I was lucky enough to be invited to stay overnight on P&O’s new ship Britannia on Tuesday 10th March 2015 as part of her inaugural celebrations and fittingly after she had been christened by the Queen. Britannia has been dubbed a ‘half sister’ to Royal and Regal Princesses but without the Seawalk and of course with other decidedly British twists.
There were presentations to attend, a Cocktail Reception Party and Gala dinner, but for me more importantly was the self-guided tour which allows you to explore nooks and crannies on every deck and get a good feel of the ship.
The public rooms are on decks 4 to 7 and then deck 16 and upwards, with all the accommodation decks sandwiched in between (decks 8 to 15, but confusingly with cabins lettered G to A). This allows cabins to be either inside or balcony standard, ie. no ocean-view cabins with just a porthole or window. There is a partial obstruction of balconies on G deck ( deck 8), due to the presence of the lifeboat cranes. Many of the cabins are decorated in beige, cream, olive green and powder blue or grey tones which give a restful feel, the shower cubicle has a door rather than a curtain and the towels are refreshingly the size of bath sheets. There are 8 categories of inside cabin (between 161 and 170 sq ft in size), 12 categories of balcony (+/- a sofa), 3 of deluxe balcony (bath over a shower) and 4 categories of suite, as well as 12 inside and 15 balcony cabins for single occupancy on the Lido deck (deck 16) and at least 21 adapted cabins.
Britannia has many traditional features found on other P&O ships including The Crow’s Nest bar, The Glass House, and Sindhu as well as a very well equipped ‘The Reef’ (P&O’s Children’s Club for 12 – 17 year olds). It has slightly adapted both the Retreat and Serenity pool ‘adults only’ area found on deck 17, as well as the Oasis Spa and Health Club (deck 5), from those on other ships.
Innovations abound across different areas of the ship. This ranges from one of the 13 bars –Brodie’s, which is quintessentially British, offering large wall mounted TVs as well as over 66 different British beers, lagers and ciders (including Chocolate Tom from Robinsons Brewery in Stockport) to the Limelight Club, which re-invents the supper clubs of old (live entertainment +/- a meal). From the Market Café, a continental style deli offering artisan style nibbles including fresh bread, antipasti, a range of cheeses and mouth-watering morsels conjured up by French patissier Eric Lanlard, to The Crystal Room, which will be the setting for the hugely popular ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ cruises (as well as dancing at other times).
The Food Heroes mantra is synonymous with Britannia now, not only in the speciality restaurants already mentioned (along with Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea served in The Epicurean), but also The Cookery Club, developed in conjunction with James Martin. This light, bright area aft on deck 17, provides 24 work stations offering state of the art cooking equipment allowing you to conjure up a gastronomic delight. Whilst Britannia may not be the first ship to offer cookery classes at sea, there are 24 sailings offering you the opportunity to get up close to and learn from the likes of Mary Berry, Paul Rankin and Antonio Carluccio.
Britannia is not glitzy or showy, but calmingly refined in an understated, totally British way. This is nowhere more apparent than in the Atrium, where, looking up three decks you encounter ‘Starburst’ - part chandelier, part sculpture. Its 280 reflective shards and 320 LED lights bounce light all around the Atrium. Eight metres down from the top, you can sit at its base and relax with a coffee from the Java Lounge.
Or you could explore the shops, try a new cocktail in The Blue Bar, watch a show in Headliners, enjoy the late night disco in The Live Lounge or get back to relaxing and watch an episode of ‘Spooks’ in your cabin.
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