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Queen Mary 2 makes New York debut
Updated: 2004-04-23 08:52

The world's largest ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, arrived in New York on Thursday, steaming up the Hudson River past a hazy Manhattan skyline and docking here for the first time.

The opulent Cunard Line vessel arrived nearly on schedule, just after 8 a.m., after making up time lost to the fog and to storms during the first two days of its inaugural trans-Atlantic crossing, which began in Southampton, England, last Friday.

The Queen Mary 2, escorted by a police boat, makes its way past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor April 22, 2004.  [AP]
Onlookers watched from the shores of New York and New Jersey as the ship's arrival was marked by post-September 11 security measures and the customary Gotham greeting -- fireboats spouting red, white and blue water. Earlier, it passed under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Staten Island, with less than 20 feet to spare.

Passengers stepped ashore raving about the QM2's amenities, from the art deco styling to computer and dance classes.

"Until you go on the ship, you can't appreciate the grandeur of it," said Helen Smith, of Yorkshire, England, who made the voyage with her two sisters.

The docking came 92 years and a week after another New York-bound British ocean liner, the Titanic, sank after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage, killing 1,503 people.

The QM2 had no iceberg trouble, but the rough weather -- with 30-foot seas and force-10 gales gusting to 63 mph -- gave the passengers some nights to remember. According to accounts published by reporters on board, many passengers stayed in their quarters rather than go to the dining rooms.

The ship arrived under extra-tight security that has been in effect for all major events in New York since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Emerging ghostlike from an early morning fog, the QM2 paused near the Statue of Liberty and sounded its deep-throated horn four times in salute. A passing Staten Island ferry tooted back.

Nearly four football fields long at 1,132 feet and 21 stories tall, the massive, black-hulled vessel left England last Friday for the six days and nights of luxury living and sumptuous dining for its 2,600 passengers, attended by a crew of 1,250.

The Queen Mary 2 passes lower Manhattan at sunrise Thursday.

After three days in port on Manhattan's West Side, the Queen Mary 2 will depart on Sunday night, rendezvousing near the Statue of Liberty with the Queen Elizabeth 2, outbound on its final trans-Atlantic run. With the new ship replacing it on the Atlantic run, the QE2 will be used mainly for Southampton-based shorter cruises.

The Queen Mary 2 revives the name of the liner about half its size that debuted in New York on June 1, 1936. The Queen Mary was retired in 1967 and turned into a seaside tourist attraction in Long Beach, Calif.

In the realm of seagoing behemoths, the 151,400-ton QM2 is the world's biggest passenger ship in every way; its closest rival is the 142,000-ton Voyager Of The Seas, in service since 1999 with Royal Caribbean Cruises. But it's a virtual rowboat next to the largest of all ships -- a 564,700-ton supertanker built in 1979 as the Seawise Giant, and now called Jahre Viking.

The first pure ocean liner built in 35 years, the QM2 is three times the size of Titanic, which at 46,300 tons and 800 feet was called the "largest movable object built by man" when launched in 1911.

While radar and other state-of-the-art technologies help to tame the turbulent North Atlantic, QM2's designers acknowledged the ghost of that "unsinkable" vessel, using "extra thick steel for strength for trans-Atlantic crossings," and two whistles audible at 10 miles -- one of them borrowed from the original Queen Mary, according to Cunard.

The Queen Mary 2 first visited U.S. shores last January, ending a 14-day cruise through the Azores and Caribbean at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ship goes into regular trans-Atlantic service with 12 crossings scheduled this year and 26 next year.

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