Proud to be British? You bet we are
Showcasing the best of British, the launch of the latest and largest ship in P&O’s fleet, Britannia, was a very special occasion.
10th March 2015 was quite a day down in Southampton. Union Jacks fluttered in clear blue, sunny, skies, as a very large ship glistened in the harbour waiting to be christened by the Queen. Admired across the globe, the world’s most famous Silver Traveller, Her Majesty was (apparently) on outstanding form and stayed on board much longer than scheduled – a royal seal of approval if ever there was one. Following closely behind the royal departure, Debbie and I flew the flag for Silver Travel Advisor and carried out a rigorous inspection on behalf of all you equally keen and well travelled, but-not-quite-so-high-profile, Silver Travellers.
I am happy to report Britannia definitely rules the waves.
With its 18 decks towering above all the other vessels in the harbour, the ship makes a very big first impression. And once on board, the big impressions just keep on coming. It came as no surprise to learn P&O had hired the services of a top-notch design company, responsible for some very smart London hotels, to ensure they achieved stylish, contemporary, interiors, that are both easy-on-the-eye and instantly relaxing. Think of an upmarket, luxury, boutique-style hotel that floats.
Before the design and build even started, P&O undertook lengthy consultations with more than 20,000 thousand people to ensure they built not only a stylish ship, but one where the facilities would provide an experience and ambience that specifically appealed to the UK market. Consequently, their claim that “Britannia is the embodiment of the best of modern British culture and the nation’s ship” is a fair one.
The quality of the furnishings is evident throughout and the decoration is complimented by stunning artwork. In the Atrium, with its three levels of cafes, shops and a sweeping spiral staircase, there is a spectacular centerpiece sculpture, Star Burst, made from 280 acrylic shards, which shimmer and shine, that is a real focal point. Elsewhere, throughout the ship, there are more than 6,000 pieces of original artwork, all commissioned specifically for Britannia.
Walking through the many lounges and bars (13), restaurants (13), places to enjoy entertainment (9) including a 936 seat theatre complete with an LED wall, the subtle changes to the muted colour palette – silver, grey, cream, olive, taupe, blue, gold – beautifully reflect and compliment the atmosphere of the different areas on board. The cabins are very comfortable and provide everything you would expect from a ship of this calibre. The majority of the 1,837 cabins have balconies; the superior deluxe cabins have a separate lounge area; the suites – essentially the size of two cabins – have bathrooms with whirlpool bath and are extremely spacious with personal Butler service. There are also a small number of purpose-built single cabins.
Acknowledging the importance we gourmet Brits now attach to food and the influence of big names on the British culinary scene, P&O have employed six stars who have each contributed their expertise to create food and drink to suite all tastes and style of dining. Championed as Britannia’s Food Heroes and described as “a gold-winning Olympic team of foodies” they include Marco Pierre White, James Martin and Eric Lanlard who, with a further 10 celebrity chefs, including Mary Berry and Antonio Carluccio, will be on a number of sailings throughout the year. I think it safe to assume the food will not disappoint! Certainly our Gala dinner was delicious, as was the wine.
Not only have P&O elevated the art of eating to another level, they have also recognized the art of cooking itself holds a special place in the British psyche, as the plethora of TV cookery shows attest. If you’ve always fancied cooking with some of our best-loved and famous chefs this could be your chance in the stunning state-of-the-art cookery school! Headed up by James Martin, who will personally lead some of the classes, as will some of the other celebrities when on board. The school is spectacular in terms of layout and equipment, as each station is fully plumbed with hobs and prep space, allowing for a fully participative experience. And, unlike Master Chef or Bake-Off where you are left to sink or swim with your mistakes recorded in all their glory for the delight of the viewers at home, here the only cameras will be those focused on the celebrity chef enabling participants to pick up all of the finer detail to make it easy to follow – Master Chef without the tears and everyone is a winner. Not only that, there is also the opportunity to have an intimate lunch or dinner with your culinary hero at the chef’s table in the cookery school. Where else could you have that experience?
When we are not cooking, or singing, we Brits are dancing. In recognition of the huge resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing, there will be a 14 night Strictly Come Dancing themed cruise in July, with four of the show’s stars showcasing their fancy footwork. Classes and dancing will take place in the grandeur of the Crystal room, complete with wooden dancing floor and chandeliers. If you are still hoping to learn a few new steps and glide across the floor like a pro, don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes and limber up beforehand!
If you are thinking about a family cruise, Britannia may be a good option for taking grandchildren, with inside 4-berth cabins and larger suites with pull-out sofa beds. Much thought has gone into entertaining all generations with quiet adult zones, child-friendly areas and activities that should appeal to everyone. There are also special children’s meals in the restaurants as well as a dedicated children’s buffet at 5pm to help take the stress out of feeding the family. The Reef Club provides age-appropriate activities for kids of all ages, including a very hip room for teens to hang with their friends from early morning until late at night, with the added bonus of a night nursery from 6pm to 2am to allow parents and grandparents time to Tango!
Keen sun-worshipers will want to spend time lazing on the Lido deck around one of several pools. I didn’t stop to count all the sunbeds but I can confirm there were a large number. I dare say not a sunbed for every person on board, but enough to stop early morning towel wars – but we British don’t usually do that do we? For those who like serious relaxation The Retreat is an exclusive outdoor spa area where numbers are limited and a range of treatments are offered in luxurious surroundings. For ultimate relaxation, though, you can be pummeled and pampered to your heart’s delight in the Oasis Spa with its treatment rooms and hydrotherapy suite and pool.
Fitness fanatics will not be disappointed: a large well-equipped gym, spinning classes, aerobics studio, full-sized sports court and the more genteel traditional cruise deck activities such as quoits and shuffleboard are all available. Something for everyone, including nothing, if that’s what you want.
With a maximum passenger capacity of 3,6,47 and a crew of 1,350 service levels should not disappoint.
Britannia has a good choice of 2-14 day sailings, departing from Southampton. You can visit their website for more up-to-date information, But, quite frankly, if you go on a very short voyage, you won’t have time to experience everything this fabulous ship has to offer and may only just have managed to find your way around before it’s time to disembark! I suspect some people wouldn’t want to get off the ship anyway, no matter how long the cruise, wherever they were, as Britannia itself is a pretty big star attraction in its own right, whatever the destination.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends P&O Cruises
- A Celebration of all that is British by Mike Pickup
- A 2-night preview cruise by Silver Traveller SteveW