The biggest ship built specifically for the UK market debuted in March 2015 with HM The Queen presiding over the naming ceremony. Britannia takes the most popular features of P&O Cruises' other ships and expands and improves upon them. It boasts the biggest version of Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar's Sindhu restaurant in the fleet; it's the same with wine guru Olly Smith's The Glasshouse and a large Crow's Nest Bar. There are also exclusive venues: Epicurean, a fine dining restaurant; The Crystal Room, for ballroom dancing (with the added bonus of a "Strictly Come Dancing" celebrity on selected cruises); The Limelight Room, for intimate performances from actors and musicians; and the Market Cafe, where Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard and cheese expert Charlie Turnbull get to showcase their wares. Britannia is very much a ship that reflects Britain today. Read our top Britannia cruise tips.
The triple-height atrium is the place to relax and watch the world go by -- from any of the three floors. Each deck has a different ambience and atmosphere, but we kept getting drawn back to the ground floor, in front of the Market Cafe. There, you get a perfect view of the breathtaking starburst sculpture, made from shards of aluminium that constantly change colour.
Britannia is all about rediscovering what's best about Britain, and that extends to the extraordinary variety of drinks we create in this country. The Crow's Nest Bar features The Great British Gin Menu, which includes 20 British-distilled gins from around the country, including small, artisan brands, as well as a selection of tonic waters. Meanwhile, in Brodie's Pub, you can choose from an astonishing selection of 70 bottled beers -- all brewed in the UK!
We're torn on which dining venue to recommend, as Atul Kochhar's Sindhu is sublime in the evening, but Epicurean is not open for lunch. Britannia's Sindhu is the first to have its own bar, which offers tapas-style Indian dishes at lunchtime from £4.95. The dishes are based on the main menu and might include spiced lamb cakes, jai tarang (pan-fried hand-dived scallops) and gosht ke dhuandhar sole (marinated smoked beef skewers). It's a perfect way to sample this exquisite cuisine, and it will likely sway you to book in the evening.
In an ideal world (where money is no object), our recommendation would be to eat in all the speciality restaurants; if you have to choose just one, we recommend Epicurean. Even if you are not a fan of fancy cuisine, this is worth the £28 cover charge. Everything from the decor and service to the cuisine has been meticulously thought out, and although parts are gimmicky (bloody Mary lollipops, lipstick sorbet), the quality of the food shines out. It's worth every penny.
Britannia offers the first ever cookery club at sea, a dedicated space at the top of the ship boasting the most up-to-date kitchen cookware, TV screens and speakers, as well as a dining table for eating your creations. Whether you're an accomplished cook, need to improve your technique or want to learn something new (we made pasta), we recommend a session in The Cookery Club. It has been conceived and endorsed by celebrity chef James Martin, and he -- along with Atul Kochhar, Marco Pierre White, Eric Lanlard and others -- make appearances there on selected sailings.