Everything you need to know about Cunard's luxury cruise line

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Cunard has become synonymous with luxury over its 180 years of sailing, but how much do you really know about the cruise line? This is the full low-down.

Cunard tends to bring visions of glamorous black-tie dinners to mind - but there's much more to the line than just living in the lap of luxury.

With its three royally-named ships, Cunard offers sailings around Europe as well as longer voyages to the furthest reaches of the globe.

One of its ships, Queen Mary 2 was once the world’s largest ocean liner!

ROL Cruise, the top cruise line partner for Cunard and the UK’s No.1 Independent Cruise Specialist, offer a whole host of incredible voyages for this renowned cruise line.

In this guide to Cunard, we look at the history of the line, examine its fleet, peer inside the ships to the onboard experience, and check out just some of these amazing sailings.

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A brief history of Cunard

Cunard dates right back to the 1840s when the world of cruising was completely different. From introducing the first flushing toilets at sea and rescuing Titanic survivors to welcoming Hollywood stars of the silver screen and celebrating a 300th transatlantic crossing - Cunard has come a long way.

1840 - Cunard line is established by Samuel Cunard, a war veteran and timber merchant from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The first Cunard Transatlantic Crossing took place when Britannia set sail in July 1840 - cows were kept on board for fresh milk every day and were slaughtered to be eaten on the final day of each voyage.

Author Charles Dickens also sailed with the cruise line at this time.

1850 - Over the next few decades, Cunard solidified its place in the world of international shipping. In the 1850s, the cruise line was used to carry horses to the Crimean war, aiding in the charge of the Light Brigade.

1860s - Author Mark Twain sailed with Cunard and praised the ability of the captains.

1870 - Cunard introduced the first flushing toilets at sea, providing relief for both passengers and crew.

1880s - Cunard brought over a million of the 2.5 million people choosing to settle in the United States. It also launched Servia, the first steel ship with electrical lighting.

1890-1900 - Luxury became the name of the game at the turn of the century, with Cunard ships advertised as 'floating palaces,' even sharing design features with opulent venues such as The Ritz.

The latest technology was also brought onboard. Superliners Lusitania and Mauretania were launched with revolutionary steam turbines to increase maximum speed. In 1897, the first-ever wireless transmission was made from a Cunard ship to the shore by Italian inventor and electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi.

Discover Cunard’s cruises with ROL Cruise HERE

Cunard dates right back to the 1840s when the world of cruising was completely different. Credit: Cunard

1910 - At this time, Cunard ships adopted the iconic four funnels which were intended to represent power and safety. Many other ships took to adding a fake fourth funnel just to look the part!

1912 - Cunard's Carpathia arrived on the scene after the sinking of the Titanic to rescue survivors.

1950s - Major Hollywood stars including Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, Sir Noel Coward and Walt Disney all sailed with Cunard.

1960s - Queen Elizabeth 2 made her debut at sea – and went on to sail over five million miles during her 39 years of service.

1980s - Queen Elizabeth 2 launched a new fly-cruise package with Concorde dubbed “the ultimate package.”

1982 - Queen Elizabeth 2 travelled to the Falklands with 3,000 troops.

1986 - Queen Elizabeth 2's original steam engines were replaced with nine petrol-diesel engines - the size of double-decker buses.

1999 - Cunard officially became part of the Carnival group in 1999.

2010 - Queen Elizabeth - the second largest Cunarder in history - named by the Queen. Cunard's first female captain announced.

2015 - Cunard celebrates 175 years.

2019 - Cunard celebrates the start of construction on its 249th ship which will be delivered in 2022.

Cunard: Britannia Club Restaurant offers an intimate dining club atmosphere. Credit: Cunard

The Cunard fleet

Cunard’s fleet comprises three amazing ships: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, all renowned for their comfort and luxury as well as elegant and spacious interiors.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 was once the world’s largest and most renowned ocean liner. In June 2016, the world-class ship underwent a £90million transformation.

Cruise ship facts

Launched: January 2004

Occupancy: 2,691

Tonnage: 151,400t.

Length: 1132 ft

Total Crew: 1292


Passengers on Queen Mary 2 can reside in spacious cabins with spectacular views. Britannia Club offers a balcony, beautiful ocean views and rooms bathed in natural daylight while Britannia Staterooms provide numerous ways to travel in comfortable bliss with Balcony, Ocean View, Inside and Single rooms on offer.

Meanwhile, guests of the Princess Grill can enjoy stunning suites and exclusive access to the private Grills Lounge and Terrace.


There are a whopping 34 food and drink options onboard Queen Mary 2.

At the world-renowned Queens Grill restaurant, passengers can experience the ultimate interpretation of White Star Service with a delectable selection of entrées and soups, salads, sandwiches, main dishes and desserts.

Britannia Club Restaurant offers an intimate dining club atmosphere, Steakhouse at The Veranda is perfect for steak, lobster or king crab fans and Kings Court serves up dishes inspired by flavours from around the world.

The ship is also home to the world’s finest wine cellar at sea, with a unique collection of 486 wines and a sublime collection of ports, dating back to 1840.


Queen Mary 2 boasts the largest dancefloor at sea and holds glamorous balls while G32 nightclub is the place to party. Expect live piano, jazz music, contemporary bands and a string quartet.

