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175 years of Cunard

For 175 years, Cunard has led the way in terms of elegant cruises across the oceans of the world. Flagship, Queen Mary II, and sister ships: Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, are renowned for traversing long-distance maritime routes to a regular schedule. The most famous of these routes is the journey across the North Atlantic between Europe and North America.

The opulence, comfort and style provided by the Three Queens today are a tribute to how far one of the world’s most renowned cruise lines has developed over time. This week, Cruise Franchise takes a closer look at the history of Cunard – going back to the cruise line’s roots in 1840 and how the line has influenced the cruise industry as we know it today.


Our need to communicate with the rest of the world led to the introduction of a regular mail brig service between Falmouth and New York in 1756. This idea developed and in 1818, a regularly scheduled service was introduced by Black Ball Line, with clipper ships completing journeys between New York and Liverpool. 

Joseph Howe was a representative for Nova Scotia in parliament and proposed the introduction of a steam service to Halifax. He knew Sir Samuel Cunard, who was in London on business around the time of 1838. A year later, the government accepted Cunard’s tender for a three ship service from Liverpool to Halifax with an extension to Boston and a supplementary service to Montreal. Thus, the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was born.

One of the main factors that helped Cunard rise to success in the early years was the line’s reputation for safety. Cunard would order his masters: “Your ship is loaded, take her; speed is nothing, follow your own road, deliver her safe, bring her back safe – safety is all that is required.”

Interestingly, early Cunard ships would carry a cow on board in a harness to provide fresh milk to all passengers and crew. On the last night of the cruise, the cow would be slaughtered and the fresh beef was offered to passengers on board. Many passengers’ fondest memories on board would be of the fresh beef meal at the end of the cruise.


The Blue Riband was an award given to the ship that could cross the Atlantic in the fastest time and the award was passed around many of Cunard’s early ships including Columbia, Cambria and America. In fact, the award was shared between many Cunard ships until the early 1870’s – after Sir Samuel Cunard had passed away (1865).

Cunard was reluctant to change, despite many other lines’ willingness to introduce new technology on board their ships. Guided by a new chairman, John Burns, the firm changed its name to the Cunard Steamship Company Ltd in 1879 to raise capital. In 1885, Eturia returned the Blue Riband to the line.

It certainly was no easy ride for Cunard, with several rivals bidding to become the fastest across the Atlantic. However, Cunard’s philosophy has proven sentiment to the line’s ongoing success above other lines. Ensuring the highest safety regulations, elegance and speed across the oceans of the world.  

White Star Line

Arguably, White Star Line was Cunard’s nearest rival and had enjoyed a long period of success. That was until the early 1900’s, following the sinking of the Titanic. Both White Star Line and Cunard were suffering financial difficulties in the lead up to World War II. Both had plans to build enormous new ships.

The British government requested Cunard merge with White Star Line in a bid to prevent job losses. They offered a loan of £3 million to complete White Star Line’s idle ‘hull 534’ (which would later become Queen Mary) and an additional £5 million to build Mauretania. Thus, the firm became known as Cunard-White Star – though this title was short-lived. In 1947, Cunard purchased White Star’s interest and the firm was dropped from the name.

Britannic, of 1930, was the last White Star motor ship to remain in service before being scrapped in 1960. Today, Cunard has maintained the firm’s legacy with the White Star Service, which ensures the finest level of quality and service across all present ships.

Resurrecting the Cruise Industry

Following the introduction of passenger jets in 1958, the world of cruising suffered. The number of Atlantic liners started to dwindle. But Cunard fought back and won over the hearts of a nation with their magnificent new ocean liner in 1969, Queen Elizabeth 2. This was arguably one of the fastest and grandest passenger vessels ever to sail the seas.

In 1971, the line was purchased by the conglomerate Trafalgar House – a move which saw Cunard venture in many new directions. These included scheduled air services, cargo services and even an attempted takeover of P&O. Both ventures only lasted a few years and whilst the merger was eventually given the go ahead in 1984, Cunard decided against proceeding due to objection from P&O.

In 1998, Cunard was acquired by Carnival Corporation and the headquarters were moved from Liverpool to Santa Clarita, California. This move was taken to enable administrative, financial and technology services to be combined. Today, the Cunard fleet consists of three glorious ships – each of which changed vessel registry to Hamilton, Bermuda. This meant that the captains on board each ship could marry couples at sea.

If you want to be a part of Cunard’s 175-year history and want to begin a new and successful career in the cruise industry, why not enquire about becoming a Cruise Franchise Specialist? Our dedicated team of experts are ready to take your call and answer any enquiries you may have.

Call us via Freephone Number above or complete an Online Enquiry Form.

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