Gill’s Cruise Centre cruise-fans were delighted to learn this week that for the first time in history, the port of Southampton played host to no fewer than six of the world’s best known cruise ships this week, all converging on the maritime city on the same day prior to embarking on their next cruise itineraries.
Southampton has been no stranger to large numbers of ships in its time, mainly cargo ships, naval vessels and small leisure craft in recent times, although the arrival back in the port of the ‘little ships’ of Dunkirk in the retreat of the Allied Forces May 1940, and the threat of invasion from the Spanish Armada in the Solent in 1588 are two notable events in the city’s tempestuous history.
On this occasion, Wednesday 5 January 2011, the ‘invasion’ was a happy and welcome one, as cruise ships from P&O Cruises, Cunard Line, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and Saga Cruises arrived for this record-breaking visit, temporarily swelling the population of the port by an estimated 20,000 people, and allegedly contributing a massive £9 million to Southampton’s economy. Southampton port officials state that this is the first time in fifty years that this number of passenger ships has been handled there in a single day, berthed across the city’s four cruise terminals.
Cunard Lines’ gracious sister ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth made up two members of this most exclusive get-together. Queen Victoria was in Southampton prior to her departure westward bound for her transatlantic crossing to New York and the Caribbean, whilst Queen Elizabeth, her October 2010 launch making her the newest Cunarder of all, departed from the port on her first big world cruise adventure. She will be away from home for 103 nights.
Another sisterly pair nestled alongside each other that day in the City Terminal were Fred Olsen Cruises’ Balmoral and Black Watch, the former embarking on her 108-night round-the-world cruise, and the latter bound for a 77 night South American adventure.
Surprisingly, this is the first time the two ships have departed on their world itineraries on the same day, so yet another record breaker! They will reunite briefly in Funchal in Madeira on 9 January for their first port of call, after which they will head out on their separate itineraries. World cruising is an annual event for the Fred Olsen pair at this time of year, with Balmoral’s next world adventure departing on 5 January 2012 for an 89 night voyage around South America, and Black Watch going world-wide on 11 January 2012, away for 106 nights discovering the delights of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Polynesian Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Not to be left out of the party, P&O Cruises’ Arcadia, a ship designed exclusively for adults, was in port prior to departing on her 34-night world voyage heading for Auckland, while Saga Cruises’ Saga Ruby was berthed prior to heading southbound on her own world cruise. All in all, this maritime party was something of a world-cruise fiesta, and one that the City of Southampton is unlikely to forget for some time!