Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cunard's 175th anniversary: Liners gather in Southampton

From left to right: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria Image copyright Cunard
Image caption The fleet processed down Southampton Water and the Solent

Cunard's three liners have gathered in Southampton to mark the start of the shipping company's 175th anniversary celebrations.

The Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria started a procession down Southampton Water at about 17:45 BST after an hour's delay.

It was organised to pay homage to the city which is the fleet's home port.

Further celebrations will take place in Liverpool, where the company once had its headquarters, in May and July.

Angus Struthers, from Cunard, said it was "the very first time" Queen Mary 2 had led a daylight parade of the "three queens" down Southampton Water and into the Solent.

Image caption Crowds gathered in Southampton to watch the procession led by Queen Mary 2
Image copyright James Morgan/Cunard
Image caption The fleet captains gathered on the funnel of Queen Mary 2
Image copyright Cunard
Image caption Onlookers waved flags as the Queen Elizabeth set sail
Image copyright Cunard
Image caption Vintage-inspired trio The Spinettes performed onboard the Queen Mary 2 as part of the celebrations

The procession was due to start at 16:30 but was delayed to allow the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise ship to depart the port first, a Cunard spokeswoman said.

The route of the ships' formation was expected to include Calshot and Lee-on-Solent, as well as Cowes and Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

The fleet was originally set to reach the island's Nab Tower at about 19:30, but this was put back following the delayed departure.

From here the liners were expected to break formation; Queen Elizabeth heading to Hamburg, Queen Victoria to Guernsey's St Peter Port, and Queen Mary 2 sailing across the Atlantic to New York.

Image copyright Cunard
Image caption Weather conditions were wet and misty when the ships arrived at the Port of Southampton
Image caption Onlookers gathered on Southampton's Town Quay to watch the procession
Image copyright Cunard
Image caption Typewriter artist Keira Rathbone created this artwork of the three queens for the event

All three ships will sail down the Mersey in Liverpool on 25 May - an event which Cunard predicts will attract a million spectators.

They are also due to feature in celebrations in the city at the start of July, when Queen Mary 2 will replicate the line's first transatlantic voyage.

An exhibition celebrating the liner era has also opened in Southampton to mark the anniversary.

Cunard was founded in 1840, with Sir Samuel Cunard's mail steamship RMS Britannia beginning its transatlantic service to Halifax and Boston from Liverpool.

The shipping company moved its headquarters from Liverpool to Southampton in 1965.

Image copyright Cunard
Image caption Commodore Ron Warwick, former master of the Queen Mary 2, was among those who joined the anniversary celebrations

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