Famous actress Katharine Hepburn preferred Cunard Line’s smaller ships… the RMS MEDIA and PARTHIA

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“The Cunarders… the Media and Parthia are my favorite ships…” Katharine Hepburn

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Cunard Line’s all first class RMS PARTHIA and MEDIA

Hollywood stars and celebrities like KATHARINE HEPBURN preferred to travel from New York to England via Liverpool on the smaller, deluxe, all-first-class liners like Cunard’s Parthia and Media. They could avoid the crowds and have much more privacy. Hepburn made many such trips.

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KATHRYN HEPBURN in her stateroom aboard Cunard’s RMS Parthia on sailing day in New York. The RMS Media and Parthia carried only 250 first class passengers.

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Menus on the all first-class RMS Media and Pathia included Beluga Caviar. So unlike today’s socalled deluxe or first class cruise ships… Many would ask: “What’s Beluga?” No wonder Hepburn went Cunard…

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Hepburn traveled in style. Lots of Louis Vuitton luggage…

Cunard Line was founded in 1838 when shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, along with engineer Robert Napier and businessmen James Donaldson, Sir George Burns, and David MacIver formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The company successfully bid for the rights to a transatlantic mail shipping contract between England and America – winning this entitled it to use the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) prefix to its vessels’ names. The company later changed its name to Cunard Steamships Ltd.

In May 1840 the 648 gross ton coastal paddle steamer SS Unicorn, the company’s first steamship, made the company’s first transatlantic trip. Under the direction of Captain Douglas, she carried 24 passengers, including Edward Cunard (Samuel’s son), on a trip lasting 14 days, at an average speed of 8 knots.[1], thereby meeting the contract requirement of a crossing in a fortnight. Regular passenger and cargo service by steamship was inaugurated by the paddle steamer Britannia, the first ship commissioned by the company. On 4 July 1840 she sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, arriving in 12 days[2], then to Boston in 2 days 8 hours more.

Cunard faced many competitors from Britain, France, the United States and Germany, but survived them all. This was mainly due to a great focus on safety. Cunard ships were usually not the largest or the fastest but they earned a reputation for being the most reliable and the safest. The prosperous company eventually absorbed Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd and Cunard’s principal competitor, the White Star Line, owners of the ill-fated RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic.

Between 1914 and 1918 Cunard Line built its European headquarters in Liverpool. The grand neo-Classical Cunard Building was to be the third of Liverpool’s ‘Three Graces’. The headquarters were used by Cunard until the 1960s.

For more than a century and a half, Cunard dominated the Atlantic passenger trade and was one of the world’s most important companies, with the majority of their liners being built at John Brown’s Shipyard, Clydebank, Scotland. Its ships played important roles in the development of the world economy, and also participated in all of Britain’s major wars from Crimea to the Falklands War, when Cunard’s container ship Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet missile.

The line began to decline in the 1950s as speedy air travel began to replace ships as the main transporters of passengers and mail across the Atlantic. Cunard tried to address this by forming BOAC-Cunard Ltd in 1962 with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to operate scheduled air services to North America, the Caribbean and South America. It was dissolved in 1966. In 1971, Cunard Line was acquired by British shipping and industrial conglomerate Trafalgar House, which held the line until its takeover by Kvaerner in 1996. In 1983 Cunard took over the luxury cruise line Norwegian America Line, and in 1994 another luxury cruise company, Royal Viking Line.

For much of the late 20th century and the first few years of the 21st the line’s only vessel making transatlantic crossings was the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. From 2004 the “QE2’s” service was limited to cruising (mostly from the UK) and the annual world cruise, while the transatlantic route was taken over by the new RMS Queen Mary 2, the first ocean liner to be built in 30 years and the largest passenger ship of any type. In 2006 she lost the record of the largest passenger ship to the cruise ship Freedom of the Seas, but QM2 remains the largest ocean liner ever built.

In 1998, Cunard became one of a number of lines owned by Carnival Corporation, now Carnival Corporation & PLC. On 1 January 2005 the business, assets and liabilities of Cunard Line Ltd were transferred to Carnival plc, ending the Cunard name as a business entity – the name still appears on the side of Queen Mary 2 and sails under the Cunard brand, but it is controlled by Princess Cruises

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About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…