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World's largest luxury liner arrives in N.Y.

Laden with opulence, the Cunard Line's newest and largest ship, the Queen Mary II, arrived in New York on Thursday.
The Queen Mary 2 sails under the Verrazano Narrows bridge at low tide, six days after leaving England.
The Queen Mary 2 sails under the Verrazano Narrows bridge at low tide, six days after leaving England.Mary Altaffer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The world’s largest cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2, arrived in New York on Thursday, steaming into its Hudson River berth for the first time against the backdrop of a hazy Manhattan skyline.

Laden with opulence, the Cunard Line’s newest 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 crossing.

Onlookers gathered along the Manhattan shore to watch the ship’s arrival, which was marked by post-Sept. 11 security measures and the customary Gotham greeting — fireboats spouting red, white and blue water.

The London-like drizzle eased as onlookers stood on Manhattan’s shore to watch the ship pass by.

The docking came 92 years and a week after another British ocean liner, the Titanic, sank on its maiden voyage.

Though Commodore Ronald Warwick followed the same northerly track known as the Great Circle Route, the Queen Mary 2 was never imperiled by icebergs like those that sank the RMS Titanic and killed 1,503 people on April 15, 1912, in modern history’s worst maritime disaster.

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.

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

It was escorted by a fleet of tugboats, police vessels and Coast Guard boats, stopping briefly in front of the Statue of Liberty before making its way to the Hudson River terminal.

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.

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.

The two Queens, old and new, will travel home in tandem — the first time two Cunarders sail the Atlantic together instead of passing each other in mid-ocean, officials said.

The Queen Mary 2, successor to the QE2 on Cunard’s Atlantic run, revives the name of a liner that plied the route a half-century earlier. The first Queen Mary, slightly more than half the size of the new one, debuted in New York on June 1, 1936.

During World War II, the Queen Mary and its sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, became gray-painted troopships, fast enough to outrun enemy U-boats. Winston Churchill later credited them with having shortened the war by a year.

The Queen Mary was retired in 1967 and turned into a seaside tourist attraction in Long Beach, Calif.

Big in every way
In the realm of seagoing behemoths, the 151,400-ton QM2 is the world’s biggest cruise 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 Queen Mary 2, the world's largest and most expensive passenger ship, crosses past 42nd Street as it arrives for the first time in New York, April 22, 2004. Based in Southampton, England, the ship will cruise across the North Atlantic Ocean, holding about 2,600 passengers. REUTERS/Chip EastChip East / X01370

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, Fla. The ship goes into regular trans-Atlantic service with 12 crossings scheduled this year and 26 next year.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 will be used mainly for Southampton-based shorter cruises.