A great 'Queen' of England, made in France

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The Independent Online

Cruise passengers are being promised a "a piece of history" when the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 comes into service in 2003.

Cruise passengers are being promised a "a piece of history" when the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 comes into service in 2003.

It will be the world's largest, longest, tallest and widest passenger ship - and the swankiest - say the builders. But unfortunately for this country, the Queen Mary 2 will be historic in another sense. Although it will be based in Southampton and fly the British flag, it will be the first of the great "Queen" vessels constructed abroad. The original Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2 were all built at the now-defunct John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde.

Details of the successor to those magnificent vessels were revealed yesterday by Patrick Boissier, chairman of French shipbuilder Alstom Chantiers de L'Atlantique of St Nazaire, the company building the £538m Queen Mary 2.

The 2,630-berth ship will have, in the words of Cunard "grand staircases, expansive promenades, elegant grand restaurants and gracious public rooms of an imposing scale".

The main dining room will be three decks high, seating 1,310 passengers across the full width of the ship; there will be a 200-seat Queen's Grill for first-class passengers, a 1,100-seat main lounge for Broadway-style productions and a ballroom similar to its equivalent on the QE2. Five duplex apartments and six penthouse suites will offer a butler service.

There will be a nightclub, a planetarium, a casino, a lecture theatre, eight swimming pools (four inside), a cinema and gyms. The power plant produces the electricity to light a city the size of Southampton, and a unique propulsion system delivers a top speed of 30 knots (nearly 35 mph).

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