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Cunard Line

Cunard Line
Subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc
Industry Shipping, transportation
Predecessor White Star Line
Cunard-White Star Line
Trafalgar House
Founded 1840, as the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
Headquarters Carnival House, Southampton, United Kingdom
Area served
Trans-Atlantic, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Caribbean and World Cruises.
Key people
David Dingle (CEO) and Richard Meadows (President)
Parent Carnival Corporation & plc

Cunard Line is a British–American cruise line based at Carnival House in Southampton, England, operated by Carnival UK and owned by Carnival Corporation & plc since 2005.[1] It has been a leading operator of passenger ships on the North Atlantic, celebrating 175 years of operation in 2015.

In 1839, Nova Scotian

  • Official website
  • Cunard Line fleet listing
  • Cunard Line Passenger Lists, Brochures, Other Historical Documents 1800s – 1954
  • The Last Ocean Liners – Cunard Line – trade routes and ships of the Cunard Line since the 1950s
  • Cunard Sesquicentennial Exhibition - 150 Transatlantic Years - The Ocean Liner Museum, New York NY

External links

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  9. ^ a b c d UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
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  16. ^ Ships of the Cunard Line; Dorman, Frank E.; Adlard Coles Limited; 1955
  17. ^ The National Archives, BT107/202, Beaumaris 1830 No. 24, 132'2" x 20'6" x 12'8", 138 tons.
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  20. ^ Liverpool Daily Post 12 June 1916
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  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah
  49. ^ United States Coast Guard Maritime Information Exchange, Queen Mary 2, Retrieved 2012-03-26
  50. ^ Queen Mary 2, inquiry for IMO 924106, Ships in Class (registration required). Lloyd's Register. Retrieved 19 July 2012.


See also

Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
Queen Mary 2 2004 2004–present express 148,528 GT[49][50] in service
Queen Victoria 2007 2007–present cruise 90,049 GT in service
Queen Elizabeth 2010 2010–present cruise 90,901 GT in service


Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
Cunard Adventurer 1971 1971–1977 cruise 14,150 GRT sold to Norwegian Cruise Line 1977
Cunard Ambassador 1972 1972–1974 cruise 14,150 GRT sold after fire 1974 to C. Clausen and converted to a sheep carrier
Cunard Countess 1975 1976–1996 cruise 17,500 GRT sold to Awani Cruise Line 1996
Cunard Princess 1975 1977–1995 cruise 17,500 GRT sold to MSC Cruises 1995
Sagafjord 1965 1983–1997 cruise 24,500 GRT built for Norwegian America Line, sold to Saga Cruises 1997
1973 1983–1999
cruise 24,300 GRT built for Norwegian America Line, sold to Saga Cruises 2004
Atlantic Conveyor 1985 1985-1996 container ship 58,438 GRT transferred to Atlantic Container Line
Sea Goddess I 1984 1986–1998 cruise 4,333 GRT Built for Sea Goddess Cruises, transferred to Seabourn Cruise Line 1998
Sea Goddess II 1985 1986–1998 cruise 4,333 GRT Built for Sea Goddess Cruises, transferred to Seabourn Cruise Line 1998
Cunard Crown Monarch 1990 1993–1994 cruise 15,271 GRT built for Crown Cruise Line, transferred to Crown Cruise Line 1994
Cunard Crown Jewel 1992 1993–1995 cruise 19,089 GRT built for Crown Cruise Line, transferred to Star Cruises 1995
Cunard Crown Dynasty 1993 1993–1997 cruise 19,089 GRT built for Crown Cruise Line, transferred to Majesty Cruise Line 1997
Royal Viking Sun 1988 1994–1999 cruise 37,850 GRT built for Royal Viking Line, transferred to Seabourn Cruise Line 1999


Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
Queen Mary 1936 1936–1967 express 80,750 GRT Blue Riband, sold 1967, now a stationary hotel ship
Mauretania 1939 1939–1965 express 37,750 GRT scrapped 1965
Queen Elizabeth 1940 1946–1968 express 83,650 GRT WWII troopship 1940–1945, sold 1968, destroyed by fire 1972
Media 1947 1947–1961 Passenger-cargo liner 13,350 GRT sold to Cogedar Line 1961, scrapped 1989[48]
Parthia 1947 1947–1961 Passenger-cargo liner 13,350 GRT sold to P&O 1961, renamed Remuera, scrapped 1969[48]
Caronia 1949 1949–1968 cruise 34,200 GRT sold 1968, wrecked 1974
Britannic 1929 1950–1960 intermediate 26,943 GRT built for White Star Line, scrapped 1960
Georgic 1932 1950–1956 intermediate 27,759 GRT built for White Star Line, scrapped 1956
1954 1954–1962
Canadian service
21,637 GRT
21,370 GRT
Sold to the Black Sea Shipping Company, Soviet Union 1973
1955 1955–1963
Canadian service
21,800 GRT Sold to the Far Eastern Shipping Company, Soviet Union 1973, scrapped 2004[48]
Carinthia 1956 1956–1968 Canadian service 21,800 GRT sold to Sitmar Line 1968, scrapped 2005
Sylvania 1957 1957–1968 Canadian service 21,800 GRT sold to Sitmar Line 1968, scrapped 2004
Alaunia 1960 1960–1969 cargo liner 7,004 GRT sold to Brocklebank Line in 1969
Queen Elizabeth 2 1969 1969–2008 express
70,300 GRT sold 2008, laid up in Dubai
Atlantic Causeway 1969 1970–1986 container ship 14,950 GRT scrapped in 1986
Atlantic Conveyor 1970 1970–1982 container ship 14,946 GRT sunk in Falklands War 1982

