IT is going to be a birthday party Southampton will remember for a long time when the world famous liner Queen Mary 2 celebrates her tenth anniversary on Friday.
A visit to the liner by the Duke of Edinburgh will make it a royal occasion while a sparkling public firework display over the Cunard fleet of three ships, QM2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, will be a spectacular finale.
Back in January 2004, the Queen came to Southampton, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, to officially name the then brand new QM2, but it was not until later in the year that the liner took over the role as Cunard’s flagship.
Since assuming this position, on completion of her maiden transatlantic crossings in May, 2004, QM2 has remained unchallenged as the world’s largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive ocean liner ever built and the most famous and fastest passenger ship in operation today.
The Duke of Edinburgh will visit Queen Mary 2 in Southampton on Friday.
Now with a decade of service behind her, QM2 has clocked up a remarkable record of 419 voyages including more than 200 transatlantic crossings and called at 182 ports in 60 different countries.
At 1,132 feet in length, QM2 would be taller, if stood on her stern, than the tallest building in Europe, the Shard in London, and would be more than three times the height of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Her 151,400 gross tonnage is the equivalent of nearly 19,000 double decker buses, and she boasts four times as many rooms as the capital’s Dorchester hotel.
She took one million hours to design, eight million hours to build and the one thousand miles of welding holding the liner together would stretch from London to Moscow.
Friday’s day of celebration in Southampton will begin soon after first light with the arrival in port of Cunard’s three vessels.
With Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria lying close to the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal in the Eastern Docks, QM2 will sail slowly by as 10,000 balloons are released from her top deck and the ships’ whistles will sound a unique version of Happy Birthday.
Following the dazzling fireworks display, which is due to begin at 10pm, QM2 will set out on the first of two special commemorative crossings to and, then, from New York underlining her role as the only passenger ship in the world maintaining a scheduled service across the Atlantic, something a Cunard ship has done since 1840.
During the crossing from Southampton to New York passengers will be able to hear talks by Commodore Ron Warwick, who holds the distinction of being the liner’s first master, and Stephen Payne, who was largely responsible for the overall design of the ship.
Angus Struthers, Cunard’s marketing director, said: “Since entering service in 2004, Queen Mary 2 has reigned supreme on the Atlantic and around the world, proudly carrying more than one million guests.
“She has attracted awards, accolades and admiration as the greatest ocean liner ever built for a decade and we intend to mark her first ten years of service in style.”