An unforgettable salute to Liverpool

For the first time, on Monday 25 May 2015 Cunard’s fleet gathered together in spectacular fashion in Liverpool, its spiritual home, as the company marked its 175th anniversary. The event culminated with the three ships, the largest passenger ships ever to muster together on the River Mersey, lined up across the river just 130 metres apart as the Red Arrows performed a fly-past overhead to the delight of the hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Flagship Queen Mary 2 sailed from the Liverpool berth up to the mouth of the Mersey at 10.45am this morning (25 May) to meet her sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. The three ships then sailed in close single file down the river to Liverpool’s Pier Head with its iconic Three Graces: The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and The Port of Liverpool Building.

Queen Mary 2 slowed in the river opposite the Cunard Building – Cunard’s headquarters for nearly 50 years until 1967 – with her sister ships stopping ahead of her to create a three ship line-up watched by spectators of both sides of the river.

Just 400 metres apart, the three ships then performed a graceful 180 degree synchronised turn to starboard. At the mid-point of the turn, all three ships lay across the river, creating the spectacle of the fleet’s three bows dramatically set against the backdrop of Liverpool’s famous Three Graces. Queen Mary 2 then sounded ‘175’ on her ship’s whistle (foghorn) – first one, then seven short blasts, then five more.

With the full turn completed and the 150,000 ton Queen Mary 2 now in the leading position, her two 90,000 ton sister ships then glided slowly towards either side of her to create an arrowhead formation, with the flagship just ahead of her two consort ships.

Finally, the entire fleet lined up three abreast across the river just 130 metres apart, as a salute to the Cunard Building and the City of Liverpool.

With the Three Queens in this tight formation, the Red Arrows flew in formation low over the Three Queens as they lined up on the river, a coup de grace which created a once-in-a-lifetime moment that thrilled the hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Queen Victoria’s departure on Tuesday 26 May brought the Three Queens weekend to a dramatic close.

There was an unexpected bonus for the crowds which gathered as Queen Victoria took her leave, Master of Queen Victoria Commodore Christopher Rynd guided the ship away from the berth, and then turning to starboard so that the ship’s bow faced the Three Graces on Liverpool’s historic waterfront, performed a full 360 degree turn in the river.

It was a special salute to the city which has shown Cunard’s Three Queens such a huge and warm welcome over the three days. And it made an unforgettable finale to a magnificent celebration of the shared history and ongoing partnership between Cunard and Liverpool, its spiritual home.

Commodore of the Cunard fleet Christopher Rynd said:

“It’s been a privilege to bring the Cunard fleet together on the Mersey for the first time ever to mark Cunard’s 175th anniversary year and our historic and ongoing partnership with Liverpool, our spiritual home.

After months of planning, today the three ships have manoeuvred on the River Mersey as never before, right in front of the Cunard Building, one of Liverpool’s Three Graces and a world heritage site as well as Cunard’s former headquarters. The Red Arrows flypast at the climax of the ships manoeuvres added a finishing touch to an extraordinary day. There can be no more fitting way to celebrate Cunard’s 175th anniversary. The spectators have been amazing and the numbers extraordinary – all the way from the mouth of the Mersey to Pier Head, we have seen such enthusiastic crowds.

There has always been a special bond between Cunard and Liverpool and the north-west, with so many people having worked for or with Cunard over the years. There’s an emotional connection between us. Cunard is more than just a shipping line – it’s a source of pride that means so much to us and everyone associated with it. It’s a real pleasure to be able to celebrate that enduring bond between us all in such a special way today.”

Cunard Director Angus Struthers said:

“All of us at Cunard have been touched by the fantastic reception the Three Queens have received from the people of Liverpool and beyond today. It feels like 175 years of stories, people and history linking Cunard to the city have really come alive. With the Red Arrows flypast adding an amazing extra ‘wow’, it’s been the sort of day we hope parents and grandparents will remember with their children and grandchildren in years to come.

It’s taken a huge amount of planning and cooperation between Cunard’s ships, the Mersey pilots and Liverpool’s cruise operation to make this happen and today is testament to the great results that continue to come out of Cunard’s partnership with the city.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This has been a spectacular day and it will live long in the memories of the huge crowds, on both sides of the River, who experienced it.

“As the spiritual home of Cunard, Liverpool gave the ships an unforgettable welcome.

“This event has been a long time in the planning, but nothing could quite prepare you for just how stunning the Queens looked on the Mersey, and with the additional element of the Red Arrows fly-past, it was an emotional moment for many.

“Visitor numbers to both waterfronts have been unprecedented and I’m delighted that Liverpool has once again shone under the international spotlight and staged an outstanding event which has made maritime history.”

Video footage of the Three Queens sailing in formation, interviews and crowd reaction from the day can be seen on Cruise Liverpool’s You Tube Channel.

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