Last fall Tennessee Alumnus featured Stew Bystrzycki (Knoxville ’04), bandleader on the Queen Elizabeth 2’s last round-the-world tour. Bystrzycki has checked in again via e-mail to update readers on the QE2’s final cruise last November from Southampton to Dubai, where, after 40 years at sea, the ship will become a floating luxury hotel. The last cruise was a 16-day journey via Lisbon, Rome, and the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
“We sailed into Dubai in the afternoon on November 26,” Bystrzycki said. “The sail in was amazing—I think everyone was out on the open decks. We had a naval escort along with many people just out on their boats to have a good time, and an Emirates jumbo jet was doing flyovers.”
Bystrzycki, a UT music graduate, sailed on the QE2 in 2007 and 2008 as leader of the Queen’s Room Dance Band. He said the last night on board was especially festive.
“They flew in a singer named Des O’Conner. He did two shows in the Grand Lounge, and then after him they had a late night show/party with a Beatles tribute band. We did a normal night in the Queen’s Room until midnight, when we did a big farewell thing that they called the ‘Final Performance on the QE2.’ The show band from the Grand Lounge joined us and we did some big band music. We were then joined by our vocalist, along with an opera singer who was onboard, and we performed ‘Hail Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and finished with ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ A very British sendoff.”
Bystrzycki said the last few nights onboard “really did have a special feeling.” But all good things come to an end. “I enjoyed my time onboard,” he said, “and am ready for something new.”
Several Tennessee Alumnus readers who cruised on the QE2 have shared their impressions. Here’s the latest:
“In 2006 my husband and I circled the globe on the QE2 and the QM2 [Queen Mary 2] for the trip of a lifetime. From the Queen’s Room Dance Band to the single piano’s music, we were impressed with the quality of the music throughout the cruise.
This was our first around-the-world cruise and at our ages, possibly our last. If we are lucky enough to go around the globe on the QE2’s successor, the thrill cannot possibly surpass our enjoyment of the one on the QE2.”
—Iris Cultra-Isenberg (Martin ’79)