The Fleet 1840-2004: Cunard's Flagships and Floating Palaces from the Earliest Days of Steam to "Queen Mary 2": Elspeth Wills

I bought this book on the QE2 during the December 2004 crossing.

This is really comprehensive and well laid out little book. It is nicely put together, very visual with just enough text and key facts for each ship to give you a good feel for the history and how the trends developed over time.

It is split into 7 sections and covers 60 ships that starts with “The Atlantic Steamers 1840-1869”, into “Emigrant Ships to Luxury Liners 1870-1899” through “The Elegant Edwardians 1900-1914” and onwards. The last 2 being “Built for the Sun 1946-1996” and finally “New Queens for a New Millennium 1997-2004”.

There is a nice mix of photographs of and on the ships, along with adverts for the ships, anecdotes and quotes.

It is perfect for someone that has passion for cruising and ships, and Cunard in particular but does not the desire to read a large volume of facts, figures and history.

Highly recommended!


This my review of the novel "Attack on the Queen" by Richard P. Henrick 1997 Avon Books (who also wrote the well known "Crimson Tide" .... the film version of that film had Sean Connery in the lead as a Scottish accent Russian sub commander if I recall!!).

It is described on the cover by the San Francisco Examiner as "compelling.. a fascinating geopolitical thriller".... Well I am not so sure about any of that other than the word "compelling"! For what it is, is an exciting story. If somewhat a bit heavy on body count towards the end.

It tells the story of an historic summit of the world leaders who are being joined by the new President of China. It is set in a just post-cold war world where Russia is part of the world leader club - and the new Chinese President is joining them - with the suggestion he is about to embrace the new world order. Much to the concern of the "old guard thinkers". These are very well connected and manage to stage a quite spectacular hijack of a sub and also the QE2 itself.

It is not at all likely, but very engaging and a good old exciting romp and story as good battles evil. With the traditional Chinese thinkers being the enemy and really quite ruthless and nasty. I guess this book was written and published at the time when writers were looking for the new focal "enemy" post cold war.

It was one of those, I know what is going to happen in the end books that you just have to keep reading anyway as he is a great writer. One who clearly knows and loves submarines. And seems to know the QE2 pretty well too!


Captain Ronald W. Warwick. 3rd Edition 1999

This is the 2nd book that I have read (so far) about the QE2, and I have a few more to read.

The 1st was a perspective from the passenger side in a special limited edition commemorative book by Carol Thatcher - daughter of the famous UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I will write a review of that soon!

This one is very special as it is written from the captain's perspective, versus the "passenger" or the "company" side. The man, who has lived, breathed and worked on the amazing QE2. This makes it especially intriguing and very readable.

It tells the story of the history of the ship from before conception up to just before the 1999 refit, and before the final take over of Cunard.

Is it the best written book in the world? Probably not, but that does not matter in the slightest. It is written by and from a unique perspective, with a style that is very pleasant to read and the images fascinating.

The book follows a chronology of the QE2. At parts it does tend to become a bit more of a list of events (we went there, and then we went there etc). What is missing is what Captain Warwick thinks about the places they have been, the events and the people. He does not give any real commentary on any of these topics, preferring to give a factual and relatively impassionate account. I would loved to have read more of his insights and opinions, as it seems from what I have read elsewhere that he is a very entertaining, thoughtful and charming man.

Some of the most fascinating bits to me in the book included: (1) The story of the requisitioning of the QE2 for the Falklands War, how the ship was adapted and their experiences - included iceberg dodging!, (2) The pace and number of updates and refits to the ship, and what each change involved, (3) The problems over the years like the hitting the reef, the 95" rogue wave etc and (4) the times the QE2 has diverted to rescue those in peril.

Would I recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out about the QE2? Absolutely. This is one book I am sure I will read again once I have been on the ship in December, as then a lot of what he writes about will be even more vivid..



This book I originally saw on eBay.co.uk, and bid but it did not get to the reserve. After the auction I decided I really wanted it, and emailed the seller and we agreed a price of £45 plus postage.

It was only once I had it I realised that it was a great buy. There were only 2 versions. A limited 300 edition with a leather case (selling now around $275 - $500 based on where you see it), and the 600 limited edition in hard blue case which sells on some sites for $100 - $250). I have the latter - number 493 of 600).

So a great book PLUS a bargain.

The book was written by Carol Thatcher (daughter of the UK ex Prime Minister Margaret) and the photos are by Chris Bennett. They were invited by Cunard to develop this glossy (and large) book. It was written in 1999. The pictures were taken in 2 stages (on a November trans-atlantic crossing and then on the world cruise leg between Sydney and Hong Kong). The story and text was based on interviews and experiences on the Hong Kong to Yokohama leg of the world cruise.

