Purposely built to be smaller than its predecessors, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, the ship was a gamble for Cunard in that the age of trans-Atlantic ships was over by the late 1960s as cheaper and faster air travel had taken most of the passenger traffic from that market. She was launched on 20th September 1967 by HM Queen Elizabeth II and made her maiden voyage on 22nd April 1969. Although she took part in at least one trans-Atlantic voyage for each of her thirty-nine operating years, in the main she was used as a holiday cruise ship, sailing from her home port of Southampton.
The QE2 in Coronation Street
In December 1995, an insurance policy held by Rita Sullivan matured and she decided to treat her and her best friend Mavis Wilton to a cruise around the Mediterranean. The ship's entertainment was provided by the firm of Sunliners and their host was none other than Rita's old agent Alec Gilroy. They weren't the only familiar faces on the voyage as newly-weds Curly and Raquel Watts celebrated their honeymoon on board ship. This however was a typically dodgy deal of Alec's as he "sold" them the vacant cabin of his boss, the tyrannical Mrs Bligh, expecting to pocket himself £1,000 in cash for doing so. Alec was appalled though when Mrs Bligh turned up just before the ship left Southampton and Curly and Raquel were forced to "work their passage" to stay on board.
While Mavis was romanced by French seducer Count Henri de Vence (in reality, Sid Clegg, another of Alec's staff from Birmingham), Curly and Raquel realised that their hasty wedding was a good thing and remade their vows aboard ship in a religious service. Rita frowned upon the apparent relationship between Alec and the dreadful entertainer Melody Lane, only to be surprised when Melody revealed herself as Brenda Gilroy, Alec's half-sister who he employed to save her falling on hard times. Rita saw a new side to her former seedy agent when she heard of this act. By the time that the ship docked back home, all aboard were happy with the way events had turned out.
The QE2 featured in the programme's first ever sell-though spin-off Coronation Street - The Feature Length Special which was released on 9th December 1995 to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the first episode. The scenes on board the ship were directed by Mary McMurray between 13th and 25th October 1995.