At present all three “Queens” are sailing in formation from Lisbon, Portugal to Southampton. It is the first time the fleet has been seen together, side-by-side, at sea.
The Duke of Edinburgh will also be paying a royal visit to QM2, a decade after he accompanied the Queen when she officially named the ship in Southampton in January, 2004.
Although QM2’s maiden voyage took place soon after the naming ceremony, the liner did not officially take up the role as Cunard’s flagship until May, 2004.
City based Cunard has drawn up two maps showing the times and positions of the ships as they arrive at first light and also the times and best vantage points to witness the fireworks later that evening.
Key timings during the day include the arrival in port of the three ships between 5am and 5.30am after the fleet passes Calshot from 4.10am to 4.40am, Netley between 4.25am to 4.55am, and Hythe at 4.35am to 5.05am.
Sister ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are due to take the lead up Southampton Water, followed by a fire-tug spraying water jets, which heralds the arrival of QM2.
From 5.30am to 5.45am Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will position themselves bow to bow by the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal in the city’s Eastern Docks, as QM2 slowly sails past.
At this point an exchange of blasts will echo across the city from the ships’ whistles, which will also sound their own version of Happy Birthday.
It will then take 30 minutes for the fleet to move to their separate berths.
QM2 will be at the Ocean Terminal where she will be based for the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit, Queen Elizabeth will move into her final position at the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal, and Queen Victoria will berth at City Cruise Terminal in the city’s Western Docks.
At 8pm, with all passengers embarked, Queen Elizabeth will move down the berth at Queen Elizabeth II Terminal while Queen Victoria sails from City Terminal to take up position behind her, so the sister ships are bow-to-stern, just 30 metres apart.
Then at 9.30pm, Queen Mary 2 will reverse out of her berth by Ocean Terminal and will hold her position in the water, creating a curved array of the “Three Queens”, ready for the start of the firework display at 10pm.
In a ten-minute display, one minute for each of QM2’s decade of service as Cunard’s flagship, fireworks, fired from the Hythe side of Southampton Water, opposite the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal, will cascade down over the decks of the fleet.
Pressing the button for the start of the display will be ten-year-old, Todd Travers from Locks Heath, who was chosen for the job as he was born on the same day as QM2 became Cunard’s flagship.
As the fireworks’ finale explodes overhead, QM2 will make ready to lead the way down Southampton Water, at a start to a crossing to New York, followed by Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.