From Britannia to the Queens: Cruising Back in Time With the Cunard Line

The Cunard Line is one of the most famous cruise lines in the world. 2015 is a very special year for the company because it will be celebrating its 175th anniversary. Known originally as the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the cruise line has been through two world wars and celebrated many industry firsts, ensuring it will always have a special place in the hearts of cruise enthusiasts. It is for that reason that when one of the Queens arrives in a port anywhere in the world, it is always a cause of great excitement.

Three Queens United

On May 25, 2015, the three Queens all reunited in Liverpool in a historic event that was celebrated by cruise enthusiasts the world over. This is the first time this has ever happened, and the three ships sailed in formation from their spiritual home in a huge event. This is the highlight of 2015 for the cruise line, and the main celebration of its 175 years travelling the world’s oceans.

Major Events from Cunard’s History

When it comes to cruise lines, there are few than can boast the history and prestige of Cunard. The first ship to depart Britain for America was called Britannia, and it left on February 5, 1840. There were 155 first-class passengers on board, along with 86 crew, 600 tonnes of coal, a cow and even some chickens and cats.

One of Cunard’s major firsts came in 1848 when it became the first ship to use navigation lights at sea. Four of its ships first used the port red, starboard green and fore-masthead white, which are now standard on all ships across the world.

Another first came in 1881 with the launch of the Servia. This was the first steel vessel, as well as Cunard’s first ship that would rely upon passenger revenue alone. It was also the first ship with electric lighting and the first with en suite rooms.

In 1901, Cunard made history again by making the first wireless transmission to be made at sea. Eleven years later, on April 15, 1912, Cunard’s ship the Carpathia became part of one of the greatest ocean tragedies of all time when it rescued the 705 survivors of the Titanic after navigating through treacherous ice fields.

World cruises are now incredibly popular, but it was Cunard who started the trend. It made the first ever world cruise for a passenger liner in November 1922, when the Laconia II visited 22 ports over a period of 130 days.

One of the biggest ships ever built was the Queen Elizabeth, and this was launched by the Queen’s Mother and Queen Elizabeth (then Princess Elizabeth) as well as Princess Margaret on September 27, 1938. The ship remained the largest liner in the world for nearly 60 years.

Famous People to have Travelled Cunard

Many famous people have travelled on a Cunard ship over the years, so when you book your own cruise, you will be in good company. For example, Charles Dickens travelled on the Britannia in January 1842, and Mark Twain travelled on the Gallia in September 1879. More recently, celebrities including Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and Liz Taylor all travelled on Cunard in the 50s and 60s.

Wartime Duties

Although Cunard has always focused on passenger cruises, it also played an important role in various wars, carrying out a number of important duties. For example, in the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856, 14 of Cunard’s ships were involved in transporting troops. Over 100,000 people were transported, as well as thousands of horses, stores and supplies. The ships also functioned as hospital ships.

In the First and Second World Wars, Cunard was also involved in the war efforts. It lost 20 of its ships in the First World War, including the Lusitania, which was sunk on May 7, 1915. This was a passenger liner at the time, and on its final voyage it was travelling from New York to Liverpool when a German U-boat fired a torpedo at the ship, sinking it in just 18 minutes. Only 761 of the 1959 passengers survived.

The Carpathia was also sunk on July 15, 1918, by a German submarine. Many of the passengers and crew members survived after abandoning the ship in the lifeboats.

Discover the Cunard Line for Yourself

If your idea of a cruise involves a combination of tradition and luxury, the Cunard Line is one of the best companies you can choose. Thinking of booking a cruise this year? Then why not choose a Cunard cruise and enjoy a wonderful experience in this the 175th anniversary year of the famous cruise line.

Michael Wilson is the Managing Director at Bolsover Cruise Club. The company, started in the 1960’s by his parents, was originally Bolsover Travel. Michael continues to take interest in all aspects of the business, but enjoys spending his time off with his family, watching rugby and gardening. 

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