Hampshire & Isle of Wight

QE cruise liner sails from Southampton on maiden voyage

Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth cruise ship has set off on its maiden voyage.

The Italian-built, 92,000-tonne, 964ft (294m) long vessel was officially named by the Queen at its home port of Southampton on Monday.

The ship left for the Canary Islands shortly after 1700 BST - a trip that was fully booked less than 30 minutes after going on sale in April 2009.

Passengers stood on deck and waved flags while crowds on the riverside watched the £400m ship leave.

Linda and Ken Hindle, who were on board, said it had been like "waiting for Christmas".

Mr Hindle said: "When we heard there was going to be a new Queen Elizabeth, we really wanted to be part of that.

"It will almost inevitably be the last chance we get to sail on a brand new Cunard ship."

The couple are among the 2,092 passengers on board for the 13-night cruise.

The new ship joins two other "queens" in the Cunard fleet - the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and the Queen Victoria.

Full of Art Deco flourishes, the latest Queen Elizabeth recalls the era of 1930s ocean liners.

The ship features mosaics, chandeliers and cantilever balconies and in the grand lobby is a recently-completed portrait of the Queen by artist Isobel Peachy.

Also in the grand lobby is a panel, created by the Queen's nephew Viscount Linley, depicting the port bow of the original Queen Elizabeth ship.

The new ship is the third Cunard craft to be named Queen Elizabeth.

The first was launched on the Clyde in Scotland in 1938 by the then Queen Elizabeth - who later became the Queen Mother - with the present Queen, aged 12, looking on.

The Queen launched the second Queen Elizabeth, the QE2, on the Clyde in 1967. She also named the QM2 at Southampton in 2004.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) made its last transatlantic crossing in 2008.

The new ship is almost identical to its sister, Queen Victoria, but is more than a third smaller than Cunard largest liner, the QM2.

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