Media Plays Up QE2 Problems

Instead of arriving to the planned salute from the guns of the Intrepid, the QE2 was greeted in New York last week by the Clifton High School Marching Band and a barage of negative publicity.

The Queen’s first transatlantic crossing following her $130 million refurbishment was marred by plumbing problems, flooded cabins, faulty air conditioning and several other problems that prompted Cunard to refund an estimated $1 million in fares.

According to Ralph Bahna, president of the line, broken pipes created flooding in about 40 cabins, and there were problems with the air conditioning. The movie theaters, computerized phones and computer center were not working and the pools also were not available for use.

Passengers also complained that the ship was dirty, a result of the renovation still being completed by 200 West German workers from Lloyd Werft during the crossing.

According to a source close to one of the contractors on the refurbishment, the project had been behind schedule, and the last minute rush had been expected. A spokesperson for the line said that some of the delay occurred because the sea trials lasted three extra days than were expected, and renovation was suspended during this time.

He added that most of the problems had been worked out by the third day, and that they were part of the normal problems associated with maiden voyages.

“In the course of my 41 years of service with the Cunard Line, I have been on two other cruise liners on maiden voyages and they similarly had what we call teething troubles and minor hiccups,” he was reported to have said.

Bahna estimated that only 80 passengers were affected by the flooding, but said the line is refunding 40 percent of the tariff to each of the 1,550 passengers who were aboard.

Some passengers were understanding, or totally unaffected by the problems. “We danced, the bands were good. We had a good time,” one couple said.

The press however, played up the event. As early as Sunday evening, a day before the ship was scheduled to arrive in New York, television news headlines were reporting “the fiasco of the QE2,” and making the incident the lead story.

The day following the arrival, newspaper headlines included the New York Times’ “Problems Tarnish QE2’s Arrival in New York,” Newsday’s “QE2 Crew Tries to Fight Gloom,” and the Daily News’ “Have Your Next Heart Attack on the QE2.” The latter, was perhaps the most critical, beginning with “the QE2 came wheezing and sputtering into its West Side berth like a beaten-down old broad.”

Other comments in the column included, “The Queen’s double chin had fallen to her knees, her stitches were popping out all over the place. When she docked, 1,550 passengers came tearing down the gangways to snatch the microphones of the national radio networks, eager to howl and bray about the inconveniences they had suffered during four long captive days at sea.”

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