At 141,000 tons, Britannia is the largest cruise ship ever built exclusively for the British Market, and she will carry 3,647 passengers at normal operating capacity, with 1,350 members of crew to look after them.
Her first fare paying passenger cruise departs from Southampton on 14th March 2015, for 14 nights to the Mediterranean. Before that, as part of the preparation to ensure that everything onboard is working correctly, and that the crew are all working together, there were a number of overnight events for press and the trade. I was lucky enough to be offered a cabin for me and my wife, so we arrived at the port on 11th March full of anticipation. I do like the new P&O Cruises livery, with the white ship and a Union flag on the bows, and the blue funnels, so Britannia did look very good when we first saw her.
The naming ceremony had just finished when we arrived at the terminal, but the Queen had gone back onboard for lunch. As no-one could board the ship until she disembarked, we were over an hour late boarding. It was then a mad rush to try and get around the ship and see everything. I also had to go to a presentation which lasted about an hour, so regretfully my video doesn’t include as much as I would have liked, and only has one grade of cabin, which was the one I was in, an HA grade balcony with shower (without a sofa).
I made this video while onboard, and you can click on the following link to see my photos of Britannia on Facebook.
The designers never went for bright garish colours, and there is a lot of brown and beige in the cabins and public areas. The atrium does look particularly good, and will be a good central meeting point for passengers, who like to sit and watch the world go by. You can never please all the people all the time though, and some past passengers might not like the fact that the Glass House is part of the atrium with everyone walking through between the tables.
When we went to the Horizon Restaurant, for a cup of tea and a sandwich, a couple of things stood out for me. The first was that as we entered I was looking for the normal hand sprays, to ensure hands are clean before going to the buffet area. Instead, there were three small sinks for you to wash your hands, and paper towels to dry them. It is hard enough to get everyone to use the hand sprays, so I can’t see that people will queue to wash and dry their hands when it is busy. One design fault is that the bins for the paper towels are tiny, and it wasn’t long before the used towels were overflowing onto the floor, and that was with nowhere near a full complement of passengers.
We went to the Headliners Theatre for the presentation, and I was rather surprised that it ‘appeared’ to be small. It could actually hold a lot of people, but as there were no balconies it seemed to have a low ceiling. The seats had arms, and were actually very narrow. Having said that, the technology used on stage was amazing. Large moveable LED screens at the back of the stage meant that the shows can have any number of back-drops added. During the presentation we were shown a short section of ‘Sound of the Underground’, and then in the evening we watched ‘Gravity’, and we enjoyed both of them.
The Cookery Club up on deck 17 looked great, and I am sure that many passengers will have great fun learning to cook some great food while onboard. James Martin was there giving interviews to the press when we visited.
I liked Britannia, and I can see that many past P&O passengers will appreciate the mixture of traditional P&O features, as well as the new additions. I guess there will be some who won’t like it, and will prefer to stick to the smaller ships in the fleet, such as Aurora, Adonia and Oceana. However, this will be more than compensated for by people who are attracted to P&O Cruises for the first time, because they like larger ships with more options for speciality dining. Therefore it will be good for P&O Cruises as it should not lose them any of their existing passengers, but will certainly attract new people to the brand, and also potentially to cruising for the first time. If you would like more details about Britannia, or P&O Cruises in general, call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850.
There are 35 grades of cabin, including single inside and singe balcony cabins. However, there are no cabins with portholes or picture windows on this ship, as you jump from an inside or larger inside, straight to a balcony. Within the balcony grades you can have an obstructed view, with or without a sofa, a clear view, with or without a sofa, and a superior deluxe. There are then 4 grades of suite.
HA brade balcony cabin with shower (without a sofa)
All cabins benefit from large flat screen televisions, with films on demand, and the ensuite facilities have pamper packs from The White Company, and the showers have a glass screen instead of a plastic curtain.
Headliner’s Theatre is the main entertainment venue, and has an amazing large LED screen at the back of the stage to add to the shows you see there. Other venues include The Limelight Club, where you can dine and watch entertainment, The Studio which is a multi-purpose state-of-the-art venue for talks, cookery demos, film shows etc, and there will also be a lot more entertainment taking place out on deck. There is the Crystal Room, complete with wooden floor and chandeliers, for those who love dancing, the Live Lounge which will host singers, tribute acts and bands, before turning into a night-club. In addition to these, there are a number of other bars and lounges, and quiet places to escape, around the ship.
Freedom Dining is available between 6.00pm and 9.30pm in the Meridian and Peninsular Restaurants, while Club Dining is available in the Oriental Restaurant at 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Other dining venues included in the cost of your cruise include the Horizon self-service buffet and the Grab and Go outlets on Lido deck for pizza and burgers etc.
On Gala Nights, the menu in the main restaurant will include some Marco Pierre White dishes, which we enjoyed very much.
For something a bit special, perhaps to celebrate an anniversary, there are a number of Select Dining venues onboard, which incur a supplementary charge. These include Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, The Glass House by Olly Smith, and The Limelight Club. For anyone who loves a beer or two, there is an impressive choice onboard, with 70 varieties of British beers, ales and ciders in Brodie’s.
The Cookery Club will have 12 cook stations, to accommodate a maximum of 24 cooks, where they can book 2 hour cookery lessons. Chef James Martin will be there on some cruises, but when he isn't the classes will be taken by a team of chefs recruited and trained by James.
The other Food Heroes, Eric Lanyard, Atul Kochhar and Marco Pierre White will also be on board some cruises, and will be offering classes of their own, and Olly Smith will host wine tastings there. Mary Berry will also be on some cruises.
All of these classes will have a supplementary charge, and can be booked in advance of boarding for your cruise.
There will be plenty for children to do onboard, with a number of clubs for different age groups. These are Splashers for the 2-4 year olds, Surfers for the 5-8 year olds, Scubas for the 9-12 year olds, and H2O for the 13-17 year olds. There is also a night nursery for the under 4’s, but is has a capacity of 15 children at any time.
There is an extensive gym onboard, as well as the Oasis Spa. You could also head for the Arena, a dedicated sports space for short tennis, cricket or football. Or perhaps relax at the Serenity Pool & Bar, or at The Retreat, an alfresco spa terrace.
Britannia will be based in Southampton during the summer, offering a range of cruise itineraries including the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Norwegian Fjords, Baltic, plus France, Spain & Guernsey. Then in November she will move to her winter base of Barbados, where she will be operating 14 night Caribbean cruises, until she returns to Southampton again in March 2016.
P&O Cruises operates a fleet of 8 ships, which are all aimed at the UK Market.
- Family Friendly ships – Britannia, Azura, Ventura, Oceana and Aurora
- Adult Only ships – Arcadia, Oriana and Adonia
All the ships are based in Southampton year round, with the exception of Oceana which is spending the summer in the Mediterranean, offering 7 and 14 night fly cruises, plus Britannia and Azura spending the winter in the Caribbean offering 14 night fly cruises.
For more information on any cruises call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850.