BAR HARBOR – With the Queen Mary 2 filling the background, Prudie Tremblay and a friend mugged for a camera on a pier overlooking Frenchman Bay under Monday’s bright sunshine.

“I’ve been following this (ship) for I don’t know how long,” Tremblay, of St. Albans, said after the picture was snapped. “I wish they’d let us on.”

Tremblay, her friend Linda Fortier of Guilford and thousands of other Mainers swarmed this Down East resort town to greet the world’s largest ocean liner on her maiden call under nearly perfect weather conditions.

Gov. John Baldacci led the greeters as he welcomed the ship’s master, Commodore Ronald Warwick, aboard the magnificent liner as it lay at anchor in the glistening bay.

“It’s the best day; we’ve got the best weather and the best ship,” Baldacci said. “It’s a grand slam.”

The sightseers arrived early. Warwick said that as he peered through his binoculars while the 1,132-foot ship made way toward its anchorage, he saw people on the mountains lining the bay trying to get a glimpse of the QM2.

In the eight months it’s been in service, the QM2 has already been from the Mediterranean to South America. “By coming here today, we feel that friendship you’ve extended to us,” the white-bearded Warwick told Baldacci.

While there was no official crowd count, Costas Christ of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce said thousands were expected in the town that has a year-round population of 4,800. They included about 30 Portland residents who booked rooms so they could see the ship before its scheduled arrival Oct. 9 in their city.

Many of the ship’s passengers came into town to shop or board two dozen tour buses that took them to lobster bakes, and to nearby Acadia National Park for carriage rides, tea at the Jordan Pond House and the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

Dave Webb of the Cyr Bus Line of Old Town said ship passengers on his bus included French, English, Mexicans and a few Americans. Webb, who handles ship tours often, said he rarely has seen such large crowds in Bar Harbor.

“This is a special day,” he said.

The town’s main street was turned into a pedestrian-only mall for the day to accommodate the crowds, and bands providing music there and in other spots in town added to the carnival atmosphere.

At Epi Sub, a line of customers snaked out the door and down the street at lunchtime, said owner John Wert, who went through 30 dozen small wheat rolls alone serving up his crab roll specials. “This is better than any Fourth of July,” Wert said with a grin.

Elsewhere in town, tourists gobbled up pieces of a 3-by-5-foot sheet cake made in the likeness of the Queen Mary 2.

On the ship, which has 10 restaurants and 14 bars, Monday’s main fare was Maine lobster.

“We always pick up lobster while we’re here,” said Warwick, a former captain of the QM2’s sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, and whose father was also captain of the Queen Elizabeth 2.

The QM2’s sprawling main dining room, the Britannia, seats 1,250. The circular captain’s table sits below a mammoth wall carpeting showing the likeness of a great Cunard liner gliding past the skyscrapers of New York, the QM2’s next stop.

In the Grand Lobby, split, semicircular stairways spill onto a cavernous area that’s open for five decks above. The Royal Court, where 1,400 passengers sit in plush, red seats, is the showplace for Las Vegas-style revues, lectures and concerts.

Among the QM2’s other attractions are Illuminations, the first planetarium at sea, a library with 5,000 books, a spa and gym, conference center, computer room and casino.

The ship carried 2,500 passengers and 1,250 crew members. Passengers pay $1,500 to $20,000 per person for a cruise, depending on accommodations.

At 1,132 feet long, 236 feet tall and with a beam of 135 feet, the QM2 is much larger than the QE2 and the ill-fated Titanic.

It is completing a fall foliage cruise that started in New York and continued to Newport, R.I., and Sydney, Nova Scotia, where it encountered 70 mph winds and heavy seas. The ship also stopped in Quebec City, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, before arriving in Maine.



On the Net:

Cunard Line: http://www.cunard.com.


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