Cunard liners mark 175th anniversary in Liverpool

 3 Queens and the Red Arrows visit Liverpool
ideo: Red Arrows fly over the three Queens in Liverpool

Three famous ocean liners have sailed together in Liverpool for the first time to mark Cunard’s 175th anniversary.

The Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth saluted the city where Samuel Cunard began his transatlantic line in 1840.

Thousands of people lined the River Mersey to watch the “three queens” perform a synchronised sailing display.

As the fleet completed its manoeuvres, the Red Arrows performed a fly-past.

Captain Christopher Wells, who was at the helm of the Queen Mary 2, said it was a “very special weekend”.

“It allows us to celebrate our anniversary in the city where the company was founded.

“To have that celebration is very important not only to us, but also to the city,” he said.

The three Cunard Queens on the River Mersey
The three Cunard Queens sailed on the River Mersey
Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 off Crosby Beach ready to enter the River Mersey
Crowds gathered at Crosby Beach
Red Arrows fly-past
As the fleet completed its manoeuvres, the Red Arrows performed a fly-past
Three Cunard liners
The event celebrates the famous shipping line’s formation 175 years ago in its original home port
Queen Mary 2 leaves Liverpool to meet sister Liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria
The display was part of a three-day celebration

The display was part of a three-day celebration, which ends on Tuesday, marking the company’s first transatlantic crossing from Liverpool.

Sir Samuel Cunard, who founded the service, sailed aboard the RMS Britannia to Boston on its maiden voyage on 4 July 1840.

The Cunard company revolutionised travel in the 19th Century with its steam ships which added speed and safety to journeys which had previously been made on less reliable sailing ships.

By the early part of the 20th Century, the company’s “big three” liners – Mauretania, Berengaria and Aquitania – were the primary means of passenger transport across the Atlantic

The shipping company moved its headquarters from the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s waterfront to Southampton in 1965.

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Cunard at 175: Facts and figures

  • Since the first scheduled service across the Atlantic, Cunard ships have crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic, in peace and war, without fail every year
  • More than 109,000 bottles of red wine are consumed every year on board Queen Victoria
  • The annual sugar consumption on Queen Mary 2 is enough to make eight million scones

10 Of The Weirdest Things You Didn’t Know About The Queen Mary 2

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She’s big, she’s posh and she cost lots of dosh (approx $300,000 per berth = a heck of a lot!).

When it comes to the flagship liner in Cunard’s fleet of three, the above is all plain to see, even if you’ve only ever clapped eyes on her on a postcard from a gloating relative!


How about some fun facts that you might not know though?


With her spa, 3D cinema, planetarium (the only one at sea – take that, other ocean liners!), staterooms to accommodate 2,600 passengers and classy sophisticated interior that channels a golden ocean-going era when the cream of society toffs sailed between New York and Southampton in sumptuous style, there’s no better way to follow in these elite footsteps in 21st century comfort!

Here are some fun facts from the team about the QM2  to get you excited about sailing on one of the most majestic ships on the ocean waves:


1- She’s Actually Not A Cruise Ship

Her sisters Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are cruise ships designed to look like old-style ocean liners but as the only liner who sails the route she was designed for – the transatlantic crossing between Southampton and New York – Queen Mary 2 is the world’s only bona fide ocean liner; so don’t call her a mere cruise ship, OK?

For her 2,600 guests the experience is all about the voyage itself, so that’s why there are no port calls – the emphasis is on the amazing onboard experience and arriving at the best port of all, the Big Apple baby!


2.1 – She’s Big

On her maiden voyage in 2004, at 148,528 tonnes Queen Mary 2 was the largest cruise ship ever built.

Now eclipsed by Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, who is just plain showing off with her 225,282 tonnage, the QM2 still feels astonishingly large when you first see her but despite her bulk this girl sure can move, clocking up a maximum speed of 29 knots (33 mph) compared to the cruise ship norm of 24 (27.5 mph).


2.2 – And Long…

When Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, made her maiden voyage back in 1840, her size caused a stir – well it’s going to when the average Joe is used to looking at a two person horse and cart!

But at 1,130 feet to Britannia’s piffling 230 feet, Queen Mary 2 makes her ancient relative look like a mere dinghy!


2.3 – …Really Long

Queen Mary 2 boasts 17 decks and looms large 200 feet above the waterline.

That’s equivalent to a 23-story building (and she only stopped there as she has to get under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge in New York!).

She needs every inch of this space to fit in all those fabulous staterooms, restaurants, bars, library, theatre, spa, and not forgetting that cruise essential – the planetarium!

Queen Mary 2


2.4 – …Really, Really, Really Long

If you still need a bit of help imagining this behemoth, put it this way – her length is equivalent to four football pitches (great for working off all those afternoon teas as you pace the decks). Not a football fan? She’s as long as 36 London double-decker buses (31 ½ feet).

Still not getting it? She’s more than twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall (550 feet), more than 3 ½ times as long as Big Ben is high, or 147 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (984 feet), more than three times as long as St Paul’s Cathedral (366 feet) and only 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building (1248 feet).

