Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 by Shawn Dake
Cunard Line, that most British of institutions is no longer; British that is. For the first time in history a Cunard “Queen” liner is not registered in the U.K., and very soon the entire Cunard fleet will switch their home ports from Southampton, England to Hamilton, Bermuda. This marks the first time in the 171-year history of the company that this venerable line will have no ships registered in the U.K. The QUEEN ELIZABETH was the first to make the shift on October 24th in Amsterdam during a short 5-day cruise. The QUEEN VICTORIA followed later in the week with the QUEEN MARY 2 slated to make the change on December 1st. Outwardly, the most significant change will be seen across the stern of each vessel where Southampton will be modified to read Hamilton. At least there, Cunard will only have to remove the first four letters and the “P” and buy a new “I” and “L” to sandwich between the “M” and “T” to create the name of Hamilton. Life rings and life boats will also have to be repainted.
The stated reason for this change is that Cunard Line wants to be able to offer weddings at sea, something that can not be done under the UK registry. All of the ships of Princess Cruises and later P&O were switched to Bermudian registry for this reason. Cunard on the other hand attracts a very different type of clientele, one that seems to have a limited interest in the wedding market. If weddings do occur, they would not begin to be offered until after completion of the world cruises in April, 2012. More realistically speaking, the move is in reaction to the recently implemented UK Equality Act which requires foreign European crew to receive the same wages as UK nationals. The law took effect on August 1, 2011 and six weeks later Cunard became very interested in performing weddings onboard. The Equality Act will be a costly change for owners of UK registered ships. As many as 200 ships may relinquish the British flag rather than pay UK wages to foreign nationals aboard ship. The departure of Cunard from the British registry leaves P&O Australia as the only operator of cruise ships registered in the UK. The British publication, The Mirror, reports that Cunard aficionados are not happy with the line abandoning their British heritage. In the past Cunard has operated several ships under the Norwegian and Bahamian flags, but always at least one ship has been registered in the UK since 1840. Interestingly, the flag flying off the stern will not change. As a British territory, Bermuda shares the same flag on their ships as their British counterparts. Only the word SOUTHAMPTON will disappear from Cunard Line history and the sterns of their vessels.