A hugely successful day for Cunard, as their three ships were brought together in Southampton for the first time to honour the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, ended on a disappointing note when rain and low cloud prevented a flying display by the Red Arrows and all but obscured a firework send-off.
Almost 7,000 passengers setting out on board Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, and crowds gathered in Mayflower Park, on Town Quay and elsewhere on shore could see only glimpses of the thousands of pounds-worth of pyrotechnics as rockets shot into the sky and exploded out of sight.
At least those sailing on Elizabeth got the consolation of meeting the Red Arrows pilots, who came on board dressed in scarlet overalls and fresh from their spectacular flypast at Buckingham Palace earlier in the day.
Cunard president Peter Shanks, insisting that the celebrations were not about the liners but about Her Majesty, drew attention to the maritime theme of the Jubilee celebrations. Lord Sterling, life president of sister company P&O and a prime mover of Sunday’s river pageant on the Thames, came in for some gentle chiding over the “galley slaves” providing propulsion for Gloriana at the head of the parade.
Shanks also recalled his own embarrassing moment while escorting Her Majesty around Queen Elizabeth on the day she named the ship. Having been assured by Palace courtiers that the Queen would not have time to view any of the ship’s accommodation, he was taken aback when her first question was: “Can I see a cabin?”
Fortunately, one quick phone call to the ship’s hotel director was all it took to make one available.
Shanks now has one ambition he would dearly love to fulfil. Although the Queen has had a long association with Cunard – from the day in 1938 when she accompanied her mother to Clydeside for the launch of the first Queen Elizabeth – she has yet to sail with Cunard.
He’s no doubt hoping that the next big celebrations will come when she is piped aboard for a voyage rather than simply for lunch . . .