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Inaugural sail of the Queen Elizabeth

We saw the introduction in 2009 of the world's largest cruise ship -- Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas -- and in 2010, we'll see the introduction of what arguably will be the world's most loved: Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. Like royalty itself, Cunard liners sometimes require a scorecard to keep track of who is who and what is what, so to recap briefly: The original Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938 but became a troop ship during World War II, transporting 750,000 troops and sailing a half-million miles. The ship returned to civilian use after the war and was in service as the decline in passenger transport began. It made its final transatlantic crossing as a Cunard liner in the fall of 1968. By spring of the next year, the Queen Elizabeth 2 had taken over. In 1982, it was called into wartime service again, this time carrying troops to South Georgia Island to fight in the Falkland Islands war. It was refitted and refurbished again (and again and again), and after almost four decades was retired from the fleet. It is owned by the financially shaky Dubai World, and its future remains unclear. By contrast, the future of the next Queen Elizabeth is crystal clear. The 1,046-stateroom ship is to set sail Oct. 12 from Southampton, England. Cabins may be booked beginning April 2. The inaugural voyage, to Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands, will begin at $2,995 per person. For information: www.cunard.com. -- Catharine Hamm
Cunard
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