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Cunard Line's Newest Queen Makes Her First Splash

January 2007 -- She's already quite regal. Queen Victoria is her name and, while her christening is still more than half a year away, special ceremonies at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard near Venice were held on Monday, January 15th to celebrate her first swim. Or, in ship parlance, it was the occasion of Cunard's latest royal "float out." Valves were opened and the dry-dock flooded for the ship's first entry into the sea. 

The official float out signals the beginning of the final construction stages for the $522 million fleetmate to Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2 and grande dame of the seas Queen Elizabeth 2. Not one, but two, royal ceremonies heralded the occasion as Carol Marlow, Cunard's Managing Director, was joined by Maureen Ryan, guest of honor at the event. Ms. Ryan, who joined the company in 1963 as a Lady Assistant Purser, has the distinction of being the only known Cunard Line employee to have served on all Cunard Queens: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth 2, and Queen Mary 2. In recognition of this achievement, Cunard Line bestowed on Ms. Ryan the honor of acting as the yard's Madrina to Queen Victoria.

The day kicked off with a good luck ceremony involving the welding of significant coins beneath the mast of Queen Victoria. Two coins were chosen: a Euro (symbolic of the fact that the ship is being built in Italy) and a gold Queen Victoria sovereign with St George slaying the dragon on the reverse side.

Of the gold coin's significance, Ms. Marlow explained, "Cunard came into being at the very beginning of the Victorian eraQueen Victoria had been on the throne for only three years when Samuel Cunard's first ship set sail. And there followed, throughout her reign, a huge expansion in the Cunard fleet until by the end of it the company was the pre-eminent force in British shipping. Today the company is probably the most famous name in shipping and the birth of this great liner confirms for all to see the continuing renaissance of the great name of Cunard. The Cunard lion roars again!"

Water rushes in to fill the dry dock

After Ms. Ryan completed her welding duty on board, the second ceremony took place dockside. A bottle of Italian prosecco smashed against the hull and Queen Victoria was blessed before Ms. Ryan stepped forward to cut the cord and allow sea water to flood the dry dock below. In true British maritime fashion, it wasn't quite as simple as opening the taps. 

The 90,000-ton Queen Victoria will be a classic ocean liner, offering the best of Cunard's heritage and traditions along with modern day luxuries. She will also feature some exciting innovations such as the first traditional West End-style private viewing boxes at sea in the Royal Court Theatre; the first floating Cunardia museum display, housing Cunard artifacts and memorabilia; and the first two-story, library at sea to be connected by a spiral staircase. The ship will also feature the line's luxurious Grills accommodation and dining, further enhanced on Queen Victoria with exclusive deck terraces and an al fresco dining option.

Her distinctive black and red livery hints at what differentiates a Cunard liner from a standard cruise ship. This is most evident in the ship's adherence to liner traditions of the past, including elegant public roomsmany on a grand scale, featuring rich wood paneling, intricate mosaics, and gleaming chandeliers. A grand, colonial-style conservatory will feature a retractable glass roof.

Queen Victoria has been constructed with impressive sea keeping qualities that will enable her to travel easily and efficiently through the world's oceans. As well as being the second largest Cunard liner ever built, Queen Victoria's arrival is particularly noteworthy as it will be the first time in the company's 167-year history that three Cunard Queens will have been in service together. Queen Victoria joins the world's largest liner Queen Mary 2, and the world's most famous Queen Elizabeth 2 to form a royal trio of ocean liners.

Queen Victoria departs on her Maiden Voyage on Tuesday December 11, 2007. In her inaugural season, Queen Victoria will embark on her 106-night Maiden World Cruise which will call at 37 cities in 23 countries, circumnavigating the globe in a westbound direction before returning to her homeport of Southampton on April 22, 2008.

Cunard Cruise Reviews

Images Courtesy CUNARD LINE

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