Now that Cunard has officially announced plans to reflag its entire fleet with a Bermuda registry, we’re left wondering: What’s still British about the line? It’s always sold itself as a quintessentially British experience. Harrods and Fortnum & Mason have shops on board the ships. Twinings Tea produced a special blend for the Royal Wedding this year. Guests play bowls on lawn on Queen Elizabeth and enjoy real ale and pub singalongs in the Golden Lion pubs onboard. All three ships were named by — and after — British royals.
The reflagging perhaps takes away Cunard’s last vestige of “British-ness.” After all, the company is owned by the U.S. giant Carnival Corporation. Most of the captains are Brits, granted, but the crew, as on any cruise ship, come from all over the world. And now the word “Southampton” will disappear from the stern in favor of “Hamilton.”
Does the reflagging matter? The experience onboard is unlikely to change, after all, unless you’ve always had a hankering to get married in the middle of the Atlantic, which will now be possible. Cruise Critic members are not convinced about the move.
On the message boards, when the speculation about this change of registry started in September, member Peppernn commented: “I sincerely hope that ‘Southampton’ continues to appear across the stern of Cunard’s three ships. It will be a sad day and another (very visible) indication of the slow decline of the line if it were removed.” Member Balf added: “It’s not about weddings, it’s about bottom line.”
Locals in Southampton aren’t too happy, either. On the Web site of the Daily Echo, a local newspaper, Loosehead grumbled: “If they stop paying revenue to the British government they shouldn’t be allowed to fly the Red Ensign or call their ships after British monarchs as there’s absolutely nothing British about them.” Old Man of the Sea chimed in: “It will cost thousands of pounds to change the flag to Bermuda — a sum that will be recouped by not paying taxes, shipping fees etc — not by charging a few quid for 20mins of the Captain’s time!”
Sounds like the makings of a good old-fashioned row to us.
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