Mauretania (1938) departed New York on her final voyage with paying passengers, a Mediterranean cruise, on 15 September 1965. Completing the cruise, Mauretania arrived at Southampton on 10 October 1965. On 20 November she left on her final voyage—to Ward’s shipbreaking yard in Inverkeithing, Scotland.
Overshadowed by her namesake predecessor and her Cunard-White Star Line fleetmates Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (1940), Mauretania was a fine ship in her own right and would probably be more appreciated today if she had been launched with a different name.
“Mauretania 2,” as she was unofficially known, was launched on 28 July 1938 at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, England. At the time of her launch, the 35,738 GRT Mauretania was the largest ship ever built in England. She was 772 feet long and 89 feet at beam. The liner had a rated speed of 23 knots and could carry up to 1,360 passengers and 802 crewmembers.
Mauretania’s interior was decorated in a restrained late Art Deco style, similar to Queen Elizabeth’s decor. Mauretania’s exterior also strongly resembled QE, which sometimes resulted in casual observers misidentifying the smaller liner.
Mauretania, like her namesake and fleetmates, was a war veteran. During World War II, Mauretania traveled 540,000 miles (870,000 km) and carried over 340,000 troops.
Mauretania returned to passenger service in 1947 and enjoyed steady popularity on the North Atlantic for the next decade or so, often acting as a relief liner when either Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth was laid up for maintenance. But by the early 1960s, the aging liner was facing stiff competition from both airliners and more modern ocean liners and cruise ships. Cunard responded by placing Mauretania on a new Mediterranean run and, at the very end, turning her into full-time cruise ship. In what could be viewed as an act of desperation, Mauretania was painted a Caronia-like pale green in an effort to make her look more like a warm water cruise ship than a cold water ocean liner. Despite all of these efforts, Mauretania continued to operate at a loss.
On 15 September 1965, Mauretinia sailed into ocean liner history.
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