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ST. NAZAIRE, France Like a modern-day Rosie the Riveter, Cunard
Line President, Pamela Conover, donned a welder’s mask and apron to
place specially minted coins under the masthead of Queen Mary 2 at
a recent shipyard ceremony. The coin ceremony, one of several
traditions associated with shipbuilding, is thought to bring good
luck to a vessel.
“The birth of this ship marks the beginning of a new Cunard,”
Conover told a crowd of media, European travel agents and
dignitaries at a Dry Dock Party at ALSTOM Chantiers de
l’Atlantique, the shipyard building for the QM2.
The event served as the first public preview of the world’s
largest, longest, tallest, widest and costliest cruise liner ever
conceived. Standing beside this behemoth at the quay, visitors will
behold a structure as tall as a 21-story building. The
237-foot-high vessel, which, when she enters service in January
2004 at 150,000 tons, will be the world’s largest and, at $800
million, the most expensive cruise ship.
QM2 will be delivered, as scheduled, on Dec. 12, pledged ALSTOM
Marine President Patrick Boissier, despite the discovery of a
glitch in one of the ship’s four Mermaid propulsion pods, the
external units that provide propulsion and maneuverability. All the
pods are now undergoing further testing, as a precautionary
measure, before being attached to the massive vessel.
Ninety-four colossal steel blocks, some weighing as much as 600
tons, have been assembled to form the QM2, which towers above all
other ships that are under construction at Chantiers, including
Crystal Serenity, Island Princess and MSC Lirica. One of the most
amazing things about this ocean liner is its massive prow,
engineered to pierce the strongest North Atlantic waves.
It’s not just the size but also the spaciousness that makes QM2
so extraordinary, said Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison. At
150,000 gross tons, a vessel of this size could accommodate 4,000
passengers, not the 2,620 it will carry, he pointed out.
A walk-through of the vessel revealed high ceilings, wide
corridors and numerous one-of-a-kind features. London’s Royal
Academy of Dramatic Art the training ground for a “Who’s Who” of
British stars, from Anthony Hopkins to Kenneth Branagh will supply
a company of actors to perform and lead workshops as part of
ConneXions, QM2’s educational program.
The world’s first floating planetarium will host celestial shows
as well as lectures, movies and a virtual-reality roller-coaster
The only Canyon Ranch Spa at sea will offer 24 treatment rooms
and a staff of 51. Some 8,000 volumes plus books on CD-Rom will be
stocked in the library, and Microsoft will provide Xbox
entertainment in the suites and the children’s area.
At the Chef’s Galley restaurant, passengers can learn how to
prepare their meal, just prior to dining, from Cunard chefs or
famous guest chefs sponsored by “Gourmet” magazine.
The concept is part of QM2’s Kings Court, a casual dining venue
by day that transforms after dark into four sit-down restaurants.
In addition to Chef’s Galley, there is Lotus, serving Asian
cuisine; La Piazza for Italian specialties (open 24 hours); and The
Carvery for carved meats.
QM2’s sold-out maiden voyage is set to depart Southampton,
England, on Jan. 12, for Fort Lauderdale. Too enormous to pass
through the Panama Canal, the vessel will follow the trans-Atlantic
routes that have been operated by Queen Elizabeth 2, sailing
between Southampton and New York.
Deborah Natansohn, Cunard’s senior vice president of worldwide
sales and marketing, forecasts strong sales nationwide not just on
the East Coast.
“QM2 is going to have universal appeal because of the fact it’s
the largest and grandest ship ever built,” she told TravelAge West.
“I don’t think the market is going to be any geographic limitation.
It’s one of a kind. There’s never going to be another ship like
Natansohn said QM2 could conceivably steam around South America
to the West Coast, though currently there are no plans for such a
There’s also a misconception that West Coast clients who sail
QM2 to Europe have to fly back via East Coast gateways. In fact,
Natansohn said, they can return from London direct to West Coast
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