We could go on but if you don’t get the picture by now, just accept the fact that she’s incredibly long OK?


3 – Sea and Be Seen

QM2’s 360-degree promenade deck is a faithful re-creation of bygone eras where ladies and gentlemen ‘stepped out’ for a stroll to get a bit of sea air, pass the time of day and check each other out from behind those handy old-fashioned hats and parasols!

These days nothing has changed, except everyone’s decked out in cotton rather than crinoline.

The promenade deck, whose circumference spans more than one third of a mile, is well stocked with traditional steamer chairs  – so there’s no need for any vulgar bagging of these with strategically-placed bags or cardigans (or parasols, if you so wish).

If the wind’s up, there are interior promenades circling several decks so you can take your daily stroll without the weather messing with the glamorous blow dry you’ve just had done for tonight’s black-tie dinner!

4 – Rain On Your Parade?

There’s no chance of this with Queen Mary 2’s state-of-the-art retractable glass roof that means you can swim in the Pavilion Pool on Deck 12 come rain or shine. But if you’d rather swim inside (perhaps before a relaxing massage or facial) you can do so in the indoor swimming pool in the spa.

Mix it up by heading for the main pool on Deck 8 or feel on top of the world in the Splash Pool on the top deck. Little ones will love the Minnows pool next to the play area on Deck 6 (and parents will love the English nannies who will supervise little ones in the Play Zone while they go off for a relaxing dip. Now that’s just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!).

5 – Fly Me To The Moon

Yes, it’s that planetarium at sea again – we know we keep going on about it but it really is an amazing thing to find on a cruise ship (sorry, ocean liner!).

The stars look incredible from the middle of the ocean anyway, as the lack of light pollution makes them shine extra bright and the Cunard Enrichment Programme provides telescopes and binoculars plus expert tuition from the Royal Astronomical Society for mesmerizing on-deck star gazing.

However, the 150 seat full size planetarium, Illuminations, means you can take a (virtual) flight to these distant planets during one of the stunning constellations shows!

Talk about out of this world…


6 – An Audience With The Queen

When a Queen speaks, everyone listens and this is especially true when it comes to this floating monarch – when her whistle blows, it can be heard for 10 miles!

This means lesser vessels are left in no doubt that someone important is sweeping towards them.

Out of the way, ocean royalty coming through!

The sound of QM2’s whistle is a nostalgic echo down the years as it’s the original whistle from Cunard’s Queen Mary who ruled the waves between 1936 and 1946.

Cunard loves to mix old and new where it can and this little nod to times past is a nice touch (and sure to be of interest to the cruise line geeks onboard!).

7 – She Puts the Luxe Into Library

If your only experience of libraries is the dog-eared school one or the council one that never has the book that you want, then you’re in for a treat, bookworms!

With cosy carpets, lit bookshelves and great views over the bow, the QM2 onboard library, with its choice of over 8000 books, is the best library at sea bar none.

If there was a bestseller’s list for libraries at sea, this one would consistently take the number one spot.

It’s a great place to curl up on a comfy chair for an hour and play lord or lady of the manor, even if you’re only reading the latest blockbuster.

(Top tip – we like to hide our rather worn copy of 50 Shades in a hardbacked War and Peace).


8 – To Act or Not To Act? 

With the Cunard Insights and Cunard ConneXions programmes on all three ships you’ll disembark every Cunard cruise ship feeling that little bit cleverer (it compensates for those extra pounds you’re sure to be carrying!).

However QM2 offers something really special with its RADA Acting Workshops, where the actors from the prestigious theatre school will have you treading the decks like a seasoned luvvie in no time and with the cost of a two hour taster session at RADA on dry land costing £25 (plus the cost involved in getting to London), this activity offers a great opportunity to give acting with the experts a go for free.

Who knows, you could turn out to be the next Kate Winslet or Leonardo Dicaprio – then you can cruise the QM2 as often as you like!


9 – Feeling Good (or Slightly Nervous?)

QM2’s Canyon Ranch Spa Club brings the exquisite pampering packages and facilities of this prestigious American chain to the seas.

There’s an emphasis on health as well as pampering (better save that glass of bubbles for afternoon tea!) and if you think an Indian head massage is unusual then you’ve obviously never had a Japanese Ashiatsu massage where your therapist holds onto overhead bars and massages you with their feet – let’s hope they have a strong grip!

10 – Pack Your Pet

Never mind the kids, you can bring Rover or Felix along for the ride with Queen Mary 2’s kennels service, complete with visiting hours and dog-walking area!

All pampered pooches and kitty cats will receive a Frisbee (every self respecting pet needs its own Frisbee, don’t you know!), nametag, food dish and scoop, fleece blanket and premium food but there’s no need for your pet to stress about the dress code – black tie is not required for dinner!

History, style and more than a splash of glamour (plus, yes, the world’s only onboard planetarium!) – Cunard’s regal ocean liner Queen Mary 2 has got it all and now you know all about her, you’ve got a few handy opening gambits for that all-important getting-to-know-you first night dinner.

Don’t forget to mention the planetarium, after all, it is the only one at sea!