BRACE yourselves.

That is the message to motorists who are being warned to expect delays in Southampton city centre as NINE cruise ships dock in the city today and tomorrow.

Council bosses say drivers should plan carefully as more than 35,000 cruise passengers are arriving and disembarking at the port.

There was serious congestion in January as five cruise ships docked in port at the same time, forcing some cruise passengers to abandon cars and taxis, while pensioners were forced to urinate on the street.

Then in March, the city ground to a halt again when two ships arrived, leaving hundreds of motorists marooned on gridlocked roads for more than two hours.

And now, this weekend, tens of thousands of passengers are heading to and from the world’s biggest cruise ships on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Bank holiday and half-term are expected to mean more shoppers visiting Ikea, WestQuay Shopping Centre and holiday makers heading to the Isle of Wight. Adding to the problems will be ongoing city centre road works in Platform Road and Western Esplanade.

However, transport boss Cllr Jacqui Rayment is confident traffic chaos will be avoided.

She said: “As far as I am concerned we have listened and acted and had very little problems for the last two weekends.

“The message all the way along the line is that Southampton is open for business but if you are thinking of going down Mayflower Park or to Ikea you may want to plan your journey.”

Drivers are warned expected congestion on the approaches to the waterfront area of the city especially between peak times of 11am and 2pm today and tomorrow.

Electronic signs on the main approaches and around Town Quay and Platform Road have been giving advance warnings of possible delays.

Traffic signalling has been altered and there are more security staff from ABP on the Dock Gates to speed up access to the port.

Port boss Nick Ridehalgh said: “We are committed to working with our city partners to minimise any disruption to the city’s traffic network this weekend.”

Today Carnival’s The Ruby Princess is due in 4.30am while its flagships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria are due in between 6am and 7am.

Intercruises’ Adventure of the Seas is due in at 5.15am.

All are then leaving at between 4.30pm and 5pm.

Tomorrow five vessels are due in between 5.15am and 6.45am. They are Carnival UK’s Emerald Princess, Oceana and Aurora, Intercruises’ Celebrity Eclipse and Denholm Wilhelmsen’s MSC Opera.

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