Cunard White Star – The Origins:
During the 19th and for much of the 20th Century, one of Cunard’s key rivals was the White Star Line. Established in the 1840s as an Australian immigration line, White Star Line was acquired by Thomas Henry Ismay in the 1860s and re-established as a transatlantic steam ship line as part of Ismay’s Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.
Between 1871 and 1933 White Star offered stiff competition to Cunard on the prestigious transatlantic service. At key times, White Star eclipsed Cunard’s service with three of the Big Four (Baltic, Cedric, Celtic), as well as the Olympic and Titanic being the largest and arguably finest appointed liners of their day.
This was White Star’s great differentiator: a high quality of service, with appointments in first class among the best at sea. Accommodation in second class and steerage was also of a high standard when compared to rival liners.
However, in the 1930s the impact of the Great Depression hurt both Cunard and White Star Line. The details are complex and explained in detail in our book 180 Years of Cunard, but in a nutshell, the two organisations sought British Government Support to remain afloat.
Faced with the potential loss of a great shipping asset, the Government agreed to support the two organisations on the proviso that they merge. Negotiations commenced in 1933 and by 1934 they came together to form Cunard-White Star Line.
Cunard White Star – The Impact:
The impact of the merger was a revitalised brand, yet behind the scenes Cunard retained majority control over the new firm. Cunard-White Star also found itself with an excess of tonnage in a time where transatlantic shipping demand was low.
As such, many of the White Star Liners including Olympic, Majestic, Homeric as well as Cunard’s Mauretania (to name just a few) were retired in the years following the merger. Other White Star Liners, such as Britannic and Georgic were retained.
Cunard-White Star launched the RMS Queen Mary in 1934 putting the ship into commercial service in 1936. They also commissioned the second Mauretania and commenced building of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, Media and Parthia as well as commissioning the construction of the dual-purpose Caronia.
Following World War II, Cunard acquired the White Star holding in the business, and reverted to styling the organisation as Cunard Line.
What is “Cunard White Star Service”?
When Carnival acquired Cunard in 1998, they looked at ways to revitalise the Cunard brand. Cunard’s fleet and onboard style was realigned with a historic take on transatlantic liners of days gone by. The QE2 was refurbished while Vistafjord was refurbished and renamed Caronia. With QM2 due to enter service in 2004, Cunard reinvested in its onboard service offering.
It was at this time when the long-defunct White Star name was reintroduced. In a nod to the White Star Line’s exceptional service, enjoyed by passengers of days gone by, Cunard reinvigorated the brand by establishing the White Star Academy.
This training academy teaches new recruits how to offer Cunard’s unique style of service, which is known as White Star Service. Graduates are presented with a White Star Pin.
Image: Olympic and Lusitania – CC.0 Public Domain – License.