Among the distinctions of this already-storied vessel, Queen Mary 2 is the first ocean liner to be built in over three decades. The 2,620-passenger ship is also the largest (151,400 tons), longest (1,132 feet/345 meters), tallest (236 feet/72 meters), widest (135 feet/41 meters) and most expensive ($800 million) passenger ship ever built. Pre-maiden voyage hype is at near-hysterical (not to mention historic) levels as the ship gets closer to launching.
Among the news-making headlines from Southampton include, at this point:
*Queen Elizabeth II will, of course, host christening ceremonies, which will take place on Thursday, January 8; she will be accompanied by Prince Philip.
*Ronald Warwick, Queen Mary 2's captain, has been awarded the rank of commodore which, in the U.K., is the highest position a cruise line can bestow. Captain Warwick, who joined Cunard in 1970, previously helmed QE2, serving there since 1990. He also was captain on Cunard Countess, Cunard Princess, and Cunard Crown Dynasty. The commodore served in military campaigns as well, working as chief officer on QE2 during the Falklands conflict and captain of Cunard Princess during the Gulf War.
One other interesting factoid: Warwick's father, the late Commodore W.E. Warwick, was the only captain to serve as master of both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in the mid-1960s. He also was the first master of QE2 – the first time in the 163 year history of Cunard that a father and son commanded the same ship.
*The rumor mill is running wild about possible terrorist threats to the Queen Mary 2's maiden voyage –- as reported by a media outlet -- but Cunard has unequivocally denied its accuracy, with a spokeswoman saying the company has received "no specific threats." In a statement, Cunard responds, "While we cannot go into detail about the ship's security regimen, it is important to note that Cunard works closely with US and UK authorities and is continually updated with worldwide security advisories."
Cruise Critic will be on hand next week in Southampton for all the festivities; check back for regular updates.