Southampton, July 3rd 2012 P&O Cruises today celebrates 175 years of heritage with a ‘Grand Event’ in its home port of Southampton. The company’s seven ships will first be welcomed into port by ship’s Godmother Darcey Bussell for a day of celebrations. HRH Princess Royal will later review the fleet as it departs in formation in the Solent, after a spectacular ‘flutterfetti’ evening send-off, and a display by seven jets of the Red Arrows.
The seven ships – Adonia, Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, Oceana, Oriana, and Ventura – with a combined gross tonnage of 569,000 tonnes, will sail into Southampton at dawn, marking the first-ever occasion all seven P&O Cruises ships have gathered together in their home port. On the aft deck of Azura, Darcey Bussell, who named the ship in 2010, will be presented with seven captain’s hats – one for each ship in the fleet – as jets from the Red Arrows perform a flypast over the ship. Later, HRH The Princess Royal will be greeted by the seven ship’s captains in a special ceremony. Her Royal Highness, godmother to two P&O Cruises ships, will join a VIP reception on board Oriana, with P&O Cruises consultant chefs Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar and wine expert Olly Smith in attendance, as well as a special cake baked by celebrity patissier Eric Lanlard. With 2,600 bottles of champagne and 1,750 whole lobster loaded on board, passengers will enjoy barbeques on deck as the ships leave their berths in the early evening. Once in formation, the ships will be reviewed by HRH The Princess Royal, who will be on board the Trinity House vessel Patricia. HRH The Princess Royal will be escorted by the Royal Navy’s newest Type 45 destroyer, HMS Dragon. After a ‘flutterfetti’ departure with streamers and daytime pyrotechnics and a display over Southampton Water by the Red Arrows, the ships will take the Royal salute. They will then go their separate ways on seven Grand Event cruises around the world, including the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Canary Islands. In a complex logistical operation, 15,000 passengers will disembark and 15,000 new passengers will board the ships during the ‘Grand Event’ day. Over 10,000 spectators are expected to gather at vantage points around Southampton Water to watch the departure of the ships. The whole event will bring an estimated £17 million to the local Southampton economy. P&O Cruises managing director Carol Marlow said: “Our ‘Grand Event’ celebrations on July 3 promise to be a truly impressive spectacle, and we are honoured to be joined by HRH The Princess Royal, godmother to two of our ships, to carry out our Royal Review. During our 175 years of heritage, the ships and crew have been at the cutting edge of maritime and cruising innovation, served with distinction as troop carriers in several wars, and, most importantly, offered our passengers a superb cruising experience year in and year out. “With so many passengers and spectators joining us, we are sure that the day will be a great opportunity to celebrate the past and present and look to the future of Britain’s best-known and best-loved cruise line.”