Real Queen (Helen Mirren) to launch Britain's biggest cruise ship to avoid 'curse of Camilla'


Last updated at 21:17 02 February 2008

She won an Oscar for her stunning portrayal of the Queen in the film of the same name.

And now Dame Helen Mirren has been deemed regal enough to perform a duty often reserved for Royalty: she is to launch her first ship.

But in a break with tradition, the 62-year-old movie, stage and TV star will not be swinging a bottle of champagne against the hull of the new P&O cruise ship Ventura, which is the largest liner designed exclusively for the British market.

Instead she will name the ship, but then hand the bubbly to a squadron of Royal Marine Commandos, who will abseil down the hull, smashing the champagne as they go.

It is a move designed to ensure there is no repeat of the "Curse of Camilla" - when Prince Charles's wife failed to break the bottle at the launch of another cruise ship in December.

Mariners regard this as a bad omen - and soon a potentially lethal stomach bug struck down nearly 80 passengers.

Dame Helen said last night: "It is the first time I have ever named a ship, let alone one of the size of Ventura."

P&O Cruises managing director Nigel Esdale said: "Dame Helen Mirren embodies glamour, vitality and Britishness, which are all values that will be a feature of Ventura.

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"We are delighted that Dame Helen is to be associated with her - and we are determined to get the bottle-smashing right."

Royal Marines display team commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Steve Richards said: "This is a rather unusual assignment for our lads, but well within their capabilities."

P&O refused to say how much Dame Helen will be paid for the launch of the 116,000-ton vessel, which can carry more than 3,500 passengers, but her fee for the event in Southampton on April 16 is reputed to be in six figures.

Dame Helen will be joined at Ventura's naming ceremony by 1,500 VIP guests, including Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White, who has two themed restaurants on board.

The "Curse of Camilla" struck three weeks after the Duchess of Cornwall launched the 90,000-ton Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria at Southampton last year.

During a cruise to the Canary Islands, passengers went down with Novovirus, the winter-vomiting bug. Sick passengers were confined to their rooms.

Many had expressed surprise that Camilla, rather than the Queen, was invited to launch the liner.

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