The great Cunard Liner – the RMS Queen Mary – the most famous of them all!


Cunard Line is the gold standard for transatlantic ocean liner cruising. Cunard’s current success rests upon a rich heritage of 170 years of building and operating ocean liners on transatlantic voyages. From its earliest days, the Cunard name has been synonymous with leadership in ocean liners and transatlantic travel, a tradition that continues to this day.

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As its current company tag-line conveys, throughout history, Cunard has operated “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World™.” The first company to take passengers on regularly scheduled transatlantic departures, Cunard has built and continuously reinforced a reputation as an ocean liner pioneer. Today, it remains a transatlantic cruise leader, operating the world-famous Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 vessels.

Founder: Sir Samuel Cunard

Canadian entrepreneur Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) founded the British and North American Steam Packet Company (later named Cunard Line) in 1839, when he and several colleagues won a bid to carry the British Royal Mail to the U.S. and Canada. Cunard, who had a reputation for being a savvy and diplomatic businessman, was inducted into the American Society of Travel Agents Travel Hall of Fame for his role in helping to develop transatlantic travel.

The Evolution of Cruising

In 1840, Cunard Line introduced four steamships making weekly transatlantic voyages with passengers and cargo. By 1881, the company introduced its first ocean liner intended solely for passenger travel. In the late 1940s, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth began transatlantic voyages and in 1949, Cunard introduced the first vessel akin to modern cruise ships. By the 1950s, Cunard had 12 ocean liners in service. In the following decades, Cunard continued to add features and enhance the luxury of its liners, leading to today’s top-of-the-line cruising experience.

Cunard Firsts

Cunard built its legacy in part through many famous firsts. For example, in 1881, Cunard introduced the first ship to be lighted by electricity. Cunard’s Mauretania, in 1907, was the first ship to offer multiroom suites. In 1934, the Queen Mary became the first merchant ship to be launched by a member of the Royal family. And the Queen Elizabeth 2 was the first (and still is the only) ship to sail 5 million nautical miles.

Queen Mary 2 sails into San Francisco.

Recent History

Cunard has continued to build upon its history of excellence into recent times. In 2003, the Queen Elizabeth 2 won a maritime Oscar above all other vessels in the large-ship category. In early 2009, tickets for the Queen Elizabeth’s October 2010 maiden voyage sold out in a record 29 minutes—beating the Cunard’s previous sellout record of 36 minutes for the Queen Elizabeth 2’s final voyage. Cunard continues to draw passengers with its strong reputation and growing array of on-board luxuries, such as Canyon Ranch Spas and five-star restaurants.

Highlights of a few great Cunard fleet of Ocean Liners from the past:


Debuting in 1948, the Caronia was one of the first Cunarders to be built with cruising in mind from the start. From the start, she was very popular and profitable for most of her eighteen years. She was popularly known as the “Green Goddess” because, for a time, she was painted four different pale shades of this colour, which did not include her traditional red-and-black funnel (incidentally, the Carmania also wore this colour scheme for a time).

Becoming too expensive to operate, she ended Cunard service in 1967. After a series of ill-fated operators and name changes, she was on her way to the breakers in Taiwan when she ran aground and broke up at Guam in the summer of 1974.


These four ships were built in the 50’s for the Cunard Canadian service. Each was 608 feet long and drew 21,947 GRT when built. By 1962, the Carinthia was the only one of the four remaining on the route. In 1968, both the Carinthia and the Sylvania were sold to the Italian line SITMAR and renamed first Fairland then Fairsea (Carinthia) and Fairwind (Sylvania). Both were extensively modernised. The Fairsea had another major refit in 1984, including the replacement of the public rooms on the boat deck. When SITMAR was bought by P&O in 1988, the ships returned to British hands. The Carinthia/Fairsea became known as the the Fair Princess and the Sylvania was renamed Dawn Princess.

The Dawn Princess was later sold to went to a German company and is now the Albatros, while the Fair Princess replaced the Fairstar in year-round budget cruises for the Australian market. She was sold again, this time to Asian interests, and is now known as the China Sea Discoverer.

The other two ships, the Ivernia and Saxonia were renamed in the ‘sixties, the Ivernia became the Franconia, and the Saxonia became the Carmania. Both were painted in Caronia green. They continued to cruise with Cunard until 1972, when they were both sold to Russian interests. The Franconia was renamed Fedor Shalyapin and the the Carmania became the Leonid Sobinov. After some years of cruising to Australia, both were laid up. The Leonid Sobinov was broken up in India in 1999.

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