You don't have to be king of the world to travel on these queens of the seas. A venerable name in ocean travel, Cunard Line is the last surviving operator of scheduled luxury ocean liner service. Its fleet consists of Queen Victoria (1,980 berths) and the recently added Queen Elizabeth (2,068 berths), which took its maiden voyage in October 2010. The Cunard vessels offer transatlantic service between the UK and the US, as well as cruises in the Asia/Pacific region, the Caribbean, Europe, and around the world. Most of its passengers come from Australia, Germany, North America, and the UK. Founded in 1839, Cunard is part of #1 cruise ship operator Carnival.
Carnival sold Cunard's iconic 40-year-old Queen Elizabeth 2 to Dubai-based Istithmar (part of Dubai World) for about $100 million in November 2008. State-owned Istithmar plans to convert the ship, which held 1,788 passengers, into a first-class hotel in Dubai or South Africa.
Cunard's Queen Victoria made its debut in 2007. In response to the high number of early bookings for Queen Victoria, and after the company had agreed to sell the Queen Elizabeth 2, Carnival contracted with Italian state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri that year for Queen Elizabeth, which incorporates features of the original Cunard Queen Elizabeth vessel as well as Queen Elizabeth 2. Queen Elizabeth's maiden voyage sold out in 29 minutes.
In July 2009 Peter Shanks became Cunard's president and managing director as Carol Marlow was tapped to become managing director of sister company P&O Cruises. Shanks was previously chief commercial officer of Carnival UK, which oversees Cunard and the UK operations of Princess Cruise Line. – less