On this slightly overcast morning I made my way to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of P&O’s new ship Britannia. I was hoping that the weather would not turn nasty and that the sun would shine on her arrival. The ship was due at the dockhead at 12H30, and would sail down to the swinging grounds by Mayflower, turn, and then hold her position for a parachute drop, before sailing to the swinging ground at Ocean Terminal and then going in stern first for the first time in Southampton. This would be the 8th maiden arrival that I have witnessed from the city.
I arrived early, although fortunately I did plan for an early train as there was an incident at Clapham Junction that delayed trains from the east, most were running roughly 30 minutes late. It did mean I had some time to kill and I mooched around like a lost soul until I saw tugs heading from their berths towards Southampton Water. She was close!
That first glimpse is an important one, because that is where you get to see a ship that may exist for 30 years, and who could become an old friend as you see her regularly. The first thing I spotted were the two big blue funnels
P&O have been doing a rebranding exercise, the traditional yellowish funnel being replaced with blue, and hull art being painted on the bows. On a new ship it does make sense, but on a ship like Oriana or Aurora it does not. Those two vessels were built for P&O, and I don’t think rebranding them was a good idea, they are both very British ships (inspite of their registry), and they should not have been touched.
Then they turned on the window washers and from this point onwards the tugs went crazy with their water canon. So much so that a decent pic of the ship was almost impossible. Having seen other images taken at Mayflower and Hythe I should really have gone there instead of Town Quay.
I have to admit I do like her, she does bear a resemblance to Royal Princess but does not have that overly top heavy appearance of the Princess ship, and of course the twin funnels really make a difference.
Town Quay was packed, and it was good to see so many people out there to welcome this new ship, although a part of me was unhappy that so many people were getting in each others way and ruining the shots! (We won’t even discuss the worm drowners). As you can see the water jets were huge and the wind was blowing the spray onto us rubber neckers, so I did get a taste of the harbour water (and it was salty).
People now started to dash off to Mayflower to join the hordes that were already there. I chose to remain where I was (probably because I did not feel like going all that way), but I was really hoping to get better images when she returned having been swung.
As modern ships go she is not unattractive, she does look slightly bulky in the rear end, and of course that downward sloping stern and ducktail does nothing for me, but I can live with that. The branding on her bow is not too distracting either, in fact it does provide a nice break from all the white.
For those that are interested, Svitzer Sarah was the main culprit that was washing windows.
They started to swing the ship and we finally got a chance to see all of her with not too much spray, and I think she probably looks at her best from that angle. She does have reasonably clean lines without all the top hamper and clutter that the two NCL ships (Getaway and Breakaway) have.
Once she had swung everything stopped while overhead a small aircraft dropped 3 parachutists. I must admit I did find that a bit of an odd thing to do, but then there was probably some publicity reasoning behind it.
The show over, the vessel slowly made her way towards us, although this time around we would all move away from the spray and keep our lenses dry!
They then started to swing her once again so that she could go astern into the berth. Usually the ships manage to accomplish this without the use of attendant tugs, but it seems as if nobody was taking any chances today.
And then it was time for me to make tracks. I had a train to catch, and it was at least 25 minutes walk to the station. I turned my own bows to home and bid the newest addition to the worlds cruising fleet a fond farewell. I hoped to see her again one day, but till that day comes, may she have a long and successful career, unfortunately, she will become the new P&O flagship, taking the title from Oriana.
On Sunday 10 March, The Queen will officially name the vessel, and she will commence her cruise programme shortly thereafter.
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2015