Port Out Southampton Home, An Exhibition – Other Cruise News: Queen Mary 2 Refit Completes – Airline Seat Pitches
by Kevin Griffin
This week we have a look at a 15-month exhibition being mounted by Southampton’s SeaCity Museum on the subject of ocean liners. This Thursday, meanwhile, sees the largest ocean liner ever built go back into service when Queen Mary 2 leaves Southampton for New York after a 25-day refit estimated to have cost about $55 million. She will have room for 75 more passengers and more pets. Finally, we look at the subject of seat pitch on cruise line flights.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Port Out Southampton Home, An Exhibition
The Port of Southampton now handles 1.6 million cruise passengers a year and has been an important port for Transatlantic and other ocean liners for well over a century now.
This spring, an exhibition opened that will emphasise its continuing importance in the passenger trades. Its name is a play on the old acronym Posh (Port Out, Starboard Home), which indicated the shady and therefore cooler side of the ship on the way out to and back from India, Southeast Asia and Australasia.
In their golden age from the 1920s to the 1950s, ocean liners were the lifeblood of Southampton, bringing employment, industry and glamour to the city.
From the early days of cruising in the 1890s to modern day cruise ships, this exhibition tells the story of these great ships and evokes the romance of sea travel and life on board.
The exhibition includes a wide range of rarely-seen items from the city’s maritime collection, including ship models, posters, photographs and ocean liner ephemera such as menu cards and souvenirs. It also includes furniture and other items from some of the famous ships that called Southampton home, such as the Mauretania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2. One can learn about the people who travelled and worked the oceans aboard these ships through their letters, diaries and interviews.
Visitors of all ages can practice on board sports such as deck quoits, try on a captain’s or steward’s uniform, or find out what was served for a meal in First Class on the Queen Mary.
For more than a century the non-stop Southampton to New York sea route was the principal way for the wealthy and famous to travel to and from the New World on the most opulent and famous ships in the world.
The legacy of ships such as the White Star Line’s Majestic and Olympic, Cunard Line’s Aquitania, Berengaria, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2, French Line’s Normandie and France and United States Lines’ America and United States is upheld today by Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever built.
Southampton’s first coup came as early as 1843, three years after the formation of the Cunard Line, when the Admiralty moved its remaining fleet of mail-carrying “Falmouth packets” there. But Southampton really came to the fore over Liverpool when the White Star Line moved the terminus of its New York express service to there in 1907.
In 1909, Cunard was still experimenting with the Welsh port of Fishguard, with trains carrying passengers and mail from the Mauretania and Lusitania to London’s Paddington Station in four and three-quarter hours. By the time the Titanic was lost in 1912 Cunard was still operating its Liverpool-New York express service via Fishguard.
It was not until 1919, twelve years after the White Star Line, that Cunard moved its New York express service to Southampton. But by the 1920s, both Cunard and White Star had mail contracts to supply weekly service between Southampton and New York. These contracts called for the White Star Line to sail on Wednesdays and the Cunard Line on Saturdays.
The two companies merged in 1934 into Cunard-White Star Ltd, the company that introduced the first Queen, the Queen Mary, in 1936. Other sailings continued from Liverpool however and it was not until 1967 that all Cunard Transatlantic sailings were transferred to Southampton, just as ocean liners were disappearing from the seas.
In recent years, with the delivery of a number of new ships from European shipyards, the route has seen a resurgence in sailings by large, new ships. Starting with the 4,200-berth Norwegian Epic, which at 155,873 tons is larger than the Queen Mary 2, on June 24, 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line have often sailed their biggest and newest ships on non-stop voyages from Southampton to New York.
Next was the 4,028-berth Norwegian Breakaway on April 30, 2013. Then it was her sister ship Norwegian Getaway, leaving Southampton for New York on a 10-night non-stop crossing on January 16, 2014.
The most interesting recent ship was Royal Caribbean’s 168,666-ton Quantum of the Seas, first of a new class of ship that carried 4,180 passengers, which departed Southampton on an 8-night crossing for New York on November 2, 2014.
Royal Caribbean International has been using Southampton as its main UK cruise port since 2007, when it first based its 3,286-berth Navigator of the Seas there, succeeded at first by the 3,634-berth Independence of the Seas and then in 2015 by the 4,180-berth Anthem of the Seas.