See also: White Star Line's Georgic


Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
Catalonia 1881 1881–1901 intermediate 4,850 GRT scrapped 1901
Cephalonia 1882 1882–1900 intermediate 5,500 GRT sold to Russian Navy 1900, sunk Port Authur 1904[48]
Pavonia 1882 1882–1900 intermediate 5,500 GRT sold and scrapped 1900[48]
Servia 1881 1881–1902 express 7,400 GRT first steel liner to New York, scrapped 1902
Aurania 1883 1883–1905 express 7,250 GRT sold and scrapped 1905[48]
Oregon 1883 1884–1886 express 7,400 GRT Blue Riband, built for Guion Line, purchased by Cunard 1884, sank 1886 without loss of life
Umbria 1884 1884–1910 express 7,700 GRT Blue Riband, last Cunarders to carry sails, scrapped 1910[48]
Etruria 1884 1884–1910 express 7,700 GRT Blue Riband, last Cunarders to carry sails, scrapped 1910[48]
Campania 1893 1893–1914 express 12,900 GRT Blue Riband, sold to Royal Navy 1914 and converted to aircraft carrier, sank 1918[48]
Lucania 1893 1893–1909 express 12,900 GRT Blue Riband, scrapped after fire 1909
Ultonia 1899 1899–1917 intermediate 10,400 GRT sunk by submarine 1917
Ivernia 1900 1900–1917 intermediate 14,250 GRT sunk by submarine 1917
Saxonia 1900 1900–1925 intermediate 14,250 GRT scrapped 1925
Carpathia 1903 1903–1918 intermediate 13,600 GRT rescued survivors from Titanic, later sunk by submarine 1918
Slavonia 1903 1903–1909 intermediate 10,606 GRT wrecked 1909
Pannonia 1903 1903–1914 intermediate 9,851 GRT chartered by Anchor Line 1914 for 4 trips, scrapped 1922
Caronia 1905 1905–1932 intermediate 19,650 GRT scrapped 1932
Carmania 1905 1905–1932 intermediate 19,650 GRT scrapped 1932
Lusitania 1907 1907–1915 express 31,550 GRT Blue Riband, sunk by submarine 1915
Mauretania 1907 1907–1934 express 31,950 GRT Blue Riband, scrapped 1934
Franconia 1911 1911–1916 intermediate 18,100 GRT sunk by submarine 1916
Albania 1900 1911–1912 intermediate 7,650 GRT built for Thompson Line, purchased by Cunard 1911, sold to Bank Line 1912, scrapped 1930[48]
Ausonia 1909 1911–1918 intermediate 7,907 GRT built for Thompson Line, purchased by Cunard 1911, sunk by submarine 1918
Ascania 1911 1911–1918 intermediate 9,100 GRT wrecked 1918
Laconia 1912 1912–1917 intermediate 18,100 GRT sunk by submarine 1917
Andania 1913 1913–1918 intermediate 13,400 GRT sunk by submarine 1918
Alaunia 1913 1913–1916 intermediate 13,400 GRT sunk by mine 1916
Aquitania 1914 1914–1950 express 45,650 GRT served in both world wars, longest serving liner until QE2 in 2004, scrapped 1950
Orduna 1914 1914–1921 intermediate 15,700 GRT built for PSN Co, acquired by Cunard 1914, returned to PSN 1921, scrapped 1951
Aurania 1916 1916–1918 intermediate 13,400 GRT sunk by submarine 1918
Royal George 1916 1916–1920 intermediate 11,142 GRT served on the Liverpool to New York route. Scrapped 1922.
Vauban 1912 1919–1922 intermediate 10,660 GRT chartered from Lamport & Holt Line, scrapped 1932[48]
Albania 1920 1920–1930 intermediate 12,750 GRT sold to Libera Triestina 1930, sunk by submarine 1941[48]
Berengaria 1913 1921–1938 express 51,950 GRT built by Hapag as Imperator, purchased by Cunard 1921, sold for scrap 1938
Scythia 1921 1921–1958 intermediate 19,700 GRT scrapped 1958
Andania 1921 1921–1940 intermediate 13,900 GRT sunk by submarine 1940
Samaria 1922 1922–1955 intermediate 19,700 GRT scrapped 1955
Laconia 1922 1922–1942 intermediate 19,700 GRT sunk by submarine 1942
Antonia 1922 1922–1942 intermediate 13,900 GRT sold to Admiralty 1942, scrapped 1948[48]
Ausonia 1922 1922–1942 intermediate 13,900 GRT sold to Admiralty 1942, scrapped 1965[48]
Lancastria 1922 1922–1940 intermediate 16,250 GRT sunk by bombing 1940
Athenia 1923 1923–1935 intermediate 13,465 GRT transferred to Anchor Donaldson, sunk by submarine 1939[48]
Franconia 1923 1923–1956 intermediate 20,200 GRT scrapped 1956
Aurania 1924 1924–1942 intermediate 14,000 GRT sold to Admiralty 1942, scrapped 1961[48]
Cassandra 1924 1924–1929 cargo liner 8,135 GRT chartered from Donaldson Line, sold 1929, scrapped 1934[48]
Carinthia 1925 1925–1940 cruise 20,200 GRT sunk by submarine 1940
Ascania 1925 1925–1956 intermediate 14,000 GRT scrapped 1956
Alaunia 1925 1925–1944 intermediate 14,000 GRT sold to Admiralty 1944, scrapped 1957.[48]


Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
Arabia 1852 1852–1864 express 2,400 GRT sold 1864 and converted to sail, sank 1868[48]
Andes 1852 1852–1859 intermediate 1,400 GRT sold to Spanish Government 1859
Alps 1853 1853–1859 intermediate 1,400 GRT sold to Spanish Government 1859
Jura 1854 1854–1860 intermediate 2,200 GRT sold to Allan Line 1860, wrecked off Liverpool 1864[48]
Etna 1855 1855–1860 intermediate 2,200 GRT sold to Inman Line 1860, scrapped 1896[48]
Persia 1856 1856–1869 express 3,300 GRT Blue Riband, taken out of service 1868 and scrapped 1872
1857 1860–1870
intermediate 2,700 GRT built for other owners, sold 1876, scrapped 1898[48]
Atlas 1860 1860-1896 intermediate 2,393 GRT lengthened and re-engined in 1873, scrapped 1896[48]
China 1862 1862–1880 express 2,550 GRT sold to Spanish owners 1880, lost at sea 1906[48]
Scotia 1862 1864–1878 express 3,850 GRT Blue Riband, sold 1878 and converted to cable layer. Wrecked 1904[48]
Cuba 1864 1865–1876 express 2,700 GRT sold 1876 and converted to sail, wrecked 1887[48]
Aleppo 1865 1865–1909 intermediate 2,056 GRT scrapped 1909[48]
Java 1865 1865–1878 express 2,700 GRT sold 1878 to Red Star Line, and renamed Zeeland, lost at sea 1895[48]
Russia 1867 1867–1880 express 2,950 GRT sold to Red Star Line 1880, sank 1902[48]
Siberia 1867 1867–1880 intermediate 2,550 GRT sold to Spanish owners 1880, renamed Manila, wrecked 1882[48]
Samaria 1868 1868–1892 intermediate 2,550 GRT sold 1892
Batavia 1870 1870–1884 intermediate 2,550 GRT traded in for Oregon 1884, scrapped 1924
Abyssinia 1870 1870–1880 express 3,250 GRT sold to Guion Line 1880, destroyed by fire at sea 1891[48]
Algeria 1870 1870–1881 express 3,250 GRT sold to Red Star Line 1881, scrapped 1903[48]
Parthia 1870 1870–1884 intermediate 3,150 GRT traded in for Oregon 1884, scrapped 1956
Bothnia 1874 1874–1898 express 4,550 GRT sold 1896, scrapped 1899
Scythia 1875 1875–1898 express 4,550 GRT sold for scrap 1898[48]
Gallia 1879 1879–1897 express 4,550 GRT sold to Beaver Line 1897, scrapped 1900[48]
Only Arabia had a wooden hull and only Arabia, Persia and Scotia had paddle wheels


