Britannia has fast become one of P&O’s most well-known ships. Her introduction a few years ago built upon the success of the Azura and Ventura which had been P&O’s biggest ships upto that time.
For some she is too big, and those customers may prefer to stick with the likes of P&O’s Oriana, Arcadia, Aurora, or Oceana – perhaps even cast their gaze towards Fred. Olsen or Cruise & Maritime’s smaller ships.
Britannia is large enough to have large expansive spaces on deck and in the public areas for you to be constantly reminded that you are sailing on one of the bigger cruise-ships, however there are some intimate and secluded areas if every now and again you would like to be a little more private.
The 3-deck atrium area is stunning at the heart of the ship and is reminiscent of a large top-notch hotel. A wide open space with inviting furnishings, dramatic centerpiece and staircases with a swirl! The Market Cafe and the Blue Bar sit to the sides at the bottom of the atrium. Looking down onto the central area are the comfortable Glass House wine bar (under the direction of wine-guru Olly Smith), Java the coffee house serving Costa coffee, and shopping locations.
We’ve never found food on P&O to be exceptional, though usually of a good standard – however the meal we enjoyed in the main Meridian Restaurant was a mark above what we had previously experienced. Depending upon the type of fare you pay, you may get a choice of first or second sitting, or be allocated one by P&O, or be able to opt for Freedom Dining – but you really need to work out what you want to do at time of booking: and it may affect the fare-type.
The bar and dining area in one of Britannia’s speciality restaurants Sindhu (by Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar) do suggest that you’ll feel it’s a special ambience if you choose to pay the supplement to dine there. Other speciality dining that could be experienced at a little extra include The Epicurean serving classic dishes inspired by British ingredients.
Entertainment areas abound – with your choice of evening performances in the Headliners Theatre, there’ll also be entertainment of different types in The Crystal Room with elegant dancefloor, the more contemporary The Live Lounge, and The Studio.
The Limelight Club was one of our more favourite areas – with quirky subtle lighting, comfortable seating and where some top-quality performers may be seen and heard whilst enjoying a meal, at times.
Brodie’s is an English-style pub (with reasonable bar prices) with screens available to show music videos or sport. The casino adjoins – and while there are banks of slot-machines it is a bit more subtle and smaller-scale area than on many American-oriented ships.
A feature now on several ships is something like Britannia’s The Cookery Club – where for a fee you can take a cookery class from one of P&O’s culinary team, or sometimes celebrity guest chefs such as the popular James Martin!
Accommodations are all-balcony for outside cabins, and there are a selection of insides available too. Most variation in accommodation type and fare is based on position on the ship, but there are a number of larger staterooms with sofa and a few suites too. Most cabins have showers, but three upper grades and the suites have bath/shower.
Outside deck areas are mainly geared around the 2-pool central area, though the aft of Lido Deck has a more relaxing Sunset Bar area to the rear of the large cafetieria/bistro Horizon Restaurant. There is also towards the fore of the Sun Deck a quieter outside area called Serenity Pool & Bar, and an area that can be accessed at a premium called the Retreat.
Kids and teens are well catered for in the Surfers, Splashers, Scubas, and H2O clubs – though be aware that P&O may stop taking bookings involving particular age groups when they have reached a certain capacity – to ensure that they are able to accommodate all the children that are sailing with age appropriate activities.
For the wellbeing and fitness fanatics there is a well-equipped large gym area and an extensive Oasis Spa health club, with hydrotherapy, massage, and a variety of treatment rooms.
Some will dislike the fact that there is no lower promenade deck, and the only deck you can fully walk around outside is the half-deck Sports Deck at the top of the ship. Also only one set of the three banks of lifts services all decks. Parts of Deck 6 and Deck 5 (where some restaurants, clubs and shopping are) are not accessible from the aft lifts. The atrium lifts miss out the Sun Deck – so it’s only the lifts at the fore of the Britannia that will transport you to any deck you wish to visit! Some have found this confuses the layout of the ship – but we guess you get used to it on a longer voyage.
However if you are well-disposed towards larger ships and have the mentality to go and enjoy the wide range of facilities and extensive selection of social spaces then once onboard and comfortably settled in you’ll be saying just as P&O want you to say “This is the Life!”
P&O have announced in 2017 an even bigger addition to their fleet which will then become the largest ship based in the UK – P&O have yet to announce the name and the full list of features and facilities, but is expected to sail from 2020 onwards.