Happy birthday, Cunard! The British luxury cruise line turns 175 this year and plans to unite its three-ship fleet for special events in Liverpool and Southampton this summer.
The company kicked off celebrations Saturday with fireworks and marching bands when the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth departed for their world tours from Southampton, according to a statement. The Queen Victoria is the third ship in the fleet.
The year's celebrations include:
-- A fleet meet-up May 3 in the ships' home port of Southampton that ends with "a spectacular sail-away of the three queens."
-- "Three Queens, One Magnificent City" from May 24 to 26, which will welcome the ships to the port town of Liverpool, where Cunard was once headquartered in an ornate waterfront building. On May 25, the fleet will appear in formation on the River Mersey and perform a series of choreographed maneuvers. Cunard's statement says up to 1 million people are expected to attend.
-- The company will re-create its first transatlantic crossing. The Queen Mary 2 will sail from Liverpool on July 4, the same day Cunard's Britannia made its maiden voyage to Halifax, Canada. The 175th Anniversary Crossing sails July 2 from Southampton to New York City.
-- Cunard will mark one of its tragic sailings this year too. It's 100 years since the line's Lusitania was hit by a German torpedo during World War I and sunk off the coast of Ireland. A special Lusitania Remembered cruise May 3 to 10 aboard the Queen Victoria will sail to Cobh, Ireland, and salute the ship and the more than 1,100 passengers and crew members who lost their lives.
As part of the celebrations for passengers, each ship will host Black, Red and Gold Balls (the fleet's classic colors), gala dinners and serve up commemorative drinks. Onboard speakers this year include former South African President F.W. de Klerk and actress Kim Novak.
Info: Cunard, (800) 728-6273