Cunard Holds Pre-Christening Press Conference

January 7, 2004
At a question and answer session today onboard Queen Mary 2, Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison, Cunard Line President Pamela Conover, and Queen Mary 2 Master Ronald Warrick fielded inquiries from worldwide media – but offered little in the way of eyebrow-raising news. Among the tidbits that emerged from the half-hour session, held in the ship's Illuminations planetarium, were:
*Cunard was so overwhelmed by requests from past passengers to tour the ship while in Southampton that the company was forced to hold a lottery. Ultimately, 6,000 – 7,000 were selected, at random, for the chance to take a tour.
*Demographically speaking, Cunard's Conover says that she anticipates 50 percent of those sailing Queen Mary 2 will come from the U.S. and 40 percent will hail from Great Britain. The other ten percent? A mix of Asians, Australians, and Europeans, mostly. 60 percent of passengers who have so far booked a sailing are completely new to Cunard.
*Cunard's Conover defined Queen Mary 2 as a "transatlantic liner"; Carnival Corp.'s Arison, who laughingly joked he doesn't care how the ship is labeled, referred to it as a floating resort.
*A crowd of about 2,000 is expected at tomorrow's christening ceremony; as previously announced, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will be front-and-center.
*The ship, which on Monday officially enters cruise history as the world's biggest/widest/longest (etc.) will, because of size issues, tender at approximately 50 percent of the ports it visits. The good news, though, is that it will never need to tender on its most common itinerary – a six-night transatlantic crossing between the U.S. and Great Britain.
*Questions about plans to build a sister ship for Queen Mary 2 were deftly sidestepped (the line does have another new vessel, Queen Victoria, under construction -- but as this newbuild was transferred from sibling cruise line Holland America to Cunard, it will, in basic layout, resemble HAL's Vista Class ships). Conover did say, however, that now that Cunard has a "blueprint of what it takes . . . hopefully [building a sister ship] will be easier" than the original.
*The issue of security came up and was quickly dispatched. Said Conover, "for obvious reasons you will understand why we don't discuss what security measures we have in place. We feel well prepared." More specifically, she addressed an uncorroborated media report last week that the ship had experienced direct threats. Conover called the report "annoying" and says there was no confirmation from any of the appropriate government-related agencies about any terrorist-related "chatter."
*Also disputed were reports of a "somber" leave-taking from Queen Mary 2's shipyard at St. Nazaire, France; Arison reports that tens of thousands of people lined the banks of the Loire River, thousands of boats came out to say goodbye, fireboats sprayed the ship and French navy fighter jets sailed overhead. "It was the most spirited, vibrant, exciting departure from a shipyard I'd ever seen," he said.
*Is Carnival Corp. planning to add an even bigger ship to one of its fleets? "Ships clearly can become bigger," Arison says, quite noncommittally, but "I don't expect to see them getting significantly bigger." Earlier, Carnival Corporation has stated that it's interested in creating a new class of ships up to the 180,000-ton range.