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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cruising Into History - P and O 175 Anniversary

P and O Cruise Liners call on FTF to help them celebrate 175 years of cruising in style

For the first time, on 3 July 2012, all seven P&O cruise liners were docked in their home port of Southampton. As they formed a flotilla that evening on their departure for various exotic locations, there was a great sense of excitement on board the ships and along the shore, with an event co-ordinated by FTF Worldwide Event Management.

During the day, P&O hosted visits on board the ships from their Godmothers, HRH the Princess Royal and Darcey Bussell OBE. As the 15,000 passengers embarked onto one of the seven ships, the excitement was building through the afternoon.

As each ship – Adonia, Azura, Oceana, Ventura, Aurora, Arcadia and Oriana – prepared to depart in the early evening, confetti fluttered down on them and passengers threw streamers to symbolise cutting the ties with the shore. A three-cannon salute (with noises only!) bade each one farewell, with the ship’s captain giving an answering blast on the horn. As each ship then passed a specially-prepared barge, a three-minute firework display ensured their send-off was just about perfect.

All that was missing was the planned RAF Red Arrows display, which was to be held over the heads of the departing passengers as they headed out to open sea in the Solent. The rain had set in a few days earlier and – despite showing glimpses of clearing during the afternoon – visibility was just too poor for the Red Arrows to fly safely, in their traditional wing-tip to wing-tip formation. At 6pm, the disappointing decision was made that the display just wasn’t possible and the flotilla continued out to sea with crowds waving them off from the shore and the amazing firework displays – each one made up of 1,750 effects.

The event itself took nine months of planning, with 38 of the FTF team in town on the day to complete that careful planning. Event Co-ordinator Tracey de Vere White said: “We had six crew working on the firework display for three days and then 15 today who were actually making it all happen. Everyone was else was quayside for the departure ceremonies or out on a launch, making sure everything went smoothly.

“We’ve been working with the team at P & O Cruises for nearly a year, considering every aspect, from security through all the logistics. It’s rewarding to see it become reality and see the seven ships with their gleaming white hulls and signature buff funnels leave the docks to such ceremony and process down through the fireworks.”

The firework displays were produced by Fully Fused Fireworks, carefully designed using special daylight effects and coloured smoke in the P&O corporate colours – red, blue, yellow and white.

For Tracey, having an experienced crew to carry out the plans is critical. She said: “We had to be confident that each one of the seven departures would be exciting for passengers and the crowds on the shore. Despite rain all day, our team managed to get every piece of equipment in the right place, ready at the right time. By the end of the day and the ships had finally left, we were all exhausted but it’s clear from the messages we’ve received online and in person that this was a stunning, historic event that people will remember for years to come. Only in the UK would crowds stand out in the rain for hours on end to enjoy something spectacular like this.”  

Hilary Robertson