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1967: Queen Elizabeth 2 takes to the waves

VIDEO : The Queen: "I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth 2"

The Queen has launched the new Cunard cruise liner named after her, the Queen Elizabeth 2, at a ceremony on the Clydebank.

Tens of thousands of people crowded the river's banks as the Queen appeared on a platform high against the bow of the 963 ft (293.5 metres) long liner, with Prince Philip and Princess Margaret by her side.

In clear tones, she pronounced: "I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

She then pressed the launching button, and a bottle of champagne shattered against the huge bows of the ship.

After a pause, the ship began her journey down into the water. She began slowly, but soon gathered speed, hitting 22mph (34.4 kph) before she entered the water stern-first.

Luxury cruiser

A two-foot (0.6m) high wave rose up and travelled across the Clyde, announcing the arrival of Cunard's latest - and probably last - great luxury cruise ship to be built here.

Her launch comes just a few days after Cunard's other great liner, the Queen Mary, made her last transatlantic crossing to New York.

The 58,000-ton QE2 is now Cunard's only big cruise ship.

Since the early 1950s, when cruise liners carried over a million passengers a year across the Atlantic, sea traffic has almost halved to around 600,000 journeys.

By contrast, the airlines are now carrying over five million people each year.

Changing direction

Shipping companies like Cunard are increasingly turning to the pleasure cruise market as their main source of income.

The new QE2 will be fitted out with just this market in mind, with big deck spaces and four swimming pools.

There are nearly 1,000 cabins, restaurants on the upper decks with sea views, cocktail bars, night clubs and a theatre.

The mammoth liners, like the original Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary, were built for speed rather than luxury, and in using them for long, leisurely cruises Cunard has been losing money fast.

The company is hoping to reverse that trend with its first giant cruise ship to be targeted exclusively at the leisure market.

In Context
The QE2 made her maiden voyage to New York on 2 May 1969.

She became the company's flagship, and one of the most famous cruise liners in the world. After extensive refits over the years she is now a byword for the ultimate in luxury at sea.

In 1982, she was requisitioned by the British government as a troop transport vessel during the Falklands War.

She was eventually the only ship offering a regularly scheduled transatlantic service.

She began her last season of sailings to New York in 2003 and was replaced in 2004 by Cunard's biggest passenger liner, the Queen Mary 2. The QM2 has also replaced the QE2 as flagship of the British merchant fleet.

The leisure cruise market is now big business, and after 40 years in the doldrums, shipyards are again building massive 50,000- to 80,000- tonne ships.


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