It was a once in a lifetime sight. The seven gleaming white hulls of P&O’s entire cruise ship fleet, sailing up Southampton Water. It was The Grand Event, and it took place to mark 175 years of P&O Cruises, featuring the Adonia, Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, Oceana, Oriana and the Ventura.
The drizzly weather wasn’t ideal, but that didn’t deter thousands of members of the public from lining Mayflower Park to get a glimpse of this world-famous fleet. With a combined tonnage of 596,000 tonnes, it’s one of the biggest single incidences of peacetime shipping ever assembled off Southampton.
A special ceremony was held in which the HRH Princess Royal was greeted by the seven captains of the ships. Later she attended a VIP reception on board the Oriana, which featured a cake by patissier Eric Lanlard and was also attended by P&O’s consultant chef, Marco Pierre White. The Princess then conducted a review of the fleet as it left the Solent following a colourful ‘daytime pyrotechnics’ display.
The seven ships sailed off towards their respective destinations, each one a special Grand Event Cruise. The Mediterranean, the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Canary Islands were among the areas to which these great cruise ships were destined.
Those lucky enough to get a Grand Event ticket celebrated on deck as the ships left their berths, with 2,600 bottles of Champagne and 1,750 whole lobsters safely loaded.
The event drew comparisons with the 3 Queens Event, in which Cunard’s three great cruise ships – the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – gathered together to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on the 5th of June this year.
P & O is the world’s oldest cruise ship company, having first provided cruises in the 19th Century. Now merged with Carnival to become the Carnival Corporation and PLC (dual listed in the USA and the UK) the company’s seven cruise ships have capacity for 14,970 passengers and enjoys a 5% market share of the global cruise ship market. Most recently added to the fleet is MS Adonia, which became part of the fleet in May of 2011.
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