The Travel Detective

Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Christening: Peter’s Report from Southampton, England

Locations in this article:  Fort Lauderdale, FL
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Christening: Peter’s Report from Southampton, England

Her Majesty, The Queen Christens Cunard's Newest ShipIf there are three things the British do very well, they are:

1. Royal weddings
2. Royal funerals
3. Ship namings

Today was no exception. No one died, and no one got married.

But the new Cunard ship, Queen Elizabeth, was named by her majesty the Queen.

It was an extravagant ceremony, complete with the Band of the Scots Guards, the band and piper of the Coldstream Guards, the trumpeters of the Irish Guards and, of course, bagpipers. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performed, along with its counterpart chorus.

It was festive, colorful and royal. And the Queen herself made history. This is the third ship in Cunard’s history to bear the Elizabeth name, and the only one at the ceremony today who could lay claim to having been at all three ship namings (in the 1930s, in 1967 and today) was Her Majesty herself.

The Queen officially names the ship - photo via CunardThe Queen has named almost all the Cunard ships during her reign. The exception took place just a few years ago, with the Queen Victoria, and the naming duties were handed over to Camilla. It was sort of her royal coming-out party, but things got awkward—and I witnessed it myself—right after she officially named the ship. She pushed the button to launch the champagne bottle to christen the ship, and the bottle was rocketed towards the Queen Victoria, hit the side of the ship … and didn’t break. Some dubbed that moment, “Diana’s Revenge.”

But the Queen Elizabeth, which makes its maiden voyage October 12, arrives at a time when the cruise industry doesn’t really need a new ship. It means new capacity and more cabins to sell. It is, like about a dozen others, a case of where the ship was ordered at a more robust time economically, and now, despite the economic times, it was built and now it needs to be filled.

Amidst all the pomp and circumstance are some sobering facts. In the law of supply and demand, supply is definitely winning these days. Yes, the Queen Elizabeth will sail completely full tomorrow (in fact, the first cruise on this ship sold out in a record 29 minutes and 14 seconds!). But the challenge for Cunard, as well as the rest of the cruise industry, which is expecting at least 10 more mega ships over the next 10 months, is to fill all those new cabins, as well as the existing ones.

The Queen tours the ship alongside its CaptainAlready I am seeing huge discounts in the Caribbean, where seven-day cruises are being sold for under $400 (a little less than $60 a night … including three meals). You can’t even wake up in Cleveland for that!

But for the moment, those new ships are still on order to be delivered soon—ranging from another humongous ship from Royal Caribbean, the Allure of the Seas, to a new ship from Disney, Celebrity, and four from Carnival.

What does this mean to you? An opportunity for great cruise deals on other ships in any cruise line’s fleet. Just pick one that’s between 4 and 10 years old and you might be surprised how much of a discount you can get.

One last item that has to be mentioned: Not wanting a repeat of what happened to Camilla, Cunard engineers quietly rigged a special stunt bottle that they guaranteed would do everything short of exploding when Queen Elizabeth pushed the button and the bottle hit the side of the ship!

And today, after one of the world’s shortest speeches, (“I hereby name thee, Queen Elizabeth….”) Her Majesty pushed the button, and the bottle was dropped at high speed, swinging into the side of the ship, and virtually exploded.

By Peter Greenberg for Photos courtesy of Cunard.

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