When Britannia was Christened in Southampton on March 10 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, she officially became the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK and the flagship of P&O Cruises.
As we have not done any cruises on a P&O ship until now we were eager to visit the ship while she was in Zeebrugge (Belgium). Upon arrival at the port the first thing we noticed was the enormous Union Jack on the ship’s front. With 94 metres (308 ft) in length this is the largest version of the Union Flag.
We boarded the ship on deck 5 and immediately noticed the absence of bright coloured, big open spaces. We walked past the entrance of the Oasis Spa & Health Club and headed left, past the reception, towards the Limelight Club, a combined dinner and entertainment venue.
Continuing past the Limelight Club we came across the main ‘wow’ factor on board Britannia, the three-deck high atrium featuring a part chandelier, part sculpture centrepiece called “Starburst”.
The atrium is where you can find the Market Cafe and Blue Bar. We left the atrium and walked towards the back of the ship where we had a look inside the Meridian Restaurant, one of the main dining rooms serving breakfast, three course lunches, afternoon tea and five course evening meals. When it comes to evening dining there are two options: Club Dining and Freedom Dining.
– Club Dining means you dine at the same table at the same time each evening, either at 6.30pm or 8.30pm.
– Freedom Dining enables you to dine at the time you wish. During peak times P&O uses a pager system so you don’t have to stand in line until your table is ready.
Up on deck 6 is the Headliners Theatre. The theatre features a huge LED backdrop for high-tech visual effects and is used for comedy and music shows and grand style production shows.
Leaving the theatre we walked through Brodie’s, the local English pub, and past some shops towards the other two main restaurants: the Peninsular and theOriental Restaurant.
The Chrystal Room, on deck 7, with its huge wooden dance floor serves as the perfect location for daily dance classes and grand evening balls.
Sindhu bar and restaurant, as the name might suggest, offers fine Indian style dining.
The Live Lounge plays host to singers, tribute acts and live bands and turns into a disco/nightclub when the entertainment is over.
The elevator, or as we should say lift – we are on a British ship after all – brought us up to deck 17, the Sun Deck, where the Cookery Club is located. Whether you’re a semi professional cook or a complete novice the Cookery Club is where you can develop some essential cooking techniques and all-important presentation skills under the watchful eye of and guidance from real professionals.
Deck 16, known as the Lido Deck, was up next. At the back of the ship is the Sunset Bar, one of the 13 bars onboard the ship. It offers a spacious outdoor seating area which is partly covered and shows some resemblance to a beach club.
Walking towards the front of the ship we passed through the Horizon restaurant, the self-service buffet restaurant.
After lunch we headed towards the Crow’s Nest at the front of the ship. We walked by the main pool area where we found two of the four pools onboard. There is also a pizza station, a “Grab & Go” station ( with ice cream, snacks and sandwiches ) and two bars.
The Crow’s Nest Lounge located at the very front of the ship offers spectacular views. During the day, between quiz games, art classes and cooking demos, this is a quiet and peaceful place to sit and read a book. At night it transforms into a pre- or post-dinner venue. The bar features The Great British Gin Menu, which includes 20 of the finest British-distilled gins.
To finish our tour of Britannia we visited a suite – Arcadia B436. Located on B deck or deck 14. This suite has a seperate living area, two large flatscreen tv’s, a luxury marble bathroom, exclusive Concierge Lounge access, complimentary internet access, butler service, etc…
Not having any idea what to expect before we set foot on Britannia we can honestly say we are convinced Britannia is a ship we want to explore further during a cruise. Britannia may not be the most daring new ship out there: there is no surf simulator, there are no water slides, there is no climbing wall. Neither is it one of the most innovative new ships: no skydiving simulator, bumper cars, … And though those may be important things when choosing a cruise ship, Britannia has something else. From the moment we set foot on her we saw she is definitely one of the most stylish ships out there. Richmond International, responsible for the interior design, together with P&O succeeded in creating a contemporary and timeless environment in which we immediately felt at home, ready to relax and enjoy. Or like P&O says on their website: ‘There has never been a more stylish way to see the world!’