The queen of US daytime television, billionaire Oprah Winfrey, yesterday seemed delighted to be in Malta after stepping off a cruise liner that she had rented to take staff on holiday.

She waved enthusiastically to journalists and gave them the thumbs up as she disembarked.

She shouted "Hi" as she got into a red Harry's Chauffer Service minibus and was then whisked away for a tour of the island, four hours after her staff and their families left the boat to do their own exploring.

Her ground crew, who arrived a day in advance, were clad in bright green polo shirts and at 6 a.m. they erected small posters which read "The holiday of a lifetime" on the dock in front of the doors to the liner.

Some of the lucky passengers were wearing light blue commemorative t-shirts emblazoned with the words "We sail together" including the dates of the cruise.

About 30 jeeps took most of the passengers away for an island safari while another three coaches took others to Mdina and other touristic areas.

The British newspaper The Daily Mail reported that she had paid €583,000 to rent out the Norwegian Gem for the 10-day Mediterranean cruise which has also stopped in Turkey and Greece. She left yesterday at 4 p.m.

While the passengers made their way out of the dock, vans from Nexos lighting arrived and started to carry up what looked like stage equipment.

From the top of the bastions one could see workers setting up a structure on the upper most level of the liner.

Sources said Ms Winfrey had contacted the lighting company directly and discussed with them exactly what she wanted. A party will take place in three days' time aboard the boat when it is close to Barcelona, which was its point of departure.

She is reported to be a perfectionist, having asked that all the equipment be very clean.

The self-made superstar was the first black woman on Forbes magazine's annual lists of the world's billionaires and has an estimated worth of $2.5 billion.

She was born in rural Mississippi and became a television newscaster in Nashville, Baltimore. She later joined Chicago TV station and turned a third-rate morning show into America's No. 1 talk show. The Oprah Winfrey Show launched nationally in 1986 and is currently aired in 135 countries, drawing 46 million viewers a week in the US alone.

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