New Queen Elizabeth arrives in Southampton

Cunard's new cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth, arrives into Southampton

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Cunard's new cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth, has arrived at its home port of Southampton.

The ship, built in Italy, will be officially named by the Queen on Monday and will leave on its maiden voyage to the Canary Islands on Tuesday.

Hundreds of onlookers turned out to catch a glimpse of the vessel as she sailed up the Solent earlier.

The vessel will join the other "Queens" in the Cunard fleet - the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and the Queen Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) made its last transatlantic crossing in 2008.

Queen Elizabeth docked at the city's Ocean Terminal just before 0900 BST.

About 500 people lined the length of Southampton's Town Quay and Mayflower Park taking pictures as its horn echoed along the Solent.

The BBC's Stephen Stafford, who was at the waterfront, said there was a "sense of pride and admiration" as the ship sailed into the world-famous port.

FROM THE DECK

"I travelled out on a motor launch to join the new ship as she sailed into her home port for the first time.

"On deck, some of the crew came out to watch.

"Most of them transferred from Cunard's other two ships, so finding their way around hasn't been difficult - but they are a bit nervous.

"The naming ceremony is a big deal, an occasion that will stay with the ship throughout its life and will be part of its character.

"Getting something wrong would be a career-defining moment for any of these crew members".

Spectator Faith Jordan, 40, from Sandown, Isle of Wight, called it "a fantastic sight".

"Although not as spectacular as the Queen Mary II," she added.

Mick Jerome, 53, who watched as the ship passed Netley Abbey, thought it was "too big."

"The funnel looks right, everything looks right, but the back looks wrong to me."

Candice Bredenkamp, a waitress from South Africa, talked about the pride in working on board.

"I want to make my parents feel proud and just being here for such an important day makes me feel proud."

It is the third Cunard ship to be named Queen Elizabeth.

The first was launched on the Clyde in Scotland in 1938 by the then Queen Elizabeth - who later became the Queen Mother - with the present Queen, aged 12, looking on.

The Queen launched the second Queen Elizabeth, the QE2, on the Clyde in 1967. She also named the QM2 at Southampton in 2004.

Queen Elizabeth arriving into Southampton The new vessel will join the other Cunard "Queens" - Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and Queen Victoria

The new QE is one foot longer and one foot wider than the QE2 - which was sold to Dubai-based property developers Nakheel after being retired - but with 16 decks, it is much taller.

The ship looks like its sister, Queen Victoria, but is more than a third smaller than Cunard's largest liner, the QM2.

The maiden voyage sold out in 29 minutes and 14 seconds when tickets went on sale on 1 April 2009.

The 13-night cruise sets off from Southampton at 1700 BST on 12 October. At the helm will be Cpt Chris Wells.

The first stop is Vigo in Spain, from where the ship will sail to the Canary Islands.

The cheapest fare is £1,489 for an inside cabin, with prices rising to £16,000 for a grand suite.

BBC graphic of the new Queen Elizabeth ship

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