In the final decades of the ocean liner era, the 1950s and 1960s, the Cunard Steamship Company of Great Britain was by far the best known shipping line in the world. Cunard Line ships carried a third of all the North Atlantic passengers, and more than their share of the rich and famous. The company was most noted for its two legendary superliners, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the largest passenger ships in the world. They were the ultimate expression of the art deco style at sea.
The ships were completed prior to World War II, but due to the pressing need for them as troop transports, they were not able to begin their tandem service until 1947. Then for two decades the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were extremely successful as the two most glamorous running mates on the high seas, earning great profits and worldwide acclaim for the Cunard Line.
British and other European royalty were frequent passengers in First class, along with Hollywood stars and millionaires. Businessmen, politicians, religious leaders and tourists mainly filled the Cabin and Tourist class berths.
Their precise schedule of five day crossings from New York to Cherbourg and Southampton was timed so that either the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth departed New York every Wednesday, arriving in England on the following Monday. The ocean liners normally sailed westbound every Thursday, to arrive in New York on Tuesday in time for turnaround the next day.
"It's all part of Cunard's First Class mood as you cross the Atlantic to Europe. It's a holiday mood. A mood that lasts for five wonderful days, dispels cares, creates enchantment - the extra value which comes with every Cunard ticket. Getting there is half the fun ... go Cunard."
In the 1950s, Cunard Line ordered four new mid-sized ocean liners for their Canadian service to the U.K., originally offering a weekly sailing from each side of the Atlantic. In 1963, the first two were refitted as cruise ships, becoming Carmania and Franconia. The second pair, Carinthia and Sylvania were eventually assigned to the routes from Montreal and Quebec City to Greenock and Liverpool and from New York and Boston to Cobh and Liverpool, respectively.
Carinthia and Sylvania were given a traditional North Atlantic liner style which recreated the past and promoted gracious living. Each class had its own main lounge on the Promenade Deck and dining room below on the Restaurant Deck. Additionally there was a smoking room with bar for each class, plus a drawing room, library and additional lounge for First class and soda fountain for Tourist.
The company made the decision in 1964 that there was still sufficient demand for Atlantic crossings by sea, such that a new Cunard Line superliner was ordered, to be equally suited to both crossing and cruising. Thus, the legendary Queen Elizabeth 2 admirably fulfilled both roles for 35 years, extending Cunard Line's legacy into the 21st century. Then in 2004, the QE2 was replaced on the transatlantic run by the biggest and most stunning ocean liner of them all, the Queen Mary 2. Cunard Line now occupies a niche in the contemporary cruise industry as the only company to operate regular line voyages.
Go to Cunard Line sailing schedules or select schedules by ship:
Built: 1936 by John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland
Built: 1940 by John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland
Built: 1956 by John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland
Built: 1957 by John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland