With the passing of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022, the world mourns the loss of a great leader and dignified role model for her subjects worldwide and many others outside the British monarchy.
The queen leaves behind a rich legacy of 70 years of leadership, and among her many connections that will be long remembered is her connection to cruise ships that bear her blessing and serve with the same dignity and grace she showed the world throughout her long reign.
Cruise Ships With a Royal Connection
With the British Isles having a rich naval history and many maritime connections, it is no surprise that Her Majesty had different connections to sailing and cruise travel over the years.
While still Princess Elizabeth, the future monarch launched then Cunard White Star Line’s Caronia in October 1947. The ship was one of the first built for both transtatlantic ocean liner crossings as well as luxury passenger cruise travel. As such, the vessel introduced new features to attract the cruise market, including an outdoor swimming pool and private bathroom facilities for every cabin – features unheard of on ocean liners.
Caronia served the line faithfully until 1967, making a number of transatlantic crossings and offering more regional cruises as well in her dual capacity.
Queen Elizabeth 2
On December 30, 1967, Queen Elizabeth II named the illustrious Cunard Line vessel that also bears her name, Queen Elizabeth 2.
The ship, however, is not directly named for the monarch Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary), but is actually the second vessel in Cunard Line to be named for her mother, at the time the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth.
The longest-serving Cunard ocean liner, the elegant and popular “QE2” sailed its first voyage, a 5-night transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City, shortly after being christened. The vessel served many years and millions of guests until being retired in November 2008.
Throughout her service life with Cunard Line, the QE2 sailed transatlantic crossings every year, as well as other cruise itineraries and even exotic world cruises, bringing the best of British influence to every corner of the globe.
After being retired, Queen Elizabeth 2 was converted into a floating hotel, which opened to guests in Dubai in October 2018.
Queen Mary 2
Queen Elizabeth II christened another Cunard vessel, Queen Mary 2, in January 2004. The largest ocean liner in the world when she debuted, the “QM2” was also designed for transatlantic crossings, and today remains the only true ocean liner still sailing anywhere in the world.
Named for Mary of Teck, consort to King George V, the Queen Mary 2 is the second liner in Cunard’s history to bear the royal name. The first, Queen Mary, served the line from 1936 to 1967.
Like her retired sister ship the QE2, Queen Mary 2 also completes annual world cruises, transatlantic crossings, and a variety of other itineraries, including many sailings in northern Europe and visiting the Norwegian fjords.
To date, the elegant liner remains the flagship of the Cunard Line, and at 149,215 gross tons, is the largest vessel the line operates.
While yet another vessel bearing the same name, the Cunard ship Queen Elizabeth is a Vista-class cruise ship that entered service in October 2010, again christened by Queen Elizabeth II.
The ship is not named for the monarch, however, but evokes the classic nautical age of the 1930s in her nautical decor and styling, paying tribute to both the previous Queen Elizabeth vessels by bearing their name. Her Majesty named the vessel at a ceremony in 2010.
Along with the traditional transatlantic crossings, the vessel has made many memorable voyages, including meeting up with her two sister “Queens” on June 5, 2012, in Southampton in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, marking the 60th anniversary of the queen’s ascension to the throne.
The ship has also sailed in the Mediterranean, Australia, Asia, Alaska, the Caribbean, and many other amazing destinations, just as each British monarch’s influence has stretched around the globe. Today, Queen Elizabeth is sailing from Barcelona, offering Mediterranean itineraries through mid-October.
The British cruise line P&O Cruises has also been honored to have Queen Elizabeth II name one of its vessels, the Royal-class Britannia, which entered service in March 2015 and became the flagship of the P&O Cruises fleet.
Her Majesty, who served as godmother to the vessel, activated the traditional champagne hitting the hull at a ceremony held at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton, UK, on March 10, 2015.
Appropriately for her British nature, the ship bears the largest Union Flag hull art in the world, stretching 308 feet (93.9 meters). Until Iona launched in 2021, Britannia was the largest ship in the P&O Cruises fleet, weighing 143,730 gross tons and with a passenger capacity of 3,647 guests.
Like other ships with royal connections, Britannia sails a variety of European itineraries, homeporting from Southampton in the summer to offer visits to Scandinavia, the Norwegian fjords, the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean.
In winter, the ship repositions to Barbados to offer Caribbean sailings.
Queen Elizabeth II also christened P&O Cruises’ Oriana cruise ship at a ceremony on April 6, 1995. It was a momentous occasion for the cruise line as Oriana was the first purpose-built vessel for the British market. The ship was constructed by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and departed on her maiden voyage on April 9, 1995.
The ship remains in service to this day and is currently operated by the Chinese cruise line Astro Ocean under the new name of Piano Land.
A Legacy Sails On
While there will be no future ocean liners or cruise ships christened by the beloved monarch, each of these vessels honors Queen Elizabeth II in its own way with superior service, dignity, and grace, part of the legacy this remarkable woman has left to the world.
Cruise Hive, proudly based in the United Kingdom, sends condolences and peaceful wishes to the Royal Family, the people of the UK, and across the Commonwealth, as well as to all British subjects serving on vessels all around the globe.