When Britannia debuts on March 10, 2015, it will be by far the biggest ship in the P&O Cruises' fleet, coming in at 141,000 tons and carrying 3,647 passengers: some 25,000-tons larger than P&O's previous biggest ship, Azura.
It will also be the biggest ship ever built specifically for the UK market, and will have a very British feel to it.
Britannia takes the most popular features of the rest of the fleet -- Olly Smith's The Glass House, Atul Kochhar's Sindhu restaurant, The Crows Nest Bar -- and adds them to some brand new features.
The big emphasis is on food and the line has enlisted the help of a number of big name celebrity chefs including James Martin to create the first cookery school onboard a British ship, The Cookery Club. Martin will be joined by P&O regulars Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar, wine guru Olly Smith, acclaimed patissiere Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard and cheese expert Charlie Turnbull, which the line has dubbed "Food Heroes".
For the first time a British design company, Richmond International, is overseeing the whole of the design of the ship's interiors to incorporate P&O's 177 years of history, and using modern design touches to try and bring in new-to-cruise passengers.
One of these is the stunning three-tier feature atrium complete with a Star Burst sculpture; Eric Lanlard patisserie, Olly Smith's Glass House, a charcuterie and gelateria.
Richmond has worked on a number of great British hotels, including The Langham, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Intercontinental Hotel London, and Four Seasons Hampshire; as well as international hotels including Four Seasons Mauritius and Sandy Lane Barbados.
The ship will set sail on its maiden voyage -- a 14-night Mediterranean round-trip from Southampton -- on March 14, 2015.
Other features announced so far include:
P&O will debut the first purpose-built single cabins with balconies, 15 of them (and 12 inside single cabins). All outside cabins will have balconies -- another first. Bathrooms have glass shower screens and pamper packs from The White Company.
The Limelight Club, a combined entertainment and dining venue in the tradition of the supper club. The Limelight Club will host a variety of entertainers and guest performers, offering mainly live music from jazz, to pop, blues and soul. Once the entertainment finishes, the venue turns into a late-night club and dancing venue.
Headliners Theatre is a 936-seat venue which will host musical performances and theatre productions. The space includes a giant LED screen, which provides digital scenery and acts as a backdrop to musical performances.
The Crystal Room is a show lounge dedicated to the love of Latin and ballroom dancing with a wooden floor, chandeliers and a special exhibition of dancing memorabilia, donated by famous dancers, including those in Strictly Come Dancing. Britannia will host a special Strictly-themed cruise, and the Crystal Room will be the main venue for all Strictly-related activities.
The Crystal Room will also play home to evening balls and a range of entertainment from live bands and vocalists in the evening, and dance lessons and talks from experts during the day.
The Live Lounge will showcase the best of British entertainment, such as home-grown singers, bands, comedians and tribute acts. Once the entertainment ends, it turns into a nightclub.
The Crows Nest bar is a perennial favourite onboard P&O's fleet, and this one will feature The Great British Gin Menu which will feature 20 gins including small, artisan brands such as The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (Argyll), Tarquin`s Dry Gin (Cornwall), Darnley`s View (Edinburgh), Silent Pool Gin (Surrey), and Ely Dark Chocolate Gin (Cambridgeshire) as well as big names such as Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray and Hendrick’s.
Complementing these gins will be a selection of tonic waters including Fevertree, Fentiman’s and Bottlegreen.
The Blue Bar is at the heart of the ship in the Atrium with a view of Britannia’s stunning starburst sculpture and a wide selection of cocktails.
Brodie's is a classic pub which is named after one of the founders of P&O Cruises, Brodie McGhie Wilcox. It offers a variety of entertainment including quizzes, live music and karaoke as well as poker and roulette tables in the adjoining casino. It also has The Great British Beer Menu, which features an astonishing 70 different bottled beers, ales and ciders from 56 UK counties including pilsners, ales, stouts, gluten-free beer and speciality beers such as Chocolate Tom from Robinson’s Brewery in Cheshire, Ginger Hare from Bath Ales in Somerset and Orange Peel from the Wadsworth Brewery in Wiltshire.
The Cookery Club is the only cookery school at sea and will feature the talents of TV chef James Martin, amongst other so called "Food Heroes". When the celebs are at sea they will lead the classes as well as hosting interactive classes over lunch and dinner at the chef’s table. Resident chef and manager of The Cookery Club, Rob Cottam, joins P&O Cruises from Leiths School of Food & Wine and Ashburton Cookery School, will make sure that the classes are reflective of current tastes and trends as well as the destinations visited on the cruise. Passengers will be able to go to local markets, vineyards and see speciality producers in the morning before an afternoon class on how to use the ingredients.
The ship will also feature The Studio -- a multi-purpose TV studio that allows passengers to listen to guest speakers, talks, demonstrations, cinema screenings, radio plays or game shows and watch cookery demonstrations and the latest films on the cinema screen during the day.
During the evening, radio plays or music recitals will be on offer.
Anyone who has sailed on Princess Cruises' Royal Princess and Regal Princess will be familiar with this concept.
The ship will feature the Oasis Spa an adults-only, for-fee Retreat, where you can hire day beds, cabanas (to enjoy a range of spa treatments) and complimentary smoothies or fruit platters. A day pass costs £25, or you can purchase for the full duration of the cruise which works out at £120 for an individual pass or £200 per couple per week. A Sports Arena and four swimming pools including a Serenity “quiet zone” pool and bar.
Sindhu is Michelin star holder and ‘master of spices’, Atul Kochhar's restaurant, which has proved immensely popular across the fleet. Kochhar will showcase his flair for fine dining using big bold flavours combining his homeland’s spices with quality British and European ingredients.
Epicurean is Britannia's fine dining restaurant, which offers classic dining elements with the best of modern British cuisine in a sophisticated and contemporary setting. Chefs utilise the principles of molecular gastronomy and techniques such as precision temperature cooking, freeze drying and fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen in order to enhance taste, texture and appearance. The menu features a selection of classic and contemporary dishes. It will also feature an extensive cheese menu, hand picked by cheese expert Charlie Turnbull, including suggested cheese and wine pairings.
The Glass House. Wine guru Olly Smith's temple to fine wines and tapas-size dishes occupies a prime spot at the top of the Atrium, which Smith has described as "a place of great honour". The Glass House on Britannia is a good deal larger than on the other ships, and like those it has a number of rooms including a Tasting Room and a Dining Room, as well as a bar area. Smith has chosen 32 wines to try by the glass, half of which are brand new (i.e. they do not appear anywhere else on the fleet). They are partly influenced by the ship's itineraries, so he has drawn from Croatia and Italy; but also further afield, including Uruguay. As in the other Glass Houses, there will be wine tasting dinners, bespoke menus and small and larger plates on offer. And when he's onboard he'll even lead shore excursions to nearby vineyards.
Market Cafe is Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard's French-style pâtisserie in the Atrium, which will offer fine cheeses, antipasto, charcuterie, tapas, speciality breads and of course Eric's famous cakes. The Market Cafe will also have a coffee menu and a selection of gourmet ice creams.
The Reef is P&O Cruises' dedicated, supervised children's club for ages 2-17, with age-specific clubs, a night nursery, loads of activities and enthusiastic Reef Rangers on hand. There’s even a teens-only pool deck.
Britannia will sail out of the UK to the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Norway, the Baltic and spend winter in the Caribbean.