THE fleet’s coming home.

Cunard’s celebrations for its 175th anniversary will start in the UK with the arrival home this Sunday of the company’s ships from their world cruises.

This gathering of Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria at Cunard’s home port will initiate a momentous season of festivities for the company, beginning with a Thank You, Southampton event later the same day.

For almost 100 years Cunard ships have called Southampton home, and during that time many spectacular events, royal visits and other special occasions have been shared by the company and the city.

To celebrate the beginning of the UK festivities in this milestone year, Cunard’s flagship liner QM2 will take centre stage on Sunday afternoon, as she leads her sister ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on a triumphant procession down Southampton Water and into the River Solent, in homage to the city of Southampton.

Cunard’s marketing director Angus Struthers said: “We’re excited to start our UK 175 festivities in Southampton and share the celebrations with the city and beyond in this magnificent landmark year.

Daily Echo:

“For the very first time QM2 will lead a daylight parade of Cunard’s Three Queens down Southampton Water and into the Solent.

“Together with the city, the company has shared so many fantastic memories, and I hope residents and Cunard enthusiasts from far and wide will take advantage of this magnificent sight and enjoy the spectacle of seeing our three Queens manoeuvring together so close to Southampton.”

The sailaway procession will start at 4.30pm as QM2 moves into position to lead the fleet out of Southampton Docks, to be followed by the other two vessels.

By around 5.20pm the three ships will have passed Dock Head and will be sailing south, led by flagship QM2, and reaching Calshot at about 5.50pm.

After zig-zagging through the Brambles turn near Cowes, the fleet will separate before coming back together again, with QM2 easing south and Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria taking a more northerly route, first drawing level with the flagship and then overtaking her.

At Lee-on-the-Solent the fleet forms up again but with the lead given now to Queen Elizabeth, followed by Queen Victoria and then QM2.

At around 6.45pm Queen Elizabeth, the youngest of the fleet, will lead her sisters past Ryde on the Isle of Wight before reaching the Nab Tower on its easternmost point at 7.30pm.

At this point, the ships will break formation and sail off into the sunset on their own itineraries.

Queen Elizabeth will continue east towards Hamburg, Germany, Queen Victoria will turn south for St Peter Port in Guernsey and QM2 will head west across the Atlantic to New York, USA.