The Queen Elizabeth, the newest luxury liner of that name, glided into Waitemata Harbour this morning on its first ever visit to Auckland.

Named by Her Majesty the Queen at Southampton in England last October, the 90,900-tonne Cunard ship is midway through its maiden 103-night voyage around the world.

The liner was anchored for a time off Russell, in the Bay of Islands yesterday, before making the journey down the east coast of the North Island.

It berthed at Princes Wharf early today while most of its 2000 passengers were still asleep and will leave for Wellington at midnight.


President and managing director of Cunard, Peter Shanks, said the company was thrilled the Queen Elizabeth was visiting New Zealand on its maiden voyage.

"New Zealand has long been a favourite destination for our Cunard world voyage guests."

He said the company valued its heritage and had incorporated features from the Queen Elizabeth's two predecessors (the original Queen Elizabeth, launched in 1938; and the much-loved Queen Elizabeth II, launched in 1968) on the new liner.

A globe from the first Queen Elizabeth, situated in the new ship's library, is one such feature.

Also eye catching, though more recently created, is an 18ft-high, art deco-style marquetry frieze, which has pride of place in the ship's lofty Grand Lobby.

Depicting the bow of the original Queen Elizabeth, it was created by the Queen's carpenter nephew Viscount Linley as a tribute to his aunt.

The captain of the Queen Elizabeth, Julian Burgess, said he had sailed into Auckland on "many, many ships" but that arriving on a brand new vessel was always a special experience.

With the City of Sails turning on a spectacular morning, he said it could not have been a better day to welcome the ship into port here for the first time.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry said New Zealand was now firmly on the world cruise map and estimated today's visit alone would generate around $1 million for the Auckland economy.

The Queen Elizabeth — which joins the Queen Victoria and the Queen Mary 2 in Cunard's stable of luxury ships — can accommodate more than 2000 guests in 1046 staterooms. More than 700 of those rooms also have private balcony cabins.

The passengers have access to 10 restaurants and cafes, a two-storey library complete with a lead-glass ceiling, a games deck, a state-of-the-art spa and an 800-capacity theatre.

Mrs Sherry said it was fantastic for New Zealand that the Queen Elizabeth was here so soon after being launched.

"This really is a really gorgeous, gorgeous ship and a fabulous way to see the world."