Cunard’s Famous Faces: From Elizabeth Taylor to The Greatest Showman

Following World War II, the two Cunard Queens re-entered service, leading Cunard into a golden age of travel. During this time many famous stars of stage and screen chose to travel on board. In the late 1940s and early 1950s particularly, Cunard’s fleet was renowned for its high quality, luxurious experience. After their wartime service, the Cunard Queens were almost as famous as the celebrities they carried.” – Chris Frame. Maritime author and historian. From Hollywood legends to iconic comedians, Cunard has long been the cruise line of choice for stars of the stage and screen. Here we take a look at the famous names that have sailed throughout the decades.

Cunard Queen Mary 2 in NYC on a Transatlantic Cruise

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, after their wartime service, the Cunard Queens were almost as famous as the celebrities they carried,” notes author Chris Frame. “The Cunard ships were known as romantic places and with highly attentive service from professional and discrete staff. They formed a perfect location for celebrities to enjoy a trip to Europe or America. And that romanticism continues today. The flagship of the fleet, Queen Mary 2, has seen many well-known people including John Cleese, Carrie Fisher and Jane Seymour travel. In December 2017 the world premiere of The Greatest Showman caught the attention of the media as the film’s stars stepped on board. And most recently, Meryl Streep filmed scenes for a new Steven Soderbergh film, Let Them All Talk, on board in late 2019. The nature of comedy. Laurel and Hardy were regular Cunard passengers throughout their partnership and they were far from the only comedians to travel transatlantic. Buster Keaton was a fellow Queen Mary traveller and Charlie Chaplin sailed Queen Elizabeth to return to London. In fact, comedic double act, Abbott and Costello, revised their famous comedy sketch routine, Who’s on First, while crossing the Atlantic on Queen Mary, changing their baseball gags to football jokes for the benefit of their British audience. Hollywood glamour. Elizabeth Taylor travelled several times on board Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the QE2. In a nostalgic nod to the past, many stunning pieces from Taylor’s private collection were exhibited on board Queen Mary 2 during a Transatlantic Crossing in 2019. Elizabeth Taylor is just one of many celebrities who developed a love for Cunard’s ships, even honeymooning on Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s. 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 (pictured) 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. German-American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich was another regular Cunard traveller. Following the advice of friend Noël Coward (“Always be seen, dear.”), she would time her entrance into the ship’s dining room for the most dramatic effect . A songwriter’s dream. QE2 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 a similarly popular muse, no less so than when Ed Sheeran sailed from New York in 2016. A temporary 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 Of course, it’s not only stage and screen icons that have travelled with Cunard over the years. World leaders, dignitaries and even royalty have stepped on board.


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Author: Rebecca

Editor of Into The Blue, Bolsover Cruise Club’s specialist cruise magazine. Writer for almost ten years – the words have tended to be more specifically about travel and cruising for six of those. Big fan of beaches, even bigger fan of New York. Still can’t pack a case for toffee and once discovered a stranger in the shower of her Airbnb.

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