The biggest ship to visit Australia, the Queen Mary 2, arrives in Sydney

The Queen Mary 2 arrives at Circular Quay on Wednesday morning. Onlookers photograph the Queen Mary 2 at Circular Quay in Sydney on Wednesday morning.

The biggest ocean liner to ever visit Australia, the Queen Mary 2, docked in Sydney Harbour early on Wednesday morning for a whirlwind visit as part of its second circumnavigation of Australia.

Built at a cost of $US800 million ($A884 million), Cunard Line’s 151,400-tonne flagship Queen Mary 2 will carry almost 2500 guests to Sydney, 850 of whom are Australian, along with 1200 staff and crew. The ship is almost twice as large as the original Queen Mary, is two-thirds the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, sitting at 62 metres above the waterline (equal to the height of a 23-storey building), is far too big to fit underneath it.

Seventy-year-old Sydneysider Helen McMaster has cruised on the ocean liner almost every year since it’s maiden world voyage in  2007.

“I used to dream of doing such a voyage when I was young, so I set off for what I thought was a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” said Mrs. McMaster, who ended up meeting her 85-year-old now-husband Andrew during that voyage. The couple got married 12 months later on the Queen Victoria, and now spend “every year on the ship for our anniversary dinner.”

The McMasters, who have done a total of eight world cruises together, including five on the Queen Mary 2, are continuing their journey from Sydney today all the way to their final destination of New York, which they will reach on May 16. “She’s just a beautiful ship, we really do think of her as our home for five months,” Mrs. McMaster said.

By the time the McMasters disembark the QM2 in New York, they will have spent a total of 750 days on the Queen Mary 2.

The 10-year-old ship arrived in Sydney, its ninth visit, from Melbourne and sails to Brisbane on Friday. It won’t return to Sydney until the end of it’s full circumnavigation of Australia on March 14. The voyage is part of the ship’s seventh world voyage over 119 nights, and it will stop off at eight Australian ports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle, all of which will be visited by the liner twice.

The Queen Mary 2 has 1310 guest rooms, a six-storey grand lobby, 17 decks, the largest library at sea (which houses more than 8000 books), the largest ballroom at sea, more than 10 restaurants and cafes and a spa spanning two decks with 24 treatment rooms. It also has the first planetarium at sea, 14 clubs and bars and four outdoor swimming pools.

During February and March this year, Cunard is sending all three of its Queens (including Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2) to Australia as part of its world voyage program spanning six continents and almost 80 destinations. It will be the first time all members of the royal triumvirate have visited Australia in the same season.

The Queen Mary 2 will depart Sydney at 9pm on Wednesday evening.

Sydney will receive a record 39 visits by 25 cruise ships during “Super February” this year, up from 36 visits last February.