After a 24-year-long hiatus, the legendary Cunard Line now has one of its ships calling Vancouver’s Canada Place its homeport.
Built in 2010, the MS Queen Elizabeth made its inaugural sailing from Vancouver last week with an itinerary that takes a round trip to Alaska.
The mid-sized cruise ship has a length of 945 ft, a height of 185 ft, a width of 106 ft, a gross tonnage (GT) of 90,900, and a capacity for 2,081 passengers and 1,005 crew. She is currently the youngest ship in the Cunard fleet of three vessels and the second largest Cunarder ever built, just after the flagship liner Queen Mary 2.
While the Queen Mary 2 takes on a more classical design, the Queen Elizabeth differentiates in identity with its art deco interior that evokes the heyday of Hollywood glamour.
A renovation completed in November 2018 updated the ship’s public spaces, outdoor decks, bars, lounges, live theatre, and all grill suites and upscale Britannia staterooms.
Queen Elizabeth will be making four Alaska sailings from Vancouver this year, with each itinerary lasting between nine and 12 nights. But demand from this year’s truncated season from Vancouver has been so strong that Cunard has decided to make the city its homeport for four months in 2020.
In an interview with Daily Hive, Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer at Carnival Corporation and Senior Vice-President for Cunard North America, said Vancouver allows the Queen Elizabeth to have a very port rich itinerary and the inclusion of Glacier Bay.
“There is no other itinerary like that out there. You get a full day in Victoria and you get more time at port, and our guests really look for that. It is a big differentiator for us. We are globally sourced and Vancouver is a wonderful city to come in out of globally” he said, adding that Seattle was also a great homeport option for the company but it would have required extra travel time.
Cunard’s sailings are generally far longer than the typical itineraries offered by other cruise lines. Next year, for instance, its Vancouver homeport itineraries will even include a 16-night roundtrip to Alaska that includes a southbound stopover in San Francisco and a 28-night, one-way trip to Japan with stops in Alaska.
The expansion in Vancouver speaks to the overall state of the global cruise industry. Demand has been overwhelming, and cruise lines and shipyards have had trouble with keeping up with demand with building new ships.
About 26 million cruise passengers were recorded around the world in 2017, and this grew to about 27 million in 2018. Over 100 new cruise ships are scheduled to come online over the coming years, including 24 new ships making their debut in 2019.
Over the coming decade, there are $65 billion worth of ships on order, with a good number being new ships for the Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Cunard.
Carnival has over 20 ships on order, including several natural gas ships and a yet-to-be-named Cunard ship — a 113,000 GT vessel that will go into service in 2022. Carnival owns and operates over 100 ships on cruise brands that include AIDA, Carnival, Costa, Holland America, P&O, Princess, and Seabourn.
“The cruise industry is absolutely growing. It is growing at about 7% per year. And the reason it’s growing is because it is an incredible value for vacation. Consumers want to see the world, they want genuine experiences, and where else can you experience six destinations and two national parks in a 10-day period,” continued Leibowitz.
Although Cunard is now considered the luxury offering of the Carnival brands, its historical significance to the maritime industry should not be overlooked. The company was founded by Canadian shipping magnate Samuel Cunard in 1840, and for most of the century that followed it was one of a handful of British passenger lines that dominated the TransAtlantic ocean liner travel industry.
Many practices and innovations of the modern ocean shipping and cruise industries were legacies of the original big three players — Cunard, White Star, and Inman.
The last time one of Cunard’s ships called Vancouver its homeport was in 1995 with the Crown Dynasty.