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

02 October, 2009

Cobh, Ireland - October 2, 2008

Today, we were scheduled to visit Blarney Castle via motor coach.  After breakfast in Mauretania Restaurant, we met down in the theater for our tour to be called.  I forgot the tickets and had to make a mad dash back down to the room and then back upstairs to find ourselves the last people in line. Great way to burn off some of that nice breakfast.

The bus was parked right on the pier.  Ryan grabbed an outside seat on the bus and there was a snail on the window next to him!  Our tour took us through Cork and then out to the countryside to Blarney Castle.  The weather was perfect and the line to kiss the Blarney Stone was not too long.  I kissed it, but the jury is still out whether it has brought any good luck.  This castle was the first of several we were to visit on this trip
Once we returned to the ship in the afternoon we went to the Lido for a bite to eat.  We saw Anke, our waitress we had in Caronia Restaurant on our January Crossing and I introduced her to Ryan.  She was sad to be leaving the ship in November and did not know where she would be going next.

 Next, we ended up back off the ship for a hike up to the Catholic Cathedral on the hill, which had sounded the bells in the tower as QE2 arrived in the harbor yesterday.  On the pier, a local children's pipe band had assembled and was about to begin.  Before taking the walk up the steep hill to the cathedral, we spent some time in the gift shop, which was the former train station.  This was the stop for so many Irish immigrants, probably including some from our family, and there was geneology services located in the station, which we did not have time to look into.  There is also a bronze statue of the first Irish immigrant to the USA on the pier.  There is a corresponding statue on Ellis Island in New York. We picked up a few souveniers, including a "Kelly" doll for Kelly.  Interestingly, the shop took American dollars so we paid with George Washingtons in Ireland.  This port was previously named Queensferry and was tragically the last port of call of Titanic. There were numerous references to Titanic seen trhroughout the pier area.

This was the first of several cathedrals we would visit on this trip and the only Catholic denomination.

We really did not appreciate just how steep the hills were until we made our way through the narrow streets to the Cathedral, which has a spectacular view of the harbor.

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at the Lusitania Memorial and got several dramatic shots of the ship with the iconic funnel towering over the surrounding buildings.  Another interesting feature of Cobh was the trees along the pier that looked like they belonged in a much warmer climate.
Our five deck cabin location was very close to the starboard side door exit to the pier in this port. Ryan suggested I take a picture of him in our porthole from the pier. What looks like lots of paint is layers of paint applied since the ship was supposed to have been stripped bare during the 1999 refit.
We wanted to get our favorite position at the center of the observation deck below the bridge so we showed up a little early before sailaway. The crest, removed from a previously owned Cunard ship under the command of then Captain Warwick, is right in front of Ryan.  This was going to be a spectacular sailaway, with the sun setting as we departed

The tugs finally arrived.  Ryan had thoughtfully brought our UK flags that Cunard furnished in our cabin before the Southampton sailaway with him for the Cobh sailaway.

Sailaway was exciting since the ship had to make a 180 degree spin in the harbor full of small craft.  At times, it appeared we were going to collide with the small craft at the bow as the tugs swung the ship around.  I figured that bow thrusters must have been used in this maneuver, but have since read that due to a seal failure, their use had been minimized.  This issue would have normally been corrected during the April refit, but her last refit was a "wet dock" and this could not be accomplished.  The drydock was skipped basically to allow Cunard to insert a a few farewell cruises, such as this one, into the schedule.

Once 180 degree spin was accomplished, we approached the pier on the portside and gradually gained speed, with a flotilla of small craft in tow, trying to maintain our speed.  People lined the streets and there were several whistle exchanges, echoing off the hillsides. 

We were in our favorite position , on the observation deck forward, below the bridge.  Heading out to sea, with a headwind, it did get quite cold.  Ryan found a new use for the observation area to warm up a bit.  I think we might have gotten a few frowns from several older, stodgy passengers, but I frankly did not care.  We were having the greatest time on the greatest ship of all time!

This would be the final departure of QE2 from Cobh, Ireland.

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