04 February 2012

It Should Be Cunard...

On this day in 1966:

Cunard Has A Pair of Queens That Sail In A Red Ink Sea

LONDON (AP) -- Cunard, one of the world's most famous shipping companies, is fighting for survival in a tide of red ink that is blamed mainly on two proud but aging passenger liners -- the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

A new and younger management team is trying to turn this tide through an air-age diversification. They hope one day to make Cunard as famous for profitable air links, hotels and even ski lodges as it has been for ships.

The present management took over at the end of 1965 under new chairman Sir Basil Smallpiece. Smallpiece, 59, said that a $3,186,000 loss in the first half of the year made it imperative "to get ourselves on a paying basis."

"The time has come," he added, "to give our younger men their head -- men who will know that their own future in the company will depend on the success of their own efforts and will realize that for them it is a case of do or die."

The first half report for the 125-year-old company showed that not a single Cunard passenger liner was making a profit. And the company's profitable partnership with British Overseas Airways Corp. (BOAC) was under attack by some labor government officials aiming to force a divorce.

Sir Basil's first step was to swing company control toward Southampton from Liverpool and to tighten that control. He brought his sea dogs and landlubbers together.

One of the reorganized company's five new operating divisions has been christened the "hotel division."

In Smallpiece's view, ships can no longer profitably compete in passenger transport. Jet planes have taken over the business of just getting people from place to place. Now it is best for ship lines to offer more comfortable travel -- to make their ships serve as floating hotels or holiday resorts and to specialize in cruises.

Cunard has already announced plans to cut its winter Atlantic service sharply and increase its bid for more cruise business.

The smaller new liners with which Cunard plans eventually to replace the "Queens" are being designed for comfort first. It is reported one of them may never ply the Atlantic in the traditional way.

Cunard is apparently pointing at a long-term future that leads to the hotel business -- afloat and ashore.  The 25-year-old Queen Elizabeth, in a Scottish drydock for a four-month refit and facelift costing $2.8-million, is adding "cruise amenities" like outdoor swimming pools.

That's how the "Queens" may wind up -- as cruise liners or floating hotels.

To make money on the cruise circuit, a liner has to be modern and efficient. Last December Cunard decided that 26-year-old Mauretania, once an Atlantic queen, wasn't making it as a cruise ship. So she was scrapped. And Cunard made sure the Mauretania was broken up -- and not sold to Japanese bidders who wanted to make it a floating hotel. If anybody's going to do that with Cunard ships, the line has apparently concluded, it should be Cunard.

Source: St. Petersburg Times (Florida USA)

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