A History Of Cunard Cruises

by Ian Gilder - Date: 2010-10-21 - Word Count: 496 Share This!

A Nova Scotia businessman, Samuel Cunard, founded the Cunard Shipping Line in 1840. The line was inaugurated to carry mail from Britain to North America using the most modern method of the day - steamships. For the next 60 years Samuel Cunard continued to expand his fleet with larger and faster boats while never sacrificing a ship or a life in pursuit of success.

By the turn of the 20 th century Cunard were in a position to negotiate a deal with the British Government, in which they accepted a subsidy in return for permitting their vessels to be requisitioned as merchant ships in a war situation. On the strength of this, Cunard built the Mauritania and the Lusitania, two names that would become legendary. They were unbelievably fast, being powered by the latest technology - steam turbines, and before long the Mauritania took, and held, the North Atlantic speed record for 22 years.

During WWI the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast with a loss of 785 passengers and 413 crew ; an atrocity for which the German government was forced to apologise.

During the 1920s Cunard launched three liners to serve the transatlantic routes. By the end of the decade, despite the impact of the Great Depression, Cunard commissioned two more ships to operate a weekly service between Southampton and New York. They were the Queen Mary, launched in 1935, and the Queen Elizabeth, launched in 1939. Like her predecessor, the Queen Mary was to win the North Atlantic speed record and retain it in the face of stiff opposition from the French for 16 years.

The Second World War disrupted shipping but the two Queens served with distinction - acting as troop carriers, and were credited with shortening the war in Europe by transporting thousands of troops at a time.

When the war was over Cunard resumed passenger sailings across the Atlantic, but with air transport cutting the travelling time to America, the appeal of luxury transatlantic sea voyages began to fade.

One by one the great ships were withdrawn from service; the Queen Mary was sold in 1967 to the city of Long Beach, California as a hotel and conference centre, and in 1968 the Queen Elizabeth made her last voyage to New York as a passenger liner.

As the Queen Mary became a Californian hotel, a new Cunard liner was launched with the name Queen Elizabeth 2, now universally known as the QE2.

With a continuing decline in Atlantic passenger trade, the company turned to a different market, and Cunard Cruises began offering cruise holidays . The QE2 had been built with this in mind and she was able to offer holidaymakers great cruising experiences.

In 1982 the QE2 served as a troop ship in the Falkland's War and after a complete refurbishment she resumed her cruise programme as if nothing had happened.

Now with a fleet of three magnificent liners, the name Cunard is synonymous with traditional cruising, with the emphasis on service and luxury.

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