LONDON (Apr. 15)
The Queen Elizabeth 2 sailed from Southampton today on her Passover cruise to Israel with 560 passengers aboard and, according to Cunard Line officials, “as safe as Fort Knox.” Extraordinary security measures were taken to guard the giant liner against possible terrorist attacks during her voyage. Twenty armed Royal Marines augmented Cunard’s security personnel during the embarkation and Royal Navy frogmen inspected her underwater hull for bombs prior to sailing.
Cunard claimed that no passengers or crew members had defected because of widespread media speculation in recent weeks over possible terrorist outrages planned against the ship. But the 560 passengers, mostly American Jews and non-Jews, represented little more than a quarter of the 65,800 ton liner’s capacity. Cunard’s chief public relations officer, Steven Mitchell, said earlier that there would be 680 passengers. He said that an original figure of 1200, provided by Assured Travel of Massachusetts who chartered the QE-2 for the cruise, apparently included a second group of passengers who will be embarking in Israel for the return leg of the voyage. The company also denied reports of cancellations by passengers booked on a 25th anniversary cruise to Israel.
The QE-2 carried a crew of 700, somewhat less than normal. But Cunard said that this was due to certain manning changes unrelated to the cruise and to the fact that some crew members were due for leave. Crew members making the cruise will receive a 50 pounds sterling “risk” bonus demanded by the National Seamens Union.
The QE-2’s regular skipper, Commodore William Law, was not on the bridge when the liner sailed. He was taken to a hospital yesterday for what doctors diagnosed as a leg and back aliment. The liner’s Staff Captain, Mortimer Hehir, is in command.