Chris Hurley gets a preview of Britannia, P&O’s latest ship, when she joins the most British of inaugural celebrations
From the Union flag emblazoned on its bow to the White Company toiletries in the bathroom, P&O’s new flagship Britannia is a celebration of all that’s good about modern Britain. The UK’s largest cruise ship is designed specifically for the British market and this is apparent from the moment one steps on board. The three-storey atrium with its stunning Star Burst chandelier is impressive enough but the understated elegance is more London than Las Vegas. And the sophisticated theme continues throughout both the cabins and public areas, which have been styled with muted colours and luxurious fabrics.
The interior design is complemented by a multi-million pound collection of artworks scattered throughout the ship. There are more than 8000 of them, ranging from pottery to paintings and sculptures crafted by predominantly British artists
As any cruise lover will tell you, food is at the heart of the experience and here Britannia really excels. At the inaugural Gala Dinner I tasted the sublime cuisine of the P&O Food Heroes, who represent the very best of culinary talent in Britain. Marco Pierre White and James Martin have created new dishes to savour, Eric Lanlard’s amazing desserts are showcased in the Market Café, there’s modern Indian cuisine from Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar and Olly Smith has curated an exciting new wine list for the table and his Glass House bar
As well as eating all this fabulous food, passengers have the opportunity to create their own culinary masterpieces at interactive classes in James Martin’s new Cookery Club. James will teach sessions on selected cruises while his expert team lead the rest. Guest teachers will include the other Food Heroes as well as famous names such as Theo Randall, Antonio Carluccio and the doyen of British baking, Mary Berry.
When it comes to booze, Britishness is significantly reflected in the choice of drinks available in the thirteen bars on board. Brodies pub boasts more than 70 craft beers while, along with panoramic views, the Crow’s Nest Cocktail Lounge offers The Great British Gin Menu with 20 artisan spirits.
P&O describes Britannia as being the very best of the best, having taken the best and most popular features from their existing cruise ships as well as introducing exciting new themes. No doubt many fans will be pleased to know that the association with the Strictly Come Dancing team continues in Britannia’s ballroom with glitz and glamour provided by Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe.
As one might expect, the naming ceremony of Britannia was a quintessentially British affair. From the stirring performances by the bands of the Irish Guards and Royal Marines to the eccentric feel-good fusion of bagpipes and rock from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, there was no doubt about who was ruling the waves.
Even the finale of HM The Queen naming Britannia and blessing all who sailed in her was the cue for a Nebuchadnezzar of English sparkling wine from the Wiston Estate to be smashed on the bow, followed, of course, by a very rousing rendition of Rule Britannia.
Such is the scope of Britannia that there wasn’t time to experience many of the facilities like the theatre, gym or spa and there were yet more bars and restaurants to try. I did see enough however to assure me that, despite her size, there’s nothing brash about Britannia and that this sophisticated and elegant ship looks like a very luxurious and relaxing base from which to explore the world.
To find out more about Britannia and how to book go to www.pandocruises.co.uk
All images (c) P&O Cruises