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Jason

Happy Birthday Queen Mary 2!

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Happy Birthday to the Beautiful QM2! (Source: AP)

Queen Mary 2 celebrates her first birthday after entering service and making worldwide headlines in January 2004. The first transatlantic liner to be built since QE2, Queen Mary 2 is the biggest (151,400 tons), the longest (1,132 feet), the tallest (236 feet) the widest (135 feet) passenger liner ever and, at a cost of $800 million, the most expensive passenger ship in history.

Four days after being named by Her Majesty The Queen, this record-breaking ship set off on her Maiden Voyage and has been making headlines ever since. Her first year has seen her complete 13 Atlantic crossings, sail 125,000 nautical miles and carry almost 130,000 passengers. She has been a crowd-puller at every port she has visited for the first time and almost three million turned out when she sailed up the east coast of England at close range in July.

Passenger reaction to Queen Mary 2 has been mostly positive with passengers generally rating the ship highly when it comes to dining, service and on board facilities.

Queen Mary 2 has entertained a range of celebrities including Antonio Banderas, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Hurley, Esther Rantzen, Sir Jimmy Savile and The Muppets. Her Royal Court Theatre has been the venue for shows from Dame Shirley Bassey, Jon Bon Jovi, Harry Connick Jr. and Beyonce Knowles while eminent visitors have included Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent, the Rt Hon John Prescott MP, Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and Senator Hilary Clinton.

She was the flagship vessel at the Athens Olympics in August where she played host to Queen Sophia of Spain, former President George Bush and Olympic athlete royalty including Great Britain's gold medal winner Ben Ainslie. She's now so famous, in fact, that already four books have been published about her!

Queen Mary 2 is fast proving to be the destination in her own right. Everything about this ship is superlative and she offers a whole host of 'firsts' and exclusives. 79% of cabins feature private balconies. There is over $5 million of artwork on board. The world's first floating Planetarium offers virtual reality rides through the galaxies. A cultural academy is operated by the University of Oxford. She has the first suites with private lift access, the first Canyon Ranch Spa at sea, the first Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar at sea, the largest Library at sea (with 8,000 hardbacks, 500 paperbacks, 200 audio books and 100 CD ROMs) and the largest ballroom with the biggest dance floor at sea.

Workshops and master classes are performed by RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). She also boasts the longest jogging track at sea, the largest and most extensive wine cellar at sea -- and, if that's not enough, the 'Queen Mary 2' signs near the funnel are the largest illuminated ship's name signs in maritime history!

Queen Mary 2 will sail 26 Atlantic crossings in 2005. Crossing the Atlantic on the only scheduled service by sea is an experience and an adventure. Nobody knows this more than Cunard: the company's ships have crossed the Atlantic every year, without fail, since 1840. Queen Mary 2 is the first transatlantic liner to be built since her elder sister, Queen Elizabeth 2, entered service in 1969. An Atlantic 'steamship' crossing is a 'must do' journey -- one that has been undertaken for over 160 years by everyone from emigrants to film stars, from Dickens to the Duchess of Windsor.

A crossing enables passengers to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers and is a relaxing and rewarding opportunity to savour. The past comes to life on board Queen Mary 2 with the Maritime Quest exhibition -- the first ever permanent exhibition on an ocean liner where deck upon deck and corridor upon corridor trace Cunard's proud history since its founding in 1839. The journey to New York has the added benefit of 25-hour days as well as the never-to-be-forgotten experience of seeing at dawn the most famous cityscape in the world. Fares for the six-day cruising (including flight to / from the ship) start from $1,499 per person.

In addition Queen Mary 2 offers a variety of cruises to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. More records will be broken in winter 2006 when she becomes the largest passenger ship ever to circumnavigate South America and visit the US West Coast and Hawaii.

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