Ship Built In service for Cunard Type Tonnage Notes
SS Unicorn 1836 1840–1846 express 650 GRT coastal steamer purchased for Montreal service, sold 1846
Britannia 1840 1840–1849 express 1,150 GRT Eastbound record holder, sold to North German Navy 1849
Acadia 1840 1840–1849 express 1,150 GRT sold to North German Navy 1849
Caledonia 1840 1840–1850 express 1,150 GRT sold to Spanish Navy 1850
Columbia 1841 1841–1843 express 1,150 GRT Blue Riband, wrecked 1843 without loss of life
Hibernia 1843 1843–1850 express 1,400 GRT Eastbound record holder, sold to Spanish Navy 1850
Cambria 1845 1845–1860 express 1,400 GRT Blue Riband, sold to Italian owners 1860
America 1848 1848–1863 express 1,850 GRT Blue Riband, sold 1863 and converted to sail, scrapped 1875
Niagara 1848 1848–1866 express 1,850 GRT sold 1866 and converted to sail, wrecked 1875
Europa 1848 1848–1867 express 1,850 GRT Blue Riband, sold 1867
Canada 1848 1848–1866 express 1,850 GRT Eastbound record holder, sold 1866 and converted to sail, scrapped 1883
Asia 1850 1850–1868 express 2,250 GRT Blue Riband, sold 1868, sank 1876
Africa 1850 1850–1868 express 2,250 GRT sold 1868
All ships of this period had wooden hulls and paddle wheels


The Cunard fleet, all built for Cunard unless otherwise indicated, consisted of the following ships in order of acquisition:[2]


On 25 May 2015, three Cunard ocean liners - the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria - sailed down the Mersey into Liverpool to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Cunard. The ships performed manoeuvres including 180-degree turns as The Red Arrows performed a flypast.[47]

In 2011 all three Cunard ships in service changed vessel registry to Hamilton, Bermuda,[45] the first time in the 171-year history of the company that it had no ships registered in the United Kingdom.[46] The captains of ships registered in Bermuda, but not in the UK, can marry couples at sea; weddings at sea are a lucrative market.[45]

In 2004 the 36-year-old QE2 was replaced on the North Atlantic by Queen Mary 2. Caronia was sold and QE2 continued to cruise until she was retired in 2008. In 2007 Cunard added a large cruise ship, Queen Victoria. She is not a sister for the QM2, being ordered by Carnival as a Vista class cruise ship for the Holland America Line. To reinforce Cunard traditions, the QV has a small museum on board. Cunard commissioned a second Vista class cruise ship, Queen Elizabeth in 2010.[44]

With the opening of Carnival House in Southampton in 2009,[43] executive control of Cunard Line was subsequently transferred from Carnival Corporation in the United States, to Carnival UK, the primary operating company of Carnival plc. As the UK-listed holding company of the group, Carnival plc had executive control of all Carnival Group activities in the UK, with the headquarters of all UK-based brands, including Cunard, in offices at Carnival House.

By 2001 Carnival was the largest cruise company, followed by Royal Caribbean and P&O Princess Cruises, which had recently separated from its parent P&O. When Royal Caribbean and P&O Princess agreed to merge, Carnival countered with a hostile takeover bid for P&O Princess. Carnival rejected the idea of selling Cunard to resolve antitrust issues with the acquisition.[40] European and US regulators approved the merger without requiring Cunard's sale.[41] After the merger was completed, Carnival moved Cunard's headquarters to the offices of Princess Cruises in Santa Clarita, California so that administrative, financial and technology services could be combined.[42]

In 1998, the cruise line conglomerate Carnival Corporation acquired 68% of Cunard for US$425 million.[35] The next year Carnival acquired the remaining stock for US$205 million.[36] Ultimately, Carnival sued Kværner claiming that the ships were in worse condition than represented and Kværner agreed to refund USD$50 million to Carnival.[37] Each of Carnival's cruise lines is designed to appeal to a different market, and Carnival was interested in rebuilding Cunard as a luxury brand trading on its British traditions. Under the slogan "Advancing Civilization Since 1840," Cunard's advertising campaign sought to emphasise the elegance and mystique of ocean travel.[38] Only the QE2 and Caronia continued under the Cunard brand and the company started Project Queen Mary to build a new ocean liner/cruise ship for the transatlantic route.[39]

Queen Elizabeth of 2010 (90,901 GT)
Queen Victoria of 2007 (90,049 GT)
Queen Mary 2 of 2004 (148,528 GT)

Carnival: from 1998

By the mid-1990s Cunard was ailing. The company was embarrassed in late 1994 when the QE2 experienced numerous defects during the first voyage of the season because of unfinished renovation work. Claims from passengers cost the company US$13 million. After Cunard reported a US$25 million loss in 1995, Trafalgar assigned a new CEO to the line, who concluded that the company had management issues. In 1996 the Norwegian conglomerate Kværner acquired Trafalgar House, and attempted to sell Cunard. When there were no takers, Kværner made substantial investments to turn around the company's tarnished reputation.[34]

Cunard acquired the Royal Viking Line and its Royal Viking Sun. The rest of Royal Viking Line's fleet stayed with the line's owner, Norwegian Cruise Line.[33]

In 1971, when the line was purchased by the conglomerate Trafalgar House, Cunard operated cargo and passenger ships, hotels and resorts. Its cargo fleet consisted of 42 ships in service, with 20 on order. The flagship of the passenger fleet was the two-year-old Queen Elizabeth 2. The fleet also included the remaining two intermediate liners from the 1950s, plus two purpose-built cruise ships on order. Trafalgar acquired two additional cruise ships and disposed of the intermediate liners and most of the cargo fleet.[27] During the Falklands War, QE2 and Cunard Countess were chartered as troopships[28] while Cunard's container ship Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet missile.[29]

Queen Elizabeth 2 of 1969 (70,300 GRT) at Trondheim, Norway, in 2008.

