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I wrote earlier today that Arcadia was due to leave Southampton at 6pm to start her 99-night world cruise. At that time I was paying most attention to Oriana, back in Southampton after an unexplained breakdown and power loss on 2 January and a subsequent unscheduled call at Lisbon. In the event Oriana got away promptly, possibly even early, but now it’s gone 10pm and Arcadia is still berthed.

I’ve heard a story that she has steering problems. Arcadia has an ‘azimuthing Azipod propulsion system’. That is, her propellers are mounted on pods below the ship, which can rotate and thus point the propellers in any direction. She has no rudders, therefore – they’re not needed since the propellers can be pointed in any direction For steering. All of which sounds excellent, and indeed there’s no doubt that as long as things are fine, it’s a wonderful system. But Azipods have an Achilles’ Heel – in the event of problems it can be very hard to repair them without a dry dock. More recent (and possibly larger) Azipod systems have an access crawlway that allows an engineer to enter the pod from the hull above and perform maintenance and effect repairs, but Arcadia doesn’t have such access. If the is a problem with the Azipods, fixing could be a problem.

Arcadia is unique in the P&O fleet in having Azipods, but they are a feature of the ‘Vista’ class of ships of which Arcadia is a member, along with a dozen or more ships in the HAL, Cunard and Costa fleets. (I’m including the various enhanced/enlarged developments of the class in this total.)

At the moment there’s no suggestion that this is necessary, and indeed the story I’ve heard (that the cause of the delayed departure is steering) might well be wrong. Arcadia’s departure has been rescheduled to 6am tomorrow morning (7 January). Let’s hope that all is well tomorrow morning.

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