A Celebration of All that is British
Christened by Her Majesty the Queen on 10 March 2015, P&O Britannia is the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK market and proudly bears a stylised Union Jack on her bows.
P&O invented cruising back in 1844 when it invited passengers on board its ships sailing from Southampton to the Mediterranean, delivering mail and freight, so it should know a thing or two about what the UK markets want from cruise ships.
Evolution rather than revolution is probably the best way to sum up what Britannia offers. Food has always been a major factor in cruising and the creation of the five ‘Food Heroes’ who play a significant part in the what’s on offer, is an extension of previous concepts. A new feature, however, is the twelve station cookery school at which up to twenty-four passengers can learn new culinary skills under the tuition of a number of top chefs.
Other new features include The Limelight Club which combines dining and entertainment in the style of the traditional supper clubs, and the Crystal Room, with its chandelier and wooden floor, perfect for dancing.
We joined Britannia the day before the big event and had a good look round before getting dressed up for the ‘black tie’ evening event. Hosted by Rob Brydon, star of P&O’s latest advertising campaign and also the host for the following day’s events, the evening started with a champagne and canape reception. We then moved into the main dining rooms where dinner featured a series of courses prepared by the food heroes, a great variety of tastes and styles.
After dinner we headed to the upper decks to enjoy the brilliant firework display. It was a chilly evening so P&O had laid on hot toddies for all and pashminas for the ladies – very thoughtful and thanks!
Next morning we had breakfast in the buffet, sensibly arranged in a series of food stations so that more people can be served without the need for queues, then headed off to the quay where a huge red carpet and grandstand seating had been arranged for guests. Many ladies used the occasion to wear creative hats and fascinators – quite a display.
The entertainment started with acrobats performing in large transparent spheres and this was followed by two marching bands, the Irish Guards and the Royal Marines. It was all very patriotic.
P&O has strong links with dancing. Indeed her previous new ship, Azura, was named by Darcey Bussell, so it was hardly surprising that Darcey and Tess Daly were in the audience to introduce a team of dancers who performed a ‘Strictly’ routine on the quayside. However, the biggest round of applause went to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, introduced by Rob Brydon as combining the inimitable blend of bagpipes and trombones!
Then it was time for the main event. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived and took their seats. The Chairman of Carnival UK, David Dingle, made a short introductory speech and, following prayers the Queen walked over to a the podium and spoke the time-honoured words, “I name this ship Britannia, God bless her and all who sail in her.” Then she pressed a button which sent a huge bottle of English bubbly zooming down a zip line and crashing into the side of the ship, raising a huge cheer from the guests.
We all went back on board for lunch, as did the Queen, and on leaving we were slightly delayed as she disembarked in front of us. It was a memorable end to a great celebration of this lovely new ship.
Copyright for images is the property of Mike Pickup.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends P&O Cruises
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