Many superlatives apply to this lady -- she is the largest, longest, tallest, widest, heaviest, most costly to build, most expensive to use, and the youngest of her kind. She is the RMS Queen Mary 2 and she ended her maiden voyage today, 26 January, 2004, at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

She arrived on the horizon early in the day and was accompanied to her docking in Port Everglades by a procession of Coast Guard and U. S. Navy vessels. Hundreds of people lined the shores to get a look at the $800 million ocean liner as she slowly steamed into harbor. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and other State and local officials were on hand to greet her.

The Queen Mary 2 will spend five days in port before sailing on her first Caribbean voyage. She arrived in United States waters after a two-week trans-Atlantic crossing from Southampton, England, where she had been christened by Queen Elizabeth on January 8. The Queen Mary 2 is the new flagship of the Cunard Line.

Cunard, with its 160-year heritage, is associated with such glorious passenger ships as the original Queen Mary (1936-1964), her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth and her replacement, the Queen Elizabeth 2 (known as the QE2). There is now a difference, however. In 1998 the original Cunard Line was purchased by Carnival Corporation, a company specializing in cruise lines.

At the time it announced its purchase of Cunard Line, Carnival also announced that it had contracted with the French company, Alstom Chantiers de L'Atlantique, in Sainte-Nazaire, France to build a new flagship. This is the same shipyard that built the Normandie, the Ile de France and other great liners. While the new Queen Mary 2 was floated from France to England and began her maiden voyage in those waters, it is expected that with Carnival being a Miami-based American corporation, nearby Fort Lauderdale will become the home port of the new Queen.

A spokesman for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau has already commented on the liner bringing added prestige to Fort Lauderdale's growing reputation as a luxury tourist destination. Fort Lauderdale officials estimate that having the Queen Mary 2 in their city's port will contribute $2.5 million to the local economy each season. An additional $440,000 will be earned annually in port revenue.

The maiden voyage had 2,600 passengers who paid fares ranging from $2,800 to $37,499 for the first trip. The ship has six restaurants, 14 bars and clubs, a library, theater, pools, a disco and casino. There are 22 elevators to ferry passengers from floor to floor and a total of 1,253 crew members. The 1,310 cabins include penthouses with butler service and duplexes with private gymnasiums. There is even a planetarium.

Standard cabins measure 194 square feet and have 8' deep balconies (75% of all cabins have balconies). The penthouses (10) measure from 570 sq. ft. to 1,076 sq. ft. The duplex apartments (5 in all, creme de la creme) are two stories high with more than 1,650 sq. ft. of surface. Overlooking the stern, views are provided via a glass wall. If this isn't enough, it is possible to reserve a penthouse and an adjoining duplex. The two can be thrown together to create 2,220 sq. ft. of living space.

A few statistics with comparisons to give a bit of perspective to it all.

Length - 345 meters / 1132 feet
That's over four city blocks in length - 100 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, or only 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.

Height (Keel to Funnel) - 72 meters / 236.2 feet
As tall as a 21-story building. If she were afloat in the pool at the foot of Niagara Falls, her stack would rise over twenty feet above the rim.

Weight - 151,400 gross registered tonnage
Roughly the equivalent of 390 fully loaded 747 jets. The original Queen Mary weighed in at 18,237 tons; the QE2 at 70,327.

Speed and Power - 157,000 horsepower, giving a top speed of 30 knots (34.5 mph). The QE2 is faster (32.5 knots), but is less than half the weight and only 963 feet long.