Trafalgar House years: 1971–1998

Within ten years of the introduction of jet airliners in 1958, most of the conventional Atlantic liners were gone. Mauretania was retired in 1965, the Queen Mary and Caronia in 1967, and the Queen Elizabeth in 1968. Two of the new intermediate liners were sold by 1970 and the other two were converted to cruise ships.[3] Cunard tried operating scheduled air services to North America, the Caribbean and South America by forming BOAC-Cunard Ltd in 1962 with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), but this venture lasted only until 1966.[26]

In 1960 a government-appointed committee recommended the construction of project Q3, a conventional 75,000 GRT liner to replace Queen Mary. Under the plan, the government would lend Cunard the majority of the liner's cost.[23] However, some Cunard stockholders questioned the plan at the June 1961 board meeting because trans-Atlantic flights were gaining in popularity.[24] By 1963 the plan had been changed to a dual-purpose 55,000 GRT ship designed to cruise in the off-season.[25] Ultimately, this ship came into service in 1969 as the 70,300 GRT Queen Elizabeth 2.[3]

In 1947 Cunard purchased White Star's interest, and by 1949 the company had dropped the White Star name and was renamed Cunard Line. Also in 1947 the company commissioned five freighters and two cargo liners. Caronia, was completed in 1949 as a permanent cruise liner and Aquitania was retired the next year.[2] Cunard was in an especially good position to take advantage of the increase in North Atlantic travel during the 1950s and the Queens were a major generator of US currency for Great Britain. Cunard's slogan, "Getting there is half the fun", was specifically aimed at the tourist trade. Beginning in 1954, Cunard took delivery of four new 22,000-GRT intermediate liners for the Canadian route and the Liverpool-New York route. The last White Star motor ship, Britannic of 1930, remained in service until 1960.[3]

During the 1939–45 Second World War the Queens carried over two million servicemen and were credited by Churchill as helping to shorten the war by a year.[3] All four of the large Cunard-White Star express liners, the two Queens, Aquitania and Mauretania survived, but many of the secondary ships were lost. Both Lancastria and Laconia were sunk with heavy loss of life.[2]

Queen Elizabeth of 1939 (83,650 GRT)

In 1934, both the Cunard Line and the White Star Line were experiencing financial difficulties. David Kirkwood, MP for Clydebank where the unfinished hull 534 had been sitting idle for two and a half years, made a passionate plea in the House of Commons for funding to finish the ship and restart the dormant British economy.[22] The government offered Cunard a loan of £3 million to complete hull 534 and an additional £5 million to build a second ship, if Cunard merged with White Star.[3] The merger was accomplished by forming a new company, Cunard White Star, Ltd with Cunard owning about two-thirds of the capital.[2] Due to the surplus tonnage of the new combined Cunard White Star fleet many of the older liners were sent to the scrapyard; these included the ex-Cunard liner Mauretania and the ex-White Star liners Olympic and Homeric. In 1936 the ex-White Star Majestic was sold when hull 534, now named Queen Mary, replaced her in the express mail service.[3] Queen Mary reached 30.99 knots (57.39 km/h) on her 1938 Blue Riband voyage.[18] Cunard-White Star started construction on Queen Elizabeth, and a smaller ship, the second Mauretania, joined the fleet and could also be used on the Atlantic run when one of the Queens was in drydock.[2] The ex-Cunard liner Berengaria was sold for scrap in 1938 after a series of fires.[3]

Queen Mary of 1936 (80,700 GRT)
Cunard-White Star Logo

Cunard-White Star Ltd: 1934–1947

Despite the dramatic reduction in North Atlantic passengers caused by the shipping depression beginning in 1929, the Germans, Italians and the French commissioned new "ships of state" prestige liners.[2] The German Bremen took the Blue Riband at 27.8 knots (51.5 km/h) in 1933, the Italian Rex recorded 28.9 knots (53.5 km/h) on a westbound voyage the same year, and the French Normandie crossed the Atlantic in just under four days at 30.58 knots (56.63 km/h) in 1937.[18] In 1930 Cunard ordered an 80,000 ton liner that was to be the first of two record-breakers fast enough to fit into a two-ship weekly Southampton-New York service. Work on hull 534 was halted in 1931 because of the economic conditions.[3]

