Cunard's newest cruise liner, the MS Queen Elizabeth, hit the seas for the first time January 5.

The Queen Elizabeth is the third Cunard vessel to bear the name, following the original Queen Elizabeth, retired in 1969, and the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2), the world's most iconic cruise liner, which retired in 2008. She will be the second-largest Cunard liner ever built (following the Queen Mary 2), and is due to depart on her maiden voyage, now sold out, on October 12, 2010.

"Of our 170 years of history, there has been an 'Elizabeth' in the fleet for more than 70 and this ship will take the name far into the 21st Century," said Peter Shanks, managing director of the Cunard Line at the float-out near Trieste, Italy. ""Even in her present unfinished state, devoid of the carpets and curtains, furnishings and facilities, paintings and porcelain that we associate with a Cunard luxury liner, she is awesome."

The first Queen Elizabeth was the largest passenger liner in the world, a title she held for 56 years. Cunard promises that the new Queen Elizabeth will reflect her predecessor in "interior grandeur, décor and style, but with a modern twist." Public rooms will include wood paneling, mosaics, hand-woven carpets, marble and elaborate chandeliers, as well as an art deco collection dedicated to the original liner. In total, the ship will carry around 2,000 passengers.

The Queen Elizabeth is due to sail from Southampton, UK on October 12, on a 13-night Mediterranean maiden voyage calling at Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Funchal. Tickets for her maiden voyage went on sale on April 1, 2009 and sold out in 29 minutes. On January 13 2011, all three Cunard Queen ships - the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, will meet in New York.

2009 was a successful year for cruise liners. In December, the world's largest and most expensive liner the Oasis of the Seas embarked on her maiden voyage, whilst luxury brand Yachts of Seabourne launched its largest ship the Seabourn Odyssey in June.