t is almost unheard of for a ship leaving service to bring a city to a standstill.
But then, the QE2 is not just any ship. Tomorrow evening, the most famous ship afloat sails from Southampton for the last time, heading to Dubai where it will become a floating hotel.
It was due to leave its berth at 5.30pm, but Cunard has agreed to delay departure until 7.15pm because of city council concerns about thousands of farewell-wishers descending on Southampton at rush hour.
The council is already worried that Mayflower Park, the main vantage point in the city with room for 10,000 people, is not going to be big enough. They may be right.
Weather permitting, one million poppies will be dropped over the ship to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and at 1.40pm, there will be a fly-past by a RAF Harrier. The Duke of Edinburgh will have a farewell lunch on board, and in Mayflower Park, a giant video screen will show live and archive footage of the vessel.
It is an extraordinary send-off considering that this is a 41-year-old ship giving up its globetrotting days, not a shiny new vessel embarking on its maiden voyage.