is a British
shipping company, operator of the ocean liners RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
), RMS Queen Mary 2
), and MS Queen Victoria
). Cunard Line, one of the world's oldest transatlantic shipping companies, originated in 1840 when The British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company was formed. In 1878 the firm became Cunard Steamship Company, Limited. After a 1934 merger with White Star, the company was known as Cunard White Star Line, but was renamed Cunard Line in 1950. The present-day headquarters are located in London
and the Valencia
section of the city of Santa Clarita
in the same building as Princess Cruises
In 1838 shipping magnate Samuel Cunard
, of Halifax
, Nova Scotia
, along with engineer Robert Napier
and businessmen James Donaldson
, Sir George Burns
, and David MacIver
formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
(BNARMSPC). Note that this company was distinct from the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
founded in London in 1839 by Scot
BNARMSPC successfully bid for the rights to a transatlantic mail shipping contract between England and America - winning this entitled it to use the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) prefix on its vessels. The company later changed its name to Cunard Steamships Ltd.
In May 1840 the 648 gross ton coastal paddle steamer SS Unicorn, the company's first steamship, made the company's first transatlantic trip. Under the direction of Captain Douglas, she carried 24 passengers, including Edward Cunard (Samuel's son), on a trip lasting 14 days, at an average speed of 8 knots, thereby meeting the contract requirement of a crossing in a fortnight. Regular passenger and cargo service by steamship was inaugurated by the paddle steamer Britannia, the first ship commissioned by the company. On 4 July 1840 she sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, arriving in 12 days, then to Boston in 2 days 8 hours more.
Cunard faced many competitors from Britain, France, the United States and Germany, but survived them all. This was mainly due to a great focus on safety. Cunard ships were usually not the largest or the fastest but they earned a reputation for being the most reliable and the safest. The prosperous company eventually absorbed Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd and Cunard's principal competitor, the White Star Line, owners of the ill-fated RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic.
Between 1914 and 1918 Cunard Line built its European headquarters in Liverpool. The grand neo-Classical Cunard Building was to be the third of Liverpool's 'Three Graces'. The headquarters were used by Cunard until the 1960s.
For more than a century and a half, Cunard dominated the Atlantic passenger trade and was one of the world's most important companies, with the majority of their liners being built at John Brown's Shipyard, Clydebank, Scotland. Its ships played important roles in the development of the world economy, and also participated in all of Britain's major wars from Crimea to the Falklands War, when Cunard's container ship Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet missile.
The line began to decline in the 1950s as speedy air travel began to replace ships as the main transporters of passengers and mail across the Atlantic. Cunard tried to address this by forming BOAC-Cunard Ltd in 1962 with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to operate scheduled air services to North America, the Caribbean and South America. It was dissolved in 1966. In 1971, Cunard Line was acquired by British shipping and industrial conglomerate Trafalgar House, which held the line until its takeover by Kvaerner in 1996. In 1983 Cunard took over the luxury cruise line Norwegian America Line, and in 1994 another luxury cruise company, Royal Viking Line.
For much of the late 20th century and the first few years of the 21st the line's only vessel making transatlantic crossings was the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. From 2004 the "QE2's" service was limited to cruising (mostly from the UK) and the annual world cruise, while the transatlantic route was taken over by the new RMS Queen Mary 2, the first ocean liner to be built in 30 years and the largest passenger ship of any type. In 2006 she lost the record of the largest passenger ship to the cruise ship Freedom of the Seas, but QM2 remains the largest ocean liner ever built.
In 1998, Cunard became one of a number of lines owned by Carnival Corporation, now Carnival Corporation & plc. On 1 January 2005 the business, assets and liabilities of Cunard Line Ltd were transferred to Carnival plc, ending the Cunard name as a business entity - the name still appears on the side of Queen Mary 2 and sails under the Cunard brand, but it is controlled by Princess Cruises in California.
On April 22, 2008, it was announced that the three ships would meet for the last time at their home port of Southampton, UK. According to BBC News, The Cunard fleet of Queens would be together in Southampton for one last time, prior to the retirement of the QE2 in November.
The company operated many liners and cruise ships, some of them world-famous, including:
- RMS Alaunia - launched 9 June 1913, sunk by mine 19 October 1916
- RMS Albania - bought 1911, sold 1912
- RMS Albania - launched 17 April 1920, sold 1930
- RMS Antonia - launched 1921, sold to the Admiralty 1942, scrapped 1948
- RMS Aquitania - launched 1913, scrapped 1950. One of a small number of ocean liners to serve in both World Wars. World's last 4-funnel liner.
