Cunard Queen Anne cruise ship on maiden voyage

Cunard's newest cruise ship has set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage.

Queen Anne is the company's first new ship for 14 years, and one of four Cunard ships based in the city.

The ship's maiden voyage, with 3,000 passengers, sold out in just a few minutes.

It departed, accompanied by fireworks visible across Southampton Water, and is now en route to Lisbon.

Katie McAlister, President of Cunard, said bookings have increased by 25% since January and are the strongest for 10 years.

Queen Anne departing from Southampton
Queen Anne departed from Southampton and is now sailing to Lisbon [BBC]

New Cunard ships are usually named by leading members of the Royal Family.

The late Queen Elizabeth II named QE2 in 1967, Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010. The present Queen Camilla, named Queen Victoria in 2007.

Ms McAlister declined to reveal who would name the 249th vessel to fly the Cunard flag at a ceremony in Liverpool on 3 June and said it would only be announced a week beforehand.

Queen Anne cruise ship
It will set sail for Lisbon just after 21:00 BST on Friday [PA Media]

"Queen Anne is great for Southampton, because she will 'home port' here," she said.

She added that the vessel will be in Southampton "year-round", but would be named in Liverpool because "that is the spiritual home of Cunard".

The company was founded in Liverpool, but moved its headquarters to Southampton in 1967.

Katie McAlister
Katie McAlister is the President of Cunard [BBC]

On board the ship, Faith Hepburn from Nottingham has been taking part in dress rehearsals in the ship's 850-seat theatre.

She joined the ship at the Marghera shipyard near Venice in Italy, where it was built.

It's her first professional stage show, as a cast member of "Brief Encounter," adapted from a West End and Broadway production.

"This is my first ever cruise ship," she said. "First job, first for everything professionally!"

Faith Hepburn
Faith Hepburn will star in her first professional stage show on the ship [BBC]

"I've already learned so much from being here. I'm on board until 8th September, so we've got just over four months."

"It's insane," said Scott Royle, who plays one of the lead roles in the show. "I've worked on ships for six years."

"I get paid to see the world. I go to sleep then wake up in a different place. But I'm also doing a job that I absolutely love in the evenings," he added.

The cruise industry calculates that more than 60,000 people in the south of England rely on the cruise industry for work.

ABP, which runs Southampton port, says nearly 500 cruise ship calls are booked this year, with around two million passengers passing through the city's five cruise terminals.

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