06 December 2009

Caviar Gone!

From The Bryan Times of Bryan, Ohio, on this day in 1967:

Final Cruise of Queen Mary Brings Hardship, Caviar Gone

Acapulco, Mexico (UPI) - The luxury liner Queen Mary today headed for retirement in California with her $3,000-a-ticket passengers grumbling over icy service and hot champagne.

The 1,200 passengers boarded the gleaming white ocean monarch in Britain a month ago for a sentimental last journey as the Cunard liner sailed to Long Beach, Calif., to become a civic convention center.

But the Queen was on her uppers by the time she visited Acapulco, her final foreign port.

"All right, I mutiny," shouted a bartender, ripping off his apron and marching from his post. To some witnesses, it seemed like mutiny on the bountiful.

The 81,237-ton three stacker had left England laden with goodies. But the caviar menu gave out. There was even a water shortage.

Passengers, who all paid a minimum of $3,000 for the the 39-day voyage, sweated in the tropics. They evacuated their cabins and slept on deck.

Because of such long hops as the 3,000 miles from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Valparaiso, Chile, the Queen moped along on only two of her four propellers to save fuel.

The ship that set transatlantic speed records, the ship that Sir Winston Churchill preferred, fell behind schedule. The captain ordered shore trips at ports of call curtailed to make up lost time.

For weeks the passengers remained cheerful. This after all was a once in a lifetime moment, something for history. By Acapulco it had nearly become something for the books, all right.

Crewmen buttonholed passengers on deck and poured out their complaints. The seamen said they would be flown home from Los Angeles and fired. Cunard was cutting costs.

Guests who were served complained the champagne was tepid and even, ugh, hot.

The purser locked his office. Officers refused to page passengers. A waiter declined to fetch a favorite British punch drink because cucumbers, one ingredient, was being rationed on board, he said.

Cucumbers were never rationed on the old Queen. Never, never, never.

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