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

11 October, 2009

New York - October 10, 2009

Picture perfect weather unfolded shortly as we arrived at the Circle Line Pier today for a family day trip to New York City.  It has now been a full year since Ryan and I stepped off the QE2 for the final time.  You could say I am having a bout of cruising withdrawl, and in particular, QE2 withdrawl symptoms.  Today would help alleviate that, but would also be somewhat bittersweet since today would bring back memories of my last visit to see QE2 off for the final time.

After a somewhat late departure from the house, compounded with holiday traffic, we arrived at the pier around 1:45pm.  Prior to floating this trip to the family, I had checked the New York Cruise ship schedule and was pleased to see there would be four ships in port today.  The Carribean Princess, of the design I refer to as the "shopping cart", would fortunately be in Red Hook, while we would be treated to a full range of ships at the Manhattan terminal.  The NCL Jewel and the Carnival Triumph, which is a slightly stretched version of the Costa Magica that we have sailed on twice, were in port, but the ship that I wanted to see was the Saga Ruby. 

Standing out amongst the modern day cruise ship designs, the Saga Ruby is a welcome and familiar sight to ocean liner enthusiasts and QE2 fans.  In fact, she was often referred to as a miniature QE2 when sailing under the Cunard flag as the Caronia.  She began her career as the Vistafjord operated by the Norwegian American Lines, built by Swan Hunter in the UK in 1973.  She was sold along with her somewhat sistership, the Sagafjord, in 1983 and had her funnel painted traditional Cunard colors, but kept her original grey hull.  In 1999, after the purchase of Cunard by Carnival, the ships of the various fleets were reorganized and the Vistafjord was positioned along with QE2 as a premium ship.  After an extensive refit, which included repainting the ship's hull in traditional Cunard color, she reimerged as the Caronia, the third such ship to bear the name in Cunard history.

In 2004, Caronia would be sold to Saga Cruises, who were operating the Sagafjord, now named the Saga Rose, painted a sharp dark blue with a yellow funnel color.  Her new name would be the Saga Ruby and she went under another refit and emerged with the similar color scheme as her sister ship the Saga Rose, as well as revamped interiors.  With all the refits over time, the rumors are that the Ruby will be SOLAS compliant after 2010, unlike the Rose or QE2.  It is my hope to one day sail on the Ruby, when I attain the age limit of 50.  Hopefully she'll still be around.  In fact, a dream of many would have Saga acquiring QE2 and returning her to sea with her stablemate the old Caronia. 

Looking more carefully at the photos of the Ruby at the pier, one can see some hull damage at the stem of the bow.  I noticed the scuff on the bow when photographing her, but not until I zoomed in did the real damage become apparent.  It looks like there has been either contact with a pier or another ship.  I question the seaworthiness of the hull and whether repairs will be made before she sails back home.

Upate:  The Ruby spent two days across the Hudson RIver in Bayonne, New Jersey to have her bow damage repaired before setting off across the Atlantic.

Our two hour Circle Line harbor cruise took us down the Hudson, past the Statue of Liberty, back up the East River (?) up to the United Nations Building and then back to Pier 86.  We got a glimpse of the "shopping cart" in Red Hook, which our tour guide referred to as QE2, not once but twice.  Ryan corrected him, telling him that QE2 was in Dubai at the moment.  We're not too sure if he appreciated the correction from a ten year old kid.

Coming back up the Hudson, we were treated to the departure of the NCL Jewel and as we docked, the departure of the Triumph.

All in all, it was a great day to be out on the water and to see a few cruise ships and one true LINER, the Ruby.

The classic stern profile of the Saga Ruby and tail fin of the Concorde; icons of British shipbuilding and aeronautical engineering.  One possible future location of QE2 could be right here!  Doesn't take much imagination with this picture to envision this.

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