The beautiful Cunard Building on Liverpool’s Pier Head was purpose built in 1914 as the head quarters for the Cunard Steamship Company.
Established in 1839, by Samuel Cunard, the steamship brand has been a world-leader in cruise liners throughout its history. Originally based in Liverpool, the company’s history is intricately laced with the city, their fortunes rising and falling together.
Today, Cunard remains one of the best-known, and best-loved, cruise providers across the globe and the sight of its beautiful ships mooring up in ports across the world is frequently met with celebration and admiration.
But what are Cunard’s modern liners like nowadays? They’re certainly many thousands of nautical miles away from how original cruise liners would have looked! The three current ‘Queens’ of Cunard are ultra-luxurious liners that carry thousands of passengers every day. We’ve taken a look at the ships behind the Cunard name…
RMS Queen Mary 2
Cunard’s oldest in-service ocean liner is RMS Queen Mary 2 (QM2).
She is the largest passenger ship Cunard owns, carrying 2,691 passengers and 1,292 crew. The name for the ship was taken from King George V’s Queen Consort, Mary of Teck.
At the moment, the majestic QM2 is the only transatlantic ocean liner in service between Southampton, England and New York City, but she’s also used for the company’s annual world cruise.
When she was officially launched in 2004, QM2 was the largest passenger ship ever built, coming in at 1,132 ft in length and 131ft wide with an incredible 13 decks.
The construction of the Queen Mary 2 was marred by tragedy in its final stages, however, when a fatal accident saw 16 shipyard workers and their relatives, who had been invited to visit the vessel, die after a gangway collapsed in November 2003. 32 people were also injured.
So, what’s hidden within the vast black hull of this incredible ship? Modern cruise liners are a world away from what they used to be in the 20th century.
But, like RMS Titanic and other famous liners, today’s great ships are still solely built for the pleasure and experience of their customers.
On QM2, there are six restaurants and a terrace pool and bar, a 1,094-seat theatre, a cinema which converts into a planetarium and a ballroom which boasts the largest dance floor at sea.
There’s also an art gallery, a spa (complete with its own pool), a beauty salon, a cigar lounge, a casino, a nightclub, a library, plenty of shops, five swimming pools, a sports centre (complete with tennis courts), an authentic British pub and a lot of restaurants.
Interestingly, the Queen Mary 2 is also the only liner to regularly carry animals. Her kennels, staffed by a dedicated Kennel Master, take dogs and cats all the way to New York in pampered comfort.
The Grandmother of the Cunard Ships has seen a number of famous faces grace her decks. Musical legends including Jon Bon Jovi, Judy Collins, Lenny Kravitz and Dame Shirley Bassey have graced her decks while actors including Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Danny deVito and John Cleese have all travelled on the ship.
Perhaps most famously of all, Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z once stayed on the Queen Mary 2, according to Cunard.
MS Queen Victoria
The smallest of Cunard’s in-operation ocean liners, the original plans for the Queen Victoria would have seen an even smaller ship constructed.
The hull created for the original drawings is now in use as part of the P&O ship MS Arcadia. A late decision to modify the design of the Queen Victoria to include promenades and junior suites meant that the original hull was unsuitable for use and a new one had to be ordered in 2004, which was 11 metres longer and 5,000 tonnes larger.
This ocean liner took her maiden voyage in 2007, after being name by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in Southampton. During the traditional smashing of a bottle of champagne against the hull of the ship, the bottle failed to break – a bad omen in maritime lore. Luckily, a back-up bottle did smash.
The Queen Victoria holds the record for the first female cruise ship captain in command of a Cunard liner – Inger Klein Olsen took command on the boat on 15 December 2010.
MS Queen Elizabeth
The Queen Elizabeth is the youngest of the Cunard’s current fleet and can carry up to 2,092 passengers. Although almost identical in layout to the Queen Victoria, this liner has a very different interior décor.
In tribute to the two-previous Queen Elizabeth-named Cunard ships, the interior has many art deco touches, evoking the 1930s era in which the Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth was launched.
The ship itself was launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Southampton on 11 October 2010.
Like the other two Cunard liners, the Queen Elizabeth has three grades of accommodation – Britannia, Britannia Club, and The Grills. Guests housed in the Grills Suites enjoy the largest suites on the boat, with spectacular sea views and their own private butler!
Although all Cunard passengers have access to public facilities on the boat, Britannia Club and Grills guests can also access exclusive restaurants and terraces for their cabin class.
The Three Queens in Liverpool
The three queens of Cunard were united in their heritage home of Liverpool once again in 2015, when they arrived in Liverpool to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the formation of the Cunard Line.
On 25 May, the three magnificent boats stopped in a line in the middle of the River Mersey, bow to stern, and performed a ‘river dance’, turning in full synchronization with each other.
An estimated 1.3 million people turned up to watch the spectacular sight, lining the whole of Liverpool’s waterfront.
A Future Queen…
Cunard recently announced that a new ship was being built in Italy which would join their three queens as part of the iconic Cunard fleet. Set to launch in 2022, the new ship will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the naming of the much-loved Queen Elizabeth 2 liner which retired in 2008.
The new ship will be Cunard’s biggest yet, carrying up to 3,000 guests. Here’s hoping that the four liners will be united once more in the Mersey, at the heart of their historic home!
Cunard House – The Home of Cruise Lining
Although the company has long since moved, the historic home of Cunard remains the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s waterfront. Today, this magnificent building, one of Liverpool’s Three Graces, is a spectacular Grade II* listed weddings and events venue. Featuring incredible waterfront views and historic interior architecture, it’s the perfect romantic backdrop for your special occasion.
Steeped in history, charm and character, you’ll find yourself swept away by the intricate details, lavish furnishings and striking period features of Cunard House. A landmark building in Liverpool, its past is intertwined with the history of the city and the Cunard Line itself, making it an iconic events venue.
For more information, and to begin planning your special day, visit our website or call our team on 0151 305 3753.