The world’s grandest ocean liner, Queen Mary 2 and her sister ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria sailed in formation from Lisbon to the UK ahead of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to celebrate Queen Mary 2‘s 10th anniversary in Southampton on Friday 9 May.
For the first time ever, the three Cunard Queens were photographed side-by-side at sea as part of a shoot that took months of meticulous planning.
Queen Mary 2 is on the final leg of her World Cruise and her sister ships were on hand to escort her home in style.
Photographer James Morgan took to the skies in a helicopter to capture these iconic shots of the three ships sailing abreast of one another.
And while it may look effortless they are the result of a long planning operation in which the safety of the vessels and the thousands of people upon them was paramount.
The centrepiece of the shoot was Queen Mary 2 herself, the only ocean liner in service today and still the fastest passenger ship afloat ten years after she was named by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004. The ship measures 1,132 feet in length – longer than the Shard in London is tall – and stands 236.2 feet in height. She also weighs in at an impressive 150,000 gross tons. Since entering service Queen Mary 2 has sailed 1.5 million nautical miles on over 400 voyages including 213 Transatlantic Crossings. She has called at 182 ports in 60 countries and carried over 1.3 million guests
The 90,900 ton Queen Elizabeth is the newest member of the Cunard family, having been named by Her Majesty The Queen in 2010, and measures 964.5 feet in length.
Rounding off the trio is Queen Victoria, named in 2007 by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and (just) the smallest of the Queens at 90,000 gross tons and measuring 964 feet in length.
James Morgan said: “Most of the work in this type of photography is actually in the preparation beforehand. You don’t just happen to go up in a helicopter and take a great shot. Months of preparation go into planning these things for that one moment.”
Part of this planning was a logistical meeting with the captains and crew of the three ships to schedule down to the minutest detail how this photoshoot would come about.
It took the three ships around an hour to sail out of Lisbon to the site of the shoot. All shipping in the area had to be totally cleared for the three Queens to ensure absolute safety for the technical manoeuvre.
David Dingle, CEO of Cunard Line said: “This is the first time all three Queens of the Cunard fleet have been seen together anywhere outside Southampton or New York, and the first time these magnificent ships have been seen together at sea.”
James said: “It’s all about orchestrating the manoeuvre in advance. When you are dealing with the largest ocean liner in the world, you can’t sit in a helicopter asking if it can go left a bit or right a bit because it doesn’t work like that. A three ship formation like this has to be finely coordinated and choreographed ahead of time. It’s not like directing traffic – this is more like ship ballet.”