Sail of the Century

Article excerpt

Byline: MARIA HARDING

ONE of the great legends of travel, Cunard Line's classic transatlantic liner QE2, will quit the Southampton-New York route next year to make way for the company ' s new 150,000-ton superliner, QM2. We look back on her 35 years of service and check out the best bargains if you want to try her out before she goes.

Ever since the Titanic so spectacularly failed to make it in 1912, the idea of crossing the Atlantic to New York aboard an ocean liner has been synonymous with sheer old-fashioned glamour.

The fact that it is still possible is a testament to the determination of Cunard Line, which defied the 1970s oil crisis and the go-faster jet age to maintain the last South- ampton to New York liner service aboard its flagship QE2.

Joining the route in 1969 - just in time to see demand plunge and other liners laid up or sold off - QE2 was left floundering for bookings as travellers flocked to sample the convenience and novelty of air travel. But when the novelty wore off, Cunard's persistence was rewarded; QE2 had become a classic, the last remnant of a more graceful age.

Cleverly, the line made use of newborn airlines to offer "sail one way, fly the other" arrangements, promoting the crossing as a holiday in its own right.

And when, in 1983, it linked with British Airways to combine QE2 sailings with flights aboard the supersonic airliner, Concorde, the combination proved irresistible to the rich and famous keen for a rest from busy schedules - or exclusivity for the hell of it. …