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Lest We Forget The Lusitania

Today is the day to remember the Lusitania.

Lusitania?

If there hadn’t been a Titanic, you’d know all about the Lusitania. It sank 100 years ago today, courtesy of a torpedo, and if the Titanic had missed that iceberg three years earlier, Lusitania would have been the word by which all cruise-ship disasters at sea would be measured.

There’s surely nobody left old enough to remember the Lusitania’s demise.

Cunard, at 175, is…and with good reason. The Lusitania was the first of 22 Cunard ships that were sunk during World War I, by then just a year old. Today, 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland, near Cobh, Cunard’s Queen Victoria will hover over the Lusitaniaapproximate spot where the Lusitania went down. There will be floral tributes. Its whistles will sound. Chances are the Queen Victoria will linger for 18 minutes, because that’s how long it took for the old ship to disappear into the depths at 10 minutes past two that afternoon.

At the time, it was apparently the most famous ship in the world, heading from Liverpool to New York. Along with sister ship Mauritania, this was the first of what were called “floating palaces.” Many of the passengers were from the Liverpool area, Cunard’s original home. A church service and minute of silence were planned, along with a walk past the Lusitania’s propeller.

On the Queen Mary, in the midst of a 7-day memorial cruise, there is a Lusitania exhibition, assembled by Eric Sauder, who has dived onto the wreck and who was once a tour guide on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Sauder has written two books on the ship, the release of the second to coincide with today’s anniversary.

David Dingle, CEO of Cunard Line, provided some context for the ship: “Her story was also one of triumph in the technical achievement of her construction and her glittering career from 1907 until the outbreak of war.”

That career began five years before the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage in April 1912. Cobh was the last port before both ships crossed the ocean on the trip to New York. On the Titanic, 1,517 people perished. On the Lusitania, 1,190 perished.

But the Titanic was first. As such, its name is forever memorialized and Lusitania’s is not. She is remembered only on anniversaries like today.

In the news…

• Carnival's brands donate $200,000 to Nepal earthquake relief
• All-inclusive suite class coming to Royal Caribbean in 2016 [Travel Weekly]
• Freestyle Choice freebies for Norwegian cruisers who book this month
• Mexico building a cruise home port southwest of Phoenix [Arizona Republic]

Today at portsandbows.com: Flight deals to get to Silver Galapagos

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
June 6, 2015
Venice (return): Dubrovnik, Athens, Ephesus, Split
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.ncl.com

As Time Goes By, More Beatles Than Ever

By now, The Beatles must have almost as many impersonators (okay, tribute acts) as Elvis. This, despite the fact half of The Beatles are still performing, proving that you don't have to die to have lesser talents play you.

At one time or another every city in the nation must have been host to a Beatles show that didn't feature the real thing. From New York — where they've been on Broadway (Beatlemania) — to small-town North America (pick one), the Fab Four have spawned a "Revolution" unlike the one they sang about all those years ago.

Beatles ExperienceAnybody who passed through the sixties and didn't get left behind has eagerly chased the ghosts of The Beatles. Guilty, as charged. We've gone on a Beatles bus tour in Liverpool, their hometown, and seen a variety of acts that have dared to play John, Paul, George and Ringo in too many places to mention.

Now, it's Cunard.

In a few weeks, The Beatles Experience will board Cunard ships to perform "A Day In the Life"…or maybe that should be "A Life in The Day." It's unclear how they'll entertain as many Cunard passengers as promised, given that they're scheduled to be on the Queen Elizabeth somewhere between Hong Kong and Dubai on March 29, on the Queen Victoria between San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale on April 1 and on the Queen Mary 2 "Back in the USSR" (oops, Far East) on April 2.

Even The Beatles themselves couldn't have handled that schedule, so maybe the clones have been cloned and there's more than one copy of The Beatles Experience. Actually, there is but that's another story, one for the copyright cops.

One thing is certain: 

There's no cruise line more British than Cunard and no Beatles more British than the originals, so these shows are likely to be as good as it gets.

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
March 30, 2014
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $359
Cost per day: $51
www.carnival.com

Still Looking Young After 200 Trips

This is quite the woman. She has crossed the Atlantic Ocean 200 times. She has served 8.4 million cups of tea, 980,000 scones and 644,000 eggs. She has logged more than half a million miles yet looks pretty much the same as she did nine years ago.

I'd say this was my wife — who is also quite the woman — except that she serves coffee, not tea.

The object of my affection…er, attention…this weekend is, of course, the Queen Mary 2. This weekend marks the end of her 200th Transatlantic "crossing." All of them are from Southampton to New York or vice-versa, and this one is vice-versa. She may be in Southampton as you read this and, knowing how the British are about Cunard ships, it should surprise nobody if there's a big celebration.

The ship the Queen Mary 2 succeeded is now a tourist attraction-cum-hotel and lives in Southern California. Her predecessor was used extensively to transport troops across the ocean during World War II and she sailed the high seas for three decades until time and the cost of crossings caught up with her. She was retired to a life of luxury in Long Beach in 1967.

