Queen of the Atlantic
Text & Photography by Eric Pasquier
Christopher Columbus once said, “Between the end of the East and the end of the West, there is just one small sea.”
Five hundred years later, the last liner crossing that ‘one small sea’ is the pride of the Atlantic: the Queen Elizabeth II.
At 70,000 tons, she is the world’s largest ship.
Owned by Cunard, she has carried film stars, statesmen and royalty, and was overhauled to the tune of $130 million to become the plushest, poshest Transatlantic liner.
ERIC PASQUIER looks at this slice of maritime history.Even at thirtysomething, the Queen Elizabeth II remains more than ever the ship of tomorrows. When aircraft took over from ships on the trip from Europe to America, the famous company Cunard decided to bet on the future of maritime tourism. Born from this initiative, the Queen Elizabeth II has a double vocation: to be at once a transatlantic carrier and a cruise ship.
Each year, this majestic ship is either one or the other, carrying the colours of the company everywhere in the world.
Launched on the Clyde, near Glasgow, in Scotland in 1967 and christened by the Queen Elizabeth II, the ship made its inaugural crossing in May 1969.
Being a proud vessel with well-balanced lines, measuring 337 m long and 36.7 m wide, it weighs about 70,000 tons and can carry aboard 1,750 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers.
From Southampton, its home harbour, the ship stated its rotations to New York in liaison with the ship France. In the beginning, its chimney was white and did not wear the colours of the Cunard company: red with two black lines. In 1982, the ship took part in the war of the Falklands as a ship carrier for the troops but it never entered the war zone. It went back to civilian service in August 1982 after its chimney was repainted for the occasion in the colours of the company.
Five years later, its renovation cost 130 million dollars.
Its powerful steam turbines were replaced by diesel engines and the installation for the passengers completely redone.
In 1994, it was refurbished anew, and today it is still one of the most prestigious ships in the world. Being the only passenger ship that crosses the Atlantic Ocean, it is today stopping in ports around the entire world.
The Queen Elizabeth II is known for its legendary brightness. It is not only a symbol of the golden age of transatlantic trips – it is the transatlantic trip incarnate. This period has seen some of the most famous Hollywood stars travelling aboard Cunard Company ships.
Being a legendary ship, it reflects the glory of a past that is long gone but transforms it into a contemporary pleasure.
Its prestige lies in its service and its luxurious comfort. Each passenger, from third to first class is well looked after. A cruise aboard must be unforgettable.
It is the last ship on which gastronomy is taken very seriously indeed. In fact, 3,000 meals are served aboard the Queen Elizabeth II; that is without breakfast and the little extras.
The finest wines accompany the most refined dishes. They all come from a kitchen watched over by a French chef.
The passengers are free to do exactly what they please: relaxing, taking in a massage or a sauna, going shopping at the onboard luxury stores, meeting with friends, exercising in the pools or the gym, surfing on the Internet, dancing at the disco or praying in the synagogue. Conferences can be organized during the trip, in auditoria equipped for overhead projections and presentations.
Entertainment is an aspect of daily life on board, which sometimes gives the cruise an “air of the Broadway show.” Photographers aboard immortalize those unforgettable moments for the passengers.
Comfort and luxury are the two main characteristics of the sea giant. The décor is enchanting, with cabins protected from the outside world. The ones with a view on the ocean have a wonderfully luxurious atmosphere. Each passenger can choose his/her cabin according to taste and means. And the romance of a night at sea will soften the heart of even the greatest cynic. To travel aboard the Queen Elizabeth II is truly a magical experience. When you’re alone in the middle of the ocean, the notion of time fades in the face of these immense surroundings and the spirit can be free.