Queen Elizabeth to name QMII on Thursday

7th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

SOUTHAMPTON, England, Jan 7 (AFP) - In a ceremony reviving the golden age of ocean travel, Queen Elizabeth is to crack a large bottle of French champagne on Thursday across the bows of the largest passenger liner ever built and name it Queen Mary 2.

SOUTHAMPTON, England, Jan 7 (AFP) - In a ceremony reviving the golden age of ocean travel, Queen Elizabeth is to crack a large bottle of French champagne on Thursday across the bows of the largest passenger liner ever built and name it Queen Mary 2.

The 150,000-tonne vessel, built in Saint Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast, is scheduled to begin its 14-day maiden voyage, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday.

"Details of the ceremony are being kept secret," said Penny Guy, spokeswoman for the ship's owners, Cunard, a British subsidiary of the US group Carnival Corporation.

But she confirmed that, in keeping with tradition, "the queen will push a button or cut a ribbon, and a bottle of champagne will break against the ship", adding that it would be a jeroboam, containing three litres of Veuve Cliquot.

It was in Southampton in 1969 that the queen launched the Queen Elizabeth 2, which many at the time thought would be the last ship of its kind.

"The Queen Mary 2 is the first transatlantic liner to be built in over 30 years and she is really a transatlantic liner built for the 21st century," Cunard chief executive Pamela Conover noted shortly after it docked for the first time at its home port of Southampton on December 26.

At 345 metres (1,132 feet), the liner is longer than the largest US aircraft carrier. It can carry 2,600 passengers, with 1,250 crew to pamper them.

The naming ceremony is expected to take place around 4:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Thursday, after the queen has had the opportunity to tour the ship and inspect some of its attractions.

These include expansive promenades and sweeping staircases running between its 15 decks, which rise to a height of 74 metres (244 feet) above the water.

The queen is expected to inspect one of the ship's 10 restaurants and one of its five swimming pools as well as the planetarium.

The Queen Mary 2 also boasts a ballroom, numerous bars, a two-story theater for 1,000, a casino, a gym, luxurious kennels and a nursery staffed with British nannies. The artwork alone is estimated to be worth EUR 4 million, Cunard said.

Passengers will pay from EUR 1,300 to more than EUR 30,000 for their passage in cabins, most of which have private balconies. Tickets for the 14-day maiden voyage have sold out, as well as those for its Southampton-New York crossing in April.

After her tour, the queen will join her husband, Prince Philip, and 1,000 guests in a specially built auditorium on the quayside for the naming.

The Queen Mary 2 is the successor of the liner Queen Mary launched in 1936 and named for the present queen's grandmother, the wife of George V.

The original ship now serves as a convention center, hotel, restaurant and ritzy wedding venue at Long Beach, California.

The Queen Mary 2 officially became a Cunarder when the company's houseflag - a gold lion rampant on a red background - was raised at a ceremony at the French shipyard in Saint Nazaire on December 22.

That occasion was darkened, however, by the memory of 15 people who fell to their deaths in a dry dock on November 15 when a gangway collapsed as guests were being shown over the newly built vessel.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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