Amid the melting snow, roaring traffic and lapping waves of Pier 88 on the West side of Manhattan, Travel Agent gathered with cruise industry professionals and NYC Tourism officials to celebrate the maiden voyage of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth to New York. The voyage honored a lengthy history that began with the wooden paddle steamer, Hibernia, in 1845.
The President of Cunard, Peter Shanks, was joined by George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, the city‘s tourism, marketing and partnership organization, as well as CLIA‘s executive vice president for marketing and distribution, Bob Shara.
Although the cruise company traverses myriad far-flung countries across the globe, there is a singularly impressive cross-pollination between Cunard and New York — both economically and socially — that spans more than 165 years. Cunard has brought more than 10 million passengers to NYC since 1945 and the original Cunard building at 25 Broadway still boasts the glinting plaque, harkening back to the Art Deco heydays of the ever-burgeoning Big Apple.
NYC & Company, helmed by Fertitta, announced that it will begin to broadcast a new 30-second NYC welcome video featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg in each of the three Cunard Lines as passengers arrive at the piers, as well as launch a new microsite for consumers, which will provide information on the city’s cruise terminals in Manhattan and Brooklyn, NYC event listings and suggested itineraries for pre- and post-cruise adventures in the city, from sumptuous spas and delectable desserts to walking tours, come-hither couture and spots to rest sea-worthy legs.
Not only did Bloomberg participate in the making of the video, greeting visitors with Technicolor vignettes of the city streets, but he also declared January 13 “Cunard Royal Rendevous Day” in NYC with the Empire State Building glowing in “Cunard Red.”
Although Shanks explained that cruise passengers and crew spent more than $144 million in NYC in 2010, exceeding 2009 by $51 million, the family cruise market is where the industry is growing exponentially. CLIA‘s Bob Shara echoed these sentiments:
“Family cruises, meaning nuclear as well as multi-generational, have more than two million passengers a year that are 18 and younger. It’s become a great place to have family reunions as well. I know for me, it’s a guilty pleasure not to see my kids for a while,” laughed Shara. “There are so many different things to do, it’s great to discuss the day together at dinner.”
Following the press conference, Travel Agent had the opportunity to board the Queen Elizabeth for an extensive tour of the facilities with Richard Curtis, head of marketing for Cunard, beginning with the Grand Lobby. Looming majestically over the staircase is an 18-foot marquetry piece with over ten kinds of wood depicting the original Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, crafted by none other than renown designer, Viscount Linley, nephew to the Queen herself. Also greeting guests is Queen Elizabeth’s portrait painted by Isabel Peachey, the youngest person ever to paint the Queen’s portrait.
Travel Agent also explored the Art Deco-influenced Queen’s ballroom, the Golden Lion pub, the outdoor Games Court with bowling and tennis, the glass-ceilinged Garden Terrace, and the Royal Court Theater, (modeled after a classic Victorian theater) where those with private boxes can swill champagne and carouse with the resident cast after the performance.
Travel Agent also took a gander at the huge Dent clock, manufactured by the same clock maker’s as Big Ben, the cozy nooks of the spiral-staircased library, and Veranda, a high-end restaurant boasting French cuisine among silver mirrored columns and sweeping views of the crashing waves below. The new Queen Elizabeth also offers extensive spa facilities for men, women and couples, as well the first-ever offering of acupuncture by Dr. Laura Metz.
After wandering deck upon deck and room after room, the tour finally culminated in the presentation of a commemorative plaque to Captain Julian Burgess from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Tom Spina, director of cruise pperations at NYEDC, Celeste Gladstone, Intercruises president, and Captains Andrew McGovern and Hank Mahlmann of Sandy Hook Pilots.
Following the champagne, hors d’oeurves and series of enthusiastic speeches, the crowd dispersed in anticipation of the youngest fleet at sea — Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth gathering together in the New York harbor beside the Statue of Liberty for a Grucci fireworks spectacular at 6:45 p.m.
Photos: (top to bottom) Garden Terrace; Grand Lobby; Games Court; Captain Julian Burgess. (Katie Tandy)