MIAMI -- The pace of sales for the inaugural season of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 exceeded the line's projections by about 50%, said Lee Robinson, vice president of sales.

But what really caught Robinson's attention, he said, was the sale of a QM2 brochure on eBay.

The brochures were sent to Cunard's top-producing agents in June; two weeks later, Robinson saw one on the Web auction site.

"It sold for $350," he said. "In my 20 years, I've never seen anything like that. [The ship's] not even built."

Indeed, the QM2's keel-laying ceremony was just two months ago, and the ship won't be completed until the end of 2003.

Meanwhile, Robinson said he's spent the last four months visiting travel agencies, which "will go out and promote [a ship] 16 months ahead of time."

The QM2 opened for general bookings Aug. 1. The next day Cunard removed its early-booking discounts for the vessel's maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 12, 2004, saying the cruise was nearly sold out.

If that cruise does sell out, agents have a choice of other "maiden" or notable voyages: The Queen Elizabeth 2 will sail in tandem with the QM2 on a April 25 transatlantic voyage, marking the QM2's first eastbound New York-Southampton crossing -- and the QE2's last. The QE2 will continue to offer cruises from Southampton.

Cunard and Carnival Corp. executives boast that the 2,620-passenger QM2 is the most expensive ship ever built, and, at 150,000 tons, the largest.

Although the ship's interiors have not been built, Cunard released some computer renderings of what the liner will look like. The design is elegant, but is not a throwback to an earlier era nor is it like that of the QE2, built in 1969.

The QM2's health club, designed and operated by Canyon Ranch, will comprise 20,000 square feet on two decks. The vessel also will feature the first shipboard planetarium and a children's program operated by trained English nannies, Robinson said. "We're seeing a lot of [bookings with] families," he added.

Like passengers aboard the QE2, guests on the QM2 will be assigned their dining rooms based on cabin type. Aside from the three main dining rooms -- the Britannia Restaurant, the Princess Grill and the exclusive Queens Grill -- there will be cuisine offerings from restaurateur Todd English, the Kings Court buffet and the casual Golden Lion and Boardwalk Grill.

As for accommodations, 78% will be outside cabins. Pricing for 2004 starts at $1,499 for an inside cabin, Robinson said.

He said demand also is strong for the QE2's final year of transatlantic crossings. If the booking pattern continues, the QE2's 2003 season will be sold out by the end of this year -- and the QM2's inaugural season will be sold out by the end of 2003.

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