The Queen Elizabeth

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The pinnacle of ocean liner luxury

by John Gettings

When the near 84,000-ton Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938, it was the largest passenger ship ever built. But before it became known as one of the world's most luxurious ocean liners, it was used to transport British troops in World War II. It sailed all around the world, deploying troops and returning with German POWs. By war's end it had carried over 750,000 troops and traveled some 500,000 miles.

With its release from government duty finalized, the Queen Elizabeth finally set out on its maiden passenger voyage to New York on Oct. 16, 1946. It was a hugely popular and glamorous ship that was frequented by many famous people.

Eventually safer and quicker airline travel across the Atlantic put ships like the Elizabeth out of business. And despite switching to cruises in 1963 and undergoing major renovations in 1965, it made its final Atlantic crossing on Nov. 5, 1968. Elizabeth's reign as largest passenger ship ever ended in 1997 when Carnival launched the 101,000-ton cruise ship Destiny.

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