(6:30 a.m. EDT) -- Hot on the heels of the naming ceremony of its smallest ship, Adonia, P&O Cruises has announced today that it is to build its largest ship ever, a 141,000-tonne, 3,611-passenger vessel, to be launched in March 2015. The new ship will be built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri and will be the largest ever constructed specifically for the British market.
Details of what's to be onboard the £500 million, as-yet unnamed ship haven't been revealed, although a press statement promised "the favourite classic features of Oriana and Aurora, the choice and variety of Azura and Ventura and a host of new ideas." We can see from the artist's impression that the new vessel will have two funnels -- and the vast majority of cabins look to have balconies.
The ship will be a big step up from Azura, currently the largest vessel in the P&O Cruises fleet; it's some 22% bigger in tonnage, although the jump in passengers is relatively small, at just over 16 percent. In fact, it will be the same size and capacity as two new ships being built by sister line Princess Cruises, the first of which, Royal Princess, will launch in 2013.
But is 141,000 tonnes going to be too big for the typical P&O Cruises fan? Carol Marlow, the line's managing director, claims the new ship will appeal to new passengers but will give regulars "the 'P&O-ness' they recognise and love." We'll bring you the details of what's on board as soon as they're announced, so stay tuned.
Chart: Cruise Critic's New Cruise Ships on Order
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor