P&O Five Ship Spectacular‎ in Sydney Harbour: What's happening and where to watch

Sydney Harbour, no stranger to fabulous spectacles, hosted the biggest-ever get-together of a cruise-ship fleet this morning. P&O Cruises' five ships united in a V formation before sailing towards Sydney abreast in a single line, before passing through through the Heads individually at 6.15am to celebrate the official naming of P&O's newest additions to the fleet, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden; they are joining Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl to sail from home ports around Australia.

Once the soon-to-be Famous Five were captured for posterity by aerial photographers, they made their way in single file towards Fort Denison for the naming ceremony, scheduled for 8.30am. Along the way, keen cruise fans took the ample opportunities to view the parade from vantage points on shore. Who could forget the day in 2007 when the city came to a virtual standstill as Cunard's Queen Mary 2 made its maiden visit to Sydney and had a "royal rendezvous" with the now-retired Queen Elizabeth 2?

A huge reaction was expected for this event, with Transport for NSW yesterday advising commuters and spectators to take public transport and allow extra travel time in the morning.

"For spectators, Mrs Macquarie's Chair near Circular Quay is the best vantage point, however parking is extremely limited so please leave your car at home, use public transport and travel early," CBD coordinator general Marg Prendergast said.

"For CBD commuters, please understand there may be slight delays to bus services particularly those coming from the north shore via Cahill Expressway Southbound, or the eastern suburbs past The Royal Botanic Gardens. It is best to re-time your journey in the morning peak to travel earlier or later to avoid disruption."  

As they reach the centre of the harbour, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden were expected to sail either side of Fort Denison, where their godmothers will name them and perform the time-honoured ritual of smashing bottles of champagne on the ships' hulls. The ships' godmothers are singer Jessica Mauboy for Pacific Aria and actress Kate Ritchie for Pacific Eden – and in a decidedly modern twist on the traditional ceremony, tweeting to their thousands of followers as it happens.

VIDEO: The five ships arrive

Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the cruise line was thrilled that two famous Australians had agreed to name the cruise line's latest ships. "Both Jess and Kate are well known and well-loved around the country. They epitomise modern Australia and really embody the new look and feel of P&O Cruises so we are delighted they will be naming these very special ships – and in such a modern way."

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The five ships will then dock at various points around the Harbour in preparation for the afternoon and evening events. From about 4pm to 8pm, 20 live music acts and 10 DJs will perform live concerts for passengers - Jessica Mauboy on board Pacific Aria, which will be docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal; The Veronicas on Pacific Eden, which will be anchored at Neutral Bay; Justice Crew on Pacific Jewel, anchored at Athol Bay; Stan Walker on Pacific Dawn, anchored east of Garden Island; and Samantha Jade on Pacific Pearl, anchored off Point Piper.

A spectacular fireworks display will light up the sky at 8.45pm and the ships will cruise out of the Harbour at 10pm, taking their partying passengers to ports in NSW, Queensland and the Pacific Islands.

If you're not one of the lucky passengers but would like to get closer to the action and enjoy dress-circle views of the fireworks, Captain Cook Cruises is running lunch, high tea, sunset dinner and dinner cruises; for bookings, see https://www.captaincook.com.au

See also: Largest ship to be based in Australia arrives
See also: Cruising season 2015/16: Everything you need to know

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