In what represented its biggest event, Cunard spectacularly hosted the ship's christening ceremonies on Thursday.
The ceremony – to which 2,000 guests were invited – was held in a fully-enclosed tent, located pier-side in Southampton. On the main stage, the event kicked-off with a concert by the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, Portsmouth, which played maritime-themed songs. Cunard Line President Pamela Conover was the first to offer remarks, calling Queen Mary 2 a "splendid contradiction" (between ocean liner and cruise ship).
The big attraction of course was the presence of Queen Elizabeth II (and her husband, Prince Philip). They arrived, following a private tour of the vessel, to a bit of pomp and circumstance – not to mention the singing of the National Anthem – and sat down in front row seats (which, interestingly, were not of the "stadium variety" that otherwise existed but were comfy velvet-covered armchairs). The British royal couple was flanked by cruising's royal couple – Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine.
The biggest moment of many began with Heather Small, a contemporary British pop-rhythm & blues singer, who sang "Proud," an inspirational tune, supported by both the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Chorale Society. That blending of contemporary and traditional was a perfectly symbolic tie-in with the introduction of Queen Mary 2 – as the ship's design also weaves old styles with new ones. Following that rousing number, the grim gray-curtained backdrop to the stage fell away to reveal Queen Mary 2 itself – backlit by a setting sun – and members of the crowd actually gasped at the stark beauty of the ship. Hauntingly, a bag piper – in fact the Queen's "personal piper" – stood alone on the bow and played "Amazing Grace". At this point, more than a few of the several-thousand guests openly wept, including the Queen, who was glimpsed crying a few tears herself.
The Queen's part in all of this was otherwise pretty minor. Following the music performances and a blessing from an Anglican bishop she, accompanied by Conover, Arison and Queen Mary 2's master Ronald Warwick, ascended to the stage. Queen Elizabeth 2 then announced, in a rather frail voice, "I name this ship Queen Mary 2. May God bless her and all who sail in her." The champagne bottle – a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot – was rigged to smash against the hull -- and it broke on the first effort, which is considered good luck.
After the Queen and Prince Philip departed from the 45-minute ceremony, the majority of the ceremony's guests headed onboard for a rollicking overnight stay.