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 She was the largest passenger ship at the time of her building in 2003, but she has since been superseded by some cruise ships belonging to Royal Caribbean.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.