Oriana (II) & Queen Mary 2
Despite the ships beginning to return slowly from mid-March, the first stalking of the new season for us was the 8th April, and our first without QE2, who was still facing an uncertain future tied up alongside the dock in Dubai.  QM2 was now five years old while Oriana fourteen the following day.  For some reason (probably a stupid P&O decision like many since they took over running Cunard from 2008), Oriana was in QEII with Mary stuck in City!  Everyone thinks of QEII as the Cunard Terminal as much as Mayflower is P&O.  I was instantly reminded how six months before Mary was there but Lizzie in QEII and it made me feel sad.  On Mary was Lizzie's most famous passenger - Bea Muller, who had joined in Dubai with her son Allan.  They were sailing right to New York then she would make up her mind where her ship board future lay.

The new Ocean Terminal, which is due to open in May, didn't look that much different to the last time I saw it back in January.  As wonderful as it is having four, I hope the interior is miles better than the exterior.

Oriana was due to leave at 4.45pm with Mary on the hour.  It was pretty nippy despite being gloriously sunny and the wind made it more biting, though thankfully not as bad as January.  Surprisingly for a Cunard Queen, there were very few people out.  That had to be a first in all the times I've been for them.  Oriana cast the last of her ropes at 4.55pm then slowly eased herself away from the dock.  I had a lump in my throat as I thought about Lizzie's numerous departures from there over the years.  It just didn't seem right she would no longer be sailing from her home and was now consigned to history like all her Cunard predecessors.

Oriana gave three long blasts as she finally finished her sternwards manoeuvre, began to straighten in the channel and head towards the Solent.

Mary at last moved her huge backside, giving three blasts as she did so, but everything was such a slow process - more slow than usual.  She seemed to remain where she was for around twenty minutes before moving starboard yet again.  It was very strange to say the least.

One of the tugs left the dock and headed towards Mary as she sat there leading us to believe there would be a celebration for her fifth birthday, since typically she's never IN the country for that date.  But no.  Mary passed and the tug continued on its way to the Grimaldi car carrier.  Unthinkable for a Cunard ship and never happened before for special occasions.  But then, apart from maiden voyages, P&O never do anything for their own ships.  There's definitely a pattern emerging whereas Princess did recognise they were a separate brand rather than an expensive extension of themselves.

As she neared QEII I kept thinking back to the previous Aprils since 2005 when she and Lizzie had been in together.  Last year had been the Three Queens but not one Lizzie passing her big sister.

The few people remaining to wave people off all left and we followed.  It had got so much colder now.  I always knew it would be hard without Lizzie but didn't realise how hard.  I think it's worse knowing she's still out there just waiting to sail again if she ever had the opportunity rather than on that beach right now.  At least the beach is final rather than limbo like the Norway debacle.  It really won't be the same without Lizzie and Mary together in their home.  New York may get the worldwide publicity but it's not as meaningful.  Also the meetings in Southampton were never classed as a 'Royal Rendezvous' and there were loads, with more in future between Mary and the Vistas.  Hopefully as the year progresses things will be easier without Her Majness, despite Mary still being Diva-like when she STILL needs to earn awkwardness.  She's lovely though and makes losing Lizzie slightly more bearable since she bears many a design inspiration so it's like a little bit of Lizzie lives on.

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© Patricia Dempsey 8th April 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission