The last few months have been quite big news in the cruising industry. What, with a healthy roster of new builds coming on line, plus the usual round of extensive refurbishments and enhancements and, of course, a few sad losses, there is more than enough in the way of new stories to keep the attention of industry watchers featured firmly on the here and now. And, in so many ways, that is exactly as it should be.
But two stories continue to fill me with a mixture of wonder, unease and, if I’m honest, downright dread. And both have slipped well under the radar in recent months.
Now entering her seventh full year of lay up in Dubai, the Queen Elizabeth 2 is seemingly no nearer finding a new home, or anything that even begins to approach a solution to her slow, suffocating demise in that neon hell hole known in some quarters as Dubai. No more information is forthcoming on the state of the shackled liner, or has been for some time. Does this presumed silence predicate something ominous for one of the most fabled ships ever to cut salt water- a ship almost forgotten in the country of her birth these days?
Several thousand miles away, the SS United States continues to slowly wither like some ancient, gnarled oak at her berth in Philadelphia. Here too, a silence as thick, deep and unsettling as an Atlantic fog blanket has descended. For a few years, the SS United States Conservancy has fought with a desperate, never say die courage and spirit of optimism to save ‘their’ ship. But, of late, the silence is deafening and, if very negative counter rumours are not to eventually surface, some public update on the situation really is needed.
Not so long ago, a seemingly plausible rumour began to circulate that a ‘big laid up liner’ would be brought to Manhattan as part of an admirable scheme to revive the Pier 57 area on the West Side. As far as I can see, the only two possible candidates are the two ships I have highlighted up above. But now, again, silence.
Is there any cause for hope in all this? Well, yes. You only have to look at the example of the Rotterdam over at her home port in Holland, returned, restored and resplendent; a ship saved for history to savour despite all the odds, and one saved in the face of a cruise community that had essentially consigned her to the scrap heap in their own minds.
There is, indeed, still hope for both Queen Elizabeth 2 but she needs first to be freed from the mental shackles of the capricious owners who wanted her as an expensive bauble, and never really understood what she was or, indeed, really knew what to do with her. The problem here is not lack of money, but rather a poverty of positive thinking.
For the United States, the reverse applies. She is in the hands of people who love and cherish her, but money and workable options are needed and, as always, the clock is ticking.
Any kind of crack of light, any news at all in fact, can only be welcomed.