Britannia was named by HM The Queen on March 10, 2015, in a glittering ceremony in Southampton. She last named a P&O Cruises' ship almost 20 years ago -- the 1,800-passenger Oriana -- then the largest ship in the fleet and ushering in a new era of modern UK cruising.
Fast forward 20 years and Britannia, arguably, does the same, The ship is by far the biggest in the P&O Cruises' fleet, carrying 3,647 passengers and weighing in at 141,000 tons -- 27,000 tons heavier and carrying 547 more passengers than the line's previous biggest ship, Azura, which launched five years ago.
Britannia is also the biggest ship ever built specifically for the UK market.
Though ultimately owned by a US company (Carnival Corp.), and built in Italy, the ship is registered in Southampton (due to European tonnage tax laws), and has a very British feel to it. For the first time a British design company, Richmond International, has overseen the whole of the design of the ship's interiors rather than parts. Richmond International has worked on a number of great British hotels, including The Langham, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Intercontinental Hotel London, and Four Seasons Hampshire, and it shows in Britannia, which has the feel of a luxurious boutique hotel, with expensive-looking textures of wood, leather and glass and in every public space and lavish use of marble.
The ship is not showy (except perhaps in the Atrium), it's all about understated luxury. The overriding colour scheme throughout is nautical blues and creams, soft greys, and touches of gold and silver. However, there are some stand-out feature such as the stunning three-tier feature atrium complete with a Star Burst sculpture made from shards of aluminium and bathed in coloured light. The Atrium is set to be a destination -- a place to see and be seen -- with Eric Lanlard's Market Cafe and Olly Smith's the Glass House both central features and the Reception shifted to a corridor off it.
Britannia takes the most popular features of the rest of the fleet -- such as The Glass House, Atul Kochhar's Sindhu restaurant and the Crows Nest Bar -- and adds some brand new features such as the Cookery Club and a TV Studio. The aim is to incorporate P&O Cruise's 178 years of history, but use modern design touches to try and bring in new-to-cruise passengers and families.
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". You can cook with them during the day and -- on selected sailings -- enjoy an intimate dinner with them in the evening.
The ship set sail on its maiden voyage -- a 14-night Mediterranean round-trip from Southampton -- on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The ship will homeport in Southampton, sailing to the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Norway, the Baltic and spend winter in the Caribbean.