DRIVERS have been warned of traffic chaos today as five cruise ships visit Southampton.

Council bosses urged drivers to plan their journeys carefully as tens of thousands of passengers head to and from the world's biggest cruise ships on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Adding to this are ongoing road works on Platform Road and Western Esplanade.

Motorists have already reported gridlocked in Platform Road, Town Quay, Saltmarsh Road, Canute Road, the Itchen Bridge, Six Dials, Marsh Lane and Northam Road.

One driver has told the Daily Echo the short journey from Chapel Road to White Star Place took him as long as 30 minutes.

Highways bosses recorded heavy traffic since 10am today.

The five vessels all arrived between 5.15am and 6.45am and were part of a fleet of nine ships to arrive in the city yesterday and today, with 35,000 passengers embarking and disembarking at Southampton docks.

This morning's liners were Carnival UK's Emerals Princess, Oceana and Aurora, Intercruises' Celebrity Eclipse and Denhold Wilhemsen's MSC Opera.

Making matters worse are shoppers heading to WestQuay holiday makers travelling to the Isle of Wight for the Bank Holiday weekend and half-term.

This comes after the city ground to a halt in January when five ships docked in port at the same time, forcing some cruise passengers to abandon their cars and taxis, while pensioners were forced to urinate on the street.

Then in March, there was traffic chaos again when two ships arrived, leaving hundreds of motorists marooned on gridlocked roads for more than two hours.

Nearly 25,000 cruise passengers are expected to be coming and going to the port next weekend.