Famous faces on the high seas.

Renowned for being a reliable and safe way to travel, Cunard regularly welcomes high-profile guests on board. Here, historian Chris Frame offers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the famous passengers in the ocean liner’s history.

Ever since RMS Britannia first crossed the Atlantic in 1840 - propelling Sir Samuel Cunard into the spotlight - famous figures have become a regular sight on Cunard's ships.

Charles Dickens was among the cruise line's early passengers, and such was the novelty of a Transatlantic steamship service that Sir Samuel received over 1000 dinner invitations following Britannia's maiden voyage.

Cunard's Umbria and Esturia, introduced in 1884, were the largest, fastest and most elegant liners of their day. Esturia counted Winston Churchill as a passenger on several voyages.

Churchill was well known for his preference to sail on Cunard’s Queens – particularly Queen Mary, while President Eisenhower journeyed to Europe on board Queen Elizabeth in 1951.

A royal connection.

In the 1930s, Cunard began its close and enduring relationship with the British Royal Family. 

In 1934, RMS Queen Mary was named after HM Queen Mary, who subsequently visited the flagship in Southampton prior to its maiden voyage. HM Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother, pictured) also maintained an enduring love for the ship, visiting it several times during the liner’s service career, and travelling on board as well: even briefly taking the wheel from Captain Bisset.

The Cunard link with royalty grew and strengthened over the following years, with HM Queen Elizabeth (later known as The Queen Mother) launching the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1938.

In 1967, HM The Queen launched Queen Elizabeth 2 in Scotland, furthering the bond between Cunard and royalty. She even travelled on board the ship in 1990 – the first time a reigning monarch had sailed on board a passenger ship operating a commercial voyage.

Cunard wasn't just for queens: in 1987 HRH Princess Diana travelled on board Queen Elizabeth 2 on a short day trip.

One year later, HM The Queen Mother visited Queen Elizabeth 2 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the launch of RMS Queen Elizabeth.

Pillars of society.

Cunard's modern, yet classic, flagship Queen Mary 2 has similarly hosted many dignitaries and politicians over the years; people who have shaped the world.

The ship was used as a hotel during the 2004 Athens Olympics, with George H. W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac all staying on board in Piraeus.

Yet, it is her famous Transatlantic Crossing between Europe and America that continues to attract most celebrities to Queen Mary 2.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu travelled from Port Luis, Mauritius, to Cape Town, South Africa, on board Queen Mary 2 in 2010.

This voyage was similar in significance to Queen Elizabeth 2’s 1998 passage between Durban and Cape Town, when Nelson Mandela sailed on board.

In the ship's visitor book, he wrote: "Travelling on QE2 was an unforgettable honour and a pleasure.”

stars on board

From Hollywood legends to iconic comedians, Cunard has long been the cruise line of choice for stars of the stage and screen. Historian Chris Frame reflects on some of the famous faces who have holidayed on board over the years.

Elizabeth Taylor is just one of many celebrities who developed a love for Cunard’s ships, even honeymooning on Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s. 

She adored travelling and regularly sailed on board Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and, later, on Queen Elizabeth 2. 

Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn and Clark Gable  are among the myriad of stars to have sailed the iconic Transatlantic Crossing, while comedian Bob Hope can lay claim to practicing his golf swing on the deck of Queen Mary.

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from New York was always a special occasion enjoyed by travellers of all careers and backgrounds.

When Walt Disney sailed with his family on Queen Elizabeth, he would reserve a dinner table by the windows to allow a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline as the ship departed the city.

Similarly, comedian John Cleese and actors Carrie Fisher and Jane Seymour are among the notable stars who have travelled on Queen Mary 2.

In December 2017 the cast of The Greatest Showman stepped on board for the film’s world premiere, while in late 2019 Meryl Streep filmed scenes for Let Them All Talk, directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Queen Elizabeth 2 was quite the draw for musicians, with everyone from Dame Vera Lynn to The Cure travelling on board.

Queen Mary 2 has proved to be similarly popular, no less so than when Ed Sheeran sailed in 2016. A temporary recording studio was constructed on board so he and his producer, Benny Blanco, could record what was to be his hugely popular third album, Divide.

They also filmed Ed’s documentary, Songwriter, on board, which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.