History of the Famous Cunard Line
The Cunard line has the longest and most fascinating history of any cruise
line in the world. Culminating with the Queen Mary 2, Cunard has
provided the world with some of the most luxurious and historic sailing and
cruising ships ever to sail.
Cunard Cruise Line History
- 1839 Samuel Cunard establishes the British and
North American Steam Packet Company - known as the Cunard Line
- principally to carry the Royal Mail to Canada and the USA.
- 1840 The 1,154-ton paddle steamer Britannia,
and three near sister ships, Acadia, Caledonia and
Columbia, enter service. These vessels make the Atlantic
voyage in 14 days at 8.5 knots and maintain weekly departures
- 1852 Cunard's first iron-hulled, screw-driven
vessel, the Andes, is introduced but not used in the
- 1854 Eleven Cunard ships are requisitioned for the
- 1856 The famous Persia is built, the
company's first iron-hulled transatlantic vessel.
- 1859 Samuel Cunard is created a Baronet in
recognition of the company's service in the Crimean War.
- 1862 China enters service - the company's first
propeller-driven ship. Admiralty permission is required to use
the ship to carry the Royal mail as the Mail contract
stipulated "paddle steamers".
- 1865 Sir Samuel Cunard dies on April 28 aged 78.
- 1881 Servia enters service - Cunard's first steel
vessel and also the first ship in the world to be lighted with
electricity. She is the first vessel Cunard intended to rely
solely on passenger revenue.
- 1893 The 12,950-ton Campania is the first
- 1905 The first steam turbine-driven Cunard ship,
the Carmania, is built, opening a new era in sea
- 1906/7 Liners Lusitania and Mauretania
are launched. The latter holds the Blue Riband for the fastest
Atlantic crossing for 22 years.
- 1912 On April 15 the Carpathia rescues all
the survivors from White Star's Titanic.
- 1913 The Aquitania is launched - the first
Cunarder with an indoor swimming pool and regarded to this day
as perhaps one of the finest liners ever built.
- 1914 The First World War interrupts Cunard's fleet
development as the company is called into active service.
Cunard carries more than one million troops and ten million
tons of cargo for the war cause. 22 ships - including the
Lusitania - are lost.
- 1917 The Cunard Building in Liverpool, the comany's
Head Offioce until the late 1960s, is completed.
- Cunard is awarded the German liner, Imperator, by
the British Government to compensate for the loss of
Lusitania. The vessel is renamed Berengaria.
- 1920s and 1930s The heyday of transatlantic
shipping, when Cunard's slogan "Getting there is half the
fun!" becomes a household phrase.
- 1922 The Laconia undertakes the first-ever world
- 1934 The 80,744-ton Queen Mary is launched
and after entering service in 1936 soon gains the Ble Riband.
The Queen Mary is the first merchant vessel to be launched by
a member of the Royal family (Her Majesty Queen Mary).
- 1938 The Queen Elizabeth - the largest liner
ever built - is launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, now
the Queen Mother.
- 1939 Mauretania (II) is launched.
- Cunard ships are requisitioned once more for war. The
Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth carry between them over 1.5
million troops - Churchill remarks that the two ships helped
shorten the war in Europe by at least a year.
- Late 1940s The Queens begin their transatlantic
shuttle, carrying tens of thousands of passengers, from film
stars and diplomats to businessmen and tourists.
- 1949 Cunard's first cruise ship, the Caronia,
enters service. She is known as 'The Millionaires' Ship'
because of the passengers she carries and also as the 'Green
Goddess' because of the colour of her hull.
- 1950s Twelve liners in service, carrying one third
of all passengers crossing the Atlantic.
- 1959 First jet crosses the Atlantic. Air crossings
continue to gain passengers at the expense of the great
liners. It was this year when, for the first time, more people
crossed the Atlantic by air rather than by sea.
- 1967 The Queen Elizabeth 2 is launched by
Her Majesty the Queen.
- 1969 Maiden voyage of Queen Elizabeth 2
- 1971 Cunard Steamship Company is taken over by
Trafalgar House PLC after an independent existence of 131
- 1975 First world cruise of QE2.
- 1976 Cunard Countess is launched.
- 1977 Cunard Princess is launched.
- 1982 Queen Elizabeth 2 is requisitioned by British
Government for Falkland Islands campaign. Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, welcomes the ship home. Cunard
Countess is also chartered for use in the Islands.