For those heading for Florida, meanwhile, the world’s then largest cruise ship, the 225,282-ton 5,408-berth Oasis of the Seas, departed Southampton on October 15, 2014, for a 12-night passage to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Vigo, after a trip to Rotterdam for a routine drydocking.
The visit earlier this month of the 226,963-ton 5,479-berth Harmony of the Seas made sure that Southampton still had the chance to host the largest cruise ship in the world, with the Harmony being larger than any that had preceded her. In her case, however, she did not sail for New York but first for Barcelona and then for China.
Cruise lines basing ships in Southampton include, as well as Cunard, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Saga, Celebrity Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
In addition to ships, however, Southampton now enjoys a wealth of UK cruise line headquarters. In Carnival House are located the offices not only of Cunard and P&O Cruises, but also Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn. Not far away, on Town Quay, are the offices of Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and, as of this year, Norwegian Cruise Line, which has recently moved there from London.
Port out, Southampton Home is open until June 4, 2017.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Queen Mary 2 Refit Completes
Thousands of workers are this week putting the finishing touches to Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, which is in the Blohm & Voss dock in Hamburg. The 2,620-guest ship entered drydock on 27 May and will emerge this week with accommodation for 2,695 passengers in lower berths.
The Queen Mary 2 is due to leave Southampton for New York this Thursday June 23rd. She will be joined in Southampton by the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria to see her off and mark her re-entry into service.
The latest refit is the most extensive given to a Cunard ship since Queen Elizabeth 2 was converted from steam to diesel in 1987 in a $162 million mid-life refit at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven.
The cost of this work on the now 151,200-ton Queen Mary 2 has only been quoted as tens of millions of pounds, but 2,500 workers are involved in completing the 25-day major refit. Reports from Germany put it at about €50 million, or roughly $55 million.
The British-designed French-built ship first took to the seas in 2004 her maiden voyage and is still the largest ocean liner in the world.
Glamorous designs, many stemming from the original Queen Mary, will feature signature colour schemes, new carpets and new furniture as well as more decorative fixtures and fittings. The Winter Garden has now been converted into the Carinthia Lounge and the Queen’s and Princess Grills have been redone, while new carpet has been laid throughout the ship.
Fifteen new single cabins, this ship’s first, and thirty more Britannia Club balcony cabins have been installed during the refit and twelve more kennels have been added to cater for the high demand for pets.
The Queen Mary 2, which cost £460 million to build, is the largest vessel ever to have been built for Cunard and has a maximum speed of more than 30 knots.
The ship was given her name by the Queen in honour of her 1936 namesake RMS Queen Mary which retired in 1967 and is now preserved in Long Beach.
Airline Seat Pitches
Two weeks ago we wrote about Celebrity Cruises’ new Jet Set Sail flights from the UK, describing the Titan Airways aircraft they use as having a “generous 31″ seat pitch.”
In relative terms, this can be considered generous when UK charter airlines such as Thomas Cook Airlines offer 29″ seat pitch and budget carrier Ryanair 30″.
But as one of our readers from Singapore advised us, one North American airline’s long-haul Boeing 777 fleet has now been refitted for 10 abreast seating and 31″ seat pitch. He added that “they have lost me as a customer. I used to fly with them to Toronto via Hong Kong, but now I take Eva via Taipei, where the same aircraft has 9-abreast with 34″ seat pitch, and most of the time I am upgraded into Eva deluxe class.”
Eva is owned by a shipping company, Taiwan’s Evergreen Line.
In other words, if you are worried about space on the plane that is taking you to your cruise, it is always worth investigating.
If you can’t get much from your agent or carrier then a good source for this information is seatguru.com by TripAdvisor, which will give you not only seat pitch but aircraft seatmaps and airline comparisons.
Last week we reported that the small cruise ship Ocean Diamond had been built as the Fearnley & Eger truck ferry Gardenia.
However, it has been pointed out by one of our readers in California that the Ocean Diamond was formerly her sister ship, Fearnley & Eger’s Begonia.
Both ships were planned for conversion into cruise ship in the mid-1980s but only the Begonia was converted, while the Gardenia continued life as a truck ferry until she was scrapped in 2001.
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)