Queen Elizabeth Handed Over to Cunard; Plus, Win a Cruise!

September 30, 2010
Cunard Queen Elizabeth at Sea (12:45 p.m. EDT) -- It's official: Queen Elizabeth is now in the hands of Cunard. The line took delivery of the ship Thursday during a ceremony at Fincantieri's Monfalcone shipyard near Trieste, Italy, as it prepares for a glittering launch in less than two weeks.

The 92,400-ton, 2,092-passenger vessel is the second-largest ship in the Cunard fleet and the last new-build for the foreseeable future. Modeled closely after its sister, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth features a few new touches, including a sports deck for lawn games like paddle tennis and croquet.

Next up is a short voyage to Southampton, England, where the ship is set for the royal treatment on October 11. That's when the ship's namesake, Queen Elizabeth, will name the vessel during a lavish ceremony before it departs on its maiden voyage -- a 13-night sail that includes calls in Lisbon and Seville.

Earlier this week, the line debuted a portrait of Her Majesty sitting in the Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace; it'll hang onboard in the ship's Grand Lobby.

We'll be on hand for all the festivities, so expect up-to-the-minute reports from the scene, including a special highlights video from the naming ceremony and our first impressions once we get onboard.

If this has you hankering to jump on the ship, perhaps we can help. Check out our special pages -- U.S. (which includes a video gallery) and U.K. (which includes a plethora of photos) -- for a chance to win a five-day European getaway. And don't forget to check back often for updates on the newest queen of the seas.

--by John Deiner, Managing Editor