- 1983 Cunard purchases top-rated Sagafjord
and Vistafjord, from the Norwegian America Cruises, to
bring the fleet to five vessels.
- Cunard charters Concorde for the first time, thus making
use of the company's greatest competitor on the Atlantic, the
jet aircraft. Cunard becomes the largest charterer of Concorde
in the world.
- 1986 Cunard acquires luxury Sea Goddess I
and Sea Goddess II vessels, bringing the fleet back to
seven ship - the largest number for 25 years
- A six-month 110 million pound re-engining and
refurbishment programme on the QE2, the largest such refit in
the history of the merchant marine, is undertaken and
successfully completed in 1987. HRH the Princess of Wales
boards the ship on her return to Southampton.
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, boards the
QE2 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Queen Mary's
- 1988 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother,
boards QE2 for the third time - celebrating the launch of the
Queen Elizabeth 50 years earlier.
- 1990 Cunard celebrates its 150th anniversay of
transatlantic travel. The QE2 is sent on special Round Britain
cruise which culminated in a rare Spithead Review and Her
Majesty the Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip, go on board.
- 1991 Cunard Princess is chartered to the US
Government for use in the Gulf Conflict as a 'rest and
- 1992 Margaret Thatcher boards QE2 to commemorate
the 10th anniversary of the Falklands War.
- HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Prince Edward attend an
overnight 'Royal Ball' on QE2 to raise money for the Duke of
Edinburgh's Award Scheme.
- 1993 Cunard enters into a long term joint venture
agreement with Crown Cruise Line. Two Crown ships are already
in service (Crown Jewel and Crown Monarch) with
a third (Crown Dynasty) about to be delivered. The
Cunard fleet now has 10 ships and the deal sees the number of
berths Cunard offers increase by 40% to over 7,000.
- QE2 becomes the first ever ship to be awarded Five Stars
- To celebrate the 40th anniversay of the Queen's
Coronation, HRH Prince Edward lunches on board QE2 as she
sails out of Southampton.
- 1995 May - Cunard Princess and Crown Jewel leave
the Cunard fleet to enter service elsewhere under new
- Crown Dynasty is taken on a long-term charter
making her effectively a Cunard ship.
- 1997 March - Cunard Dynasty is chartered to
Florida-based Majesty Cruise Line.
- 1998 Cunard becomes part of the Carnival
Corporation empire and is merged with Seabourn Cruises
- 1999 The Cunard Sun becomes the Seabourn Sun.
The Cunard Goddess I and Goddess II become the
Seabourn Goddess I and Seabourn Goddess II. Seabourn
proceeds to sell the Sun to Holland America
- 2002 Seabourn proceeds to sell the Sun to
Holland America to become the Prinsendam and the
Goddesses I and II to SeaDream Yacht Club, which
does a multi-million to become the SeaDream I and
- 2004 January - Cunard breaks all the records by
introducing the longest, largest, tallest, widest cruise ship
ever built the Queen Mary 2.
- 2004 March - Cunard Caronia is sold, leaving
Cunard with two ships the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2)
and the Queen Mary 2.
2004 Cunard announces the building of a
new ship, to be named the Queen Victoria an 1800
passenger ship under construction at the shipyards at
Fincantieri, Italy, the same ship yard which built the
Queen Mary 2 (QM2).
- 2004-2005 Cunard Line is uncoupled from its merger
with Seabourn Cruise line. Seabourn renames itself
"The Yachts of Seabourn" and sails only its three
original ships - the Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Spirit,
and Seabourn Pride. Cunard retains the Queen Mary II
(QMII) and Queen Elizabeth II (QEII). Cunard moves
its headquarters and reservations center to Valencia,
California, where it is partnered instead with Princess
Cruises, a different sister-line under Carnival
Holdings Corporation. Cunard management is
subrogated to Princess Cruises Management, which takes
over all decisions regarding product placement, marketing,
pricing and inventory control, agency contracts, reservations
system used, stateroom category allocation and definition, and
even cruise itineraries. Cunard Cruises
effectively becomes Princess Cruises higher-end
product. Cunard is now treated as a premium market
product (like Princess Cruises, instead of a luxury
product, like Seabourn Cruises).
- 2007 Anticipated introduction and launch of the
Cunard Queen Victoria.
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