Balmoral, Queen Elizabeth (II) & Azura
A sad day for maritime history on the 28th October 2011 when Cunard's Queen Elizabeth returned with new Hamilton registry.  Cunard used the same weddings excuse as their P&O bosses when they reflagged.  It was mooted by Peter Shanks a month earlier, confirmed on the 19th and Bermuda Betty was the first to go.  She left Southampton on the 23rd and from midnight Bermudan time, the 24th her historic GBTT call sign, once carried proudly by Queen Mary and QE2, was no more after 75 years.  A steel plate was welded over Southampton after arriving in Amsterdam.  Queen Victoria was the 27th while Queen Mary 2 would be the 1st December, during refit.  It was a miserable afternoon.  Azura, Balmoral and Bermuda Betty were all starboard and listed to sail at 4.30pm.  My dad and I went to the pier to get Bermuda Betty's new bum and I hoped my back wouldn't give me too many problems.  Unusually, both Hythe ferries were alongside while Ashleigh R took over the run.  Balmoral sneakily slipped out early, then Bermuda Betty headed up to time waste.  An old bloke thought we were tourists and told us we'd be better standing at the end to get better photos.  He kept repeating what I said and thought Bermuda Betty was the rather big and fat Queen Mary 2.  They really look alike - not!  Thankfully he buggered off but still muttering rubbish to himself.  As Balmoral neared Azura, the P&O blasted three times to the Fred Olsen, who reciprocated the gesture.  Once she'd passed, Azura went horn mad as she came out of the naughty corner.  Caribbean party music blared out, passengers jigging along to Sex on the Beach by T-spoon, which is what it says on the tin and is not about the drink!  This was Azura's final Caribbean season (until they put her back).  Next winter she'll be in Southampton before embarking on a world cruise.  I hope the storage is better than Ventura!  Once Bermuda Betty emerged, she blasted but it was drowned out my end by a Red Jet.  She did it again passing Town Quay and, as she was at the pier, there was a mix of John Phillips Sousa and steel drums blaring out.  Interesting combination - for a Med cruise!  The light was fading and it had started to spit from the moment she left the dock area.  Samuel Cunard crying at what's become of his beloved line?  I got a few pictures of her bum.  In the first, you can see the plate. In the second, the T of Hamilton is larger than the rest of the lettering.  Talk about doing it on the cheap!

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© Patricia Dempsey 28th October 2011
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