Our Man in Dubai

November 28, 2008 -

John Heald

I returned home from breakfast this morning with mate Danny and, when I entered the house, I thought we had been robbed. My stuff, including my signed photo of Cyndi Lauper from the Jubilee’s MTV cruise in 1989 had gone.

I then realized that we hadn’t been burgled but that Heidi was in one of her “throwing things out” moods and that my Cyndi Lauper photo and my collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation videos had been removed from the room we call “the office” and had either been placed in the garbage, put in the attic or given to a charity shop……..I wonder how much the local cancer society charity shop would sell a Cyndi Lauper photo for and who would buy it?

These places are where men’s things go to die. There are never any questions about if we still need it………..nope….they are just thrown out…………this is ethnic cleansing. Nothing is safe, even the left over take out cartons you bought from Mr. Yu Poo’s Chinese restaurant a month ago.

I asked Heidi where my old portable CD player was just now and she said she had thrown it out……….”Why,” I asked……”Well, you haven’t used it for so long,” she replied…..I was going to suggest that based on that I should throw my man thingy away, as well ………….. but kept quiet.

So, before I start today’s blog please spare a thought for my signed Cyndi Lauper photo and my George Michael album………..I shall miss that cute blond face smiling at me in a “Do you want some rumpy?” way and I shall miss Cyndi Lauper’s, as well.

Good Morning from England where it is an atypical day here in Essex. It’s been raining all day and it’s cold enough, says Lovely Lisa, my favorite weather lady, to snow later. It seems this blog has without any premeditation taking on a subject …….”throwing old things away” and that’s the perfect segue into what I want to share with you today ………… I want to talk about ships………….old ones……….. If that’s OK with you.

The first great ever passenger ship was arguably the SS Great Britain. I am certainly no marine historian but I remember my history classes at school taught by the incomparable Mrs. Bright, she of the facial mole from which sprang five long hairs. My mates and I often dreamed up ways of sneaking up on her and plucking them. Anyway, despite the alien living in her face, she was a brilliant teacher and one of the few I paid any attention to.

Whereas I hated math and would rather have spent the day braiding Mrs. Bright’s mole hairs than sit through art and anything to do with science……..I loved history. I remember the classes about Brunel, one of the world’s greatest builders, and I remember the class about the SS Great Britain as if it was yesterday.

During these lessons we learned about the great race to have the fastest ships in the world with the oceans of the world becoming Daytona racetracks and the prize being national pride. Later came the Americans but at first it was a two-country race between the French and the British……..the French had the Le Pong De La Merde shipping company and we Brits………….well, we had Cunard.

I remember Mrs. Bright telling us with great passion about ships that would sail for days in a full-on drag race, side by side to the finishing line in New York or Southampton. I often wondered if the passengers on these liners stood on deck hurling insults at each other ………but probably that didn’t happen because they were, of course, very posh.

Cunard, however, stopped all this nonsense and told the French to bugger off. They did this by building the sister ship to the Lusitania…….the Mauretania…….now I have to admit that my memory of Mrs. Bright’s classes is not good enough to remember the facts that made this ship unbeatable so I had to go Googling and found out that she was 600 feet long , had four propellers, carried 2,000 passengers and could cross the Atlantic at an amazing 25 knots……the French had no chance and the Mauretania held the trans-Atlantic record for 22 years……………Rule Britannia.

As I close my eyes, I remember my school history books that, unlike my math book, did not have a penis drawn on the cover. My history book did though have photos that showed Cunard’s panache…..I like that word……I am going to use it again ….. Cunard’s panache and eye for luxurious detail. Wood paneling, marble fireplaces, and crystal chandeliers and, of course, a huge water slide and giant plasma screen on Lido.

Seriously, this was an incredible ship………….I imagine her to be Buckingham Palace at sea……and this ship probably (again, historians with beards may say I am wrong) set the tone for ships of the near future like the France, the United States and the Queen Mary. Even today’s ship’s have a lot to be thankful to Mrs. Bright and her history class.

Yes, the wood has been replaced by more modern materials and the boilers replaced by huge turbine thingies but the idea is the same isn’t it…..take the Queen Mary 2…the last word in luxury, the best food and the quietest engines traveling at the fastest possible speed.

I have no idea what happened to the Mauretania. I know I could go Googling and find out but somehow I don’t want to know. I do know that the SS Great Britain ended up as a coal barge off the Falkland Islands and recently I sure the saddest photos of the old Carnivale which had been scrapped……it was very sad…..and as I write this I wonder what ever happened to Mrs. Bright and her mole?

Well, the same sad story could have happened to the Mauretania of our lifetime, the Queen Elizabeth 2………but, it hasn’t……..and here to tell you what has happened to this icon of the seas I would like you to give the warmest possible welcome to Carnival UK’s commercial director and chief blog correspondent……………..Mr. Peter Shanks.

The QE2 has gone – God Bless her !

Hello John

Well , as your official British Blog Reporter this is one series of events I simply have to share with you. It’s Friday and I am returning from Dubai having just handed over the QE2 to our friends in Dubai. At Cunard we are famed for making history – and over the last two days we have taught the city of Dubai what history is all about – we made some with them.

The QE2 arrived into Dubai at the end of her final voyage on Wednesday. We had worked had with our friends in Dubai to make sure it was a spectacular arrival. Having met with the lawyers in the morning to make sure all was well with the transaction, I was invited to board the Royal Yacht MV Dubai with around 100 local dignitaries to sail out to welcome the QE2 into Dubai. Quite some yacht I can tell you John, the biggest private yacht in the world. We set sail out past the Palm of Jumeraih out to find the QE2. We had arranged for the British Navy to be in attendance to pay their respects and they sent HMS Lancaster. As we sat having lunch, I looked out of the window and there she was. Tthere was a rustling amongst the guests onboard as they set eyes on QE2 for the first time.

HMS Lancaster sailed alongside QE2 with every member of their crew in formal uniform standing to attention along the ship. This was the very first time that a British Navy ship had paid a full salute to a merchant ship. As the ships closed, the crew on HMS Lancaster gave the Captain of the QE2 three cheers and raised their hats. The 1, 800 guests onboard QE2 gave three cheers back. Awesome and not a dry eye on the ship.

So then we lined up – MV Dubai in front, followed by the QE2 with HMS Lancaster following on behind. Next surprise was that we had arranged for a fly-past from the brand new Emirates A380. She came over the flotilla at just 1,000 feet – an unbelievable sight. Here was the most famous ship in the world , the most modern aircraft in the world, a flotilla of hundreds of boats and 1,800 of our valued guests toasting the event with a glass of champagne as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ played out over the ship’s tannoy.

Now I met the Chief Pilot of Emirates a couple of weeks ago as we had a meeting to plan the event. He said that if all went well he would fly over the ship three times. Well he was at the controls , and talk about ‘boys with new toys’ – he flew over no less than 12 times from a range of different angles – fantastic.

So – on the MV Dubai we sped back to the port. QE2 of course took her time, pausing to attach two tugs to help her through the narrow port entrance (well we did nudge into Southampton only two weeks ago so best to be careful). On the dockside were thousands of people and a press pack to be proud of. She was due to dock – after 41 years – at 1745 and she was on-time to the minute.

My next task was to welcome delegation and escort them onto the ship. As we stood waiting for the ship to be tied up, with all of our guests waving flags from the decks – a local band struck up with bagpipes for some true British welcome music. Our President Carol Marlow stepped off the ship and together we took the delegation (or in my language, the buyers) up to the bridge wing. Now for the fireworks. They had to shut down air traffic space for these and we only had a fifteen-minute window. My job was to phone the event manager once we were ready to go on the bridge wing. That was pretty cool – I called, said ‘Hit it’ and seconds later fireworks lit up the sky.

Then we just let the ship deliver a wonderful last night for our guests. Walking round the bars and restaurants during the evening was a wonderful experience. Guests and our staff were as one, sharing stories, talking about the future and looking forward to seeing each other again on Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth. It was a sight to behold – as was everybody dancing the night away for once last time the look-alike-Beatles.

After all of our guests had disembarked the next morning, we completed the formalities and a small group gathered on the Bridge Wing for the flag exchange. This was one of the most moving events I have been privileged to be part of. Carol Marlow spoke first, brimming with emotion and asked the Captain to lower the Cunard Ensign. Down it came in silence, fluttering proudly for one last time. Then a few words from the ship’s new owners, who spoke of how proud they were and just how much care they would take of the QE2 in future and up went the new flag. It was indeed a moment of history. They say life begins at forty – and I think we will all be able to experience a new QE2 in Dubai in the future. But now – overnight – Cunard had the youngest and most modern fleet in the cruise industry and the future for the brand is brighter than ever.

