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Record-setting cruise ship reaches Florida

The Queen Mary 2, the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship, completed its first trans-Atlantic voyage Monday, arriving at this port next to Fort Lauderdale.

Accompanied by a tugboat that shot red and blue water into the air, Cunard Line's new flagship pulled into its winter port shortly after 7 a.m., two weeks after it left the English port of Southampton. About 2,600 passengers paid from about $2,800 to $37,499 for the first trip.

A procession of vessels, including the Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Carney, protected the Queen Mary 2. More than a dozen law enforcement and television helicopters hovered overhead. Hundreds of people lined the shores and nearby high-rises to get a look at the $800-million luxury ocean liner, and a small plane pulling a banner reading "Fort Lauderdale welcomes QM2" circled above.

Passenger Richard Faber, 66, of New York City, was beaming after walking off the ship.

"From beginning to end, it was extraordinary," said Faber, who sells ocean liner memorabilia. He said that despite rough weather and large ocean swells at the trip's beginning, the ship held steady and he could barely tell he was on the water. He and a friend paid $4,000 each for a room with a balcony.

The ship sets a number of records for passenger vessels _ largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive. Passengers enjoyed six restaurants, 14 bars and clubs, a library, a theater, pools, a spa, a disco and casino. Elevators _ 22 of them _ ferry them from floor to floor. The 1,310 cabins include duplexes with private gymnasiums and penthouses with butler service. If the bright stars of the clear night ocean sky aren't enough, there's also a planetarium.

Passengers said that despite the modern amenities, the ship still had an Old World feel.

"It's a real trans-Atlantic liner, not a mega cruise liner," Faber said.

Lori Luciano, 68, of Tewksbury Township, N.J., agreed, but said she was disappointed with some aspects.

"The food wasn't that good," she said.

David and Margaret Barton, of Cape Coral, who got engaged on the original Queen Mary 40 years ago, watched from the terminal as passengers prepared to disembark. While most of the public was kept out of the port for security reasons, the British natives were invited to watch by Cunard and Gov. Jeb Bush, who was also there.

"Can't wait to take a trip on it," said David Barton, 68, an industrial real estate developer. "It's so impressive."

Bush later joked that "I have to wait three years when I'm old and retired to do that."

People welcome the Queen Mary 2, the largest luxury ocean liner ever built, as it arrives at Port Everglades Monday, completing its first trans-Atlantic voyage from Southampton, England. The Cunard Line ship is 1,132 feet long and 236 feet high and can hold more than 2,000 passengers. The ship will begin a series of Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale beginning Saturday.