Published: 11:46, 24 April 2020
| Updated: 11:50, 24 April 2020
By Steve Salter and Stephen Adams
Three rare visitors are on prolonged lay-up at the Port of Dover during the coronavirus outbreak.
The normally bustling Gateway to Europe has seen three normally Southampton-based cruise ships arrive at Dover Eastern and Western Docks.
P&O Cruises (Carnival UK) owned M.V. Oceana and M.V. Aurora have been displaced from Southampton waters due to the port being at saturation point with other laid-up vessels.
They are on warm lay-up at the Western Docks Terminal for the very first time whilst, also a first, their sister M.V Arcadia is docked beside the harbour arm and ferry berths at the Eastern Docks.
Arcadia the most recent arrival was halfway through a 99-night world cruise and cut the voyage short to head back to Southampton to disembark its passengers before heading for its rare lay up at Dover.
It is said that the trio are all Covid-19 free and each has a near full complement of crew.
Every so often, the multi-million pound vessels slip out of port only to return 12 hours or so later as part of a routine maintenance schedule.
Normally these vessels are not laid up for long periods.
All Bermudan registered, the 77,499gt Oceana was launched in 2000 as Ocean Princess and came to P&O Cruises in 2002 from sister company Princess Cruises.
Her sister Aurora at 76,152gt, entered service with the company in 2000 whilst other sister Arcadia at 84,342gt entered service in 2005.
She had originally been ordered by Holland-America Line and in 2003 she was allocated to Cunard as the Queen Victoria but then transferred to the P&O fleet shortly before launch.
The sisters would normally be on their retrospective cruises around the world and carry thousands of passengers on some of the most memorable holidays each year.
Dover has not seen such cruise tonnage from P&O before.
When the situation is resolved, the ship will once again be based at their historic Hampshire home.