ABU DHABI // The captain of the Queen Mary 2 has described the moment he made Abu Dhabi maritime history when he docked the giant luxury liner in the capital for the first time.
“The navigational aids, marks, assistance and so forth made it a very safe and routine matter to dock here,” said Commodore Christopher Rynd of this morning’s arrival. “Port Zayed is very well arranged. We’re always looking for new ports and I think it’s great to have a new port in this region.”
After the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) docked at the Port Zayed cruise terminal at 7.05am today, hundreds of the 2,502 passengers poured from the Cunard Line flagship to spend the day sightseeing, with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as the number one attraction for most.
“We’re going to have a look around for a few hours,” said passenger Ken Richford, 70, from the QM2’s home port of Southampton.
His wife Jen, also 70, is enjoying life on board. “It’s lovely,” she said. “I love the elegance and being waited on, and everybody is so friendly.”
A team of Emirati stick dancers provided a traditional welcome, and another couple described how they watched them perform as they had breakfast on their cabin balcony.
The liner travelled to Abu Dhabi overnight from Dubai, which she has visited a number of times since first docking there in 2007.
She arrived in Dubai on Sunday and weighed anchor at 9pm on Monday. More than 1,000 passengers flew to Dubai to join the ship there.
Mohamed Al Shamisi, executive vice-president of ports at Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “For us this is a historic moment. The QM2 is one of the most luxurious cruise ships that exists, so to have her in Abu Dhabi is a big step for us. It will encourage other cruise operators to come here.”
A permanent cruise terminal is to be built at Port Zayed, replacing the current temporary facility. Mr Al Shamsi said he hoped it would be completed in time for the start of the 2015-16 cruise season.
Noura Al Dhaheri, leisure product development manager at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said: “We think Abu Dhabi can offer something different from other destinations.”
The QM2 is on a 106-day world cruise that began in Southampton on January 10 and has so far included stops at Barcelona, Athens and Port Said, the Suez Canal, Sokhna and Safaga in Egypt.
She will leave Abu Dhabi at 6pm on Tuesday and her next port of call will be Cochin, India. She will then visit a number of other Asian ports before continuing on to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Canary Islands. She is due to return home to Southampton on April 26.
Those who booked the entire voyage paid between US$22,000 (Dh81,400) and $80,300 per person.
After completing the cruise, the QM2 will revert to the role she was built for, shuttling transatlantic passengers back and forth from Southampton to New York.
She cost US$700 million to build and was launched in 2003 as the flagship successor to the Queen Elizabeth 2, which Cunard sold to Dubai World in 2007.
The Abu Dhabi officials were given a tour of the ship during which they saw facilities such as the 1,500-seat Las Vegas-style show lounge.
There is a 700-seat planetarium that also serves as a 3D cinema and lecture hall – Formula 1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart joined the ship in Dubai and will speak during the next leg of the voyage.
The 345-metre long giant of the sea is the largest ocean liner ever built. Although there are larger cruise ships, a liner is a separate class of ship that is stronger and more powerful.
It also has the largest ballroom at sea and offers a unique service for ladies who find themselves without a dance partner. Eight “gentlemen dance hosts” – one of whom is a sprightly 80 – are employed to join them for a turn round the floor.