After nearly 120 years, the Cunard Line was the granddaddy of the steam ship lines. Two of the most famous ships on the sea were their Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth. They were thousand foot plus behemoths, over eighty thousand tons each. Exquisitely appointed and engineering marvels, they were not merely floating palaces, they were floating cities. But they were built before the war and by the dawn of the sixties were showing their age. The logic in replacing the two Queens was questionable, the overwhelming majority of people were crossing the Atlantic in jets by this time. Increasingly expensive to operate it was clear that the ocean liner, in particular the very large north Atlantic variety ocean liner, was going the way of the dinosaur.

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The Queen Mary sailed from 1936 to 1967 and was by far the most famous ship of her time. At 83,673 gross tons, 1,031 feet long, 118 feet wide the Queen Elizabeth was the largest liner ever built.

Still, Cunard took a great gamble, to the tune of $80-million. The ship to take the place of the soon to retire Elizabeth and Mary was to be a new breed of passenger ship, a transatlantic liner as well as a island cruise ship. It was clear that this ship would make or break Cunard, and the only way they could succeed was if they adapted to the changing times. That was not easy for a company that establish much of the traditions and ceremony the industry stood on. Her keel was laid in June of 1965, in the same slipway the Queen Mary was built in 30 years before. The project was known as "Q4" for two years, when in launching on September 20, 1967 Queen Elizabeth II christened the ship. The cord that released the traditional bottle of champagne was cut with the same gold scissors her grandmother used in 1934 and her mother used in 1938 to christened the ships that wore their names. However Her Majesty did not name the ship after herself, but to distinguish it from the older Queen Elizabeth which was still in service and would be for some time. It was not long for the new ship to be know simply as QE2

On May 7, 1969 QE2 steams into New York Harbor for the first time. It was the last time a trans-Atlantic liner would make a maiden arrival to the city.
Two months before Apollo 11 would land on the moon, QE2 made her first crossing in May of 1969. At an average speed of 28.02 knots it took 4 days, 16 hours and 35 minutes. While New York welcomed the liner with the traditional fan-fare, most people realized this was the last time a new liner would steam in to the harbor.