An amazing sight unfolded on Southampton Water yesterday, the like of which has never been seen in the city before

Former prima-ballerina Darcey Bussell was one of the first to greet the arrival of the ships in Southampton when she visited Azura

Yesterday’s Grand Event in Southampton celebrated 175 years of P&O Cruises’s great heritage. Despite the weather closing in and hampering visibility somewhat, the company’s seven ships looked magnificent as they were welcomed into port by Azura’s Godmother, the ballerina Darcey Bussell.

It was the first-ever occasion all seven P&O Cruises ships have gathered together in their home port. Adonia, Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, Oceana, Oriana, and Ventura – with a combined gross tonnage of 569,000 tonnes – made for an incredible sight on Southampton water. The thousands of sightseers who crammed into Mayflower Park throughout the day had an impressive view, with the gleaming white hulls of the ships stretching away up Southampton Water.

HRH The Princess Royal, godmother to two P&O ships, was greeted by the seven ship’s captains in a special ceremony. She later joined a VIP reception on board Oriana, with P&O consultant chefs Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar in attendance, as well as a special cake baked by celebrity patissier Eric Lanlard. She then reviewed the fleet as it departed in formation in the Solent after a spectacular display by the Red Arrows.

With 2,600 bottles of champagne and 1,750 whole lobster loaded on board, passengers celebrated on deck as the ships left their berths. They headed off on their separate ways through a blizzard of “flutterfetti’’ on seven Grand Event cruises around the world, including the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Canary Islands.

The Princess Royal made it a day to remember by taking the salute as the magnificent seven set sail