HUNDREDS of well-wishers watched as seven huge cruise liners sailed through the Solent to celebrate a shipping line’s 175th year in business.
Crowds from all over the country flocked to Hill Head, Stokes Bay and Lee-on-the-Solent yesterday afternoon so they could catch a glimpse of the impressive P&O liners Adonia, Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, Oceana, Oriana and Ventura.
It was hoped that the occasion would be marked with a fly-past from the RAF Red Arrows in The Solent but bad weather meant the display was called off.
The Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, was in Southampton to take a royal salute as the cruise ships sailed from Southampton Water at around 6pm.
Never before has this number of P&O Cruises ships been in the port on the same day.
An emotional Ron Williamson, 76, of Lee-on-the-Solent, said he was honoured to be a part of history.
‘To think that it’s P&O’s 175th anniversary is incredible,’ he said.
‘It blows my mind when I think that the cruise firm was already a century old when I was born.
‘I wanted to come and watch the boats because I wanted to witness such a special moment.
‘The ships are beautiful.’
Jill Long, 59, travelled from Farnham, Surrey, especially to see the luxury liners.
‘When I lived in Portsmouth I watched the old Queen Mary and Elizabeth ships sail around Old Portsmouth so this brings back a lot of memories. It’s been an incredible day. It’s something that only happens once in your lifetime.
The liners arrived in Southampton earlier in the morning for the event, which took 18 months to put together.
Stella Barker, 63, and her husband Allen watched with friends from Andover.
The couple returned from a round-the-world cruise on Arcadia in February.
Mrs Barker said: ‘It’s lovely to see the cruise ship we sailed on.
‘We’re looking forward to going on a cruise to the Caribbean in September.
‘It’s been a really memorable occasion.’