This is a really stunning book. It contains amazing photos, including ones of the Captain's cabin and other staff areas plus photos of the ship at work, as well as the better known public areas. The text is written from the passenger perspective and is light and easy to read. Packed full of thoughts and views. It covers the history, the Falkland, tours the ship and the people (including a list of all the famous people who have ever been on the ship).

284 pages of great photos and fascinating text. Get it.. if you can!!

One place is via ALIBRIS.COM, where I cut and paste this text on the 300 limited edition:

"A very special presentation limited edition of just 300 (not to be confused with more normal edition of 600). Bound in blue leather, a silver (hallmarked) plaque inset into the front cover inscribed "This edition number 006 presented to Louise Hill". Prelim states "This edition is limited to 300 of which this is No. 6". 12.5 in x 10.75in, 288pp; colour throughout. Book in Fine condition in blue slipcase, embossed with title. Slip case is Very Good with hardly noticeable very slight marking at margins. Most of the images in this volume were captured during two individual cruises and the photographer attempted to capture the true spirit of life aboard the QE2. The normal limited edition sold for 245 Pounds. These presentation editions are very rarely seen and are collectors' pieces " $275










This hardcover book was written by the well known writer John Maxtone Graham, whose best known books include "The only way to cross" and "Liners in the sun". It was published by Berlitz Publications, and appears to have been given out to passengers who travelled on the QE2 on or after 27 April 1987. The date that the QE2 was re-launched after the major refit at Lloyd Werft which included the ship being turned from steam into diesel. A major transformation. This book is two thirds about the history of Cunard, and the last third about the decision to build the QE2, her Falklands time and the last 2 chapters about the refit. The book has many adverts in, which are mostly from suppliers of engines, water processing etc equipment (which I guess the suppliers felt they should - or had to do) and a few from perfume brands and one that stands out (Neutrogena) that was the only "normal" consumer brand.

An interesting book, that probably was mostly interesting as it was a commemorative souvenir and so reflects the thinking of Cunard in 1987.



This is a book called “Dream Voyages: The fastest, the ultimate, the legendary Concorde, Queen Elizabeth 2, Venice Simplon-Orient-Express written by GARY BUCHANAN, who if you search on the internet is described as travel and QE2 expert. On Amazon.co.uk, they describe the book (published in 1989 by Jersey Artists Ltd.) as follows: “A first-hand account reflecting on present day travel aboard three luxury travel experiences. Since 1976, the author has taken 117 Concorde flights, 17 QE2 voyages - mostly lecturing on board, and 47 international Venice Simplon Orient journeys. The book includes chronologies.” 

The nice thing about this book (and another of his that I also have that will review separately) is that his style is very visual. The book is led by loads of photos, which he then adds light but clearly very knowledgeable and well researched. He is, in my view, very good at drawing you in with a good visual impression of the 3 travel “icons” (The QE2, Concorde and the Orient Express), and just enough text to ensure you get a good enough understanding. His passion and excitement comes through as he adds in touches like copies of menus and photos of the food too! You get the feeling that he is just as excited about his subject as those approaching them for the 1st time. 

This book also covers the 3 icons that I want to make sure I do. As of writing this I have done Concorde, in less than 3 weeks will have done QE2 and so that leaves the Orient Express (which interestingly we did not book to go on our first taster cruise that got us hooked and led to us getting sold on the idea!)



Review to follow once read it!



"Queen Elizabeth 2, A magnificent millennium" is part of what appears to be a series called "Ocean Liners Past and Present Collection: Ships", and has a "Cunard 1" on the top left corner. The book is written by Gary C Buchanan and was published in January 1996 by Past & Present Publishing.

It is a great book, although of course it is now dated as it covers the QE2 up to just post the 1994 refit. But what he has done (again like his "Dream Voyages") has used a mostly visual driven approach to drive the narrative, but was really works and is so interesting in this book is that in most cases he shows you what the room or area looked like in 1969 or close to it and then how it changed and was finally in 1994. This makes for a very interesting read, and also it is fascinating to see how tastes and fashion changed and how the QE2 evolved based on the changing needs of the traveller.

This was a really good "read" - as it is mostly looking and reading commentary on the pictures. Perfect for dipping in and out of. It would be really great to get a version updating it through to 2004/ 2005..


" The Essential Little Cruise Book: Secrets from a Cruise Director for a Perfect Vacation" by Jim West.

It retails at the time of writing for around £4.95 on Amazon.co.uk

Overall I though the book was a waste of my money.

From the title you are led to expect the most amazing and insightful tips and ideas. The ones that will be like little bits of gold nuggets for 1st time cruisers, or even the most experienced. However, what you get are some fairly general and fairly basic common sense lists that are as applicable to personal safety and any trip. It reads more like the "lists of" things you get in magazines that are space fillers and "fluff".

I think the problem lies in the fact that he is trying to serve too wide a target audience and so ends up probably not satisfying anyone. If you are looking for some light reading that will take a few minutes then this book is for you. If you are looking for real help and guidance on how to go about getting the most about cruising, then this book is not for you.