Due to First World War losses, Cunard began a post-war rebuilding programme including eleven intermediate liners. It acquired the former Hapag Imperator (renamed the Berengaria) to replace the lost Lusitania as the running mate for Mauretania and Aquitania, and Southampton replaced Liverpool as the British destination for the three-ship express service. By 1926 Cunard's fleet was larger than before the war, and White Star was in decline, having been sold by IMM.[2]

In 1916 Cunard Line completed its European headquarters in Liverpool, moving in on 12 June of that year.[20] The grand neo-Classical Cunard Building was the third of Liverpool's Three Graces. The headquarters were used by Cunard until the 1960s.[21]

Not to be outdone, both White Star and Hamburg–America each ordered a trio of superliners. The White Star Olympic-class liners at 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h) and the Hapag Imperator-class liners at 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h) were larger and more luxurious than the Cunarders, but not as fast. Cunard also ordered a new ship, Aquitania, capable of 24.0 knots (44.4 km/h), to complete the Liverpool mail fleet. Events prevented the expected competition between the three sets of superliners. White Star's Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, both White Star's Britannic and Cunard's Lusitania were war losses, and the three Hapag super-liners were handed over to the Allied powers as war reparations.[3]

Aquitania of 1914 (45,650 GRT) served in both World Wars.

This was the Dreadnought era and British prestige was at stake. The British Government provided Cunard with an annual subsidy of £150,000 plus a low interest loan of £2.5 million (£240 million as of 2016),[9] to pay for the construction of the two superliners, the Blue Riband winners Lusitania and Mauretania, capable of 26.0 knots (48.2 km/h). In 1903 the firm started a Fiume–New York service with calls at Italian ports and Gibraltar. The next year Cunard commissioned two ships to compete directly with the Celtic-class liners on the secondary Liverpool-New York route. In 1911 Cunard entered the St Lawrence trade by purchasing the Thompson line, and absorbed the Royal line five years later.[2]

RMS Carpathia of 1901 (13,555 GRT) became famous for rescuing the survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

No sooner had Cunard re-established its supremacy than new rivals emerged. Beginning in the late 1860s several German firms commissioned liners that were almost as fast as the British mail steamers from Liverpool.[2] In 1897 Kaiser Wilhelm der Große of Norddeutscher Lloyd raised the Blue Riband to 22.3 knots (41.3 km/h), and was followed by a succession of German record-breakers.[18] Rather than match the new German speedsters, White Star – a rival which Cunard line would merge with – commissioned four very profitable Celtic-class liners of more moderate speed for its secondary Liverpool-New York service. In 1902 White Star joined the well-capitalized American combine, the International Mercantile Marine Co. (IMM), which owned the American Line, including the old Inman Line, and other lines. IMM also had trade agreements with Hamburg–America and Norddeutscher Lloyd.[2]

To raise additional capital, in 1879 the privately held British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was reorganised as a public stock corporation, the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd.[2] Under Cunard's new chairman, John Burns (1839–1900), son of one of the firm's original founders,[11] Cunard commissioned four steel-hulled express liners beginning with Servia of 1881, the first passenger liner with electric lighting throughout. In 1884, Cunard purchased the almost new Blue Riband winner Oregon from the Guion Line when that firm defaulted on payments to the shipyard. That year, Cunard also commissioned the record-breakers Umbria and Etruria capable of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h). Starting in 1887, Cunard's newly won leadership on the North Atlantic was threatened when Inman and then White Star responded with twin screw record-breakers. In 1893 Cunard countered with two even faster Blue Riband winners, Campania and Lucania, capable of 21.8 knots (40.4 km/h).[15]

Campania of 1893, (12,900 GRT)
Etruria of 1885 (7,700 GRT)

Cunard Steamship Company Ltd: 1879–1934

The Panic of 1873 started a five-year shipping depression that strained the finances of all of the Atlantic competitors.[2] In 1876 the mail contracts expired and the Post Office ended both Cunard's and Inman's subsidies. The new contracts were paid on the basis of weight, at a rate substantially higher than paid by the United States Post Office.[13] Cunard's weekly New York mail sailings were reduced to one and White Star was awarded the third mail sailing. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday a liner from one of the three firms departed Liverpool with the mail for New York.[19]

In 1867 responsibility for mail contracts was transferred back to the Post Office and opened for bid. Cunard, Inman and the German Norddeutscher Lloyd were each awarded one of the three weekly New York mail services. The fortnightly route to Halifax formerly held by Cunard went to Inman. Cunard continued to receive a £80,000 subsidy (£6,326,519 as of 2016),[9] while NDL and Inman were paid sea postage. Two years later the service was rebid and Cunard was awarded a seven-year contract for two weekly New York mail services at £70,000 per annum. Inman was awarded a seven-year contract for the third weekly New York service at £35,000 per year.[13]

