Golden Age of Travel Dream Birthday — A Bit of Ship's History

I suppose it goes without saying, but there is a reason that I want to take my birthday trip on Cunard rather than some cruise line.  The reason won’t surprise those of you who know me at all.  It’s History.

You see, Cunard started the first regular Transatlantic crossings with RMS Britannia in February of 1840.  Charles Dickens sailed on her in January of 1842.  It took her 10 days to do the Halifax to Liverpool route at an average speed of 11 knots.  She was the fastest steam ship of her time.

Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary 2 — the ship I will be taking on this voyage — is the largest ocean liner currently in service.  She is the largest ocean liner ever built.  She was the largest passenger ship at the time of her building in 2003, but she has since been superseded by some cruise ships belonging to Royal Caribbean.  However, she remains the largest ocean liner in active service.

When one speaks of history and large passengers ships, that inevitable question comes up: How does she compare to RMS Titanic, the “Greatest Ship Ever Built”. Well, see for yourself. The Blue silhouette is Titanic. The Grey, QM2.  She can accommodate 3056 passengers and 1253 officers and crewmembers compared to Titanic’s 2453 and 885.  Additionally Titanic’s cruising speed was 21 knots and her max speed, 23 knots.  QM2 cruises at 26 knots but her open ocean speed is 30 knots.

RMS Queen Mary 2 was named after the first RMS Queen Mary, a Cunard ship in service from 1936 until 1967 (the year of my birth).  The original QM sits permanently docked in Long Beach Harbour in California, still operating as a lovingly-preserved Art Deco hotel.

Historically, the first Queen Mary is very important to the history of ocean liners.  While she was under construction on the River Clyde in Scotland, Cunard and White Star (owners of Titanic) merged.  Cunard and White Star had been rivals since the 1840s but the Great Depression nearly bankrupted both companies.  Cunard being the majority shareholder of the merged company, construction on the final White Star liner Oceanic III was halted and the White Star vessels began to be phased out.  By 1950, there would hardly be any remnant of the White Star name.

RMS Queen Mary (the original ship) was named after Mary of Teck, Queen of England and consort to George V.  On my voyage, I am planning to wear a wardrobe from the 1910s through the 1930s.  George V was King from May 1910 (upon the death of Edward VII) until his death in January 1936.  (Thus the oft-used label of the Downton Abbey/Titanic Era of “Edwardian” is completely incorrect.  The period should in fact be termed “Georgian”.)

RMS Queen Mary 2 was named after RMS Queen Mary.  Thus I will be sailing on a ship that gives honour to the grandest ship on the ocean during the reign of George V, dressing as someone from the reign of George V, and celebrating my birthday which occurred in the final months of that ship’s ocean-going service.


Tomorrow:  More wardrobe planning!

© 2012 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material.

5 Responses to Golden Age of Travel Dream Birthday — A Bit of Ship's History

  1. My Grandfather traveled on the RMS Queen Mary on his return trip from WWII as did many soldiers. My Grandmother traveled on the Mauritania during the war, a sister ship in the line. There are many stories from her travels. It was quite harrowing. They were being followed by a German U-boat and they would have black outs on the ship. Somewhere I have an image of Mauritania’s log book… and there is my Grandmother’s signature. It’s pretty cool 🙂

    • Oh yes. And Queen Elizabeth 2 did service during the Falkland crisis I believe. There is just so much history associated with Cunard’s liners. They even have a museum on board where you can see photos of people from all eras on their ships.

  2. This is the same reason why I want to take a Cunard cruise! When I was in Florida (right when that Italian cruise ship sank), I had told our hostess that I really wanted to take a trans-atlantic cruise. She was all “oh, well take a Princess cruise! They’re only $500.” ?!?! It’s not about the price–it’s about the history!!! And if I’m going to take a cruise, I want it to be grand, not pedestrian (*hmph*).

    I had always wanted to go on one, but it wasn’t until NYE when I laid around watching brticoms that I really felt serious about it. The “Keeping up Apperances” episode was Hyacinth and Richard going on the QE2, only to find her sister Daisy and her dreaded-by-Hyacinth husband Anslow on the ship with much better accomodations. Though i feel if Richard ever killed Hyacinth it would be justifiable homicide, her bevy ouf outfits and the tour of the ship revived that dream I had (even though she was retired nearly 10 years ago).

    I had hoped I could get a less expensive trip later this year (one trip is my birthday week), but due to some health issues that I had to pay for out of pocket, I think I should save my pennies for now. Plus, that’ll give me time to put together a wardrobe…

    • Seriously! I wouldn’t take any other ship across the Atlantic. They’d bob around like corks! Only ocean liners are built for it. It isn’t the price (and Cunard has some mad sales, and even their cheapest cabins are gorgeous!).

      I have never seen that episode of Keeping Up Appearances. I’m going to have to search for it now! Bob wants to be Anslow when he grows up. I just want to be anyone by Hyacinth! LOL

  3. Out of curiousity, if you got the chance to go stay (a weekend at the very least, a month at the most) at the Queen Mary Hotel, would you?