The three Cunard Queen ships — the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2 and the new Queen Victoria — met off lower Manhattan, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop and fireworks marked the event.
The three grand ships lined up in front of the Statue of Liberty, holding their positions for a few minutes after 8 p.m. under a shower of fireworks. Then they slowly moved across New York Harbor, the Queen Mary leading the other two.
This is the only time the three Queen ships will ever meet. The QE2, one of the world's most famous ships, will be decommissioned in the fall and turned into a floating five-star hotel in the United Arab Emirates.
The Queen Victoria, which was launched just last month, crossed the Atlantic from England in tandem with the QE2 for Sunday's event. The ships arrived early Sunday and spent the day docked in Manhattan before heading down the Hudson River to meet the QM2, which homeports in Brooklyn.
The QE2 is the longest-serving vessel in the 168-year history of the Cunard line. Since launching in 1967, it has traveled more than 5 million nautical miles, including 25 trips around the world and more than 800 trans-Atlantic crossings with 2.5 million passengers. The ship was sold for $100 million to Dubai World, an investment company that manages projects for the government in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
All three Queen ships are black and white, with Cunard's trademark red-and-black smokestack. Inside all three have the iconic features like the Queens Room ballrooms, but there are important differences among the vessels.
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, said the Queen Victoria is "more gorgeous than either of its sisters, possessing in some ways the best of QE2 and QM2."
Queen Victoria's facilities include grand public spaces like a 6,000-volume, two-deck-high library, a light-filled spa, a casino, a Cunardia history museum and a show lounge that Ward compared to a London West End theater. The theater has private boxes.
The Queen Victoria and the QM2 have alternative restaurants overseen by celebrity chef Todd English, who greeted visitors personally Sunday afternoon aboard the Victoria.
The 151,000-ton QM2, which began sailing in 2004, is the largest of the three, carrying 2,592 passengers in 1,296 staterooms, plus 1,253 crew members.
The 90,000-ton Queen Victoria, which will homeport in Southampton, carries 2,014 passengers in 990 staterooms, plus 1,001 crew members.
The 70,000-ton QE2 carries 1,792 passengers in 1,002 staterooms, plus 921 crew members.
Cunard Line, a unit of Carnival Corp., is building a new Queen Elizabeth at Italy's Fincantieri shipyard, which built the Queen Victoria, with delivery in 2010. The new vessel will be Cunard's second-largest after the QM2. It will allow Cunard to keep three Queens in service after the QE2 retires.