When Cunard died in 1865, the equally conservative Charles MacIver assumed Cunard's role.[11] The firm retained its reluctance about change and was overtaken by competitors that more quickly adopted new technology.[15] In 1866 Inman started to build screw propelled express liners that matched Cunard's premier unit, the Scotia. Cunard responded with its first high speed screw propellered steamer, Russia which was followed by two larger editions. In 1871 both companies faced a new rival when the White Star Line commissioned the Oceanic and her five sisters. The new White Star record-breakers were especially economical because of their use of compound engines. White Star also set new standards for comfort by placing the dining saloon midships and doubling the size of cabins. Inman rebuilt its express fleet to the new standard, but Cunard lagged behind both of its rivals. Throughout the 1870s Cunard passage times were longer than either White Star or Inman.[2]

Persia of 1856 (3,300 GRT)

During the Crimean War Cunard supplied 11 ships for war service. Every British North Atlantic route was suspended until 1856 except Cunard's Liverpool-Halifax-Boston service. While Collins' fortunes improved because of the lack of competition during the war, it collapsed in 1858 after the loss of two additional steamers. Cunard emerged as the leading carrier of saloon passengers and in 1862 commissioned Scotia, the last paddle steamer to win the Blue Riband. Inman carried more passengers because of its success in the immigrant trade. To compete, in May 1863 Cunard started a secondary Liverpool-New York service with iron-hulled screw steamers that catered for steerage passengers. Beginning with China, the line also replaced the last three wooden paddlers on the New York mail service with iron screw steamers that only carried saloon passengers.[2]

[18] with a Liverpool–New York voyage of 9 days 16 hours, averaging 13.11 knots (24.28 km/h).Blue Riband, which won the Persia The next year, Cunard put pressure on Collins by commissioning its first iron-hulled paddler, [2] Inman showed that iron-hulled, screw propelled steamers of modest speed could be profitable without subsidy. Inman also became the first steamship line to carry steerage passengers. Both of the newcomers suffered major disasters in 1854.[15] started new Atlantic steamship services. The American Government supplied Collins with a large annual subsidy to operate four wooden paddlers that were superior to Cunard's best.Inman Line and the British Collins LineIn 1850 the American
A captain waves aboard a Cunard Line vessel.

New Competition: 1850–1879

Cunard's reputation for safety was one of the significant factors in the firm's early success.[3] Both the first two transatlantic lines failed after major accidents. British and American collapsed after the President foundered in a gale and Great Western after Great Britain stranded because of a navigation error.[2] Cunard's orders to his masters were, "Your ship is loaded, take her; speed is nothing, follow your own road, deliver her safe, bring her back safe – safety is all that is required."[3] In particular, Charles MacIver's constant inspections were responsible for the firm's safety discipline.[11]

From the beginning Cunard's ships used the line's distinctive red funnel with two or three narrow black bands and black top. It appears that Robert Napier was responsible for this feature. His shipyard in Glasgow used this combination previously in 1830 on Thomas Assheton Smith's private steam yacht "Menai". The renovation of her model by Glasgow Museum of Transport revealed that she had vermilion funnels with black bands and black top.[17]

In May 1840 the coastal paddle steamer Unicorn made the company's first voyage to Halifax[16] to begin the supplementary service to Montreal. Two months later the first of the four ocean-going steamers of the Britannia Class, departed Liverpool, arriving in Halifax after 12 days and 10 hours, averaging 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h), before proceeding to Boston. During 1840–41, mean Liverpool–Halifax times for the quartet were 13 days 6 hours to Halifax and 11 days 4 hours homeward. Two larger ships were quickly ordered, one to replace the Columbia, which sank at Seal Island, Nova Scotia in 1843 without loss of life. By 1845, steamship lines led by Cunard carried more saloon passengers than the sailing packets.[2] Three years later, the British Government increased the annual subsidy to £156,000 so that Cunard could double its frequency.[15] Four additional wooden paddlers were ordered and alternate sailings were direct to New York instead of the Halifax-Boston route. The sailing packet lines were now reduced to the immigrant trade.[2]

, pp. 33–37 1991.) Second Merseyside Maritime History (For more detail of the first investors in the Cunard Line and also the early life of Charles Maciver, see Liverpool Nautical Research Society's [11] Burns supervised ship construction, McIver was responsible for day-to-day operations, and Cunard was the "first among equals' in the management structure. When MacIver died in 1845, his younger brother Charles assumed his responsibilities for the next 35 years.[7] Cunard supplied £55,000.[9] Napier and Cunard recruited other investors including businessmen James Donaldson, [13] Parliament investigated Great Western's complaints, and upheld the Admiralty's decision.[2] and departures from Liverpool were to be monthly during the winter and fortnightly for the rest of the year.[15] The annual subsidy was later raised £81,000 to add a fourth ship[7] in May 1839 Parry accepted Cunard's tender of £55,000 for a three-ship Liverpool–Halifax service with an extension to Boston and a supplementary service to Montreal.[14] Over Great Western's protests,