The original's successor didn't come along until 27 years later. Her maiden voyage was in January 2004 after she was christened by another "Queen 2" — Elizabeth the 2nd, the current and long-serving British monarch. Since then the Queen Mary 2 has become something of an icon, as the oldest of the three ships in the Cunard fleet. Stephen Payne OBE, the man who designed the ship was on her this week, the guest of honor at a gala dinner on Thursday night, one of many special events held during the 200th crossing.

We have never sailed on the Queen Mary 2, alas, but we have a friend who has been on the ship many times. The fact that he keeps going back speaks volumes about the ship's attractiveness.

At 200 crossings, she is still young. The Queen Elizabeth 2 crossed the Atlantic 812 times. The original QE crossed 896 times. The record is 1,001 times.

That's right…it was her "mother."

Photo: JAMES MORGAN/CUNARD

 

Norwegian Gem
7 nights
August 31, 2013
New York (return): Port CanaveralGreat Stirrup CayNassau
Inside: $689
Cost per day: $98
www.ncl.com

Memories, a Photograph and Dick Irvin

One of the nice people in the world is Dick Irvin, Jr., who was a long-time encyclopedic broadcaster and author specializing in pro hockey, which he didn't play but which his father coached (read: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks).

While we are fortunate to be his friends, the reason you're reading about Dick Irvin here is because he happens to be an avid cruiser.

A Cunard cruiser.

Yesterday, after a 16-day journey from New Yorkhe stepped off the Queen Victoria in San Francisco, where the middle sister of the Cunard fleet  — older than Elizabeth, younger than Mary 2 — was the scene of an historic event. On the bridge of the Queen Victoria, a once-illegal photograph was presented to Captain Inger Olsen, one of the few female cruise ship captains in the world.

The photo was of the cruise line's original Queen Elizabeth, the occasion was the old ship's only visit to the West Coast and it was "once illegal" because photographs of ships in ports were prohibited during World War II. The photo was presented to the Cunard captain by the California Heritage Council, to commemorate the Queen Elizabeth's critical carriage of 8,000 American troops bound for Australia.

This was at the height of the Pacific conflict, barely four months after Pearl Harbor, and the American/Australian troops were able to halt enemy advances and play a key role in ending the war. The Elizabeth, along with the Queen Mary 1, transported thousands of American troops during the war, once prompting Winston Churchill to credit Cunard with ending the conflict a year early.

Now, we can't be sure that Dick Irvin witnessed the historic event — his father, Dick Sr., fought in World War I — yesterday or not, but he'll undoubtedly know all about it. And be armed with more fascinating trivia about the ships and the war than anyone could imagine.

That's just one of many reasons why he's so special.


Carnival Miracle
8 nights
April 29, 2013
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Seattle
Inside: $609
Cost per day: $76
www.carnival.com

 

Catalina Island and Queen Mary

 

It happens that we have good friends who live in Rancho Palos Verdes, just south of Los Angeles. It also happens that many years ago we had close friends who lived in the same suburb, which is not far from Catalina Island and even closer to the Queen Mary, which you'd think would be an attraction to people who write about ships.

We didn't visit our friends — the recent ones and the long-ago ones — often, but often enough that we should have seen both Catalina and and the Queen Mary, the Cunard ship that's spending her retirement as a working hotel and tourist attraction. (We did once tour the Queen Mary, but in those days we had little interest in cruising.)

What this has to do with cruising is that both are an ideal segue for passengers sailing in or out of San Pedro, aka Long Beach, aka Los Angeles.

The island is said to be a beautiful spot to escape the craziness that southern California can be. There are ferries that will take you there every day, and if you happen to visit on your birthday, it's a free ride on the Catalina Express. Cruise ships, especially Carnival, sometimes make Catalina Island one of the ports, on the way to or from Ensenada (Mexico) or Hawaii.

It sits 22 miles off the coast but looks much closer. It has a city, Avalon, and if you forget for a minute how close you are to North America, they say you could think you're in the Mediterranean. Think Portofino.

The Queen Mary is floating history. Built to be one of Cunard's two super shuttles between Southampton and New York — the Queen Elizabeth was the other — prior to World War II, she wound up transporting soldiers to and from the fields of battle. She went back to being a cruise ship after the war and until jet planes starting ferrying people across the Atlantic in hours instead of days.

It wasn't long after that when Cunard, losing money on all its ships, sold the Queen Mary and she made her 1,000th and last ocean crossing to get to Long Beach. You think there's no romance among ships. Six years ago, the Queen Mary 2 (still sailing profitably for Cunard) was in neighboring waters and saluted her predecessor with two new horns and one on loan from Queen Mary. The old gal — she turns 75 in December — responded with her one working air horn.

Today, Catalina and Queen Mary are both tourist attractions that, were they in Europe, would surely be available to cruise passengers as shore excursions. Yet they so readily accessible to North Americans who don't go out of their way for a visit.

Just ask us.


Celebrity Infinity
15 nights
December 7, 2012
Fort Lauderdale, Cartagena, Colon, Panama Canal, Manta (Ecuador), Lima (Chile), Arica, La Serena, Santiago
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $59
www.celebritycruises.com

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