All aboard: Cunard

Cunard remains at the forefront of luxury cruising. A leading ocean travel brand since 1840, the sight of one of Cunard’s three queens and their distinctive red-and-black funnels causes a stir, wherever they dock. This year the luxury cruise line is celebrating its 180th Anniversary.

Having been awarded the first British transatlantic steamship mail contract in 1839, Samuel Cunard, together with Scottish steamship engine designer and builder Robert Napier, formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company. The company operated four paddle steamers on the Liverpool–Halifax–Boston route. For most of the following 30 years, Cunard held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic voyage. However, in the 1870s Cunard fell behind its rivals, the White Star Line and the Inman Line. In 1879, in an attempt to meet this competition and raise capital, the company was reorganised as the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd,.

When White Star joined the American-owned International Mercantile Marine Co. in 1902 the British Government provided Cunard with loans and subsidies to build two superliners. The newly built Mauretania held the Blue Riband from 1909 to 1929.

In the late 1920s the Germans, Italians and French built large liners which provided new competition for Cunard. In the meantime Cunard was forced to suspend construction on its own new superliner because of the Great Depression. The company was able to finish Queen Mary and to build a second ship, Queen Elizabeth, thanks to new loans from the British Government. In return Cunard had to merge with the then sailing White Star line and form the Cunard-White Star Line. In 1947 Cunard purchased White Star’s share of the company and changed the name to the Cunard Line in 1950.

After the Second World War, Cunard regained its position as the largest Atlantic passenger line, operating 12 ships to the United States and Canada. After 1958, jet airliners were introduced, making transatlantic passenger ships unprofitable. Cunard vetured into air travel with the “Cunard Eagle” and “BOAC Cunard” airlines, but withdrew from the market in 1966. In 1968 Cunard withdrew from its year-round service to concentrate on cruising and summer transatlantic voyages for vacationers. The original Queens were replaced by Queen Elizabeth 2.

In 1998, Cunard was acquired by the Carnival Corporation. In 2004 Queen Mary 2 replaced Queen Elizabeth 2 on the transatlantic runs. Today Cunard operates three luxury cruise ships: Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

Renowned for their impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, all three Queens offer luxury accommodations in Britannia, Britannia Club, Princess Grill Suite and Queens Grill Suite staterooms. Cunard is the only line to offer regularly scheduled Transatlantic service between New York and London, and it continues to celebrate the freedom of travel on exciting World Voyage and Grand Voyage itineraries that visit Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Cunard is celebrating its 180th Anniversary with a special sale on voyages between July 2020 and May 2022 on all three ships – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. For more information click here.

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