Two of the world's most famous ocean liners will meet for the first time Thursday in the Port of Long Beach in an event expected to draw hundreds of former passengers, ship buffs and other curious onlookers.
The Queen Mary 2, the world's largest passenger ship, is scheduled to pull near its namesake, the retired 1936-vintage Queen Mary, now a hotel and museum at the port.
The two ships are to salute each other with their horns at noon Thursday, an occasion that will also be marked by fireboat displays and skywriting.
"It's a historical event. What they're doing is not a small feat," bringing a big ship so close, said Daniel Crosswell, a longtime travel expert who has sailed on both vessels.
The venerable Cunard Line, originally based in Britain, built both ships, and both rank among the most lavish of their eras. The firm also launched the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2.
The QM2 is making its first West Coast visit, following a 38-day South American tour.
The 2,620-passenger ship was due to arrive at the Port of Los Angeles at 4:45 a.m. today and can be seen from a special viewing area at Berth 87 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. It will return Saturday and again March 8. Visitors cannot go aboard the ship, due to security precautions.
The gross tonnage of the QM2 is 150,000 tons, almost twice as much as the Queen Mary. Its 17 decks loom 200 feet above the water, as tall as a 23-story building, and it is twice as long as the Washington Monument, Cunard officials say.
Those dimensions have posed a challenge for the ship's captain, pilots and port officials.
All other passenger ships arriving at the Port of Los Angeles move prow first up the Main Channel, turn under or near the Vincent Thomas Bridge and back into the main cruise ship slip. But the QM2 is too tall to go under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
So, in a first-ever maneuver, it was expected to turn inside the Angels Gate entry to the port and travel backward up the Main Channel to dock at Berth 91/92.
"She's even too big to pull into the main slip, so we'll put her on the Main Channel," said Los Angeles port spokesman Theresa Adams-Lopez. The ship is also too large to dock alongside its forebear, the Queen Mary.
Those arranging the Thursday event could bring the vessel within only a third of a mile of the old ship.
Long Beach officials have recommended several viewing spots for the meeting: Bixby Park, Bluff Park, Junipero Beach, Shoreline Aquatic Park, Shoreline Park and aboard the Queen Mary. More information can be found at www.thequeenmarysmeet.com.