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Cunard Line to build its largest ever cruise ship, but the name could be a problem

Carnival Corporation has signed a memorandum of agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build a new cruise ship for the company’s iconic Cunard Line.

Cunard’s new cruise ship will be built at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, the same shipyard that built the ship’s two Vista-class cruise ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

The new ship, which hasn’t been named yet, is due to be delivered in 2022. Early renderings suggest a much larger ship than Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, with eight additional lifeboats, suggesting a guest capacity in excess of 2,500, possibly even 3,000, making her even larger than Holland America’s new Koningsdam cruise ship (Holland America Line is often regarded as the Dutch answer to Cunard, with a close association with the Dutch royal family even though it is American-owned).

The new ship will be the second-largest in the fleet then after the ocean liner Queen Mary 2, and will join Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth as the fourth member of the Cunard fleet, marking the first time since 1998 that the luxury cruise brand will have four ships in simultaneous service.

The new cruise ship will be the 249th cruise ship to sail under Cunard colours since the company’s founding in 1839. Cunard will announce additional details about the new ship starting in 2018, with the most anticipated detail being the ship’s name.

There is speculation that she may be named Queen Elizabeth 2, or QE2, in honour of the line’s former flagship, which is currently being renovated as a floating hotel in Dubai, but it is unlikely that Cunard would reassign a name which is arguably as famous as Titanic.

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With the current British monarch now 91-years-old, and with the new Cunard ship due for completion in 2022, that would make her 96 by the time it is launched. If she is no longer queen by that time, Cunard would likely name the ship after her successor, either Queen Camilla, or Queen Katherine (if Prince Charles does indeed pass the throne to Prince William).

The Cunard tradition of naming its ships after Britain’s female monarchs is a long one, but the line has only ever had three simultaneously (even in the 1930s when the Los Angeles hotel ship RMS Queen Mary was its flagship), so it may instead return to its convention of naming its vessels with names that end in ‘ia’ – famous examples were RMS Mauretania, Lusitania, and Aquitania.

The fleet would look strange though, with three Queens and one commoner ship, and wouldn’t work well when Cunard holds its magnificent PR stunts with all three ‘Queens’ meeting at sea or in port to celebrate anniversaries or royal Jubilees.

For US-based Carnival Corporation, the new ship order brings its total order book to 18 ships, scheduled to be delivered to its portfolio of leading global cruise brands between 2018 and 2022.

“We are very pleased to announce a fourth ship for our immensely popular Cunard brand, which is also one of the most legendary brands in the entire vacation industry,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation.

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“Cunard offers a fleet of unrivalled vessels and one of the most unique travel experiences in the world, which together create an enchanting and memorable vacation for our guests. While today’s news helps drive Cunard’s overall strategic growth plans, we also look forward to launching this next-generation cruise ship to help meet increasing global demand and entice even more travellers to explore the Cunard experience,” he added.

The new ship agreement to build a fourth ship for Cunard extends the line’s recent strength and momentum in the marketplace, including attracting crowds of more than one million people to celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2015 and investing the equivalent of US $172 million in the past two years to refurbish the flagship Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.

“Fleet enhancement is an important part of our ongoing goal to exceed guest expectations. This includes replacing less efficient ships with more efficient vessels over time as part of our managed capacity growth,” says Donald.

Carnival Corporation is the owner of the Cunard Line, and is the largest cruise company in the world, with 11 individual cruise lines in its portfolio. It operates in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, its portfolio features Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises (Australia) and P&O Cruises (UK), as well as Fathom, the corporation’s immersion and enrichment experience brand.

Together, these brands operate 103 ships with 231,000 lower berths visiting more than 700 ports around the world.

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