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Queen Mary II is the flagship of the Cunard Line. The ship was constructed to eventually replace the aging RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, the Cunard flagship from 1969 to 2004 and the last major ocean liner built before the construction of Queen Mary 2. Queen Mary 2 has the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) title conferred on her, as a gesture to Cunard's history, by Royal Mail when she entered service in 2004 on the Southampton to New York route.
Queen Mary II is not a steamship like many of her predecessors, but is powered primarily by four diesel engines, with two additional gas turbines used when extra power is required; this integrated electric propulsion configuration is used to produce the power to drive her four electric propulsion pods as well as powering the ship's hotel services.
Like her predecessor Queen Elizabeth 2 she is built for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, though she is regularly used for cruising; in the winter season she cruises from New York to the Caribbean on ten- or thirteen-day tours. Queen Mary 2's 30-knot (56 km/h; 35 mph) open ocean speed sets the ship apart from cruise ships, such as Oasis of the Seas, which has an average speed of 22.6 knots (41.9 km/h; 26.0 mph); QM2's normal service speed is 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph). While the hull of a cruise ship will typically have a block coefficient of 0.73 (a number closer to 1.0 would represent a rectangular block) Queen Mary 2 has a coefficient of 0.61
Her keel was laid down on 4 July 2002, in the construction dock at Saint-Nazaire, France, with the hull number G32. Approximately 3,000 craftsmen spent around eight million working hours on the ship, and around 20,000 people were directly or indirectly involved in her design, construction, and fitting out. In total, 300,000 pieces of steel were assembled into 94 "blocks" off the drydock, which were then stacked and welded together to complete the hull and superstructure. After floating out on 21 March 2003, the QM2 was fitted out in the large fitting out basin ("Bassin C"), the first ship to use this huge dry dock since the shipyard built large tankers in the 1970s, such as the MV Gastor. Her sea trials were conducted between 25 September-29 September and 7–11 November 2003, between Saint-Nazaire and the offshore islands of Ile d'Yeu and Belle-Ile. The final stages of construction were marred by a fatal accident on 15 November 2003, when a gangway collapsed under a group of shipyard workers and their relatives who had been invited to visit the vessel. In total, 32 people were injured and 16 were killed, after a 15-metre (49 ft) fall into the drydock.
Construction was completed on schedule. Cunard took delivery in Southampton, England on 26 December 2003. On 8 January 2004, the liner was named by her namesake's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II