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P&O have just published their cruise schedules for 2012 on their website. (This seems to happen earlier and earlier these days – I’m sure that it used to be well into April before the schedues were known, now it’s early March. But I digress.) There are some incremental changes from last year:

a) there seem to be more longer cruises (> 14 nights). All the ships seem to be doing them, whereas they used to be very unusual for, say, Oceana;

b) the traditional 7-night Iberian coast cruise seems to have mutated into a 9 or even 10 night cruise that now extends to Casablanca. There are some of the older-style cruises still available, but not many;

c) come the winter, Ventura will be the only ship in the Caribbean. In most recent years there have been two; this year there are three, Ventura, Azura and Oceana (although Ocean’s itineraries have included the Panama Canal and the Mexican riviera in the Pacific).

But the big feature is a special event – a Grand Gathering. 2012 will be the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company and P&O Cruises reckon that they’re the closest descendant of that original company so they’re the ones who are going to celebrate. They’ve arranged for all seven of their ships to be in Southampton on 3 July, each one starting a cruise. The seven ships will depart together one after the other, and then there will be some sort of rendezvous in the Solent. This will probably feature much blowing of ships’ horns, much cheering by the 15,000 passengers, and doubtless a great deal of alcohol consumption (by the passengers…). There will then be special gala events on the ships during the evening after they’ve gone their separate ways, and a whole load of partying. Passengers will receive special commemorative gifts plus the opportunity to buy more commemorative stuff; there are going to be displays of historical P&O material on the ships; and a prize draw (on each ship), the prize for which will be a free complete world cruise. It all sounds great fun, so we’ve decided we’ll participate. The seven ships will heading off on seven different cruises, ranging from over twenty nights to just four nights, and that the one that we’ll be on!

Actually, although it’s only four nights it looks like a good itinerary, featuring an overnight stop in Amsterdam. It’s on Oriana, which will have had her refit by then. So we’ve made our pre-registration with our usual online travel agent. All we’ve got to do once the booking is confirmed is wait for fifteen months.

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