3rd of July saw an unprecedented event in Southampton harbour. P&O line had gathered together all seven of their ships to celebrate 175 years of history. HRH Princess Anne welcomed the fleet and was on-board THV Patricia of the Trinity House fleet as her role of Master of the Corporation of Trinity House, a historic organisation with responsibility for looking after lighthouses in the UK.
The ships had picked up over 15,000 passengers from different points around the world to disembark at Southampton and there was a real party mood on board – even more than usual! As each ship left the port with its new passengers and proceeded down the Solent pyrotechnics displays and confetti were released from the quayside. The best place to see the celebrations and experience the festivities was on the water itself as everything was geared towards the ships and each one had its own flotilla surrounding them.
The weather was typically British and some of the planned events such as the Red Arrows had to be cancelled, but despite this the public made a strong showing to support P&O and to witness this historic event. The ships paraded down past Netley, Calshot and Hill Head, past Cowes and Lee on Solent – an amazing sight to see.
Many other celebrities were present with Darcey Bussell cutting a cake to commemorate the start of the celebrations. Darcey already has links with P&O line as in 2010, she launched cruise line’s latest and largest ship, the Azura.
The day could have turned into a massive logistical nightmare with 15,000 passengers coming off the ships with their luggage, food and supplies and then re-embarking a further 15,000 people back on again with the additional food and supplies required. Luckily, P&O handled the situation with ease, due to their expertise and planning!
The on-board celebration dinner required 2,600 bottles of champagne and over 1,750 lobsters! All this in addition to the usual 400 tonnes of frozen and chilled food, 250 tonnes of dry stores and 240 tonnes of fresh vegetables and fruit.
To facilitate the transfer of passengers on and off at the same time, P&O took over Hampshire’s cricket ground – The Rose Bowl, to provide a customs area for those travelling into Britain.
“It’s been a long time in coming, a lot of effort has been put into the whole day. All seven ships are looking wonderful, never mind the rain”
– Steve Burgoine, Senior master of P&O’s Commodore.
As the fleet left the festivities behind in Southampton, the parties lasted long into the night as as they continued on their designated journeys around the world, including the Mediterranean, Atlantic Isles and the Baltic. It was both a very special and successful day for all involved.
“This is a unique day for us. It has taken 18 months to organise, as we had to make sure all of the ships were on cruises which brought them back to Southampton on the same day, then we had to co-ordinate everything with the Border Agency, the city council and the port authorities so we could go ahead with it.”
— Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O