• Kyodo

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The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship arrived early Monday at the port of Kobe ahead of its first cruise departing from and returning to Japan.

The Kobe Municipal Government had asked the Cunard Line, the ship’s British operator, to organize a special tour to help celebrate the port’s 150th anniversary this year.

As the 294-meter-long ship arrived at around 6 a.m., people dockside welcomed it by waving flags and letting balloons loose.

“It brings back memories of my own voyage. I’d love to board it again,” said Michiko Furukawa, a 64-year-old woman from Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, who traveled from England to Belgium on the Queen Elizabeth.

The 90,901-ton cruise ship, which entered into service in 2010, will visit Kagoshima, South Korea’s Busan, Hiroshima and Kochi on the special cruise before returning to Kobe.

The ship is currently on an around-the-world voyage after leaving Southampton in southern England. After the Kobe cruise, it will set sail for Shanghai.

The first Queen Elizabeth went into service in 1940. The current vessel was built at a cost of about $500 million.

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