DECADE after watching as Queen Mary 2 was officially named in Southampton, the Duke of Edinburgh was back on board the liner for a royal visit yesterday.

Although Prince Philip has a long association with Cunard’s ships, it was the first time he had returned to QM2 since 2004 when he accompanied the Queen for the dockside naming ceremony in what was considered the most impressive occasion of its type ever staged in Southampton.

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The Duke was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the vessel, including a visit to the bridge, during which he met and talked to many of the crew before attending a champagne reception in the liner’s impressive Queens’ Room.

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Hundreds of specially invited guests watched as the Duke unveiled a new painting of QM2, specially commissioned to celebrate the liner’s tenth anniversary as Cunard’s flagship, by the renowned marine artist, Robert Lloyd.

Later Prince Philip was guest of honour at a gala lunch in the ship’s spectacular Britannia Restaurant.

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The Duke of Edinburgh is known to be a great fan of the 151,000-ton liner and has taken a personal interest over her ten-year career.

Writing in a foreword to a recently published book, written by Stephen Payne, who was responsible for much of QM2’s design, the Duke praised the ship’s technology and engineering.

“The age of the enginepowered ocean liner was relatively short, but its technical development was nothing short of phenomenal,” said the Duke.

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Challenge “The earliest engine-powered passenger ships were fairly primitive, but within little more than 100 years their size and sophistication had developed dramatically.

Queen Mary 2 is the last in the line of the Atlantic Ocean passenger liners and by far the most technically developed.

“It must be quite a challenge to design and build a skyscraper, but it cannot compare with the complication of creating such a monster ship capable of coping with the conditions on the North Atlantic in all weathers at speeds of up to 30 knots.

“Stephen Payne and his colleagues deserve the highest praise for their achievement.”

Trumpeters of the Scots guards played a fanfare to welcome the Duke of Edinburgh on board QM2.

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David Dingle, head of Carnival UK, the parent company of Cunard, told guests at the reception: “It is ten years since your Royal Highness was last on board Queen Mary 2.

“We were so very honoured that her majesty named this great ship here in Southampton and we were further honoured that you accompanied her on that occasion.

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“It was a momentous event made even more momentous by your presence and that of the Queen. It was an event that vividly lives on in the memories of all those who attended.

“Queen Mary 2 has now completed a decade in service.

“It has been a decade of excellence and a decade of which we at Cunard are rightly proud.

“Queen Mary 2 has already made her mark on, and taken her place in, Cunard history.

“There is no finer ship to represent Cunard in our anniversary year and no finer ship to take the Cunard name far into this century.”

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Prince Philip was accompanied on his tour of the liner by the ship’s master, Captain Kevin Oprey, who grew up in Southampton, and comes from a long line of seafarers.

As a boy he spent most of his time sailing on the Solent, and from an early age he was fascinated by the passenger ships as they entered and left Southampton Water.

It was this attraction that inspired Captain Oprey to choose a life at sea.

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