(2:00 p.m. EDT) -- P&O Cruises' Grand Event on July 3, when all seven of its ships will be in Southampton together to celebrate its 175th anniversary, will enjoy royal patronage. The line has announced today that Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, is to conduct a fleet review, the term for the historic tradition of a gathering of ships for a special occasion to be observed by the reigning monarch or their representative.
Her Royal Highness will visit Southampton and join guests on Oriana, the ship named by her mother, The Queen, in 1995. Following the reception, she will join the Trinity House flagship, THV Patricia, to watch a procession of P&O Cruises' ships sail along Southampton Water into the Solent. She does this in her capacity of Master of the Corporation of Trinity House, the historic organisation responsible for maintaining the U.K.'s lighthouses.
Princess Anne has a close connection to P&O Cruises, having named two of the line's ships, Aurora (launched 2000) and Oceana (2003).
The procession should be a spectacular sight. Each ship will depart the quayside with a deck party onboard and a display of daytime pyrotechnics, forming a line in Southampton Water to sail in convoy past the 2,541-ton Patricia, saluting HRH The Princess Royal before dispersing to sail onwards to their various destinations. Some 15,000 passengers and 6,000 crew will join the celebrations, not to mention the onlookers gathered at strategic points along the way to witness the spectacle.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor