Sunday, January 13, 2008
Cunard in New York
This morning at 5:45 a.m., I was alone on the Battery Park City esplanade, scanning the dark water of the Hudson River. The tide was gently flowing out. The lights on the Verrazano Narrows bridge sparkled in the distance. Had I come too late? Had the three Cunard queens — Elizabeth 2, Mary 2 and Victoria already made their way into port? But, no. There they were. Three great ships, small and glittering in the cold night air. The Queen Elizabeth 2 approached first, pausing in front of the Statue of Liberty and then pulling near, her sleek lines and strong engines propelling her like a youngster and not like a geriatric relic. At 40 years old, she is still the fastest passenger liner on the sea, built for trans-Atlantic runs, with a top speed of 32 knots an hour. I waved to her, a lone figure in a red coat under a street lamp. Mary, behind her steamed toward the Statue and then turned to her berth in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Helicopters circled overhead and fireboats came down the river, spewing tall plumes of water into the air as Queen Victoria came abreast of the Statue. Then slowly, she made her way up the river. I waved some more, and she sounded her horn. Did someone see me or was she saluting the fireboats and New York City? I walked along the esplanade as far as I could, keeping pace with her, and then saw a few other people who had come out to greet the Queens. I met a man and a woman (not together) who had come over from England just for this moment, and a young man who had driven in from New Jersey. Passionately, we watched Victoria head for her midtown berth as the dawn broke and we could see her no more.