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Queen Mary 2 handed to owners

ship
The ship stands 234 feet high from keel to funnel.

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ST. NAZAIRE, France -- The world's biggest and most expensive cruise liner, the British-flagged Queen Mary 2, has been officially handed over to her new owners, Cunard.

The 150,000-tonne vessel's flag -- a gold lion on a red background -- was hoisted above the gigantic vessel in a ceremony before the ship's departure from the shipyard in St. Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast.

The $800 million ship is to be officially named in Southampton by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on January 8. Four days later the vessel will leave on her 14-day maiden passenger voyage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

According to Cunard, the luxury cruise liner is the largest, longest, tallest, widest and grandest ocean liner ever built.

Micky Arison, the chairman of giant company Carnival which owns Cunard, together with Cunard president Pamela Conover, were at Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard for Monday's official handing over ceremony.

It was while the ship was in dry dock at St. Nazaire last month that 15 people were killed after a walkway connecting the ship with the dock collapsed. (Full story)

The tragedy will be referred to in next month's naming ceremony which will take place before more than 2,000 guests.

The QM2 will spend time at sea before reaching Southampton -- a period in which the 1,253-strong crew will familiarize themselves with the vessel.

Last month, the ship underwent two rounds of offshore trials ahead of its maiden voyage.

The vessel can carry 2,620 passengers and features a planetarium, 22 elevators and the world's largest floating library. Its top speed is 34.5 mph.

At 1,132 feet in length, it is 113 feet longer than the original Queen Mary and 166 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (986 feet).

With 1,310 cabins, including four royal suites and six penthouses, the QM2 will be capable of speeds up to 34 mph. She will stand 234 ft high from keel to funnel.

In April, the new ship will replace the QE2 on the transatlantic run. To mark the changeover, both the QM2 and the QE2 will sail together from New York to Southampton, with the QE2 then reverting to other passenger duties.


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