Cruise News Daily Newsfile
January 12, 2004

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Naming a Queen

Last Thursday (January 8) Queen Mary 2 was named in an extraordinary ceremony at Southampton. The event was opened by Cunard president Pamela Conover who set the tone for the day by recalling Cunard's history of transatlantic liners. Here is the text of her speech.

It was a dramatic moment as Heather Small completed singing Proud and the curtain behind the stage was dropped to reveal QM2 lit bathed in blue floodlights with white spots illuminating "Queen Mary 2" on the bow. Small was accompanied by the 100-plus piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the 200-plus voice Royal Coral Society in a very moving performance.

Today, together, we are making history.

Today is the first time in 37 years that Cunard or any other shipping line, has been able to welcome guests to the naming ceremony of a true transatlantic liner.

We are the fortunate few; the first for more than a generation to bear witness to such a significant event in the history of a maritime nation.

I am particularly grateful to Her Majesty who launched our last transatlantic liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2 and who has so kindly consented to be here again today. On behalf of all of you, I welcome Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to this momentous event made more momentous by their presence.

Transatlantic liners are the thread which runs through Cunard history. We were the first company to offer scheduled transatlantic crossings; and though many others have come and gone, we alone continue to do so.

Every year since 1840, without fail, in peace and in war, Cunard liners have crossed and recrossed the wide Atlantic, weaving together the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

And that thread has been a part of the fabric of British history:

They were Cunard ships that in the nineteenth century carried millions of people to a new life in the New World;

It was a Cunard ship, the little Carpathia, which sped through icefields in the dark to rescue all the survivors of the Titanic;

They were Cunard ships that carried to Crimea all the horses that charged with the Light Brigade;

They were Cunard ships, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, which in the last world war carried American GIs to Europe – 15 thousand at a time, and afterwards took them home.

And it was Cunard’s QE2 that, with others, dashed to the South Atlantic when her services were needed in the Falklands War.

The heartbeat of Cunard, for 165 years, has been as one with the heartbeat of the nation.

When Sir Samuel Cunard formed his company in 1839 it was principally to carry the Royal Mail to North America.

Cunard Line carried the mail continuously for over 130 years. And we were proud to prefix the names of our ships with the letters RMS: Royal Mail Ship.

Therefore it gives me particular pleasure to announce that today the Royal Mail designated our new ship a Royal Mail ship, and so when she leaves for America next Monday the Royal Mail pennant will again fly proudly from a Cunard mast.

When the original Queen Mary was launched in 1934 the Poet Laureate John Masefield described her as ‘a rampart of a ship, long as a street and lofty as a tower’; King George V movingly said she was ‘the stateliest ship now in being’.

If they could be with us here today, I’m sure their feelings would be just the same for the magnificent vessel Her Majesty is about to name.

This ship is a splendid contradiction; she is a transatlantic liner with all the dignity and grace of the liners of the past; but she is a transatlantic liner of the future, a contemporary ‘rampart of a ship’ with comforts and technology undreamt of when the last liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 , was launched.

She is the creation of five years of vision, technical skill, engineering excellence and teamwork uniting 19 nations.

To all those who made any contribution, however modest, I offer my heartfelt thanks for their part in making the vision a reality.

To all the workers of the shipyard in St Nazaire who nurtured her for two long years, I offer my immense gratitude for such a magnificent ship.

To the City of Southampton, I offer - the ship herself; this is Southampton’s ship, and she renews a bond between Cunard and the city which began over 80 years ago.

To our friends in the travel industry, some of whom have journeyed thousands of miles to be with us here today, I offer my profound appreciation for their continuing support.

And to Commodore Warwick, his officers and his crew, I offer my best wishes as they begin now to introduce this new ambassador for Britain to the world.

Just as the original Queen Mary was the herald of an earlier golden age of ocean travel, so this ship heralds the new golden age; she represents no less than the triumph of a great tradition, a great British tradition of which we can all be proud.

After christening the ship, the queen and the official party posed momentarily for photos at QM2 baritone whistle sounded repeatedly. The whistle was originally on the original Queen Mary.

Shown are Carnival Corp chairman Micky Arison, Cunard president Pamela Conover, Commodore Warwick and Queen Elizabeth II.

A huge fireworks display was unleashed as confetti showered the crowd and the aerial display was shown from several perspectives on the twin electronic screens on stage.

The fireworks were accompanied by Beethoven's Ode to Joy which was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

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