There was more outrage than mirth in the UK this week after Cunard announced its ships will no longer sail under the British flag.
After much speculation and debate, Cunard, the long reigning queen of the ocean liners announced its ships the company’s three ships, with their iconic red funnels will now be registered in Bermuda so that weddings can be held on board, something which is not allowed under UK law.
Once registered in Bermuda, the ships will also no longer have Southampton painted across their stern, instead they will display the Bermudan capital’s name Hamilton. However, the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will not fly the Bermudian flag but keep the Red Ensign, which the British Overseas Territory has adopted as its national flag.
Beginning Spring 2012, after the World Voyages have been completed, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will offer a selection of wedding packages which will go on sale in December 2011.
But not everyone is amused. According to the Daily Mail “critics have questioned whether Cunard can call itself British at all anymore, the cruise line itself is owned by American giant Carnival Corporation and will no longer have a single ship registered in the UK.”
There are others that believe that the true reason for Cunard’s decision may not be the added revenue from weddings but the freedom to cut labour costs.
“Britain’s new Equality Act 2010 means that workers from EU countries employed on British-registered ships must be paid wages equal to those of British citizens,” Cruise Critic’s contributing editor, Sue Bryant told the Daily Mail “While many lines favour Filipino and Indian crew, Cunard employs a lot of dining room waiters and bartenders from Eastern Europe and its increased wage bill no doubt played a part in this decision.”
Cunard insists the changes are all about the weddings. Under British law, weddings are not allowed on ships at sea as they must be held in a ‘publically accessible
Place’. Cunard is one of the oldest names in the cruising industry operating the youngest fleet at sea but in its 171-year history has never been able to offer its guests the opportunity to be married on board.
“Most of our competitors have been offering increasingly popular and lucrative ‘Weddings at Sea’ programmes, and these are now very big business in the cruise industry,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “We receive a lot of enquiries about the possibility of being married on one of our ships – particularly during our regularly scheduled Transatlantic Crossings on our flagship Queen Mary 2, which no other company can offer.”
On a luxury cruise vacation aboard a Cunard ship such as the Queen Mary 2, guests revel in the experience of the voyage itself, not just the destination – enjoying activities such as the only planetarium and largest library at sea, white-gloved afternoon tea service. Now those activities will also include a picture perfect wedding at sea.