Biggest ocean liner steams into NYC

Fireboats and a band greet Queen Mary 2 at her U.S. homeport

April 23, 2004|By Elizabeth Sanger | Elizabeth Sanger,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - The Queen Mary 2 arrived yesterday, and New York was barely big enough to hold it.

Billed as the world's biggest ocean liner, the 1,132-foot QM2 emerged from the fog, squeezed under the Verrazano Bridge and came into New York harbor yesterday morning. It was greeted by fireboats that saluted with water sprays, an escort of police boats, helicopters buzzing overhead and tugboats on standby, if needed. They weren't.

The old expression, it's like trying to turn around the Queen Mary, no longer holds. While it's 100 feet longer than the original ship, this one turns on a dime, thanks to three thrusters. In no time flat the ship turned 90 degrees, going from a position parallel to the shore into a perpendicular one, ready to head into the berth, with the ease of a kid twirling a toy boat in a bathtub. It's steered by a joystick, and the four-city-block-long vessel can move sideways or at an angle.

The marching band of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy stood at the tip of Pier 92 to greet the newest royal member of the Cunard fleet as it came into port, playing to both sides of the Atlantic with "God Save the Queen" and "New York, New York."

Queen Mary 2 is nothing if not punctual. At 7:57 a.m., six days after it left Southhampton, England, it was alongside the pier, right on schedule, having made up for time lost at sea amid two major storms.

After the ship docked, Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the vessel and Cunard officials to New York, which will be QM2's home port in the United States.

Cunard says the QM2 is the largest (151,400 tons), longest (1,132 feet), tallest (236 feet), widest (135 feet) and most expensive ($800 million) liner ever built.

Those among the passengers and crew said yesterday they had to spend much of the voyage inside after being warned to stay off the decks because of heavy winds, by one account up to 70 knots, and many were seasick. "Everyone acted like they were drunk, staggering down the halls," said Carolyn Bordelon, an accountant from Houston. "But if I had the money, I'd take it again."

Some loved the rough weather, believing that's what crossing the northern Atlantic is about, especially ocean liner fanatics, such as Christopher Dougherty, national director of the Steamship Historical Society of America, who booked his passage before the boat was built. "It's keeping ocean liner travel alive," he said, and the QM2 mixes the ultimate in technology with the history of its grand predecessors.

Most raved about the voyage, thrilled they were part of a select group that had experienced a historic adventure.

But Myla Edwards, from Louisville, Ky., who was traveling with her daughter-in-law, said the amenities couldn't compare to those on the sister ship Queen Elizabeth 2 because of the sheer number of passengers. With 2,600 guests and 150 seats in the planetarium, she had to go early to get in. She was also miffed that only higher-paying customers got their pictures taken with the captain. "I felt like I was a second-class citizen," Edwards, 58, said. "Overall it was lovely, but I like the QE2 better."

On the last day of the trip Allen and Barbara Raymond of Westport, Conn., were still getting lost, having ended up on the wrong side of the ship, headed the wrong way, after breakfast, trying to locate their stateroom. "We never found our way around," she said.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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