The Royal Court Theatre hosts spectacular dance and music extravaganzas and Empire Casino offers a more competitive form of entertainment.

Queen Mary 2 cruises

Cunard's 2022 No-Fly Mediterranean Delights whisks holidaymakers off to Spain, France, Italy and Portugal for a 14-night cruise departing July 2022.

Another itinerary to put in the diary is the Ultimate 2022 New York Christmas Experience. The 11-night cruise sails from the Big Apple in November 2022 and guests will be able to visit the city in depth at this magical time of year.

A third option is the 14-night No-Fly 2022 Transatlantic Voyage sailing in April 2022. With plenty of time at sea, passengers can make the most of everything the Queen Mary 2 has to offer, with a visit to New York halfway through.

Find out more about Cunard with ROL Cruise HERE

Cunard: Queen Victoria is the second-largest liner in Cunard’s fleet. Credit: Cunard

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria is the second-largest liner in Cunard’s fleet. The ship epitomises elegance and charm, boasting marble floors, deep woods and rich fabrics, and offers both short and long sailings all around the world.

Cruise ship facts

Launched: 1 December 2007

Occupancy: 2,081

Tonnage: 90,049t.

Length: 964 ft

Total Crew: 981


Passengers staying on Queen Victoria are sure to be spoiled. The sumptuous Queens Grill Suites come complete with marble bathrooms and whirlpool baths.

Britannia Staterooms offer guests incredible comfort with Inside, Balcony and Ocean View options - all beautifully decorated with soft colours and fine art prints.


Queen Victoria has seven restaurants and thirteen bars.

The Queen’s Room is the venue for traditional White Gloved Afternoon Tea. The iconic Britannia restaurant is the largest dining venue and boasts a magnificent sweeping staircase and Art Deco-inspired design. Here, you can choose from a delightful selection of entrees, main dishes and sweet treats.

Cafe Carinthia serves up light dishes at lunchtime and cakes and pastries at teatime while the Golden Lion pub celebrates traditional English pub food.

The Verandah restaurant for Steakhouse at The Verandah can also be found onboard, with a menu showcasing prime USDA grain finished New York strip steak, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab and much more.


Take part in cocktail parties and elegant balls at the Queens Room or boogie with a more contemporary vibe at Hemispheres nightclub with the resident DJ. Bars and lounges onboard also feature live piano music, jazz bands and a string quartet.

Royal Court Theatre puts on lavish music and dance productions and has regal red and gold seating. Empire Casino will keep gambling fans entertained.

Queen Victoria cruises

Guests wanting to sail onboard the ship will likely be tempted by the 2022 No-Fly Northern Lights. The 12-night voyage sails in October 2022.

Passengers are taken to Andalsnes in Norway - home to Europe's highest vertical mountain face - before on to an arctic cruise in Tromsø to watch out for the Northern lights and try their hand at husky sledding. Narvik and Stavanger are also on the itinerary.

Cunard: Cafe Carinthia serves up light dishes at lunchtime and cakes and pastries at teatime. Credit: Cunard
Cunard: Royal Court Theatre puts on lavish music and dance productions. Credit: Cunard

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth evokes classic Hollywood glamour and is bristling with glistening chandeliers, marble floors and stunning furnishings.

Cruise ship facts

Launched: 11 October2010

Occupancy: 208

Tonnage: 90, 900t.

Length: 964 ft

Total Crew: 1,005


Cunard's staterooms offer Inside, Single, Balcony or Oceanview rooms, each with a flat-screen television, ample storage and closet space and a charming bathroom.

For greater luxury, there are the Grand, Master, Queens, Princess or Penthouse Suites all of which include a large, relaxing living area. Selected rooms boast the luxury of whirlpool bathtubs, concierge service, personalised stationery and a bottle of wine.


Queen Elizabeth has 27 food and drinks options to keep cruisers satiated.

Afternoon tea is served at the Queens Room with white-glove service and live orchestra accompaniment while The Verandah Grill is regarded as one of the finest restaurants at sea, complete with romantic ambience and authentic French cuisine.

The Britannia Restaurant serves up exquisite menu options, from lobster thermidor to beef wellington.

As with the other ships, The Verandah Restaurant for Steakhouse at The Verandah is also onboard.


Queen Elizabeth's library is brimming with 6,000 books and fine art can be viewed in the onboard gallery.

Guests can meet leading winemakers, experience hosted wine tasting events, learn classical ballroom or lively lindy hop.

For further learning opportunities, you can listen to a multitude of guest speakers from explorers, academics, former ambassadors, politicians, historians, scientists, novelists, biographers and award-winning actors and filmmakers, presenting both historical and contemporary issues.

For the classic Cunard experience, there's the Queens Room for balls, Royal Court Theatre for performances plus the Empire Casino.

Queen Elizabeth cruises

Get ready for a whopper of a cruise holiday with the 37-night 2022 Grand Voyage From Sydney To Tokyo, departing March 2022.

The cruise visits the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands (home to some of the best beaches in the world), Darwin, Bali, Jakarta, Singapore, Da Nang, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo - plus plenty of days at sea to make the most of Queen Elizabeth.

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