AS ORIANA makes her final visit to Southampton, the Daily Echo takes a look back at when the new liner caused waves with her first visit to the city.

Patriotic well-wishers gathered along the shore for their first glimpse of Oriana as she docked in the city for the first time on April 3, 1995.

Those who remember that day will also likely recall how the P&O liner’s German heritage was a sore point among the people of her home country.

The cruise company were originally keen to have Oriana built in the United Kingdom, but there were no British shipyards still capable of completing such an order. At the time, she was the largest ship to have been built in Germany for eighty years.

There’s no doubt she was big and beautiful, but she wasn’t built in old Blighty, and that took some getting used to by cruise-loving folk.

Michael Cummins, of Bitterne, told the Echo at the time:”It’s so sad to think she’s not British.”

But he admitted Oriana was easily the flagship of the P&O cruise fleets, operating alongside Canberra and Victoria.

“The exterior is pretty much as I expected. It makes me really proud to live in Southampton.”

The city continued to have a reason for feeling proud, when It welcomed the Queen for Oriana’s naming ceremony.

Her Majesty described the £200 million superliner as “very much a British ship” despite her German beginnings.

Before ceremonially smashing a magnum of champagne on Oriana’s gleaming white hull, she said, “Though built in Germany, she is very much a British ship. British owned, British registered and flying the Red Ensign.

“She has been largely fitted out by British craftsmanship and is almost entirely crewed by British and Commonwealth seafarers.”

Before officially naming Oriana, the Queen added: “She is a reminder that, for all the changes of the modern world, we have never lost touch with our maritime heritage.

“I am confident that she will make her own history in the 21st century.”

A high-pitch toot from the royal train signified the royal party’s arrival in Southampton’s eastern docks.

Security was tight as the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, was greeted by the then-Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Mary Fagan, as she stepped on to the red carpet.

They were serenaded by the choir of Westminster Abbey.

Before the ceremony, about 1,600 P&O employees past and present were treated to a two-day “cruise to nowhere” designed as a practice-run.

With free food and entertainment laid on, those on board seemed happy enough to cruise barely a mile from the Mayflower Terminal to Ocean Dock.

Among them were the Miller family from Hedge End. “She is the most beautiful ship I’ve ever seen,” declared Ken Miller, P&O’s then-Southampton-based assistant fleet safety manager.

“Unlike other liners, she looks like a real ship and not a floating Hilton.”

Aside from Oriana’s annual world cruise, she operated journeys within the Mediterranean, Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Baltic seas.

In 2006 she was re-registered to Bermuda so that couples could be wed on board.

Oriana became an adult only ship when, during a refit in 2011, the children’s play areas were converted to cabins.

But sadly her 24 years haven’t been without incident. A series of norovirus outbreaks occurred between 2011-14, with more than 400 passengers affected on one particular Baltic cruise in 2012.

Oriana’s twilight days involve her making her way to China where she will be refitted for her newly formed owners, Well Star Travel Cruises. She will take on the new appellation of Piano Land.

P&O are however planning on expanding their fleet in the near future. A new 180,000-ton liner, Iona, is due to replace Oriana in 2020, and a second similar ship has also been confirmed for 2022.

Check out the gallery above for pictures of MV Oriana through the years.