The Cunard Queens are soon to be joined by a forth addition - pushing the fleet beyond a trio and into the annuls of history. Credit: Cunard

Full guide to the four Cunard Queens: Examining cruise ship royalty

Author: Niamh Payne

Published on:

Updated on:

With Queen Anne set to hit the waves in May 2024, we've taken a deep dive into Cunard’s current fleet of ultra-luxury cruise ships

Queen Mary 2: The ultimate flagship

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) remains the most mature ship in Cunard's fleet, launched in 2004 and subsequently refitted on various occasions. The oh-so-stylish QM2 is also the only ocean-going liner still in operation – retired Cunard Queens are typically converted into floating hotels and business centres (such as Queen Elizabeth 2, now in Dubai, or the original RMS Queen Mary, now in Long Beach, California).

QM2 is Cunard's main transatlantic liner, built especially for tackling year-round North Atlantic voyages and inclement weather. Her maiden voyage encompassed a celebrated transatlantic crossing from Southampton, UK to Fort Lauderdale, USA; echoing the heritage routes of yesteryear.

Cunard's flagship has also undertaken a grand series of world cruises, the first of which came in 2007, when QM2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 crossed paths in Sydney, Australia. More recently, world cruises have been interrupted by conflict in freshly war-torn parts of the world, but passengers need not fear. In a move more British than tea with cake, His Majesty's Royal Marines gave Queen Mary 2 a stylish escorting service in February 2024.

The flagship showcases a range of features, notably the Queen’s Room; a large lounge with a ballroom dance floor. She also boasts a full-sized theatre, a casino, a cinema, a planetarium and a multitude of eateries.

Complimentary art and dance classes also feature on a QM2 voyage, alongside lectures and talks from a variety of notable guest speakers. After all that culture, the onboard library awaits to deepen your understanding of a wide variety of topics, before taking in a Broadway-style show and cherishing a dignified brandy in one of several majestic saloons.

Dance the night away on Queen Mary 2. Credit: Cunard

QM2 is also considered one of the most spacious ships at sea, carrying 2,691 passengers and 1,173 crew. Compared to Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas – currently the largest cruise ship- which accommodates 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity (and 2,350 crew), the Queen Mary 2 sounds almost minuscule.

However, if the thought of sharing a ship with nearly 10,000 people sounds daunting, then QM2’s capacity of 3,864 will sound somewhat delightful.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw QM2 laid up in Torquay, Devon for most of 2020. Prior to the global coronavirus outbreak, she was halfway through a global inventory before Cunard was forced to cancel her anticipated call in Hong Kong. In February, she had to divert from her Asian ports due to COVID-sponsored geopolitical complications, stopping in Singapore to refuel, before docking in Fremantle, Australia.

Cunard extended the Australian leg of the cruise, circumnavigating the country before returning to Fremantle, where most passengers disembarked and flew home. QM2 then returned to Southampton with the passengers who were unable to fly due to medical reasons, before anchoring at Torquay for the rest of the pandemic.

She returned to her regular service in late 2021, becoming the last ocean liner in active service due to the scrapping of Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Marco Polo and the retirement of Swedish American Line’s Astoria, which remains laid up in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Queen Victoria: Smallest of the fleet, but just as grand

Queen Victoria (QV) was launched in 2007, just a year before the retirement of Queen Elizabeth 2. She, alongside Queen Elizabeth, remains the smallest of the fleet, measuring 964.5ft in length and carrying 2,061 guests and 913 crew.

Queen Victoria undertook her maiden voyage in December 2007 where she sailed around Northern Europe. She enjoyed her maiden world voyage in January 2008, circumnavigating the globe in 108 days and rendezvousing with Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 in Southampton in April of the same year.

In 2010, while calling at Sydney, the ship was lit up pink in support of breast cancer research. Later that year, Cunard announced their first female captain, Inger Klein Olsen, who took command of Queen Victoria in December.

Cunard decided to switch the registry of Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to Hamilton, Bermuda, allowing the fleet to host weddings onboard. A wedding onboard QV and QE costs around $2,800 (£2,200), which includes license fees on top of your regular cruise.

Queen Victoria’s interior is Victorian-inspired, foregoing modern onboard activities such as rock-climbing and Formula One simulators, instead opting for an outdoor games deck, an indoor games room and the largest book collection at sea in the form of a two-floor library (quite frankly, the best way to get any bookworm out to sea).

Cunard's Queen Victoria proves that you can enjoy modern comforts with a healthy dollop of heritage-inspired decor. Credit: Cunard

Queen Victoria also hosts a guest choir, classical concerts and a variety of classes and lectures onboard – try your hand at learning the tango or refining your painting skills, but preferably before a wine-tasting class. That being said, it clearly worked for Picasso...

The ship boasts of an interior you would otherwise expect from White Star Line's Olympic-class; a sweeping Grand Staircase, wood panelling walls and marble floors. Take one step inside the Grand Lobby or the Queen’s Room and be transported back to the 1900s, complimented with modern comforts and contemporary service standards.

