- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (AP) — The Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest and most expensive passenger ship, completed its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage yesterday, arriving at this Florida port.

Led by a tugboat that shot red and blue water into the air, the Cunard Line Ltd.’s ship pulled into this port next to Fort Lauderdale shortly after 7 a.m., two weeks after it left the English port of Southampton. About 2,600 passengers paid anywhere from about $2,800 to $37,499 for the first trip.

A procession of Coast Guard and Navy vessels protected the Queen Mary 2, and hundreds lined the shores and nearby high-rises to get a look at the $800 million ocean liner. More than a dozen law enforcement and television helicopters hovered overhead and a small plane pulling a banner reading “Fort Lauderdale welcomes QM2” circled above.

Passenger Richard Faber, 66, of New York City, was beaming after walking off the ship.

“From beginning to end, it was extraordinary,” said Mr. Faber, who sells ocean-liner memorabilia. He said that despite rough weather at the beginning, the ship held steady and he could barely tell he was on the water. He and a friend paid $4,000 each for a room with a balcony.

The ship sets a number of records for passenger vessels — largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive. It is 1,132 feet long — more than twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall — and 236 feet high, about the height of a 23-story building. It weighs about 151,400 long tons — the rough equivalent of 390 fully loaded 747 jets.

The ship has six restaurants, 14 bars and clubs, a library, theater, pools, a disco and casino. Elevators — 22 of them — ferry passengers from floor to floor. The 1,310 cabins include duplexes with private gymnasiums and penthouses with butler service. If the bright stars of the clear night ocean sky aren’t enough, there is also a planetarium.

“Can’t wait to take a trip on it,” said David Barton, 68, an industrial real estate developer who watched the arrival. “It’s so impressive.”

While most of the public was kept out of the port for security reasons, Cunard invited them to watch the arrival.

The ship project was announced in 1998 when Miami-based Carnival Corp. bought Cunard. It was built in the French port of St. Nazaire, where a gangway accident killed 15 persons visiting the ship last year.

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