PORTLAND (AP) – The Queen Mary II, the world’s largest ocean liner, will be greeted today at the state’s largest port with the biggest bash the city has thrown for a cruise ship in eight years.

Water salutes, fireworks and live music will be part of festivities as the ship makes its first visit to Portland. Casco Bay Lines also will offer special cruises, and admission to the Portland Harbor Museum will be free.

The Queen Mary II is the newest ship of the Cunard line, known for its long history of luxury trans-Atlantic travel. The ship, which sailed in January, is carrying about 2,600 passengers on a 12-day cruise through New England and Canada.

The ship has drawn crowds of admirers at other ports, including a stop in Bar Harbor late last month. An estimated 15,000 to 18,000 people are expected to see the ship during its one-day stay in Portland.

The last time a cruise ship was greeted with such festivities in Portland was in 1996, when the Queen Elizabeth II, also part of the Cunard line, arrived.

Jerry Angier of the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Portland Region said a visit by a ship like the Queen Mary II warrants an extra measure of hospitality. The business community has been preparing for its arrival since February, he said.

“This ship is an icon, so it’s something special,” he said.

Jeff Monroe, Portland’s transportation director, says the city is ready for the visit and has decided to use the visit as a chance to test the city’s newly outfitted emergency operations center in Portland.

“This is probably the highest-profile ship in the world,” he said. “We need to do a little something extra, and while we’re doing something extra why don’t we test out the system?”

The workings of the drill should be invisible to the public, Monroe said.

The ship is expected to enter Portland Harbor between 7 and 8 a.m. and anchor south of Fort Gorges, according to the Press Herald.

Viewing points include Spring Point on the campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland; Bug Light Park in South Portland; Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade in Portland; and Eastern Prom Trail, the paper reported.

Casco Bay Lines will offer cruises from Portland’s waterfront as follows: 90-minute cruise at 7 a.m.; and one-hour cruises at 9 and 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and children ages 5 through 9; free for children under 5 years old, the newspaper reported.

A fireworks show from below Eastern Promenade is set for 8:05 p.m., the Press Herald reported, and the ocean liner will depart Portland at 10 p.m.

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