Later that day, Carol and I walked of the ship together. As we did so we were helped by some of our smiling staff. My lasting memory of the QE2 will now be about all of the famous events, all the excitement, the millions of miles she travelled quite simply it will be about the Ship’s Company. They are true heroes and it is they who made the QE2 what she was – They Are Cunard !

So John – it was awesome and hopefully I have tried to share with your bloggers how much fun it is to be making history, But now it’s about the future – The Mary , The Victoria and The Elizabeth – The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World. And we hope to see you and thousands of your bloggers making history in the future.

All the Best

Peter Shanks

PS – I thought we were meeting up for a curry in London?

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Peter, that was simply a marvelous story, brilliantly written. It was also written by someone who I know lives and breathes all things ocean liner and we are so privileged to have someone of such importance within the industry write for our humble blog.

We all appreciate so much the opportunity in sharing in this historical day and I am sure that many of the thousands of bloggers who read this will want to share their gratitude as well. I raise a Diet Coke to you today and drink to the Queen Elizabeth 2, may she have restful days ahead. I also raise a glass and toast the present, The Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria and, of course, the future………the Queen Elizabeth who will join you in 2010.

Thanks again, Peter, and we hope to hear from you again very soon.

It must have taken huge you know what for Mr. Micky Arison to purchase Cunard whose fleet really was just the Queen Elizabeth 2 and I am sure many ridiculed the fact that “some American” had bought a slice of Britain. However, Cunard’s future is as bright as the sun that now shines down on the QE2 and those who wanted to tell Mr. Arison to bugger off are now choosing where to build a statue of him…..I have space for it in my front garden.

Returning to a normal blog full of bottoms and hemorrhoids doesn’t seem right somehow after the brilliant story Peter shared with us so let me stay semi-serious today. I do regret never having walked up the gangway of the Queen Elizabeth 2. And, that sadness is equaled only by never driving an Aston Martin DBS and not getting Angelina Jolie to be the godmother of the Carnival Splendor.

Advertising men will tell you that when it comes to cars they need to attach a single word to the brand. So if you want a “safe” car you buy a Volvo. If you want a “reliable” car, you buy a Volkswagen. And if you have a small “penis” …………..you buy a Porsche.

It’s not just brands either. There are single words that describe the national characteristics of a car too. A German car is “engineered.” A French car is “smelly” and an Italian car is “exuberant yet argumentative.” I’ve always felt that a British car is “traditional” …………. it’s an Aston Martin, a Bentley or a Rolls Royce …………ignoring the fact that it’s now German, of course.

I have never owned an Aston, a Roller or a Bentley and just as I never got to sail on the Queen Elizabeth 2…….I never got to fly on Concorde. Oh, how as a young lad I wanted that so much. Concorde really was different. People who have flown on her talk about how you are pressed back into your seat and hearing the tearing, cracking and ripping roar during take off. Imagine being able to fly twice the speed of sound, faster than a rifle’s bullet, faster than the world is turning and 11 miles high — while sipping on a Diet Coke and munching on a caviar sandwich. Were the rumors true that the fuselage walls and windows really do heat up with friction?

Oh how I would have loved to have experienced this for myself. Concorde was a magnet for superstars in its heyday — Mick Jagger, Elton John and Paul McCartney, Joan Collins and, of course, George Hamilton. I would have loved to sit next to them instead of a doctor from Plantation, Florida, who offered me a discount on some liposuction.

There were no TVs in the back of the seats, there were no rude cabin crew threatening you with violence because you dared to ask for an extra packet of peanut… nope ….. flying Concorde was different, it was historic and now most just sit in a hangar, in the dark.

I like to believe that some machines do have passion and soul. I like to think of them as ordinary people think of dogs. They cannot read or write or understand our spoken words. But they understand what we’d like them to do in other ways. So go ahead. Think of Concorde as a dog that you’ve had in the family for many years. Think of the way it has never once let you down and never once done a poo in your favorite shoe.

And how thrilled it is when you feed it and pet it and take it out for a walk. And now try to imagine how that dog would feel if you locked it up one night. And never went back ……….. that’s Concorde.

Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Concorde, cups of tea, the Queen, Buckingham Palace, The Beatles, Spotted Dick, warm beer and Cunard……these are the best of British — all machines of some sort but all with the common denominators of beauty, passion, heart and soul.

And joining that distinguished list is of course……….our most recent British export …………………Simon Cowell…………….and you can keep the miserable, greedy bugger.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and The Thingy

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.