Established in 1840, Cunard is by far the oldest and most famous name in ocean travel and the cruise business. Once the dominant carrier on the North Atlantic route, Cunard remains the sole provider of regularly scheduled crossings, plus cruise programs based in the U.S. and Great Britain catering to largely North American, British and European markets. Cunard is part of the vast Carnival Corp.
When completed in 2003, the Queen Mary 2 was the largest passenger ship ever built, until she was exceeded in tonnage by the ever-growing Royal Caribbean ships. Running mate Queen Elizabeth 2 was retired and sold to Dubai in November 2008 as a floating attraction. In December 2007, the 90,000-ton Queen Victoria arrived, and although she faithfully maintains Cunard traditions, as well as offering period interiors, her hull dimensions, lack of significant extra strengthening and slower speed put her in the category of a cruise ship rather than an ocean liner built for express crossings. Queen Elizabeth, a close sister ship with period art-deco interiors, entered service in October 2010 to mostly operate from Britain.
The three ships are based mostly in New York, or Southampton and Hamburg, England, and the Victoria seasonally in Southern California. Trans-Atlantic sailings (7 nights) operate between New York and Southampton, and sometimes to and from Hamburg. Significant numbers of Americans are attracted to the crossings. Southampton-based cruises operate mostly to other European ports while the U.S.-based cruises head to New England and Canada and the Caribbean. Annual world cruises embark in the three main base ports.
Dining and Decor
Although there is no segregated class structure as in the past, one's choice of accommodations determines the restaurant assignments, the main Britannia restaurant and the two grill rooms (Princess and Queens). The food is tops in the two grills. The Mary and Elizabeth both also offer a Britannia Club, more intimate dining for the highest category of standard cabin occupants. The ships also offer specialty, theme, pub and buffet dining. Decor is a sophisticated blending of styles that recall the ocean liners of the past and is carried out quite differently on each ship.
Cunard operates fine enrichment programs especially on trans-Atlantic crossings with many days at sea. Lecturers may be well-known actors, broadcasters, writers, movie producers and the like or just experts in their fields such as maritime history, politics, adventure travel or Anglo-American relations.
Although now a relatively small player in the overall cruise business and a brand of Carnival Corp., Cunard retains significant distinctive features. The Queen Mary 2, until recently the largest passenger ship and still the largest ocean liner ever built for regular Atlantic crossings, provides as traditional an onboard experience as modern lifestyles will permit. The ship may have been built in France and owned by an American company, yet the onboard atmosphere maintains Cunard and British ocean-liner traditions such as mostly British officers, some who dine regularly with passengers, formal afternoon teas, ballroom dancing, a formal and informal dress code where most passengers comply, and English pub food and beers. The Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth offer much the same traditions but with a largely British passenger list as they are primarily based in England. All three ships have professionally staffed libraries and comfortable armchair seating.
There is no competition for the Atlantic crossings other than much slower positioning voyages that many ships make between Europe and the U.S. or Caribbean. From New York and Fort Lauderdale, the competition could easily be any premium line, and from England, Fred Olsen and P&O.
Queen Victoria Year Built: 2007 Refurbished: 2015 Passengers: 2,014 Decks: 12 Size: 90,000 tons