17 APRIL 2008

Britain's largest cruise liner got a 'royal' seal of approval when The Queen actress Helen Mirren presided over its launch on Wednesday. In a ceremony that combined pomp and fun in equal measure the Oscar winner named the 116,000-tonne P&O ship Ventura.

"I wish the ship luck and love and calm seas on her voyages," declared Dame Helen, speaking before 1,500 guests at the Southampton docks.

She then gave the signal for Royal Marine Commandos Alistair Barton and Carl Thurgood to abseil down the side of the vessel to smash bottles of bubbly against the bow. The lucky soldiers had previously received a good luck kiss from the guest of honour.

Their mission successfully completed, the movie star - now wearing a sailor's cap - went on board to inspect the luxury facilities. These include a Marco Pierre White restaurant, a 3D cinema and theatre, plus enough art to fill the Tate Modern seven times over.

Younger passengers are also catered for with a children's play area, where the showbiz veteran gamely snuggled up to kids' cartoon hero Noddy.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The mood was lighthearted yet dignified as Dame Helen did the honours at a ship-naming ceremony for the VenturaPhoto: © RexClick on photos for gallery
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The screen star gives a good luck kiss to commandos assigned to abseil down the side of the ship to break the champersPhoto: © Alpha Press
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Helen opens the vessel's play area with a little help from NoddyPhoto: © Alpha Press
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