QM2 arrives stateside with much fanfare

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Queen Mary 2 made a dramatic dawn entry into Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades Monday morning.

The 151,000-ton ocean liner was welcomed to its south Florida home base by Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as 24 media-manned helicopters, which buzzed overhead.

Thousands of spectators gathered at various points around the port, Port Everglades officials said; welcome banners hung from the balconies of the condos lining the port's channel, and on the sand, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau lay a carpet that said "Fort Lauderdale Welcomes QM2" in big letters.

"The only time I've seen this much media attention is at a sporting event," said Micky Arison, the CEO of Cunard Line parent company Carnival Corp. "We've never had this kind of attention for a ship."

The QM2's first set of passengers disembarked with thumbs up signs, reporting that the voyage had been a "once-in-lifetime" experience.

As reporters greeted the guests dockside, passengers used words such as "magnificent" and "superb." Some expressed disappointment at inattentive and confused service the first few days, but added it improved towards the end of the voyage.

On Jan. 28, the QM2 departs on a two-day cruise-to-nowhere for travel agents and media before departing Jan. 31 on an 11-day Caribbean roundtrip. Fireworks will mark the ship's departure from the port on both occasions.

To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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