December 12, 2019
Author: Chilton Williamson

The modern passenger liner is very different from the ship of yesterday. For one thing, she is not referred to by the general public as “she,” which some people have even claimed to be “sexist.” For another, passengers are now referred to by the owners of shipping lines as “guests,” which is stupid, untrue, and offensive. In an age when travel is almost exclusively by air, the terminology of sea travel has been lost. Ocean passengers now refer to “floors” on a ship, though these are plainly marked “decks” and so referred to by the crew. This gross misuse of terms is probably inevitable when most passenger ships are cruise liners, most of them simply floating hotels designed to sail in relatively mild and sheltered waters. There is indeed only one true ocean liner in service anywhere in the world today–“ocean liner” being defined as a ship capable of standing up to winter storms in the North Atlantic–and that is Queen Mary 2, the Cunard Line’s successor to Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth 2.

We have been sailing for three days mostly through gales and one violent storm. Today the seas are rough, with really dirty weather expected over the three days remaining to Southampton. The ship is performing beautifully, with very little movement except of the powered forward sort. The Mary is the most stable ship I have ever sailed in, but even she can become violently active, something I keep hoping for. The North Atlantic is not Fifth Avenue or Piccadilly after all. On one crossing a couple of years ago, the windows in the dining saloon on Three Deck were blanked by walls of green water for thirty seconds at a time by wave action.

Readers familiar with earlier generations of ocean liners will recognize the historical maritime oddity of this. Before liners were designed principally for the cruise trade, the public rooms were located on the main and upper decks, the passenger cabins and cargo holds below. Now that passenger ships, including this one, carry no cargo, their interiors have been turned upside down: public rooms below the main deck, and cabins above it. This makes it possible to provide outside cabins with balconies, an impossibility with cabins within the hull on waters where waves of seventy feet are relatively common.

As I write, Great Britain is at the polls to choose a new government. The Tories, and thus Brexit, are reported by the Daily Telegraph this morning to lead Labour by only five points. I am hoping to land in Free Britain, liberated from the tyranny of the monstrous European Union, but of this I cannot be certain.