world's largest cruise ship, Queen
Mary 2, set sail for the United States on its maiden
voyage Monday, carrying 2,600 passengers who paid up to ,000
for the privilege.
The 150,000-ton Cunard Line vessel
left the southern English port of Southampton on the 14-day journey
to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
its first voyage with fare-paying passengers.
Although Cunard has denied reports of a terrorist threat against
the vessel, security was tight and police maintained a high profile.
The maiden departure, marked by fireworks and a brass
band, was an hour late.
"There was significantly more baggage than we anticipated,"
Cunard Line president Pamela Conover said, explaining the delay.
As a small flotilla of boats turned
out to watch the giant liner pull away,
passengers lining the ship's balconies waved Union
Jack flags and threw streamers.
Ceremonies welcoming the vessel to Southampton on Dec. 26 were
subdued out of respect for those killed when a gangway
collapsed Nov. 15 at the shipyard
in St. Nazaire, France, where the ship was built.
Thousands of people watched last week as Queen Elizabeth II officially
launched the billion ship, which is named for her grandmother
Queen Mary, wife of King George V, who reigned from 1910 to 1936.
The new cruise liner took more than five years to build. It is
1,138 feet long and 238 feet high - as tall as a 21-story building.
It will take over the trans-Atlantic duties of the Queen Elizabeth
2 ocean liner.
Its 2,600 passengers will have the run of six restaurants, five
swimming pools, an art gallery and a movie theater that doubles
as a planetarium.
Fares for Queen Mary 2's fully booked maiden voyage from Southampton
to Fort Lauderdale, began at ,400 per person for 14 nights and
rose to ,310.
Cunard Lines belongs to the U.S. company Carnival, but sails under
the British flag.
The Queen Mary 2's reign as the world's biggest ocean liner is
expected to be brief.