Cruise lovers can look forward to even more choice following news that Cunard Cruises
' new ship Queen Elizabeth
is a step closer to arriving in the market.
Just six months after construction of the vessel begun, the dry dock in which the eagerly anticipated ship is being put together was flooded, letting it have a taste of its upcoming environment.
The vessel, which is the successor to the QE2, took to the water for the first time during a special ceremony at Fincantieri's Monfalcone shipyard near Trieste under the watchful eye of a godmother with historical ties to the line.
Florence Farmer, the widow of Willie Farmer - an engineer who worked on the original Queen Elizabeth and QE2 - played the role of godmother or 'madrina' as the ship was floated.
Capable of accommodating more than 2,000 passengers, the new vessel, which will feature memorabilia from both the aforementioned ships, had a 1938 half crown welded beneath its mast for good luck.
The ship will feature 16 decks equipped with everything from a gymnasium, bowling green and a croquet lawn to a ballroom, 830-seat theatre, cafes and restaurants.
Cunard president and managing director Peter Shanks welcomed the floating of the ship, saying it carries on with a legacy that has been in existence for many years.
He said: "Of our 170 years of history there has been an 'Elizabeth' in the fleet for over 70 and this ship - the second largest Cunarder ever built - will take the name far into the 21st Century."
Several cruise ships are expected to be launched in 2010 as an increasing number of Brits opt for holidays at sea, attracted by rising affordability and wider choice.
The Passenger Shipping Association recently gave the strongest indication yet that the UK cruise sector is expanding rapidly after predicting that 1.5 million British holidaymakers will take a cruise this year.
Written by Chris Smith.