Dame Helen Mirren is to name P&O’s latest superliner the Ventura at a dockside celebration in Southampton today.

The Oscar-winning actress will break with tradition by commanding a team of Royal Marine Commandos to abseil down the side of the ship, smashing a champagne bottle against the hull.

A fireworks display is then planned for around 8.20pm this evening.

Mirren said: “This is the first time I’ve named a ship, let alone one the size of P&O’s Ventura, and I am really looking forward to being godmother.”

Around 1,500 guests have been invited to today’s ceremony, including celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and children’s favourite Noddy.

Thousands of travel agents have already visited the Ventura over the last week. It is due to set sail on its 14-night maiden voyage around the Mediterranean on Friday.