Saturday, 14 March 2015

I have been to ... Britannia

On Friday Sue and I visited P&O's latest cruise ship ... MV Britannia.

Britannia has been moored in Southampton since she arrived from her builders – Fincantieri – on 6th March, and she was officially named by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 10th March. Because Sue and I have cruised so often with P&O, we were offered the opportunity to visit the ship before she sailed on her maiden voyage. This was too good an opportunity to turn down, so we booked our places and went.

We travelled down to Southampton on Thursday afternoon and stayed overnight at the Chilworth Manor Hotel, which is situated in the countryside just north of Southampton.

On Friday morning we were up and eating breakfast by 7.30am, and had checked out of the hotel by just after 8.30am. We drove to Southampton Docks and arrived at the Ocean Car Park (where we had a reserved parking space) just twenty minutes later. We then boarded a shuttle-bus which took us to the Ocean Terminal, where Britannia was moored.

We had to wait about fifteen minutes before we were processed by the booking-in team, and after another short wait we were shepherded through the security checks. It was interesting to note that all of this was exactly the same procedure as if we were going on an actual cruise rather than just a visit.

During the check-in process Sue and I were both given a red lanyard to wear whilst we were aboard. This was used to display our day passes and also designated the restaurant in which we were to eat lunch. We were also given a tour brochure that included maps of the decks we were recommended to visit.

Once aboard our first port-of-call was the ship's atrium. This is open space is spread over several decks and is dominated by a huge glass chandelier.

We than visited the theatre ...

... which seemed rather on the small side for a ship of Britannia's size. We then walked through some of the public areas, including the ship's pub, ...

... wine bar, ...

... and coffee bar.

At this point Sue and I decided that we needed a breath of fresh air, and made our way out onto what we thought was the Promenade Deck. We were sadly mistaken, as Britannia does not have a conventional Promenade Deck, merely a couple of very short and cramped deck areas on the level where the Promenade Deck should be.

We returned inside and made our way up to the deck where a selection of cabins had been prepared for show. These were a major disappointment for us as all of them – with the exception of the large suite we viewed – seemed small and very cramped.

A large suite

A mini-suite/superior double cabin

A disabled cabin

An inside double cabin

After this rather disappointing part of our tour, we made our way up to the main open deck area of Britannia. This is where two of the ship's swimming pools – and a large number of sun loungers – are located.

Aft from the swimming pool and sunbathing area was the self-service restaurant, which did seem to be well designed, although how well it will work when the ship is full has yet to be seen.

Forward of the swimming pool and sunbathing area was the Crow's Nest Bar and Lounge.

This feature has been missing on the previous two large ships to join P&O's fleet – MV Azura and MV Ventura – but its incorporation in the design of Britannia is very welcome and much appreciated by regular cruisers.

Britannia's design incorporates a number of smaller public rooms that can be used for specific functions such as receptions and – once the ship is re-registered outside the UK – weddings ...

... and several select dining venues, including The Epicurean Restaurant.

By the time we had reached this point our tour was nearly over, and we made our way down to the Meridian Restaurant for lunch. The menu was made up from items from the menus of all the select dining venues aboard Britannia, and choosing what to eat was a problem as everything looked very enticing.

We sat at a table with seven other people, and over lunch we discussed what we thought about Britannia. The general consensus was that she was too large to appeal to traditional P&O cruisers and that the cabins – and even the standard suites – were smaller than we had expected. It was also generally agreed that the public spaces all had the 'Wow!' factor ... but that this did not compensate for the lack of such things as a Promenade Deck.

By 1.30pm we had finished eating and soon afterwards we disembarked. As we walked out through the Ocean Terminal I managed to photograph the ship's fore end ...

... and this gives some idea of how huge the ship is, how small many of the cabin balconies are, and illustrates the new Union Flag-inspired bow decoration that has been adopted by P&O.

The shuttle-bus returned us to the Ocean Car Park by 2.00pm, and after collecting our car we drove home. Despite one or two minor delays due to roadworks and a diversion, we got home not long after 4.30pm.

All-in-all the visit was very worthwhile, but Sue and I came away with serious doubts as to whether or not we will ever cruise aboard Britannia. We may do one day ... but not one day soon.

General characteristics of MV Britannia
  • Length: 1083' (330m)
  • Beam: 144' (44m)
  • Height: 232' (70.67m)
  • Draft: 27' 4" (8.3m)
  • Passenger Decks: 15
  • Propulsion: 2 x Wärtsilä 12V46F and 2 x Wärtsilä 14V46F diesel engines which power electric generators that in turn power 2 x VEM Sachsenwerk GMBH electric propulsion motors that each drive a propeller.
  • Speed: 21.9 knots @ 136 rev/min
  • Passenger Capacity: 4324 in 1837 cabins (64 are suites and 27 are single cabins)
  • Crew: 1398 officers and crew


  1. Does her size limit her ports of call?

    Because to me, the lack of a Promenade deck suggests they expect to be in port the whole time people are awake. Meaning the travel time between ports has to be six hours or so(?). Is that feasible in Europe?

    Even then, some people like a nice little walk after breakfast and dinner and getting off the ship is such a hassle for that.

  2. Have to say the lack of a promenade deck would put me off too. Having stayed in some of the big Las Vegas hotels with similar numbers of rooms that many passengers would mean that every venue would be packed all the time, I suspect, and at least in Las Vegas you get big rooms!

  3. I'm getting old - when did ships stop looking like ships and instead like hideous buildings bolted onto a Lego boat?

  4. Stu Rat,

    Britannia will be spending the winter months fly/cruising in the Caribbean, hopping from island to island with very few sea days. The ports she will visit all have facilities for her to dock alongside.

    During the summer she will operate in the Mediterranean, again fly/cruising and visiting deep water ports.

    She has been designed for what is perceived to be the growing end of the cruise market, namely families and 30 to 40-year olds who have money to spend (I'd like to know who they are, because I don't know any!) ... and not boring old farts like me who are on a pension!

    All the best,


  5. Legatus Hedlius,

    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Carnival - who own P&O - are adopting the US model for their new cruise ships. In other words keep the cabins small so people will only go there to sleep, change clothese, and wash, so that they can spend the rest of their time aboard spending money.

    I think they have backed the wrong horse this time. This approach did not work and has not worked on the two previous P&O ships ... as a result of which Sue and I have enjoyed several cheap/discounted cruises in ships that were by no means full.

    As a cruise passenger I appreciate the cheap cruises I have had, but as a Carnival shareholder I do have my concerns.

    All the best,


  6. Kaptain Kobold,

    The move to floating hotels began about 20 years ago ... and the trend to build slab-sided monliths continues apace. (Virgin has just announced that it is going to build 2 cruise ships of this size to operate fly/cruises in the Carribean, and Princess has a second half-sister of Britannia on order/being built.)

    There are some real ships still operating on the cruise market, but they are increasingly being marginalised and operated by small niche companies. Sue and I are seriously looking to cruise with a line that operates more traditional ships because we prefer them. They are better seaboats, hold fewer people, and go places the bigger ships just cannot go.

    All the best,


  7. Interesting photos Bob- often wondered what the insides of such ships look like- and now I know.



  8. Pete,

    This is a fairly good example of what you would find on a modern British cruise ship. The American ones are much more glitzy.

    All the best,