The Queen Mary 2, soon to be the longest, tallest and most expensive passenger ship ever constructed, is beginning tests on the open sea off the coast of France. The first three-day series of tests focus on examining ship's main functions, including stability. The ship is being built by French heavy-engineering giant Alstom's Chantiers de l'Atlantique for the British ship operator Cunard Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp. The ship cost is reported to be $800 million.
The vessel is 345 meters long and 72 meters high, about the height of a 21-story building. The vesselís 1,310 cabins include duplexes with private gymnasiums and penthouses with butler service. With 150,000 gross tons, more than double the QE2's 70,000 tons, Queen Mary 2 will be the largest passenger vessel. Voyager-class ships, about 138,000 tons, are currently the largest cruise ships in service.
The maiden voyage across the Atlantic is not until January 2004. Its first trip will be from Southampton, England, to Fort Lauderdale (Florida). Then, the Queen Mary 2 will take over the older ship's trans-Atlantic Britain to New York route in April.