in its heyday had been of
great liners with the Three Graces in the background.
These liners had stopped about 30 years ago but,
"Today another proud chapter begins". He described the
new terminal as, "the best birthday present of all for
the city", enabling us, in our year as Capital
Of Culture, to welcome their return.
CLLR. Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool City Council
described it as a proud and exciting day for the City
which is undergoing so many major transformations but
nothing so captures the imagination as this cruise liner
terminal which is so vital a part of its regeneration.
It will be a showcase for all the magnificent work and
will bring back the passengers. He said that many cruise
operators had indicated that they now wished to come.
All this had come about by people working together and
as a result of new funding in particular from The North
West Development Agency and European Objectives 1. The
participation of Cunard and QE2 made it even more
special. It had been decided that the new bridge linking
the terminal to existing facilities was to be named
Cunard Way and he presented Cunard’s President with a
street sign so marked. Carol Martin, on receiving this
token spoke of the historic connections between
Liverpool and Cunard, which had begun in this city in
1839 and continuing with the Cunard Building when became
the centre of the Three Graces in 1910. Now the naming
of Cunard Way reinforced that link. She added that the
QE2 had given a sigh of relief on entering Liverpool;
she had come to her spiritual home. Carol Martin then
presented Cunard’s gift to the city, a framed photograph
Steven Broomhead, of the NorthWest Development Agency,
reiterated what a proud moment it was for Liverpool and
indeed for Britain that this important maritime gateway
had been restored. He confirmed that 16 booking had
already been made.
The Deputy Regional Officer for the
Northwest explained that the minister Margaret Hodge was
unavoidably detained. He told of the investments that
had been made, adding:- “Big ventures were more
than impressive statistics.“ He also spoke of
stirring in the tourist trade and resurgence in the
popularity of cruising. Quoting, ”There is a time
in the affairs of men, Which taken at a flood, leads on
to fortune.” he hoped this would be true of this
city. Partnership is not easy but delivers good results.
He was proud not just as a government representative but
as a citizen of the city. He was well aware of the
challenges and thanked all for their "stickability".
What had been achieved had brought with it a
"priceless commodity Civic Pride."
The ceremony concluded when HRH the Duke of Kent
unveiled the plaque commemorating the event.
Invited guests then made their way on board QE2 for
further celebrations. At 4pm a concert was held in the
Anglican Cathedral, before an invited audience
comprising special guests and most of the passengers.
Featuring in this concert were soprano Lesley Garrett,
Tenor Nicky Spence, Conductor Anthony Inglis, The Royal
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Band of the
Speakers included Carol Thatcher, Author
of the history of the QE2 and Sir Jimmy Saville, a
frequent traveller on the liner.
Comments received from returning passengers indicated
that all had appreciated this concert. "Splendid"
and “Brilliant, but very emotional. There was
hardly a dry eye in the place” were typical.
The dire weather had resulted in the rapid return of
intrepid passengers who had decided to view the city
centre. Let us hope that the journey to the cathedral
afforded a better impression