Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Colourful history of famous ship

The QE2 sails through New York Harbour on 16 October 2008
The QE2 will be moored off the world's largest man-made island
The Queen Elizabeth 2, the world's most famous passenger liner, is retiring from service after ruling the waves for more than 40 years.

The Cunard vessel, whose home port is Southampton but which was built in Clydebank, is to be converted into a floating hotel in Dubai.

The QE2 attracted attention from the moment it was launched by the Queen in 1967.

Since then, it has been been a troop carrier, hostess to royalty and witness to history.

Hundreds of famous faces have graced its decks, including former South African president Nelson Mandela, US astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Beatle George Harrison and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

However, American Beatrice Muller from New Jersey is probably the ship's biggest star.

The 89-year-old has lived on the QE2 for nine years.

Her husband died on board in 1999 and she moved in permanently nine months later, claiming it was cheaper than a retirement home.

Now she has had to find a new home after it was announced in June last year that the ship had been bought by Dubai World for $100m (50.5m).

According to the liner's crew, the new owners in the Gulf state plan to slice off its giant red funnel and replace it with a glass penthouse, creating the most exclusive hotel room in Dubai.

Record breaker

There are few ships as iconic as the QE2.

The 70,000-tonne vessel is one of the largest passenger ships afloat, with a top speed of 32.5 knots making it the fastest merchant ship in operation.

The launching of the Cunard liner QE2 on 20 September 1967 in Clydebank, Scotland.
The QE2 was built at the John Brown shipyard on the Clyde in Scotland

Built at the John Brown shipyard on the Clyde, she was known only as "job number 736" until she was officially launched by the Queen.

The ship was not called after the present Queen. Instead the number 2 in her title shows that she was the second ship named Queen Elizabeth.

The famous liner is 963ft (293m) long, 105ft (32m) wide and can carry as many as 1,778 passengers and more than 1,000 crew.

Her first captain was Bill Warwick, who took her on her maiden voyage to Las Palmas, setting off on 22 April 1969.

Since then the QE2 has travelled more than 5.6 million nautical miles - more than any other ship and the equivalent of travelling to the Moon and back 13 times, according to Cunard.

The QE2 has also carried more than 2.5 million passengers, completed 25 world cruises, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and is still the fastest merchant ship in operation - able to go faster backwards than most cruise ships can go forwards.

Eventful history

In 1971 the liner rescued passengers from another ship, the Antilles, after it ran aground.

The SAS and bomb disposal officers were scrambled to the ship in 1972, 1,000 miles from land, in response to a bomb threat, which later turned out to be a hoax.

A year later, the vessel embarked on a cruise to Israel to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the state's founding.

Because it was feared the liner would be a target in the fall-out of the 1972 Munich Olympics terror attack, 26 elite commandos joined the cruise, with many travelling incognito as passengers.

No threat emerged - but rumours persist to this day that Egypt's President Anwar Sadat prevented the ship being treated as a target by militants.

In 1982 the vessel was requisitioned as a troop carrier for the Falklands War.

With 3,000 troops on board it set sail for South Georgia on 12 May, arriving back in Southampton safely on 11 June.

QE2 FACTS
963 feet (293m) long
Carries 1,900 passengers and 1,000 crew
Crossed Atlantic over 800 times
Top speed 32.5 knots

In 1992 the QE2 stayed afloat after hitting uncharted rocks off Massachusetts. It also survived being hit by a 95ft (30m) wave after running into Hurricane Luis in September 1995.

The new 150,000-tonne Queen Mary 2 took over the QE2's role as Cunard's flagship in 2004.

The QE2 was vandalised by members of the crew in 2005.

A 1969 tapestry of the Royal family was thrown overboard in mid-Atlantic and a portrait of the Queen badly damaged during a staff party.

In January 2007 more than 300 people caught a highly infectious vomiting bug - the Norovirus - while on board the QE2.

It celebrated its 40th birthday with a round-Britain cruise in September 2007.

The ship conducted a farewell tour of the UK before setting out on its 805th, and last, transatlantic round crossing to New York on 10 October 2008.

Now it is to be moored to a pier in Dubai's Palm Jumeirah development - the world's largest man-made island.

It is expected the funnel will be removed and placed on the waterfront as an entrance to the floating hotel.

Every cabin will be ripped out and replaced with larger bedrooms, and the ship's engines will be taken out to make room for a new entertainment venue.

The QE2's predecessor, Queen Mary, has been a floating hotel at Long Beach in California since 1967.

It has now been a tourist attraction longer than it was at sea.

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SEE ALSO
QE2's funnel 'to be sliced off'
10 Oct 08 |  Hampshire
QE2 in final transatlantic trip
10 Oct 08 |  Hampshire
QE2 makes last stop on the Clyde
05 Oct 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Coronation farewell to QE2 liner
02 Jun 08 |  Hampshire
Queen to say goodbye to QE2 liner
09 Apr 08 |  Hampshire
QE2 set to become floating hotel
18 Jun 07 |  Business
Royal liners in Sydney rendezvous
20 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Search for missing QE2 passenger
02 Jan 07 |  Hampshire

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