Europa of 1848 (1850 GRT). This is one of the earliest known photos of an Atlantic steamship

Cunard, who was back in Halifax, unfortunately did not know of the tender until after the deadline.[11] He returned to London and started negotiations with Admiral Parry, who was Cunard's good friend from when Parry was a young officer stationed in Halifax 20 years earlier. Cunard offered Parry a fortnightly service beginning in May 1840. While Cunard did not then own a steamship, he had been an investor in an earlier steamship venture, Royal William, and owned coal mines in Nova Scotia.[7] Cunard's major backer was Robert Napier, who was the Royal Navy's supplier of steam engines.[11] He also had the strong backing of Nova Scotian political leaders at the time when London needed to rebuild support in British North America after the rebellion.[10]

That November, Parry released a tender for North Atlantic monthly mail service to Halifax beginning in April 1839 using steamships with 300 horsepower.[10] The Sirius, bid £45,000 for a monthly Cork-Halifax service[12] and £65,000 for a monthly Cork–Halifax–New York service. The Admiralty rejected both tenders because neither bid offered to begin services early enough.[13]

The British Government started operating monthly mail brigs from Falmouth, Cornwall, to New York in 1756. These ships carried few non-governmental passengers and no cargo. In 1818, the Black Ball Line opened a regularly scheduled New York–Liverpool service with clipper ships, beginning an era when American sailing packets dominated the North Atlantic saloon-passenger trade that lasted until the introduction of steamships.[2] A Committee of Parliament decided in 1836 that to become more competitive, the mail packets operated by the Post Office should be replaced by private shipping companies. The Admiralty assumed responsibility for managing the contracts.[5] Famed Arctic explorer, Admiral Sir William Edward Parry was appointed as Comptroller of Steam Machinery and Packet Service in April 1837.[6] Nova Scotians led by their young Assembly Speaker, Joseph Howe lobbied for steam service to Halifax. On his arrival in London in May 1838, Howe discussed the enterprise with fellow Nova Scotian Samuel Cunard (1787–1865), a shipowner who was also visiting London on business.[7] Cunard and Howe were associates and Howe also owed Cunard £300.[8] (£24,124 as of 2016),[9] Cunard returned to Halifax to raise capital, and Howe continued to lobby the British government.[7] The Rebellions of 1837 were ongoing and London realized that the proposed Halifax service was also important for the military.[10]

Britannia of 1840 (1150 GRT), the first Cunard liner built for the transAtlantic service.

Early years: 1840–1850



  • History 1
    • Early years: 1840–1850 1.1
    • New Competition: 1850–1879 1.2
    • Cunard Steamship Company Ltd: 1879–1934 1.3
    • Cunard-White Star Ltd: 1934–1947 1.4
    • Trafalgar House years: 1971–1998 1.5
    • Carnival: from 1998 1.6
  • Fleet 2
    • 1840–1850 2.1
    • 1850–1879 2.2
    • 1879–1934 2.3
    • 1934–1971 2.4
    • 1971–1998 2.5
    • 1998-current 2.6
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

In 1998, Cunard was acquired by the Carnival Corporation, and accounted for 8.7% of that company's revenue in 2012.[4] Five years later, QE2 was replaced on the transAtlantic runs by Queen Mary 2 (QM2). The line also operates Queen Victoria (QV) and Queen Elizabeth (QE). At the moment, Cunard is the only shipping company to operate a scheduled passenger service between Europe and North America.

Upon the end of World War II, Cunard regained its position as the largest Atlantic passenger line. By the mid-1950s, it operated 12 ships to the United States and Canada. After 1958, trans-Atlantic passenger ships became increasingly unprofitable because of the introduction of jet airliners. Cunard withdrew from its year round service in 1968 to concentrate on cruising and summer transatlantic voyages for vacationers. The Queens were replaced by Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), which was designed for the dual role.[3]

In 1902, White Star joined the American owned International Mercantile Marine Co. and the British Government provided Cunard with substantial loans and a subsidy to build two superliners needed to retain its competitive position. Mauretania held the Blue Riband from 1909 to 1929. The sinking of her running mate Lusitania in 1915 was one of the causes of the United States' entering the First World War. In the late 1920s, Cunard faced new competition when the Germans, Italians and French built large prestige liners. Cunard was forced to suspend construction on its own new superliner because of the Great Depression. In 1934, the British Government offered Cunard loans to finish Queen Mary and to build a second ship, Queen Elizabeth, on the condition that Cunard merged with the then ailing White Star line to form Cunard-White Star Ltd. Cunard owned two-thirds of the new company. Cunard purchased White Star's share in 1947; the name reverted to the Cunard Line in 1950.[2]


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