The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

16 September, 2009

New York - September 16, 2008

After seeing QE2 in April of 2008, I was determined to see her in port for the remaining two times she was to call on New York, which would include the gut wrenching final farewell.  Using the experience gained from the April visit to the Manhattan cruise ship terminal, I decided to park the car on the deck at the pier for the day and make a full day of it in NYC.

On the drive in, I kept thinking how easy it was to get to the pier from my house in Connecticut.  I only wish I had taken advantage of this and make the trip more often.  I left the house early at 4AM, hoping to time my arrival right and witness the ship pulling in.  As I turned off Interstate 95 to take the Henry Hudson Parkway, my heart sank as I got a glimpse of the iconic funnel all lit up in the distance.  Apparently Captain McNaught had gotten the ship in early so all my mad driving through traffic had not paid off.  Luckily, though, the parking attendant directed me to park directly next to the ship on the top deck.  I could almost reach out and touch the ship from where I parked.  No security could see me from where I parked so I grabbed a few early morning shots.  Of course, the ship was stunning and I got to get up close down at the ground level for a few more pictures.

The night before, I had purchased a pass online to use for discounts on sightseeing for the day.  I had planned on staying to see the sailaway so I had the entire day to spend in New York.  I made my way on foot from the pier to Times Square to the Hard Rock Cafe to pick up my pass.  The weather was overcast, but it was clearing.  I grabbed a quick breakfast and coffee at the McDonalds at Time Square and then headed off to the Empire State Building.  I had not been in this building since I was a sophomore in high school on a band trip.  The pass gave me access to the main observation deck and a discount to the even higher enclosed observation deck high up in the spire.  While photographing the ship from the outside observation deck, I ended up speaking to a British couple who were on "holiday."  They recognized the Cunard logo on my coat and questioned what I was doing in New York.  I could only wish I was QE2 staff or employed by Cunard.  I pointed out the ship in the distance and also told them that I was just a obsessed fan of the ship.  It really is amazing how the ship captured the hearts of the UK since they went on at length about the ship.

     QE2 and Crystal Symphony from the Empire State Building.

Next stop was going to be Radio City Music Hall for a behind the scenes guided tour.  Once again, I had experienced a show at Radio City back on my band trip many years ago and wanted to visit again and see the fine Art Deco architecture.  Our guide was quite long winded, but very informative and I soaked it all up.  I marveled at the main lobby design as it reminded me of Queen Mary Art Deco inspired interiors.  In fact, the architect was directed to design the space based on an experience the owner had on a liner, according to our guide.  Of course, I asked if the guide knew which ship, but she did not.  About halfway through the tour, I became worried that she was taking too much time.  Although it was all facinating, I had my heart set on the 3 hour tour of Manhattan in a Circle Line tour boat and the tour that fit the schedule was going to be difficult to get to unless I left on time.  I had planned on walking back to the Circle Line Pier.  There is no direct subway line in that direction nor would a taxi be much faster with all the traffic mid day so I figured walking was the best bet.  Despite a very brisk walk and numerous crossings through traffic, I just missed the boat.  In fact, I heard the horn when I was about a block away.  I made it to the window at the pier and purchased the 2 hour tour instead.  My plans of getting photos of QE2 as we made the full lap around Manhattan Island were partially foiled.  I had some time to kill now so I grabbed a hot dog on the pier and then headed back to QE2 for a few pictures.  The Crystal Symphony had docked shortly after I had arrived on the pier earlier that morning and made a nice contrast to the lines of QE2.  While QE2's lines are classic, I found the Symphony had pleasant lines and a clean modern profile.  Of course, my focus was on QE2.

Interesting new QE2 bow profile with a new mast of the Crystal Symphony.

     A study in evolution of bridge design-open wings to closed.

While photographing the ship, various bus tours were coming back to the ship and Cunard staff were on the pier.  I recognized a woman from the ship from our January Crossing and asked her if she could take a picture of me in front of the ship and told her we'd be seeing her again in two weeks in Southampton for our Final Farewell to the UK cruise.  QE2 was currently on a long Splendours of Autumn cruise that would take her to Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, and a few ports in Canada before heading back to Southampton to pick us up.

The Circle Line pier is not very far from the Pier 88/92 area and I made my way back to the pier to board my tour boat for a two hour cruise which would go down the Hudson, past the Statue of Liberty and then head up the East River, passing the South Street Seaport and then going under the Brooklyn Bridge.  The tourboat captain gave quite an informative commentary of the various buildings and significant sights along the way.  He pointed out the old White Star Pier as well as new buildings by famous architects such as Frank Gehry.  All during the trip, I kept thinking how many times QE2 had made this trip up and down the Hudson and also of my relative that made the same trip into New York Harbor.  It was also nice to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island up close.  Our January Crossing arrival was in the early morning and we missed alot of the harbor due to the darkness and the frigid cold wind.  As my trip wound down, and we returned up the Hudson to the Circle Line Pier, the captain made a few comments regarding QE2 in the distance and the fact that she was bought by Dubai to become a floating hotel.  Like I really needed another reminder. 

QE2 was getting ready to depart.  The fuel barge that had been alongside all day pulled away and I snapped away at her bow, admiring the sheer that tamed the Atlantic for 40 years, and, of course, built by the Scots in Clydebank.  There were a few diehard fans still on the pier and the security guards were not letting us up on the top deck, where I might add, my car was parked.  They mentioned security reasons for this, and that I could not photograph the ship with the pier in the background.  It just did not make sense to us few on the pier.  The camera I had brought along was my Sony MiniCam and I was experiencing the same battery problems again that I had back in April.  Fortunately, I managed to get some good video of the sailaway and was VERY startled when the famous QE2 whistle was sounded for the first time.  You could feel it in your chest and that alone brought a big grin to my face.  I echoed off the buildings and parking structure.

As QE2 backed out, the ship was aided by a newer Moran traction style tug, the Lee T Moran, but it appeared that she backed out mainly on her own.  The current of the Hudson began to take the ship sideways down the river and QE2 slowly was rotated and began heading off to her next port of call, Newport, RI.  The decks were lined with passengers for the sailaway.  I ran down back towards the Circle Line pier to try to get a few more good shots, cursing the security guards all the way that prevented me from being out on the parking deck for the best view.  At least this time, though, as she sailed off down the Hudson into the sunset, I knew I would be back onboard one final time.

     Queen Elizabeth 2, September 16, 2008, New York

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