With all the ship’s elegance, it makes sense that Cunard would expect the same from their passengers. On board Queen Victoria, passengers are required to wear formal attire in the evenings during special events; be it a tuxedo, a three-piece suit, a cocktail dress or an evening gown. On the ‘informal’ evenings, somewhat formal attire is expected, but to a lesser degree.

During the day, passengers can wear what they like (within reason), and those who would rather not engage with formal eveningwear are asked to stay in the Lido buffet or the Winter Garden. Room service is also an option 24/7.

In 2017, Queen Victoria became the first Cunard ship to sail the Amazon River – she also became the biggest passenger ship to sail along the famous waterway. Following a lay-up in Weymouth, Dorset due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen Victoria returned to her regular service in 2022.

Queen Elizabeth: Perfect blend of heritage and modern luxury

Another Queen Elizabeth? You got it, but this modern vessel is not to be confused with the previous RMS Queen Elizabeth, operated by Cunard from 1946 to 1972, or the iconic Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), retired in 2008.

Queen Elizabeth (QE) was launched in 2010 and was re-registered in Hamilton, Bermuda alongside her fleet-mates a year later. She measures 964.5ft in length and has space for 2,081 passengers and 911 crew.

The cruise liner departed on her maiden voyage in October 2010 from Southampton to the Canary Islands. The next year she sailed her first world cruise, rendezvousing with her fleet-mates QM2 and Queen Victoria in New York. The event drew a sizeable crowd, and the Empire State Building was lit up red for the event.

Queen Elizabeth has seen her fair share of celebrations, including Cunard’s 175th anniversary, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the QE2 50th anniversary celebration, alongside respective visits to the original RMS Queen Mary (1936 to 1967) in Long Beach, California and QE2 in Dubai, both of which were met with huge public interest and dignified celebrations.

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth brings style and dignity to any port she graces. Not that we are biased. Credit: Cunard

The ship proved extremely popular for long-distance voyages, leading Cunard to position her in Australia, Alaska and Asia. She had been sailing one of her Australia and New Zealand itineraries just as the world went into lockdown. Australia banned all ships flying a foreign flag for fear of COVID repercussions, forcing Queen Elizabeth to move from Sydney to Newcastle, then to Manila Bay in the Philippines. She eventually made her way back to Weymouth in Dorset to anchor with Queen Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth returned to cruising in August 2021 following a 17-month break, however, her New Zealand cruises were disrupted due to biofouling concerns; the unwanted accumulation of microorganisms, algae, plants and small animals on areas such as a ship’s hull or exterior. Naturally, Cunard handled this issue with a keen environmental mantra.

In terms of her interior, Queen Elizabeth is more Art Deco-inspired than her sister ships, harking back to the original RMS Queen Elizabeth’s design. Alongside her panelled walls and marble floor that gives way to plush carpeting that would look right at home in an episode of Poirot, Queen Elizabeth also hosts live music, ballroom dancing and a games deck where one could enjoy an invigorating game of croquet or bowls.

Queen Anne: Fresh on the scene

Queen Anne (QA) is the latest of Cunard’s Queens, set to take to the waters in May 2024. When completed, she will be the second largest of the fleet, measuring 1,058ft in length and carrying 2,996 passengers and 1,225 crew. Her first Captain will be Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge, who has captained both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

Cunard announced they had ordered a new ship in 2017, and her name was revealed in February 2022 – the long withholding of the name being a Cunard tradition. As with the rest of her fleet mates, Queen Anne is named after a British queen, this one being – unsurprisingly – Queen Anne, who ruled from 1702 to 1714.

The new liner is set to launch on May 1, 2024, with her maiden voyage – a seven-night trip to Lisbon – scheduled for May 3.

While she might look similar to her fleet-mates on the outside, the interior is another story.
Cunard is known for bringing back the ‘age of elegance’ with their ships (think Queen Elizabeth’s Art Deco interior), but they have brought Queen Anne into the modern era, yet with that Cunard elegance we all know and love firmly intact. So panic not!

Queen Anne is Cunard's first ship in a decade. Credit: Cunard

Among the new features, Cunard's new cruise ship will have several extra eateries dedicated to different cuisines from around the world, alongside three whirlpools and a two-deck-high swimming pool with a retractable glass roof. She will also feature a large screen on the pool deck for further entertainment.

But fear not, those of you who embrace tradition and reject modernity, Queen Anne will still feature all of Cunard’s iconic trademarks, such as the Queen’s Suite and Grill; the Princess Suite and Grill, the Queen’s Room and the Britannia restaurants.

The Commodore Lounge boasts an adjoining coffee bar and library, so you can curl up with a good book and mug of coffee while looking over the bow and at the ocean around you. Her maiden world cruise will depart from Hamburg on January 7, 2025, or you can join at Southampton on January 9, 2025.

With the eyes of the cruising world on her, Queen Anne will be the talking point of Cunard for years to come. Time will tell of the stories that come from her travels, and we look forward to the day when Cunard welcomes a fifth Queen to their sterling fleet.

Most recent articles