On the 12th September, myself and Assistant Editor Anthony embarked on a short 2-night cruise to Guernsey onboard P&O Cruises’ newest and largest ship ever, Britannia. I was eager to see not only the spectacular looking features, such as the Starburst Atrium, but also how it would compare to the similarly designed Royal Princess, which I absolutely loved.
After arriving at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal just after 12 noon, we were greeted by hoards of people and hen parties eagerly waiting to get onboard the ship. Most of the seats were taken apart from the odd single seat left in between separate groups of people. Just think of the horror of having to sit next to a complete stranger to help free up more seats so that other people can sit down! After waiting just over an hour and forty-five minutes, our coloured letter was eventually called. After that, check in was fairly smooth, despite a large queue weaving around the seating area, and the fact we were being checked in by the slowest staff member ever.
We embarked the ship shortly after 2pm and similar to when we were on Royal Princess, our first sight was the stunning atrium. The Starburst sculpture gently twinkled as I stood in awe.
We then took the lift to A Deck 15, to drop off our bags. We had booked a Superior Deluxe Balcony (A417), which I was really excited about seeing. Our cabin was just a few doors down from the midship elevators, which was really handy. I loved the decor of the corridors, especially the fact that cabin doors were slightly set back from the corridor itself.
Upon entering the cabin, I couldn’t get over just how big it actually was! I knew it would be big, but I was truly blown away! The cabin features two, yes two, large flatscreen televisions (one for watching in bed and the other for the lounge area). A large, comfortable sofa faces the spacious dressing table. The cabin includes a complimentary bottle of Champagne Brut as well as a delicious box of chocolates. Also in the cabin was a good selection of magazines, binoculars as well as bathrobes, slippers and an umbrella. The bathroom was spacious too, with the main attraction of a full-sized bathtub. The balcony was an average size, not the biggest, but it seemed slightly larger than normal balconies onboard the ship.
After exploring our cabin, we headed one deck up to the Horizon Restaurant. There’s no midship staircase, which meant we had to take the lift just to travel one deck up, which made us look lazy. The other alternative was walking right to the front or aft of the ship to use the stairs.
I was very impressed with the buffet restaurant. The decor was very tasteful and similar to Royal Princess, they had wash basins at the entrance. Unlike some cruise ships, it was a breeze to find a table, especially considering it was the peak of embarkation. There was a good variety of food and we even bumped into a couple who Anthony had met onboard Voyages of Discovery’s Voyager back in April. Located just outside of the buffet is an outdoor dining area, perfect for smokers, or for those who want to enjoy an alfresco lunch in the sun.
After an enjoyable lunch, we began exploring the magnificent ship. The pool area was very popular on embarkation day with people making the most of the sunny weather before we set sail from Southampton. Two large swimming pools surround a dance floor which is used for P&O’s famous sailaway parties. The Lido Bar is great for a beer or a cocktail in the sun, while the Lido Grill and Pizzeria is perfect for a pool-side snack, offering burgers, hot dogs and pizza – all freshly made.
At the front of the ship is The Retreat. Featuring whirlpools and a relaxing treatment area, this exclusive area is available at a charge. The adult-only Serenity Pool is also great place to relax and unwind on a day at sea.
Overlooking the aft of the ship is the Terrace Pool. This rather peculiar pool is more like a communal bath. It is mainly used for socialising with a drink on a sunny sea day, rather than swimming. The terrace area is much better than on Royal Princess as stairs at the aft allow you to move between the three decks, rather than having to walk through the buffet area or walking to the midship stairwell and back again. As the name suggests, The Sunset Bar is the perfect place for enjoying a drink as the sunsets.
Overlooking the front of the ship on Deck 16 is the Crows Nest. This popular lounge is perfect for relaxing in on a day at sea or reading a book from the Library situated just outside.
The Marlow Suite, named after former managing director Carol Marlow, is a multi-functional room mainly used for card games, as well as a variety of puzzles on offer. Next door is the Ivory Suite, where couples can renew their vows. Seating up to 40 people, this elegant and contemporary venue is perfect for that special occasion.
The Epicurean Restaurant is Michelin star chef, Marco Pierre White’s speciality restaurant onboard Britannia. This fine dining restaurant offers classic British food in an elegant and sophisticated intimate surrounding.
After exploring the upper decks, we walked down to Deck 7. The Live Lounge was probably one of my favourite venues onboard and far superior to the equivalent Vista Lounge found onboard Royal Princess. I loved the high tables near the bar, which you could lean on with your drink. It seemed fellow guests also enjoyed the Live Lounge as every night was heaving with people dancing to the great music played by the DJ, as well as the fabulous resident band, Pulse. During our short sailing we had Badness, a Madness tribute act, perform.
Located outside of the Live Lounge is Atul Kocher’s specialty restaurant, Sindhu. Serving fantastic Indian cuisine, this spacious restaurant has great decor and a convenient bar located just next to the entrance.
The Studio is home to cookery demonstrations and lectures. I felt this venue was underused, especially compared to the similar Princess Live! onboard Royal Princess. Just outside is the spacious photo gallery, featuring touch screen photo monitors, as well as the loyalty and future cruise sales desk.
Java is a fantastic coffee bar overlooking the Starburst atrium. The relaxed cafe serves Costa Coffee beverages plus delicious sandwiches and cakes.
The Market Cafe is a vibrant place to enjoy speciality breads, cheeses and delicious pastries, specifically selected by cake boy, Eric Lanlard.
As the name suggests, The Blue Bar is, well…Blue! I love the intriguing wall lights and the vivid blue and purple decor.
Olly Smith’s wine bar, The Glass House, is situated overlooking the Starburst atrium. This popular venue found on other P&O ships serves exquisite wines, all hand picked by wine expert, ‘Jolly Olly’.
Brodie’s Bar is a traditional British-style pub, serving great beers and a lively atmosphere. From live entertainment, to pub quizzes and even a jukebox, there is always something exciting happening in Brodie’s.
I really liked the atmosphere in The Limelight Club. This exclusive dining venue combines great tasting food, with great sounding vocalists and musicians, as they perform while you dine.
The Crystal Room is a beautiful, spacious entertainment venue with a fantastic dancefloor perfect for an evening waltz or foxtrot.
The Headliners Theatre is very spectacular. The stage is very impressive and features giant LED screens, which move around the stage, giving stunning visual effects. The actual performance shows were excellent. During our cruise, the singers and dancers performed their show ‘Sound Of The Underground’ which coincidentally was their final performance before disembarking in Southampton the very next day.
The main restaurants onboard P&O Cruises’ Britannia are amazing. During our short time onboard, we dined in the Oriental Restaurant. The decor is stylish, spacious, yet intimate. Deep blood-red and chocolate coloured walls made for a great atmosphere in the evening. We were sat in an enclave away from the main central area of the room, which made us feel like we had our very own little restaurant seating just a handful of other guests. The food was equally amazing as the restaurant was and I particularly enjoyed the Potato and Spring Onion Soup and the Chocolate Sachertorte.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time onboard Britannia. After just two days onboard, I really was not ready to get off and I especially did not want to leave our AMAZING cabin! There were certainly a few similarities between the ship and Royal Princess, especially The Studio and the pool area, but overall Britannia is one of a kind and most definitely a ship for Britain to be proud of!