BARS are pulling out all the stops to give 6,000 American sailors descending on Portsmouth today a party to remember.
Thousands of extra pints of lager have been bought in, pubs and clubs are opening early, hordes of extra staff are on duty and special parties are being laid on in celebration this bank holiday weekend.
USS George H W Bush dropped anchor in Stokes Bay, Gosport, early this morning.
With a ship’s company of more than 5,300 the 1,100ft supercarrier is the world’s most powerful warship.
And after taking part in the biggest training exercise hosted by the Royal Navy in recent years, the sailors are ready for a party.
They will be joined by American destroyer USS Truxtun and the Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon – bringing the total number of sailors ashore this weekend to almost 6,000.
Sailor Ryan Witt, 29, from Indiana, said: ‘I’ve never been to the UK before, it’s very exciting. I’m looking around Portsmouth today, going to take in the sights then go to see Windsor Castle and Stonehenge and Bath.
‘We’re going to have a lot of fun but we’ve got to be back on the ship by midnight each night so we can’t go too crazy.’Commander Jack Shriver, of the US Embassy in London, is overseeing the four-day visit.
He said: ‘It’s the ship’s first deployment overseas and this is the first port call so it’s a big moment.
‘We’re trying to keep it low-key and give the crew a nice four-day liberty opportunity.
‘Our guys always love coming to the UK.’
He joked: ‘It’s got great beer,’ adding: ‘More seriously, it’s comfortable for us to come here. There is no cultural barrier, no language barrier, it’s a fantastic place to visit.’
Nathan Quick, 27, general manager at Tiger Tiger in Gunwharf Quays, has doubled his alcohol order for the weekend, is opening two hours early every day until the ship’s departure on Tuesday and has even been working with the US Navy to plan the celebrations.
He said: ‘When the American guys get off the ship we have got breakfast for them.
‘The whole of the back of the venue will be open for them. We are hosting a party for them from midday every day.
‘We’re doing it purely because of the numbers of people coming in. They will want to have a party.
‘We’ve been liaising with the US Navy and the people within the harbour.
‘Our food will be American style and we’re decorating the venue.
‘We’ve got a promotions team of eight girls who are going out to meet them. We’ll see at least 1,000 Americans each day.’
The Bush – named after the US president who held office from 1989 to 1993 – is the biggest ship to stay over since USS Theodore Roosevelt stopped in Stokes Bay in 2009.
Mr Quick added: ‘I’ve doubled everything stock-wise – I’ve ordered 40 barrels of beer.
‘Two years ago we ran out of stuff. Other venues ran out of draught lager. I don’t want to run out again.
‘All my staff who worked here for the last visit are dying to work this weekend.
‘There’s a great atmosphere and they’re up for a party. It’ll be a lot of fun.’
The carrier drew crowds to Stokes Bay at Gosport.
Dan Nash, 32, from Twyford, Winchester, drove down with his wife and two young children to see her in Stokes Bay.
He said: ‘I heard it was coming in on the radio, and we decided to drive down. I’m glad we did, she’s absolutely stunning. The views of the carrier when we were driving through Lee-on-the-Solent took my breath away.’
His son, four-year-old Jacob Nash added: ‘I like it, it’s really big.’
Dan said his family have a naval connection because his wives grandfather was cantin of the Queen Mary.
Michael Cobbold, 54, of Green Crescent in Rowner, Gosport, came to see the ship with his wife Janet.
He said: ‘It’s a very impressive sight. It’s almost scary to think of how much fire power it has, all those men and planes make it a very formidable piece of technology. It really is quite something to see it up close like this.’
Janet Bowes, 68, from Barton-on-sea, said: ‘It’s fantastic. I heard she was coming in overnight and had to come down to catch a glimpse. We don’t get a lot of big ships where I live and I thought this is a unique opportunity.’