"Berlitz: Ocean Cruising & Cruise Ships 2004" by Douglas Ward.

One word: Fantastic!

This book was recommended to us when we were on the Aurora in August by all of our table companions. All of them! We had started talking about another cruise ship that had been alongside us when we were at anchor outside Guernsey. We had tried to work out what cruise line it was from but couldn't, and mentioned it at dinner. We then also got into a discussion about how the QE2 compared size wise to the QM2 and Aurora. They all said get the book.

So I did. This 688 page book is written by Douglas Ward who spends up to 200+ days a year at sea, and has done for many years. The book has a number of general sections with tips and advice and then the bulk of the book is a review of what seems pretty much every single cruise ship out there. They are rated and there is a line drawing of each.

His writing style is flowing, full of amusing asides and very detailed. It is also a book that will be handy to have with you when cruising to check up on various ships in ports etc. And also it is great to dive into every now and then and read the chapters that cover things like:
- why take a cruise?
- what's new
- life aboard (a - z of cruising0
- 20 practical tips
- different types of cruising (romantics, families, physically challenged etc)

This book is great!! The best.



I just had to buy this book!

I had planned to wait and read it when I was on the QE2, so that it would hopefully be more exciting as I could relate to where things were taking place. But I needed and felt like some light reading and figured this was it. And it was.

It was a fairly good story, with the usual twists and turns. Easy to read - although not the best written book in the world. It gets off to a bit of a shaky start and I almost gave up in the first chapter or two as it really felt like it was lumbering along a bit.

I think the main problem is that it is written from Jessica Fletcher's point of view (as you can tell from the picture she supposedly co-wrote it....). But we are used to WATCHING her, and see the story on the TV series as an observer and not from "inside her head". I think this book and story would have been better and stronger if it was written that way. You just felt at points that Jessica Fletcher would not do that or think that (she seemed, for example, a bit unkind at times for example!).

But of course the magic was it is on the QE2 and that was the fun part. The sense of imagining that it was happening.

In the story, she has been asked to lecture and also write a 3 part murder mystery play on a May trans-atlantic crossing to entertain the guests. Of course, someone gets murdered as always happens when dear old Jessica pitches up..... lots of people are connected with the person murdered to confuse and surprise, and the least expected person who we hardly hear about "did it" (as usual). So the formula is consistent.

I think that they have done a murder mystery type of series on the QE2 like in the book. Would be fun (without the real murder of course!).


"QE2 - a ship for all seasons" by David F Hutchings. 1988 (Kingfisher Railway Publications).

This book has been described on various book listing sites as: "Packed with information, this excellent book provides an historical background to the QE2, records why and how she was built; and describes the alterations and the major re-engineering of the ship from steam to diesel. Included is a detailed account of the early problems affecting QE's turbines. Illustrated with nearly 100 photographs (some colour) & drawings. Deck Plans".

Is it any good?


I really enjoyed this book. The version I have is the 1988 one, and apparently there is a more recent version from the 1990s that adds in the history post the re-engineering to diesel. This book (of course) tells the same story of the QE2 - as there is only one. But he has so much more anecdotes and stories, many of them small but they add to the overall picture and you feel like you are getting so much more of an insider story. Great stuff. I recommend it!


"QE2 Cunard's Flagship" by Peter Moxom, Malcolm Fimister & Allan Burney

Review coming once I have read it!


Review coming once I have read it!


Review coming once I have read it!



I like this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in getting an understanding of the famous Cunard ships. 

Unlike many of the more detailed books about Cunard and it’s close to 165 year old history, this book focuses on the more recent history that people are more likely to be familiar with – and probably interested in. 

What makes this book different to many of the books I have read is:

1)      He focuses on the “Queen’s”. By this it means he focuses only on the ships that Cunard have called “Queen”. So that 5 ships: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria (due to be launched in 2007).

2)      Taps into different sources of photographs than many books, using some from his own collection and Southampton museums – and, therefore, has many different shots than most other Cunard books.

 The writer has real passion for the topic, and tells us early on that he has personally travelled at some point on all of the Queens that have been or are in service. He also manages to reduce the long history of each of the ships (many having 30+ years) into short and sharp paragraphs. What he also does is reflect more on the impact that each of the ships had on the world and society that they operated in (e.g. the area they were built in, their role in society – especially war, and in the fortunes of Cunard).

 He takes this approach as clearly he sees each of the ships and the history of Cunard as something much more significant than just a series of passenger ships. 

This is an easy to read book, with a good balance of image and text. It would be ideal for people who have an interest in or are planning to travel on one of the current Cunard “Queens” in service to help them appreciate the rich history without having to plough through a thick volume and in depth history. (Reviewed: 23 Jan 2005)










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