On July 3, P&O Cruises will celebrate its Grand Event: A gathering of all seven ships in Southampton to mark 175 years of the line’s history, a review of the fleet by Princess Anne, a display by the Red Arrows and a procession of the ships along Southampton Water and the Solent. It promises to be a spectacular day.
But isn’t some of this sounding rather familiar? It’s less than a month since Cunard’s Three Queens Diamond Jubilee celebration, which was also all about razzmatazz, patriotism and the Red Arrows. And even these great assemblies of ships are becoming more commonplace; the three Queens are back in Southampton on July 13 for those who missed them first time round.
But P&O is hoping its Grand Event will be the one to remember. Given the appalling weather that washed out a lot of Cunard’s fun, that might not be difficult.
Cunard had three ships sail in and out of Southampton together but all seven of the P&O fleet will be in port, filling all available cruise berths.
…and more people
Southampton is bracing itself for the arrival and departure of 30,000 passengers on Tuesday. As such, the city doesn’t need to encourage any more crowds, so there’s no special event laid on for the viewing public, whereas there was an all-day festival coinciding with the Cunard celebration.
A royal presence
Cunard’s gathering was all about a royal – Her Majesty the Queen – but P&O’s will be attended by a royal. HRH Princess Anne will review the fleet (an official activity in which a gathering of ships for a special occasion is observed by the reigning monarch or their representative). She’ll be on board THV Patricia of the Trinity House fleet in her capacity of Master of the Corporation of Trinity House, the historic organisation responsible for maintaining the U.K.’s lighthouses.
Let’s hope so. Cunard’s big day was washed out. Although it was dramatic and impressive to see the ships together, and spirits were running high for the Jubilee, the Red Arrows display was cancelled because of poor visibility and the fireworks obscured by fog. Rain is forecast for Tuesday – but some sunny spells, too.
On the water
Cunard’s celebrations mainly took place in port but the P&O event is all about watching from the water if you’re lucky enough to have access to a boat. The ships will depart in convoy at 5.50 p.m. on a Grand Event cruise and passengers on board each vessel will enjoy a special deck party with flutterfetti and special daylight fireworks from the quayside. It’s during this procession that the Red Arrows will perform and the Princess Royal will be on board THV Patricia. A boat will be the best vantage point, or one of the recommended viewing points along the way.
Are you planning to attend, or are you boarding a P&O ship on Tuesday? Then read our guide on Monday to managing the day. And keep in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter – we’ll be reporting live as the day unfolds.
Full coverage: Look through a historical slideshow, track P&O’s progress through the years and plan your day out in Southampton to Celebrate the line’s 175 years. You can find it all here.