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Cunard: A history of firsts

25th September 2019

There is no finer name in the world of ocean cruising than Cunard. Just hearing the name conjures up images of innovation, elegance, adventure and style. Cunard has been a front runner on the oceans of the world for over almost two centuries.


In fact, this November, it will be a century since the Cunard ship RMS Mauretania set off from Southampton on the first express transatlantic service from this now famous shipping hub to New York City. Of course, Cunard was no stranger to crossing the Atlantic, introducing the first ever regular scheduled transatlantic crossing from Liverpool to Boston in 1840.



In 1881, Cunard’s Servia was the first to feature electric light and Marconi himself tested the first wireless system at sea on board the Lucania in 1901. Lucania also was the first to offer a world cruise – way back in 1922. Cunard had the first children’s’ playroom on the Arabia in 1852, the first gym was featured on the Franconia in 1911, and the first multi-room suite at sea was on the Mauretania in 1907.


Stars and style

The first of Cunard’s iconic ‘Queens’ was the Queen Mary in 1935 followed by Queen Elizabeth in 1939. These ships, as well as the QE2, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, set the bar for elegance afloat, and today’s guests can enjoy the same traditions and sense of style as those from days gone by. Traditions such as afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters in the Queen’s Room, which is the largest ballroom at sea and hosts dancing to a live orchestra in the evenings.


Queen Mary
Queen Mary

Other traditions include guest lecturers from Oxford University, a formal dress code and the Queens Grill. In the past, the well to do, from Hollywood stars to royalty to business magnates, dined in the best restaurant on board – the Queens Grill. Cunard then expanded this to include Queens Grill Suites, which is where you want to be staying if you want the best of the best.


Queens Grill
Queens Grill

There is a wonderful sense of history and familiarity on board one of Cunard’s Queens. Knowing that so many famous names have shared that sense of style. Stars of stage and screen have long been attracted to the Queens. Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, Noel Coward, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland all performed in the same show on board. Meryl Streep and Candace Bergen have just been on board Queen Mary 2 on a Transatlantic Crossing filming the Steven Soderbergh movie Let Them All Talk, and Ed Sheeran recorded some songs on a crossing a few years back.


What’s coming in 2020 and beyond

The biggest news in Cunard’s world is that the trio of Queens will gain a big sister in 2022. The ship, which is yet to be named, is being designed and constructed by a dream team of talent, who have a vision to create a world-class ship that is “exciting, forward-looking, yet unmistakably Cunard,” said Simon Palethorpe, the President of Cunard. The new ship will be the 249th vessel to sail under the Cunard flag.


Yet to be named, the new Cunard Queen coming in 2022
Yet to be named, the new Cunard Queen coming in 2022

In the meantime, Cunard has a huge program planned for Australian cruisers in 2020-21, with Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria visiting on their world voyages by, while Queen Elizabeth will be based in our waters for 118 days – a record deployment. In total, the three ships will cover 139,000 nautical miles from November 2020 to May 2021, visiting 94 destinations in 38 countries.

Samuel Cunard, the man who started it all back in 1840, would be so proud.

Travel Associates' hand-picked Cunard itineraries feature some local favourites, like cruising our beautiful Tasmania and Southern Australia for 7 nights. Or if you fancy an experience further abroad, try the incredible 22-night cruise on Queen Elizabeth travelling from Hong Kong to Sydney. Talk to your local Travel Associates advisor to start planning your next Cunard cruise.