Want to relive a bygone era of classic trans-Atlantic ocean-liner travel? With Cunard Line — which is impressively celebrating its 175th anniversary this year — and its fleet of elegant vessels, you can do that and more.
The only true liner in operation today, the magnificent Queen Mary 2, cuts through the towering swells and choppy waves of the northern Atlantic Ocean nearly like butter. Art-deco interiors romantically enchant while modern amenities pamper and entertain passengers. Live classical music permeates throughout as a parade of formalwear enters the stately dining room, and the chandelier-clad ballroom beckons well-dressed couples to the dance floor.
Following James Cameron’s film, the above scene likely evokes pop-cultural images of the Titanic, and in fact, that ship’s parent, White Star Line, eventually merged with British-American Cunard, which is now owned by Carnival Corp. Today, attentive White Star Service is delivered in the safest of settings aboard not only the Queen Mary 2, but also the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.
In a recent double celebration, as Cunard’s 3 ships were sailing to their UK home port for the 175th anniversary kickoff, Princess Charlotte was being born to Prince William and Duchess Kate on May 2. The ships together sounded their whistles at noon in honor of the royal newborn, and the next day, the 3 Queens were seen for the first time departing Southampton together, under daylight in dramatic formation.
The newest to join the Cunard fleet — the Queen Victoria, which launched in 2007, and the Queen Elizabeth, which hit the seas in 2010 — exhibit all the grace and grandeur of their ocean-liner forebears. The 2 are sister ships, with the Elizabeth being slightly larger in size and capacity. While they each include heavier bow plating and a taller freeboard deck above to handle trans-Atlantic crossings, they are essentially still cruise ships that display an ocean-liner aesthetic.
But it’s the Queen Mary 2, inaugurated in 2004, that remains unique in design and construction as a genuine liner, built with significantly thicker hull plating throughout and a deeper draft for increased strength and stability crossing open oceans. The ship’s naval architect, Stephen Payne, accurately describes the ship as “a modern embodiment of all that heritage and everything that’s gone before.”
Cunard guests are treated to exceptional events such as high tea, Shakespearean plays and the line’s signature Insights lecture series. Fascinating presentations and musical performances from special guests are also common. Scheduled on the Queen Mary 2 in 2015, for example: Jane Seymour is set to join for Q&A sessions on the June 3 cruise, and Crosby, Stills & Nash will perform on the Sept. 4 sailing.
As for itineraries, highlights remain the trans-Atlantic crossings aboard the Queen Mary 2 and each ship’s annual world cruise. But the vessels do make the rounds to the likes of the Caribbean and Canada/New England as well.
Also as part of the 175th anniversary, May 7 marked Cunard’s remembrance of its Lusitania, which was once the fastest passenger liner on the Atlantic but was devastatingly sunk by a German U-boat 100 years ago. Still to come, from May 24-26, the 3 Queens will once again rendezvous in Liverpool, England, the line’s former headquarters and a historic port of departure for millions of emigrants. On July 2, the Queen Mary 2 will embark on a special 12-day crossing from Southampton to New York — with calls in Liverpool; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Boston — to commemorate the line’s very first ship, the paddle steamer Britannia.
For more information on Cunard’s 175 anniversary and its fleet, visit cunard.com.
– By Jason Leppert, PopularCruising.com