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So it was about 6:15 or so when things kicked off on board Oriana. Adonia slipped very slowly past us, with several harbour master launches in attendance – in fact we saw a number of various ‘official’ launches during the whole event. After Adonia came Ventura, then Arcadia and Aurora; then we were due to follow Aurora. After that Azura (berthed in the Ocean terminal) joined the procession, and finally Oceana, berthed at QEII, took her station as tail-end Charlie.

We found a spot forward on the Sun deck, starboard side, while the other ships were coming past us. Unfortunately this was also the windward side, not to mention the rainy side – at this stage in the proceedings there was a steady drizzle and we got pretty wet, pretty quickly. In order to take pictures I stood by the unsheltered rail; Val, being more sensible, stayed behind the clear windbreaks. At times the rain dropped a bit and I grabbed some pictures, but it wasn’t long before my lens was covered with rain drops and auto-focus stopped became ineffective. It’s an interesting experience trying to do manual focus with a lens that’s not really designed for it. (For those interested I was using a Canon 500D DSLR with a Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4 standard zoom, and a Canon EF-S 55-250 zoom.) I took quite a few pictures as the ships came past, with I suspect variable results. I have to say that I find that it’s the Grand Princess-class ships that are easiest to take pictures of: perhaps it’s the sheer scale of them. Aurora is a prettier ship, there’s no doubt, but for some reason I find it harder to take good pictures of her, or of Oriana and Oceana. I hope to get some pictures up over the weekend.

Back to the event, however. We moved out into Southampton Water following Aurora. There was a barge moored up near the docks, and this was where the fireworks had been set up. As each ship passed the barge, fireworks were let off. It wasn’t a bad display in the circumstances, but the weather and the fact that it was (admittedly murky) daylight didn’t help. As we went down Southampton Water the weather was alternately rainy and drier, and in the drier periods I was able to take some pictures of the other ships. Often, however, if it was drier where we were it was wet where they were, so you tended to see the gloom overtaking the ships and just about hiding them from view. Ten minutes later, there they’d be again. But I managed to get some OK pictures of the ships ahead – a couple even of all four as the column turned slightly to starboard – and also of Azura and Oceana behind us. By this time we’d retreated from the bow to the Terrace bar area, where we had some good views of Azura and Oceana following us. The section as we rounded the S-bend bend to avoid Bramble Bank was especially good,and being able to see most if not al of the fleet at the same time did indeed look very impressive. Then as the ships passed Cowes they split into two lines – we were in the norther line and Aurora and Azura (plus one of the leading ships that I couldn’t see properly) formed the southern one. The two lines passed to either side of the Trinity House Vessel ‘Patricia’ on which the Princess Royal was standing, apparently waving furiously to each ship as it passed. HMS Dragon was also on station, anchored just beyond Patricia. (This was approximately midway between Cowes and Ryde.)

By that time it was approaching 8:30 – the run down Southampton Water and out into the Solent had been done more slowly than usual, I thought. The Lido deck barbecue had taken place place – we’d each had a bit of burger – but after we passed Patricia we went down to the Peninsular restaurant for ‘open seating’ dinner, and had a good meal and a chat with other passengers on a table for eight. One couple had only booked the cruise last Friday: they’d been on a waiting list with their TA since bookings opened, and they’d pretty much forgotten about it. Then on Friday they got a call – “Do you stil want to go? “. I gather they pretty much had to give an answer there and then, and there weren’t any cheap offers – they said the price for this four night cruise was higher than for one they’ve booked later in July for seven nights.

So that was it. In one sense it was very disappointing because of the weather. However, everyone was making the best of it, the drink was flowing (and everyone had a free glass of bubbly to help get in the spirit), and by the end it was pretty much smiles and laughter all round. Certainly there were moments when it did all look impressive and exciting, but there was this nagging that if the weather had been kinder, it would have been really spectacular. And, not surprisingly, the Red Arrows didn’t show. They’re now nought for two at Southampton this year – they missed the Cunard Jubilee Sailaway as well.

One Response to “P&O Grand Event – the Event! (at last….)”

  1. […] after embarking I did a post about the Grand Event itself (about time, I hear you […]

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