Southampton Sails Into the Record Books

January 6, 2011

(4:15 a.m. EST) -- Bands played at check-in, Champagne corks were popped and fireworks lit up a rainy January sky as Southampton experienced its busiest-ever day yesterday (January 5), with six cruise ships setting off on world cruises or extended voyages.

Some 18,000 passengers passed through the city, either disembarking or embarking, and estimates from Associated British Ports, which owns the port, put the local economy at £9m richer as a result.

The ships, all of which were embarking passengers for long voyages and world cruises, included Fred Olsen's Balmoral and Black Watch; P&O Cruises' Arcadia; Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria; and Saga Cruises' Saga Ruby.

2011 is shaping up nicely for Southampton. More than 350 ships are already booked to call or turn around here for 2011, an increase of over 50 on 2010.

In fact, yesterday was so busy that Saga Ruby had to dock at the Fruit Terminal, which normally handles cargo and has recently been earmarked for a brand new, £30m cruise terminal that'll be open by 2013.

Port director ABP Southampton, Doug Morrison, commented in a press statement that yesterday's numbers justified the investment. "Our belief in the growth of this industry in Southampton is reiterated by such a busy day and this really does illustrate the need for a fifth cruise terminal at the port," he said.

But amidst all the fireworks and razzmatazz, spare a thought for the locals. Posting on the Southern Daily Echo newspaper's Web site, Sotonbusdriver commented: "Although all very nice to have six cruise liners in Southampton at any one time, the pressures on the local roads and transport infrastructures is beyond a joke. Southampton roads around the port area and Ocean Village are busy enough during rush-hour leading to gridlock, without the additional pressure of so many supplies and passengers being ferried to and from the liners. A nice earner for the local community I don't argue, but better organisation, and planning needs to be sorted to stop it affecting the local roads."

Were you in Southampton for yesterday's big day? Let us know!

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor