P&O marks 175 years with seven-ship Southampton line-up

The flotilla of ships began leaving the port in single file led by Adonia

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A shipping line has marked its 175th year by sailing its seven cruise ships into Southampton but not all the celebrations have gone to plan.

The ships from the P&O fleet sailed into their home port before dawn.

It was the first time Oceana, Adonia, Azura, Oriana, Aurora, Arcadia and Ventura arrived and left together.

Cruise passengers due to board the ships suffered lengthy delays at a temporary checking-in point set up at the Ageas Bowl stadium near the city.

Some passengers disembarking the ships earlier reported problems finding their luggage.

A planned Red Arrows fly-past in the morning and an evening display were both cancelled due to bad weather.

The Hampshire County Cricket Club ground at West End was being used as an extra check-in point for some of the 15,000 passengers.

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All seven ships are looking wonderful”

End Quote Commodore Steve Burgoine

One taxi driver called the drop-off and check-in arrangements a "debacle".

David Noyes, director of operations at P&O, travelled to the cricket ground to apologise to affected passengers.

He said: "We have had a few operational difficulties here at the Ageas Bowl, mainly due to congestion and the sheer numbers of people we have been moving through the stadium.

"It has caused some delays but I'm pleased to say we are now moving people quickly through and on to the ships."

Taxi driver Tim Murray said he was stuck at the Ageas Bowl for an hour while trying to drop off passengers with their luggage.

He said: "There was no lane structure - there were stewards pointing you one place and another pointing you somewhere else.

"I saw one guy get out of a car, having a big argument with the stewards. It was just a debacle up there."

Darcey Bussell with the captains of the seven ships Former ballerina Darcey Bussell, who performed the naming ceremony for the Azura in 2009, witnessed the arrivals

An RAF Red Arrows fly-past scheduled for 11:42 BST and a 25-minute display over the Solent off Calshot set for 19:20 BST were both cancelled due to the weather.

Senior master of P&O' fleet Commodore Steve Burgoine said: "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."

Witnessing the arrivals was former ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell, who performed the naming ceremony for the Azura in 2010.

"I'm just as excited to be here today. To join in with the celebrations is a joy," she said.

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As part of the events, the Princess Royal conducted a fleet review.

The flotilla of ships began leaving the port in single file after 18:00 BST led by Adonia.

As each ship sailed down the Solent between Weston Shore and Hythe a short fireworks display marked their departure.

Thousands of people from across Britain lined the shores to witness the event, joining more than 15,000 passengers and 6,000 crew on the seven ships.

Janet Tomlinson came down from Leicester on one of a number of coaches laid on for the event.

Watching through the mist at Hythe, she said: "It was such a special occasion to see all these liners."

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