In July 1840, a small steamship left the port of Liverpool, Great Britain, bound for Boston, United States. That maiden voyage of the Britannia marked the beginning of one of the world´s most exciting shipping fleets. After twelve days of travel, the ship arrived at the port of Halifax in Canada. Two days and eight hours later it reached—triumphant and on time—Boston Harbor, thus starting the legend of the famous transatlantic line that this year celebrates its 175th anniversary.
On her first trip, the Britannia carried mail and 115 passengers including British shipping magnate Sir Samuel Cunard—founder of the company—and his daughter. The cargo contained chickens, one cow to provide fresh milk, and three cats responsible for keeping rodents under control. Review our selection of luxury travel destinations.
Over time, new vessels—Acadia, Caledonia, and Columbia—joined Cunard’s transatlantic fleet. Through the years, the company faced many challenges and fierce competition from other shipping companies that vied for supremacy of the seas. The construction of the RMS Lusitania and the RMS Mauretania, in 1906, and later the RMS Aquitania, capable of reaching 24 knots, allowed Cunard to continue providing the quickest and safest crossing of the Atlantic, even with smaller and less luxurious ships than its competitors.
On May 7, 1915, during World War II, the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. The tragedy shocked the world’s public opinion and prompted the US to enter the war. Economic crises in Europe would later lead Cunard Line to associate with White Star Line, its largest rival. The merger kicked off the era of the great ocean liners, which lasted until the advent of air transport in the 1950s. After a series of mergers and sales, Cunard Line evolved to position itself as the current leader in luxury cruises.
The RMS Queen Mary 2 is the flagship of Cunard Line. Considered the third largest—and the most luxurious—cruise ship in the world, the RMS Queen Mary 2, launched in 2003, covers the North Atlantic route. At a cost of over $800 million—the most expensive vessel ever built—she is currently the most emblematic representative of the luxury hotel concept in maritime navigation. In this sense, the RMS Queen Mary 2 continues the tradition of the famous Titanic, Mauretania, Queen Mary and the spectacular Queen Elizabeth 2, the ship it replaced in 2004. The MS Queen Elizabeth, built in Italy, sailed for the first time in 2010. It is the second largest ship in the Cunard fleet and twin of the MS Queen Victoria.
Queen Elizabeth II christened the ship in a ceremony on October 11, 2010, one day before its maiden voyage. When the Queen was just 12 years old, she had also attended—along with her mother, Queen consort Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon—the christening of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, in 1938. Already as a monarch, she was present at the christening of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967, and the MS Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Meanwhile, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and member of the British Royal Family christened the MS Queen Victoria, the third largest in the luxurious and modern Cunard fleet, on December 2007. The name Elizabeth is part of a long seafaring tradition that honors the Queen. Several ships of the Royal Navy flaunt her name, and the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth 7 will continue the tradition.
Cunard Line still names its ships after the Royal Family. The “three transatlantic queens” of the British cruise line—Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria—have already been spruced up for the great celebrations of the 175th anniversary of the legendary company. The line wants to please its passengers with exciting details to make them feel as exclusive participants in a historical moment, putting emphasis on its White Star Service TM, which represents the highest level of British refinement.
Aboard Cunard ships, travelers will find ample spaces with a thoughtful atmosphere of sophistication, evenings of glamorous gowns and tuxedos, and the refined pleasure of a fine glass of champagne alternating with days of splendid and inviting diversions.
This year—starting on May 25th—a truly unique event will take place in Liverpool: the “Three Queens” will gather there to honor the birthplace of Cunard Line. The Queen Elizabeth will arrive after a 16-day cruise on the Baltic; the Queen Mary 2 will reach town from a 10-day cruise through the British Isles; and the Queen Victoria will join them after a six-day sojourn to the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. You still have time to join these one-of-kind cruises and be part of the historic celebration. ■