Travel Editor, David Powell, takes a mini cruise on the fabulous new P&O cruise ship Britannia
It was shortly after 6am when I looked out of my hotel bedroom window. The sun was up early as well, slowly rising over the Ocean Cruise Terminal at Southampton. Then I spotted her for the first time! P&O’s newest cruise ship, proudly showing off a unique version of the Union Jack on her enormous bow, seemed to be towering over the city. Launched by Her Majesty the Queen on March 10th, the 141,000 ton Britannia is P&O’s largest ship ever and signals a new era for family friendly cruising for the ever growing British cruise market.
My wife and I were booked on a long weekend cruise to Guernsey, an excellent way to relax and enjoy the ship and all the facilities on board, or to celebrate a special occasion. If you are new to cruising then these popular mini cruises can be an ideal starter point.
Later that morning having checked out of our pre-cruise hotel, we headed for Gate 4 and the terminal. This is one of Southampton’s busiest terminals but everything ran smoothly. With parking pre-booked with CPS (pre-booking is essential) we were directed to the nearby car park just a short walk from the ship. Luggage dropped off we headed up the escalator for check-in which was fast and efficient. Through security and we were on board this fabulous ship! Nothing beats the feeling of stepping on board a new ship and Britannia certainly has the wow factor, she had us hooked from the start.
Our cabin, a superior deluxe with balcony, was ready so off we headed to deck A to check it out and drop off our hand luggage. Our cabin didn’t disappoint, luxuriously appointed and stylish, plenty of room with a double bed, sofa, desk and dressing table and large flat screen TV’s for films on demand and of course our own personal balcony. The bathroom had a bath with shower and pamper packs from the White Company. Britannia has enough cabins to accommodate 3647 passengers and these include inside cabins, various grade balcony cabins and suites.
Let’s take a look at some statistics, a good starting point to find out what’s on Britannia.
15 passenger decks, 13 bars, 13 places to eat, 9 entertainment venues including the 936 seat state of the art theatre, 4 pools, a 3 tier feature atrium, an on board art collection valued in excess of £1m, extensive children’s facilities including 4 age group areas, a night nursery and an outdoor splash area for teens, a sports arena, 1837 cabins, the Oasis Spa and Retreat, an extensive gym, library and an extensive range of shops - the largest floor area in the fleet.
Britannia is certainly impressive and the quality of the furnishings throughout the ship are complemented by 6000 pieces of specially commissioned, stunning artwork. The Atrium is of course the passenger heart of any cruise ship and Britannia’s is spectacular. There’s three levels with shops, cafes and a sweeping spiral staircase all positioned beneath a huge starburst chandelier with chards of mirror and glass bursting downwards from the ceiling to create a sensational focal point.
It’s fair to say that food is a high priority for British cruisers and on Britannia you can expect a wonderful choice of food and fine dining. All five of P&O’s Food Heroes, celebrities who have each contributed their expertise to create food and drink for whatever your mood and taste buds dictate - Olly Smith, James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochlar and Eric Lanlard, are all represented in the cafés, restaurants and on board cookery school.
There are a number of specific Food Hero cruises where celebrity chefs will be on board, details can be found on P&O’s website. Britannia offers a choice of 13 different places to eat, from the lovely self-serve buffet in the Horizon Restaurant, fine dining in the signature restaurants to healthy snacks in the Grab & Go outlets.
We took advantage of Freedom Dining in the evening and this worked well for us with the staff going out of their way to ensure we were seated promptly. One of the speciality restaurants, The Limelight Club, is a new concept which combines dinner, entertainment and dancing in an intimate supper club venue. An evening with Jaki Graham was featured on our cruise. Our main meals in the Peninsular Restaurant were outstanding and service first class. Sadly we didn’t have time to visit any of the speciality restaurants - we’ll save that for another time!
Things to do ... but Guernsey had to wait
The entertainment team, led by Neil Oliver, exuded enthusiasm. The Southampton sail away party had my wife and I, and most of the passengers, dancing and singing along poolside. To be honest, entertainment wise, we never had a dull moment.
Relaxing on deck was a highlight on the Sunday. Ok, hands up ... we were in Guernsey and I was intending to go ashore but ... the weather was fantastic and relaxing in The Retreat seemed a far better idea.
The Retreat is an exclusive VIP alfresco spa terrace on forward top deck where stewards serve cold flannels, chilled drinks and snacks and spa treatments are offered in the privacy of shaded Cabanas. Sorry Guernsey ... another time perhaps.
During days at sea there’s always a wide range of activities such as guest speakers, quizzes, dance lessons, fitness classes, sport, galley walk throughs, cinema screenings, spa seminars, craft classes etc, or of course you may just wish to relax with a cocktail and book in a comfortable lounge or on deck.
Britannia is a star attraction in its own right. Inspired by P&O’s illustrious past and designed for the future this is a stylish way to see the world. Our mini cruise left us wanting much more, we had a fantastic time.
At the official launch of Britannia at Southampton in March, Celebrity Rob Brydon described the ship as “the biggest and best ship in the history of the British cruise industry”. I couldn’t put it any better - this is the life - quick Rob, pass me the ipad, I need to book another cruise on Britannia very soon!
For more information and to book a cruise on Britannia have a look at the P&O website
or call 0843 374 0111