The Queen will officially name P&O Cruises’ new liner, the 141,000-ton Britannia today.
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen will be at the centre of a glittering ceremony in Southampton, the vessel’s home port.
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth will also be at the naming ceremony.
Adorned with a 308-ft version of the Union Flag on its bow, Britannia arrived in Southampton last week and will host hundreds of guests at a dinner ahead of today’s naming.
The ceremony should prove a nostalgic one for the Queen, as the 1,082-ft long new addition to the P&O fleet bears the same name as the royal yacht Britannia which was in service from 1954 to 1997.
Capable of carrying more than 3,600 passengers and 1,350 crew, Britannia is the largest cruise ship designed specifically for the British holiday market.
Boasting 15 passenger decks, 13 bars and 13 places to eat, the £473-million Britannia has a three-tier atrium, a 936-seater theatre, four swimming pools, and a multimillion-pound art collection.
There is also a spa, extensive children’s areas, a gym, a library, extensive shops and a sports arena.
Passengers will be able to take part in a cookery school on board and there will be guest chefs on cruises, including Mary Berry, Marco Pierre White and James Martin.
Captains Paul Brown, who joined P&O Cruises in 1989, and David Pembridge, who has been with the company since 1972, will alternate being in command of Britannia.
Sailing from Southampton during the summer and operating from the Caribbean in the winter, Britannia will visit 57 ports in 31 countries in its first year, sailing more than 90,000 miles.
Its maiden cruise, leaving Southampton on March 14, will be a 14-night Western Mediterranean sailing - with port stops including Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome.
This will be the third P&O ship to be named Britannia. The first entered service in 1835 for P&O’s predecessor company, The General Steam Navigation Co.
The second Britannia entered service in 1887 and was built in Greenock in Scotland.
In another link between the name Britannia and the royal family, Winston Churchill sailed on P&O’s second Britannia in 1888. More than five decades later the great statesman was the first of the Queen’s 12 prime ministers.