A major £10 million investment programme is underway in Southampton docks as the port sets sail for a record-breaking year.

The arrival of the biggest passenger liner the world has ever seen, Southampton's 150,000 megaliner, Queen Mary 2, will top a hectic 2003 for the city.

As about 212 separate cruise ship calls have been booked with the port between now and December, with possibly more in the pipeline, extensive reconstruction and refurbishment of the docks' two existing cruise terminals is taking place, as well as the construction of a third cruise facility at 101 berth next door to Mayflower Park.

The number of cruise ship calls at Southampton has more than doubled in the last six years, when 1991 saw just 91 visits, and has now reached a figure which far exceeds the combined totals handled by Britain's other two major cruise ports, Dover and Harwich.

Helping to maintain this high level of activity will be 11 inaugural visits, the greatest number of maiden calls ever to the port of Southampton in a single year.

Four of the vessels to make their first call to Southampton will also be named in spectacular dockside ceremonies.

The present P&O vessel Arcadia will be re-named Ocean Village in April and then the same shipping line brings Oceana and Adonia to the city to make UK cruising history when they are named simultaneously in May.

In July the port will welcome Sound of Music film star legend, Julie Andrews who is set to name the ultra-luxury, Crystal Serenity at the beginning of the month.

The huge QM2 will make her dramatic entry in Southampton Water in December, signalling a period of inaugural celebrations, including a new year naming

ceremony, before she leaves on her maiden voyage in January 2004.

Andrew Kent, ABP port director in Southampton, said: " Our cruise business is performing exceptionally well.

"The number of calls in recent years has rocketed, a sign of the port's strength, and ABP's continued ability to meet customer demand to remain at the forefront of the UK cruise market.''