Christmas is, for me, best spent at home but to many people a festive cruise is their idea of bliss. You don’t have to mess about with Christmas trees or decorations, bother about cooking or the washing up. On second thoughts I might try it …
Holidaymakers enjoy sea cruises in warmer climes to escape the cold weather and among the presents they take home are souvenirs from the ship’s gift shop. Cruises recently sailed from Liverpool on a regular basis for the first time in many years visiting such locations as the Canary Islands, Portugal, Spain, Norway, the western Mediterranean, France and Ireland.
There is a souvenir shop display in the Merseyside Maritime Museum featuring some of the items sold on British ships from 1900 up to the present day. They range from cigarette lighters and dolls to books and toys.
On display are playing cards, small construction kits of the original Queen Mary, pens, china and other metal smokers’ paraphernalia includes ships’ crested ashtrays and cigarette cases along with tea spoons. A handkerchief shows the Empress of France while a table mat depicting White Star Cunard’s Britannic dates from the 1950s.
A Norah Wellings sailor boy doll carries the name Lancastria on his cap. The luxury liner completed many cruises before becoming a troopship in the Second World War. She was sunk in 1940 with terrible loss of life.
Bringing the tradition up-to-date, there are souvenirs from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2) – billed as the largest, tallest and widest passenger vessel ever built when she made her maiden voyage from Southampton in January 2004. She lost this distinction to Royal Caribbean International's Freedom of the Seas in 2006. QM2's facilities include 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and a planetarium. The latter is said to have been inspired by the Planetarium in World Museum Liverpool.
For 100 years there have been books of comparisons produced to emphasise the huge size of the liners. The first one appeared in 1907 to celebrate the maiden voyages of the Mauretania and her doomed sister Lusitania (more on the Lusitania on our main site).
The idea was revived in 1936 for the original Queen Mary. The most recent version shows the Queen Mary 2 in imaginary situations. She is seen on the Mersey waterfront where she is as high as the huge Port of Liverpool Building.
A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1.50 p&p UK).