- RMS Ascania - bought 1911, sunk 1918
- RMS Ascania - launched 1923, maiden voyage 1925, sold for scrap 1956
- RMS Aurania - entered service 1924, sold to the Admiralty 1942
- RMS Berengaria - originally SS Imperator of HAPAG, entered service for Cunard 1922, sold for scrap 1938, scrapped 1946
- RMS Britannia - first transatlantic passenger service in 1840, sold 1849, decommissioned May 1880, sunk as target practice ship July 1880
- RMS Britannic - launched on 6 August 1929, scrapped in 1960
- RMS Campania - launched 1892, won Blue Riband, sold 1914, sunk in collision with another ship 1918
- RMS Carinthia - launched 1925, sunk by U-boat in 1940
- RMS Carinthia - launched 1955, sold in 1968
- RMS Carmania - launched 1905, sold for scrap 1932
- RMS Caronia - the "Green Goddess", entered service 1949, sold in 1968, wrecked on rocks near Apa Harbour 1974, scrapped on site
- RMS Carpathia - entered service 1903, rescued RMS Titanic survivors in 1912, sunk by U-boat 1918
- MS Cunard Adventurer - entered service 1971, sold 1977
- MS Cunard Ambassador - entered service 1972, burnt 1974, subsequently sold, burnt 1984, scrapped
- MS Cunard Countess - entered service 1975, sold 1996
- MS Cunard Princess - entered service 1976, sold 1995, currently in service with Monarch Classic Cruises
- RMS Etruria - built 1884, launched and maiden voyage 1895, sold for scrap 1910
- RMS Franconia
- RMS Ivernia - launched 1955, renamed Franconia 1963, sold to the Black Sea Shipping Company and renamed Fedor Shalyapin 1973
- RMS Laconia - entered service 1912, sunk by U-boat in 1917
- RMS Laconia - entered service 1922, sunk by U-boat in 1942
- RMS Lancastria - entered service 1922 as the Tyrrhenia, sunk by bombing in 1940
- RMS Lucania - entered service in 1893, scrapped in 1909 after being damaged in a fire
- RMS Lusitania - entered service 1907, sunk by U-boat in 1915
- RMS Majestic - entered service 1922, scrapped in 1944
- RMS Mauretania - entered service 1907, scrapped in 1935
- RMS Mauretania - entered service 1939, scrapped in 1965
- SS Orduna - entered service 1914, scrapped 1951
- RMS ''Parthia
- RMS Queen Elizabeth - entered service 1940, retired 1968, destroyed by fire 1972
- RMS Queen Mary - entered service 1936, retired 1967, now a docked hotel ship
- MS Royal Viking Sun - entered service for Cunard 1994, transferred to Seabourn Cruise Line 1999
- MS Sagafjord - entered service for Cunard 1983, sold 1997, now in service with Saga Cruises
- RMS Samaria
- RMS Saxonia - launched 1954, renamed Carmania 1963, sold to the Black Sea Shipping company and renamed Leonid Sobinov 1973, scrapped in Alang 2000
- RMS Scythia - launched 1920, maiden voyage 1921, scrapped 1958
- SS Servia - launched 1881, retired and scrapped 1902
- RMS Sylvania - last Cunard ship built exclusively for transatlantic crossings. Entered service 1957, laid up 1968, sold in 1970, owned by several different cruise lines, scrapped in Alang 2004
- RMS Umbria - launched 1884, Liverpool to New York service, scrapped 1910
- SS Unicorn - entered service for Cunard 1840
- MS Vistafjord - Built 1973, entered service for Cunard 1983, renamed MS Caronia 1997, sold 2004, currently in service with Saga Cruises
Traditionally, Cunard Line ships sport a red funnel with two or three narrow black bands and black top. However, between 1969 and 1983 most Cunard ships sported all-white funnels.
Some of the "firsts" accomplished by Cunard include:
- First scheduled transatlantic passenger service (RMS Britannia, 1840)
- First passenger ship with electric lighting (SS Servia, 1881) - though this is disputed
- First liner with two propellers (RMS Campania, 1893)
- First passenger ship with private bathroom facilities in cabins (RMS Campania, 1893)
- First passenger ship with purpose-built single-berth cabins ((RMS Campania, 1893)
- First gymnasium and health centre aboard a ship (RMS Franconia, 1911)
- First planetarium at sea (RMS Queen Mary 2, 2004)
- Largest passenger ship (until 1911) (RMS Mauretania, 1907)
- Largest passenger ship (until 1996) (RMS Queen Elizabeth, 1940)
- Largest passenger ship (until 2006) (RMS Queen Mary 2, 2004)
- Last operating ocean liner with purpose-built single-berth cabins (RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, 1967)
A statue on the waterfront of Halifax
, Nova Scotia
commemorates Samuel Cunard
and the founding of the Cunard Line, as well as a special display on the Cunard Line in the Steamship Gallery of the city's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic