After 18 months, the waiting is finally over and Southampton now has a brand new Cunard ship, Queen Elizabeth, which is to be named in a spectacular Royal ceremony on Monday.

The Queen, watched by thousands of specially invited guests, will send the traditional bottle of champagne crashing against the vessel's huge hull to signal the start of an ocean-going career that will voyage far into the 21st century.

Despite the early morning arrival time, local people came out in force to watch the brand new, £400m vessel make her way along the Solent, before turning into Southampton Water, and enter her home port for the first time today.

Sightseers gathered at every vantage point along the waterfront, rows of parked cars at Weston Shore flashed their headlights in welcome, while Town Quay and Mayflower Park were favourite spots with the crowds as the 92,400 ton, Queen Elizabeth made her dramatic entrance into the docks.

The biggest, and loudest greeting came from the packed decks of the P&O Cruises' supership, Ventura, berthed in the Western Docks, where many hundreds of passengers waved union jacks, and gave Queen Elizabeth "Three Cheers'' as vessels exchanged booming blasts from their whistles.

The third Cunard Queen to bear the name Elizabeth, will, after the naming ceremony, join vessels Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria based in Southampton.

As she undertakes this latest ceremony, the Queen will be recreating one of the most famous events of her long reign, when back in September 1967, she named the new vessel's world famous predecessor, the legendary, Queen Elizabeth 2.

Built in Italy, the new ship is the sixth Cunard Queen in the company's 170-year history and is the second largest vessel ever built for the line.

To celebrate the naming, Southampton City Council is hosting a series of free events.

Guildhall Square will be the scene of an Elizabethan Experience on Saturday and Sunday from 11am with demonstrations of music, dancing and sword fighting by costumed characters.

Tribute band The Kings of Queen will perform Queen's greatest hits on Sunday from 7.30pm, after creative sessions for children at the Maritime Museum from 11.30am-3.30pm.

The naming ceremony will be broadcast live on a big screen in Guildhall Square on Monday from 3.25pm.

Queen Elizabeth will leave on her maiden voyage, a 13-night cruise to the Canary Islands, on Tuesday at 4.30pm.

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