THE QE2 is a very splendid ship, I'm sure you will agree. But it is dogged by disaster. Several colleagues were supposed to be leaving for New York aboard the liner yesterday. In the tradeit is known as a press trip - or, to give it its proper nam e, a freebee.

The trip was arranged by Cunard, owner of the tub, to celebrate its refit.

This is a significant event in the life of a flagship. Millions have been spent and, as part of the general celebrations, the ladies and gentlemen of the press were invited to join the jollities.

The problem is they weren't - or rather they were, but then at the last minute the invitation was withdrawn, ripped up and thrown in the bin.

You see, the refit had not been completed so the newshounds were bounced as there were only enough habitable cabins for the paying punters.

This is reminiscent of an eerily similar embarrassment in 1968, after the first fitting-out when the liner was launched. Again, the journalists turned up in droves at the invitation of Cunard. Sadly, the boat wasn't finished. Wires were hanging out of cabin ceilings, bathrooms had yet to be fitted and the whole thing was in a general state of chaos.

What is more, there was going to be no story for the newshounds. Until, that is, one newspaper did a front-page headline along the lines of "Scandal of the Unbuilt/Unfinished QE2 etc etc". As you may well imagine, it was a public relations nightmare.

This time, mindful, perhaps, of what happened 26 years ago, the journalists were cancelled to avoid the nightmare and stifle the reporting about the unfinished boat. But Bunhill has spies in many places.