18/04/2008

'Smashing Time' As Marines Ensure Ship Gets Proper Launch

Just a few months after seafarers spoke of 'bad omens' following technical 'glitches' at the launch of the Cunard ship, Queen Victoria by the Duchess of Cornwall - when the champagne bounced off the bow during the ceremony - P&O Cruises were taking no chances this week.

Two Royal Marine Commandos helped Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren - who most famously played The Queen on screen - to launch Britain's largest superliner cruise ship.

The Marines, part of the Royal Marines Commando Display Team, based at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, abseiled off the bridge and down the side of the 116,000 tonne P&O Cruises ship 'Ventura' smashing bottles of champagne against the ship's name in front of media and 1,500 guests.

Dame Helen Mirren, who is 'godmother' of the ship, commanded the Marines in their James Bond style stunt, which took place at Southampton.

Colour Sergeant Andy Buckley of the Royal Marines Commando Display Team, who choreographed the abseil down the Ventura's superstructure, said: "We were asked to assist with the launch and the only way we could come up with this, in true Royal Marine Commando fashion, was to abseil off the side of the ship and smash the bottles of champagne.

"The main reason the Royal Marines were asked to do this is because we are successful in making these ventures happen."

Captain Rod Yapp, Officer in Charge of the Royal Marine Commando Display Team, said: "It's been quite different. Obviously it's different from our time in Afghanistan. But it's been quite daunting being in front of the world's Press and dealing with so much media attention."

Ventura is the latest addition to P&O Cruises' fleet and is the largest superliner designed exclusively for Britain.

At 116,000 tonnes she is more than 40% larger than the P&O Cruises ship Arcadia, currently the largest built for this market. At full capacity she will carry nearly 3,600 passengers and 1,200 crew.

The previous failed launch of the Queen Victoria in December - also the first such vessel to be named by a non monarch - was claimed as the 'reason' why, three weeks later, the 'Curse of Camilla' seemed to have stuck as the luxury liner has been hit by a highly contagious stomach 'flu bug.

Nearly 80 passengers on the £300million ship fell victim of the virus, which causes severe vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea.

Historically the "Cunard Queens" have all been named by a monarch.

(BMcC)

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