Queen Elizabeth 2 is probably the most famous liner in the world and was one of the last great transatlantic liners. QE2 - as she is more commonly known - was a global ambassador for both Cunard and Britain. She sailed nearly 6 million miles and carried 21/2 million passengers in style, comfort and luxury. QE2 was launched in 1967 and made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 2 May 1969. During almost 40 years of service QE2 undertook regular world cruises and latterly operated mainly as a cruise ship, sailing out of Southampton. At 70,327 tons and 963ft long with a top speed of 32 1/2 kts, she is also one of the fastest and grandest passenger vessels ever built. In 2008 QE2 was sold by Cunard to Istithmar (the investment arm of Dubai World) for conversion to a floating hotel. However, the fulfilment of this plan and indeed the future of the liner is now uncertain owing to the world economic situation.
Stephen Payne OBE, FRINA, is the author of the Haynes Queen Mary 2 Manual and principal naval architect of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Queen Mary 2. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, and lives in Hampshire.